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Sansevieria are a cool propagation project.
Not only are there a few ways to try BUT crucially for a plant hoarder such as myself, Sansevieria are quite happy to be snug in their pot, so you can pop the babies back in with their mother once it’s rooted, so you don’t end up with a dozen of each type of plant.
Sansevieria – a quick care guide
Sansevieria are great plants to care for, if you treat them well.
Heck, they’re a pretty good plant to care for if you treat them like crap BUT there are thousands, probably millions of mistreated Sansevieria throughout the world, so I would like you to try to treat yours with kindness.
I have a care guide here, but I’ll go through the basics now.
Give your Sansevieria lots of light.
Lots and lots.
If it’s been somewhere dark for a while, acclimate it gradually, otherwise, it might burn. If it does burn, just chop off the burnt bit. The plant won’t mind.
A sunny windowsill is perfect. I actually put mine outside in summer. It burnt to a crisp because I didn’t acclimate it, but it grew a lot too!
Sanseveria also like a lot of water BUT THEY MUST DRY OUT BETWEEN WATERINGS.
Like, bone dry.
Then give it a tonne of water. Soak the soil. Tap or filtered, it doesn’t care (plants that like to dry out a lot rarely care about water quality). Then let it dry out again.
Sansevieria, like succulents, will grow fastest if they’re watered often but are planted in a very well-draining soil so they dry out quickly.
Snake plants (I’m going to use the terms interchangeably because Sansevieria is hard to spell, but snake plant takes longer to type) do bloom, but it tends to be a stress response. It often happens when a plant is rootbound.
Misconceptions about Sansevieria
I mean, there’s just the one, but it is pervasive.
You know what I’m going to say. I’m going to try not to get mad about it.
Yes, Sanseveria will survive in a dark corner.
They’re extremely hardy plants.
But humans can survive on potatoes and butter.
BUT WE DON’T NEED TO.
If you need a plant for a dark room, invest in a good fake one. You can get some AMAZING ones. Splash out, get a fake variegated Monstera. It’ll last a lifetime and will NEVER GET THRIPS.
Sansevieria come from arid regions that typically get a lot of light.
Here’s a cool blog post with pictures of them growing in the wild. They have berries! Who knew?!
Please give them at least SOME. They rarely need watering inside, aren’t heavy feeders and don’t sneakily grow along your floor and attach to your walls (yes, Monstera, I’m talking about you). At least give them a window.
If you want lower light plants, look at ferns and Calathea, and research humidifiers and after quality while you’re there. True lower light plants are a pain but don’t try to force our Sansevieria to be something it’s not.
What’s the easiest way to propagateSansevieria?
The easiest way is to propagate by division – that’s what they do in the wild.
Ok, they don’t propagate by division in the wild, the bloom and spread seeds that way, but they do naturally produce pups in the wild. They just don’t actually go as far as to actually divide themselves.
But as they grow, they produce pups that are separate from the mother plant, but still attached at the roots.
You may not have to wait for the mother to produce a baby – many snake plants that we buy at the garden centre are already made up of a couple of different plants. Look closely and see if there’s a natural divide in the plants.
How to separateSansevieria pups
It’s as easy as taking a knife and cutting the root ball, or as difficult as removing all the soil, gently easing all the roots apart, locating the umbilical root* that connects the mother to the baby, and severing it with a pair of sterilised scissors.
Pic of exposed umbilical root:
*This is not a real term, I made it up. As far as I know.
I like to mix and match, depending on my patience levels that day. I usually start really gently and carefully, easing the roots apart, and then get bored and just *gently* rip apart the root ball.
But in essence, you’re cutting one plant in two where there’s a natural divide – you can’t just hack the plant in half through the middle of the leaves – and potting each bit up separately.
Can you propagateSansevieria from leaf cuttings?
Yes! It takes a freaking AGE but it’s fun to do.
You don’t need a complete leaf to propagate Sansevieria from leaf cuttings, so if you have a long, spindly leaf that doesn’t fit the rest of your plant’s aesthetic (they always seem to have one leaf that won’t conform!), you can snip into several pieces and make several smaller plants!
