Caring for Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria): An Easy-Care Houseplant

Caring for mother-in-law's tongue plants

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Some people don’t bother buying houseplants because they can’t seem to keep them alive. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is the perfect choice for beginners.

Sansevieria is one of the hardiest houseplants and a great choice for people who often forget to water their houseplants. Called Mother-in-law’s Tongue for the shape of its leaves and its hardiness, Sansevieria’s other aliases, (depending on where you live), include Bathroom Plant (because it is a good air cleaner), Snake Plant or Bird’s Nest Plant.

Needing very little care, it is the perfect house plant for people who can’t keep anything green alive indoors. If treated right, this hardy houseplant can last for years.

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snake plant care guide

Quick Facts

growing snake plant

Before we proceed with the snake plant care, we must know the plant first through some quick facts about it.

1. It goes by many interesting names.

The snake plant has a scientific name of Sansevieria trifasciata but this is not the only interesting name it has. This succulent is also known for quirky names such as The Devil’s Tongue, the Lucky Plant, Bowstring Hemp and the Good Luck Plant.

Related: Types of snake plants

2. It is a good detoxifier.

In a 1989 research by NASA, the snake plant is one of the 15 species of houseplants that were found to have a purifying effect on air by absorbing harmful chemicals to boost oxygen quality at home and in work places.

3. It is harmful for pets.

You can put it all around the house for good luck but make sure that it is out of your pets’ reach. When ingested, the leaves of the snake plant can cause vomiting and nausea among your pets.

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Types of Sansevieria

Mother in law's tongue plant

One variety has pointed vertical leaves that are speckled green on the inside with a yellow stripe along the edges.

Yellow edges occur when the plant is grown from a root division. This kind of Mother-in-law’s Tongue can grow up to about 30 inches tall, while another popular type grows only four inches tall, and its leaves form the shape of a rosette.

Since these plants grow in clumps, they are easy to divide at the root.


caring snake plant

1. When to Plant

The best time to grow the snake plant is still spring when the weather is not too cold and not too hot. Growing the snake plant during winter or summer is not that recommended because the harsh climates would ruin the rooting phase of the snake plant. Given these cases, you need to also be strategic as to when you plant the snake plant.

2. Where to Plant

The snake plant is good to be planted outdoors and indoors as long as the space where it will be planted satisfies one important requirement. The snake plant should be specifically planted in a location where it will get 50% shade and 50% sunlight every day.

As for the pot mixes to be used, you are expected to opt for sandy pot mixes or when grown outdoors, it should be with peat moss at least.

3. How to Plant

Planting the snake plant does not really vary from how other succulents are planted. The process starts by choosing your method of propagation either through leaf cuttings or stem cuttings.

After this, you will need to soak either the leaves or stem in a container with quarter water and then place the container in a spot where it will receive balanced shade and light.

You will need to change the water every two days until you see roots sprouting. As soon as you see the roots, you may now replant it in sandy pot mixes or using peat moss when grown outdoors.

General Care and Propagation

It can be fun to divide this houseplant, especially if one does not have a green thumb. If yours is ready to propagate, first remove it from the pot and wash the roots. Either break it apart at the roots, or use a knife to divide the plant. Re-pot the divisions right away and water the new plants.

These plants tolerate low light and they seem to grow anywhere. The easiest way to destroy Mother-in-law’s Tongue is to over-water it, or never water it at all.

Over-watering causes the plant to rot. Let the soil dry out completely before re-watering. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue shrivels in high humidity, but likes moderate to warm temperatures. Keep it in the same pot for as long as possible.

If the sword-shaped leaves lean over, bend or crack, the plant is thirsty. Water it about every 10 days to keep it healthy. Mother-in-law’s Tongue requires less water during the winter months.

Although this houseplant is among the easiest to grow, it can be dangerous. Keep this plant away from pets and small children, as it is toxic if eaten.


soil care snake plant

1. Soil

Like all other succulent variants, the snake plant needs soil with good drainage since it is vulnerable to rotting. For this matter, the snake plant will specifically require you to buy a soilless potting mix. You will also be advised to never use a terracotta pot because it will trap the water inside the pot.

2. Light and Temperature

The snake plant needs a lot of light to begin with. Inadequate light will make the snake plant become very weak leaving the leaves stretched and shriveled making them wilt. In terms of temperature, a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit is needed for it to activate fast growth process.

3. Water and Humidity

Again, the snake plant like all other succulents will die when overwatered so you must know the correct water requirement of the plant. First of all, you the soil where it is planted needs to be completely dry before you can water it again.

According to Joy Us Garden, the snake plant needs to be watered once every two to four weeks depending on the humidity and sunlight it is receiving. When air humidity is low, you water the plant every two weeks and if it is high, water the plant every four weeks.

4. Fertilizer

The truth is, snake plants do not need commercial fertilizers. All you have to do is to top them with compost using any organic compost. The best time to put compost is twice a year during spring and summer.

5. Propagation

In terms of propagation, there are two most common methods for the snake plant: through leaf cuttings and stem cuttings. For each method though, you will have to soak them in just the right amount of water for a couple of days until it grows roots. By that time, you will now have to replant the cuttings with the root in sandy pot mix.

6. Pruning

It all boils down to the leaves. Using a knife or scissors, you will need to remove the leaves that have grown too tall. You need to maintain the regular length of the leaves for you to maintain the character of the plant. Also, with this, you will have ample leaf cuttings to grow new snake plants.


1. Growing Problems and Disease

The most common growing problem of snake plants would be overwatering. As we have been saying, overwatering is the number one cause of vulnerability among succulents because they do not require that much water. This would come out in the form of spots, shrivels and fungal diseases.

2. Pests

As for pests, the snake plant is also the favorite of mealybugs and spider mites. Its long leaves are good niches for these pests to lay eggs but on the offset, these pests will leave the plant to wilt and when not controlled will lead to dying.


snake plant mother in law tongue

Does the snake plant filter specific chemicals in the air?

Aside from purifying the air and boosting oxygen quality, snake plants are also known to absorb specific chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene and xylene that is why this plant is mostly seen in industrial work spaces.

Does the snake plant attract, well, snakes?

The answer is a glaring no because of its strong smell to them and its bitter taste when ingested by animals. This is also the reason why the snake plant is said to be harmful for pets.

A Good Pick for Beginners

Mother-in-law’s Tongue is a good pick for people who have no luck growing houseplants. It survives in low to bright light, and require very little water to stay healthy. It is a perfect choice for people who tend to neglect houseplants, since this plant is hard to kill. Overall, Mother-in-law’s Tongue is a sure bet for beginner growers.

Mother-in-law’s Tongue is a good pick for people who have no luck growing houseplants. It survives in low to bright light, and require very little water to stay healthy