Snake plants are among the easiest houseplants to grow and I have over a dozen growing in my home. They have eye-catching vertical growth and pointed, sword-shaped leaves often with attractive variegations. One of the reasons snake plants are so popular is that they thrive in a range of light conditions – from full sun to low light. Although they are considered low-care indoor plants, snake plants benefit from repotting every 3 to 4 years. If you’re wondering when to repot a snake plant, keep reading for my step-by-step instructions on repotting as well as advice on dividing.
What are snake plants?
Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria trifasciata), also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is a popular indoor plant native to Africa. There are various types to grow with most having upright, vertical growth and sword-shaped or pointed leaves. They’re tough, almost indestructible plants and thrive in a range of light levels – from full, direct sunlight to low light conditions.
There’s a type of snake plant for every sized space as certain varieties are compact and grow just 6 inches tall, while others can reach heights of 6 to 8 feet when mature. Snake plants spread via rhizomes and form dense clumps of vertical leaves. Another reason to grow these awesome plants is that snake plants are bothered by few pest and disease issues.
When to repot a snake plant
Snake plants typically need to be re-potted every 3 to 4 years. The best time of year to repot a snake plant is late winter or early spring. However, if a plant needs repotting, there’s no need to wait. If you’re wondering when to repot a snake plant, there are several signs to look for.
- The foliage is very crowded – A snake plant that’s a mass of densely growing leaves is a prime candidate for repotting. As snake plants grow, new plants form around the main plant. If your plant is a mass of leaves, it’s likely the roots are also cramped. It’s time to transplant it into a larger container.
- Growth has slowed – The active growing season for snake plants is spring and summer when there’s ample light. During this time, a plant can grow 2 to 3 new leaves and put on 2 to 8 inches of height, depending on the type of snake plant. If you notice few new leaves or little vertical growth during the growing season, it’s likely time to repot the plant.
- The pot is bulging or cracked – If your snake plant is in a plastic pot, the container may bulge out and become misshapen as the plant grows. A root bound plant in a clay pot may crack or break the pot. These are both obvious indications that a snake’s plants roots are pot bound and it’s time to move it into a larger container.
- Foliage is wilting, yellowing, or browning – When snake plants run out of room, the foliage shows signs of stress. Foliage issues may signal overwatering or under watering, but it can also be the result of an overcrowded plant that needs to be repotted.
The best snake plant soil
In their native environment snake plants are drought resistant plants that grow in very well-draining soil. When grown indoors, they also need a potting soil that drains well as they’re prone to root rot. I use a succulent potting mix, which is part peat moss, part sand, and part perlite, but you can also use a peat-free growing medium made with coco coir, also known as coconut coir. Cacti growing mix also works well.
The best pot for snake plant
When selecting a container for a snake plant, choose one with drainage holes on the bottom of the pot. You can use plastic pots, but I prefer unglazed clay pots as they are porous and improve air and water exchange. The weight of a clay pot also helps anchor a tall snake plant, which can be top heavy. You can also used glazed terra cotta pots, which are available in a rainbow of colors at garden centres and online. When you repot a snake plant you should pick a pot that is just 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than the original pot.
How to repot a snake plant
If the answer to the question ‘When to repot a snake plant’ is now, don’t worry, it’s very easy to move this low-care plant to a bigger pot. Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions on repotting a snake plant.
Step 1 – Gather your materials
Begin by assembling all the materials you’ll need to repot your snake plant. For example, you’ll need a larger pot, ideally one that is 1 to 2 inches in diameter larger than the original pot, as well as potting mix for succulents, and a cover to keep your work surface clean.
Step 2 – Remove the plant from the pot
This is a tricky step as a very root bound plant can be hard to slip from its container. You don’t want to tug or pull on the foliage which can break off and damage the plant. If necessary, use a butter knife to help ease the plant out of the container. Once the plant is out of the pot, lay it on the work surface.
Step 3 – Loosen the rootball
Take the opportunity to loosen the rootball, particularly if the plant was very crowded in its pot. If there are soft or rotten roots, clip these out. Once you’ve exposed the roots you can see the new rhizomes and pups. If you want to remove any for propagation, this is a good time to do it. See below for instructions on how to divide a snake plant.
Step 4 – Transplant the snake plant into the new pot
Add a couple of inches of fresh growing medium to the new pot. Place the root ball on top of the soil, adding more if needed. It should be planted at the same level it was in the original pot. Don’t bury the plant deeply. Once the depth is right, continue to add fresh potting mix around the plant, gently firming to remove air pockets. Once it’s transplanted, water with a watering can to settle the soil around the roots.
Please watch this video to see a snake plant being transplanted.
How to divide a snake plant
The best time to divide a snake plant is in spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. Snake plants grow by producing fleshy rhizomes and new plants, or pups, which emerge at the end of a rhizome. Removing a pup or several pups from a mature plant is an easy way to get new snake plants. I generally remove a couple of pups per plant, never taking more than 1/3 of the entire plant as removing too much can stress the plant.
To divide or propagate a snake plant you’ll need new pots, a soilless potting mixture like succulent mix, and a knife. You can use a serrated kitchen knife or a hori hori garden knife. It’s also a good idea to cover your work surface with sheets of newspaper or a piece of plastic to catch soil spills.
Start by removing the plant from the pot, gently placing the root ball on the covered work surface. Loosen the roots with your hands so they’re not a tangled mess. Locate the new shoots you’d like to remove. Using the knife, carefully slice the rhizome where it meets the main plant. This leaves a rooted pup, or small plant, which then needs to be transplanted into a new pot. You can plant one pup in a small pot or cluster several in a larger container. After repotting the pup, water the growing medium and move it into a spot with bright, indirect sunlight.
Snake plant growing tips
Snake plants are very drought tolerant and thrive in low soil moisture. I water infrequently, grabbing my watering can when the growing medium is dry two inches down. You’ll find that you need to water more often in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. In winter when the plants are semi-dormant, I water less often. The frequently of watering depends on factors like plant size, soil type, container size, root temperature, and light exposure.
For more tips and ideas on growing indoor plants, check out these in-depth articles:
- Discover 16 awesome hanging succulent plants
- North-facing window plants: 15 houseplants to grow for northern exposure
- A guide to growing fishbone cactus
- Learn how to grow string of dolphins
Were you wondering when to repot a snake plant?