Is it easy to propagateSansevieria from leaf cuttings?
The process of growing new snake plants from leaf cuttings is simple, but it can be infuriatingly slow.
Step 1: Snip a piece from your snake plant
I like to cut off a piece that’s a couple of inches long (or longer).
If you have the aforementioned long, spindly piece, you can cut it into multiple pieces, like so:
Make. Sure. You. Mark. Which. End. Is. The. Bottom (or top).
(I didn’t need to, as I took a piece that really tapered towards the bottom, making it easy to tell the top and bottom apart.
Step 2: trim your cutting
A tip I saw a long time ago and which seems to work (though admittedly I’ve not tried NOT doing this) is to cut a triangle out of the bottom of the cutting so the leaf has two little prongs at the bottom.
Just for fun, I popped the little triangles I removed from the bottom of each cutting and stuck it back in the pot.
It probs won’t take (I’m crap at remembering to water soil props enough), but I don’t want to just chuck them away.
Step 3: leave the end to dry out
To be perfectly honest, I don’t do this and I’ve never had a plant rot BUT I’m also…not that bothered whether or not my props take.
If every single propagation I took rooted, my house would be LITERALLY full of plants.
I also have to fit two humans, two bunnies, and a butt load of fish in here too. I’m also quite attached to the fridge and the tv.
But yeah, by leaving the cutting to dry up and callous over (just leave it on the side for a couple of hours) you’ll reduce the chances of it rotting in the water.
Step 4: put the cutting in water
As well as increasing the surface area of the base of the plant, cutting a V into the cutting means that you can rest it on the bottom of whatever propagation vessel you have and still not have the whole thing touching the bottom.
If the whole of the base of the cutting is touching the bottom, this might impede root growth.
I used an old spice jar in this instance, and could actually wedge the cutting so it hovered in the water. I have no idea if that’s better than it touching the bottom.
Then it’s as simple as putting the cutting in a glass of water and waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting).
Ok, so here we are in early March (this article was published and the cutting was taken in October) and we have roots:
This one is for all you lazy people out there – I only changed the water ONCE. I think. If that. I definitely topped it up a couple of times but I didn’t clean out the jar (yes, it is gross, thanks for asking).
Sansevieria may be slow to root, but they’re really good for lazy people or people with ADHD that completely forget about every plant they own unless it’s directly in their eye line (and they even forget to water those).
Where to keep snake plant cuttings
I’m a big fan of a sunny windowsill, though the eagle-eyed among you will see that this cutting has been placed in the light of my Aerogarden.
There’s a lot of debate about whether you should put cuttings in bright or lower light levels. I personally have more success putting my cuttings in bright light.
I use my Aerogarden because I go to it every day to turn the light on (I don’t give it the 15 hours of daily light that’s recommended, so I turn the light on manually) so it helps me to not totally forget my props exist.
My golden pothos is just to the right, out of shot, so I remember her daily soil misting (no, I don’t mist the leaves).
Speaking as someone who is notoriously bad for accidentally abandoning propagations, in my experience snake plants props are pretty slow to give up and rot (even in an algae-filled, oxygen-starved propagation station), but the project will move at a glacial pace.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process.
How long does it take Sansevieria to root?
It can easily take six months for snake plant leaf cuttings to grow significant roots, BUT there are things you can do to speed up the process that I’ll discuss below.
Sansevieria are just…slow growers. It doesn’t help that we’re frequently told that they’re plants that are suitable to be grown in low light and thrive on neglect.
They can SURVIVE in low light, but won’t grow very well. As for thriving on neglect, I wrote a whole article on why I don’t really like the term ‘thrive on neglect.
No plant thrives on neglect. If you neglect your plant it gets bugs, and you don’t notice, it’s potentially fucked.
There’s a difference between neglecting your plant and keeping an eye on it without actually doing anything to it.
