Snake Plants and Their Tight Root Systems

Snake plants require a tight root system to support their larger-than-usual foliage. Without a supportive root structure, leaves tend to fall, causing problems.

Do Snake Plants Like to be Root Bound


  • snake plants prefer a tighter root system compared with other houseplants
  • snake plants can still become root bound and will require to be repotted
  • recognizing a root-bound snake plant is key to knowing when to upgrade to a new pot or container

Q. Do Snake Plants Like To Be Root Bound?

ANSWER: Snake plants do not like to be root bound. They want a tight root system, but not tight to the point that the root system is constricted and prevented from growing.

It doesn’t sound like it, but there is a difference. Let us explain.

A plant is root bound when there is no more room for the roots to grow. You can tell a plant is root bound because the roots may develop over the top of the planter’s rim or out of the drainage holes. We’ll explore more signs to look for in a root-bound snake plant later.

While a tight root system (what snake plants like) is a pot that provides enough room for the roots to spread and grow. However, not so much that the roots cannot develop a grip on the surrounding soil. Therefore, the roots cannot support and stabilize the large snake plant leaves above ground. Without the foundation of a tight root system, the large sword-shaped leaves will fall over.

Snake Plants Like Crowded Conditions

If you want proof that snake plants prefer tight root systems, you only need to plant your snake in the ground and watch how it develops.

Even in the ground, with no encumbrances or restrictions on its growth, a snake plant will grow in clusters close to the neighboring snake plants. They lend each other support and develop new snake plant pups from the underground stems called rhizomes.

In fact, their unique growth patterns also make them valuable plants to use in landscaping. Their close-growing behavior makes the perfect green walls to run along the side of a house or a pathway.

How to Tell if a Snake Plant Is Root Bound

Now that you know snake plants DO NOT like to be root bound, the next natural question is…

How do you know when a snake plant is a root bound?

If you see your snake plant displaying any of the following signs, it may be time to inspect the root ball:

  1. Roots are searching for more room. In the previous section, we discussed that one sure sign a snake plant is root bound is when roots begin to search for room to grow by growing above the topsoil or out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Roots tend to wander when they run out of room or no longer receive the necessary nutrients from the soil.
  2. Pot showing distress. We like to plant our snake plants in terracotta pots because they are a porous organic material that allows air to reach the roots. However, terracotta pots are susceptible to cracking when placed under stress. One stress that will undoubtedly break a pot is pressure from an overcrowded snake plant root system.
  3. Soil water retention problems. A sure sign your snake plant is root bound and requires repotting in fresh potting mix is when the soil begins to display issues with water retention. This may be because water drains too quickly after watering your snake plant. Or water sits on top of the topsoil. Water retaining problems occur due to the soil solidifying and cracking around the roots. Solidified soil cannot absorb water, forcing it to stay above the soil or run through the cracks and out of the drainage holes.
  4. Too many snake plant pups. We know. We did say that snake plants like to grow in close quarters with each other. However, if you notice several snake plant pups growing in the same pot as the mother snake plant, it may be time to divide and propagate, particularly if snake plant pups begin to encroach or push up against the leaves of the main plant (as our Black Gold Sansevieria snake plant pups were in the image below).
snake plant pup crowding

What To Do With a Root-Bound Snake Plant

If you have concluded that your snake plant has bound roots, the best thing to do is repot your snake plant immediately.

Repotting a root-bound snake plant will ensure your snake plant continues to thrive

Repotting may sound daunting. However, it is a relatively simple process that gets easier the more you practice.

To help indoor plant enthusiasts overcome their fears, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to repotting snake plants HERE.

When repotting a snake plant, making the right pot selection is critical.

As passionate gardeners, we know pot selection isn’t at the forefront of our minds when we go to repot plants. In fact, any pot lying around the garden usually suffices.

However, with snake plants, we recommend investing a bit more time and thought into the size and material of the pot.

If you choose a pot too large for your snake plant, it can stunt its growth or cause the leaves to begin to fall over (for reasons we mentioned earlier in this article).

To read more about snake plant pot selection, check out our article BEST POT FOR SNAKE PLANTS.