Mistakes you can make propagatingSansevieria from leaf cuttings
So whilst in theory, it’s super, super easy to get snake plant babies from leaf cuttings, there are some things that you can accidentally do that will really impede the cuttings from rooting.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is…
Not putting the cutting the right way up
It won’t grow. Roots grow out of the bottom, not the top.
If you can’t remember which end is which, you can always try submerging the whole thing, BUT you’ll need to employ every trick in the book to get the cutting to root before it rots.
Either mark the right end with a sharpie or take a note of which end is fatter (it varies from leaf to leaf, never mind plant to plant).
I put my snake plant cutting in water straight away because I…tbh forgot I was meant to let it callus. Plus if I leave it to callus there’s an 85% chance I’ll forget about it and it’ll sit on the side until it shrivels up and dies.
I don’t know why my brain does this.
Not waiting long enough
Propagations are notoriously random when it comes to how long it takes for them to root. I wrote a whole freaking article on why there are so many variances when it comes to how long it takes plants to root, even within the same species.
Not changing the water often enough
Every time you change the water for your snake plant propagation, you’re increasing the amount of oxygen in the water. Roots need oxygen to grow, so more oxygen = more roots.
Soil propagation vs. water propagation
Snake plants are pretty good at being rooted in soil, but I still prefer to do it in water, mainly because I like to see the roots grow.
Soil propagation is easier though, since you don’t need to change the water (though you need to remember to frequently dampen the soil) and crucially, you don’t need to transfer it back to soil once it’s rooted. Since, er, it’s already there.
I did pop the little spare triangles of cutting back into the main pot, and I hope they grow, even though I don’t have high hopes.
The trick to keeping the soil damp enough for cuttings but not so wet that you end up overwatering the main plant is to spray the top of the soil.
My golden Pothos was burnt to a crisp by the sun this year (I’m not bothered – the roots look amazing and she had gotten really leggy), so I’ve pulled all the leaves off and coiled the stem on top of the soil – hopefully, several of the nodes will root. I spray the top of the soil lightly every day and only water ‘properly’ when the root ball is dry.
I don’t think I’ll need to spray the soil every day since snake plants store quite a bit of moisture in their leaves, but it’s still a good way to dampen the soil near the base of the cutting without really affecting the roots of the main plant.
Propagating variegated Snake plants
Ok, so I think I was fairly late to the party on this one but…if you take a cutting from a variegated snake plant, the new plant won’t necessarily be variegated.
Snake plants that are grown from leaf cuttings propagate like succulents – a new baby plant grows from the cutting, and the original leaf cutting you started with will nourish the baby for a while before shrivelling up and dying.
It’s a whole new plant, like growing a plant from seed. Any mutations from the mother, such as variegation, MAY come through in the baby’s genes, but most likely won’t.
By the way, I, unfortunately, found this out the hard way.
In fact, I probably documented somewhere in an article from a couple of years back that I took an unsolicited cutting from a variegated snake plant at my work because, er, I wanted one.
The baby wasn’t variegated.
Yet another example of how crime doesn’t pay.
How to makeSansevieria root faster
- Increase the oxgyen in the water
You can do this in a couple of different ways.
The first is to remember to regularly change the water. Just make sure that you’re using room temperature water, as regularly shocking your cutting by dunking it in cold water won’t help, and may kill off any root growth.
The second way is to add an air pump and air stone (like you’d put in an aquarium).
I know I say this, but I speak from a TONNE of experience here. A cheap air pump will do (like this one from Amazon). Even pretty pricey ones will start off silent, but after a few weeks (if you’re lucky) they’ll start making a noise.
Make sure you keep your props somewhere where an air pump won’t get on your nerves.
If you have an aquarium, you could pop your prop in there. You could probs just stick a snake plant cutting to the inside of the glass with (fish safe) tape.
- Keep it warm
This is just a good catch-all tip for propagating tropical plants.
There are some plants, like orchids and Christmas cacti, that do appreciate a cold spell, but most tropical house plants will grow best in warmer temperatures.
You can use a heat mat like you might use to increase the germination success rate of seeds, you could make an aquarium-style propagation station with a heater (you MUST keep aquarium heaters underwater, otherwise they’ll burn out).
You can buy cheap aquarium sets like this one from Amazon, which are totally unsuitable for fish (bettas and goldfish get such a raw deal) to make awesome propagation stations that you can add a heater to should you need to.
You don’t NEED a heater, but it will increase the speed of propagation. It doesn’t need to be warm, so much as it needs to be, er, not cold.
- Make sure they get enough light (but not too much)
I wrote an article a while ago all about growing plants in clear pots, and from the research I did I came to the conclusion that whilst leaves like the light, roots like the dark.
Whilst I don’t think that keeping the roots in the dark (for example by covering the propagation vessel with black paper or something) will significantly increase the speed at which the props root, putting them in SUPER bright light won’t help either.
As there is so much conflicting information on whether propagations should be given a lot/not much light, I just stick to what I know plants like: bright, indirect light.
TECHNICALLY the Aerogarden provides hella bright light, but it’s also perfectly designed to make plants grow. That’s what it’s for, and I’ve had a lot of success propagating in the Aerogarden. That’s why I tend to lean towards giving propagations more light rather than less.
When to switch yourSansevieria propagation to soil
You CAN switch your snake plant propagation over to soil once the roots are an inch or two long, but I personally like to wait until a pup has formed.
The old leaf is on borrowed time as soon as you snip it (though once it roots it has a bit longer) and I just feel that you’ll get a better result once actual new growth (as opposed to just new root growth) has started.
Make sure to keep the roots moistened for a few weeks after it’s been put in soil. The propagation will have water roots (which are better are taking oxygen from water) and won’t be very well equipped to get oxygen from the air until it’s grown some soil roots.
A nice airy soil will help the transition go more smoothly, because the more oxygen that’s available, the more the roots will be able to absorb.
Limited oxygen + limited ability to absorb oxygen = disaster
If you want to plant the new prop back in with the mother and worry about overwatering the main plant then you have a couple of options:
- Spray the soil near the new cutting thoroughly, but leave the mother plant alone. The soil around the main plant will damper than normal, but not so wet that it’ll cause root rot.
- Pot the plant up separately and wait until it’s established (it should be firm in the soil, and resisten when you GENTLY try to tug it out). This should take a few weeks (two to eight), after which you can put it in with the mother.
Either method is fine. Snake plants are pretty hardy.
To increase the chances of both the mother and the propagation thriving, keep light levels UP. A sunny windowsill is perfect.
Can you keep aSansevieria in water forever? Growing aSansevieria in LECA
You absolutely can grow Sanseveria in leca, and I’m going to give it a go (I’ll film in, so watch this space for the video).
May as well show you dividing AND growing a snake plant in leca by, er, dividing a snake plant and putting it in leca.
As with most succulent-type plants, it’s generally advised that you use the shower method, rather than the reservoir method. So you water your plant like you would a soil plant (thoroughly soak, let the water rain away), then repeat when the plant looks thirsty.
If you’ve been around here before, you may know my thoughts on the shower method, i.e. that it removes the point of leca for me (that I don’t have keep checking my plants to see if they’re dry – I can just check their reservoirs all at once on a schedule).
Don’t even get me started on ‘when the plant looks thirsty’. This varies SO MUCH, even with in the same species of plant.
My Scindapsus pictus curls up the second she’s thirsty, but the very closely related Scindapsus pictus ‘silvery ann’ won’t curl up until she’s basically but a husk. A HUSK.
I like that leca takes the guesswork out of watering. The shower method doesn’t.
I’ll take one for the team and try the shower method. Unless it would be better if I go straight to the reservoir method and she how she does? Hmm.
I could do two and we can compare! I hope I have two similar size pups.
Gosh, I’ve got a video planned a WEEK ahead of schedule. I film on a Monday afternoon and don’t usually decide what I’m going to talk about until my Monday morning walk with my mum and dad (I’m VERY cool).
I hope this was helpful, and not mind-numbingly dull. As always feel free to drop me a comment below if you have any questions, comments, or…random thoughts.