Beginners Guide for Propagating Snake Plants (3 Techniques)
It isn’t hard to see why snake plants (aka mother-in-law’s tongue) are a favored houseplant among indoor plant enthusiasts. They are hardy plants that are easy to care for and even easier to propagate. There are many ways to reproduce snake plants, such as:
- water propagating cuttings,
- propagation techniques using soil,
- cultivating and dividing baby snake plant shoots, and
- growing snake plants from seed.
In this feature article and the Garden Bench Top, we will walk you through the steps for the first three methods described above.
Why Not Grow Snake Plants from Seed?
While it is easy enough to grow snake plants from seed, they are not known to be prolific flowering plants.
It isn’t uncommon for snake plants to break several years between each bloom, and you should consider yourself fortunate if your snake plant ever graces you with flowers.
For this reason, we will not discuss the process of growing snake plants from seeds – there are easier ways to grow snake plants!
Snake plants have fascinating, delicate flowers that emit a beautiful sweet fragrance. If you want to see what snake plant flowers look like, check out our gallery HERE.
How to Propagate Snake Plants Using Water
One of our favorite methods for propagating snake plants is to grow cuttings in water.
We hear you saying, “It can’t be that easy!”
We’re happy to report – “YES – it is that simple!”
And here are the steps for propagating snake plants in water:
- Identify and Cut Snake Plant Leaf – Choose a leaf that looks healthy and vibrant with no visible signs of pests or disease. Selecting the right leaf will give it the best opportunity for success. Cut the leaf towards the base with a sterilized pair of garden scissors (or a sharp knife). We like to use an upside-down V cut (or an arrowhead-shaped cut) for snake plants, as it will naturally prop the cutting up in your container, which will help to prevent rot from setting in. It also helps to prevent the new roots from growing at unhelpful angles (usually with straight cuts).
- Air Dry Your Cutting – Allow your cutting to dry for 2-4 days in a safe place so that it doesn’t accidentally get knocked to the ground. Air drying your cutting allows the wound to form a callous, which helps to prevent any rot or disease from developing.
- Find a Container – find a tall and thin container to support your snake plant leaf cutting. We like to use glass containers like mason jars or small vases. The glass allows you to examine your cutting without disturbing it (such as lifting it out of the water to see if roots are growing).
- Begin the Rooting Process – The final step is to piece everything together. Place your cutting in the container and fill it with distilled water, so the bottom third of the cutting is submerged. It is essential to ensure the calloused wound is beneath the water line to encourage root growth.
We strongly recommend using filtered or distilled water for the propagation process. Depending on where you live, tap water may have chemicals that inhibit the propagation process.
Ongoing Maintenance for Water Propagation
The most significant risk of water propagation with snake plants is your cutting developing rot.
So your primary responsibility will be to change the water every 2-3 days with fresh distilled or filtered water.
Changing the water helps to purge any bacteria that may be lurking in the water. It also helps to refresh the oxygen levels in the water – a key component in maintaining a healthy cutting for strong root development.
It would be best if you also place your cutting in a warm place and away from any strong drafts. Your cutting should also receive plenty of indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will be too extreme for your cutting to handle, which needs to concentrate on establishing a new root system.
After approximately 3-5 weeks. You should be able to see new roots growing from the calloused tissue. Wait for the roots to thicken and grow longer before transplanting your cutting into the soil.
How to Propagate Snake Plants Using Soil
Using soil is the more traditional form of propagation. It is still an effective and valid method for reproducing new snake plants from the mother plant. We prefer to use water because it is exciting to see the roots growing through the glass!
Nevertheless, we still use this technique when propagating our sansevierias outside in the greenhouse. It is generally less maintenance than propagating with water, and you don’t have any issues with transitioning your snake plant into a container of potting mix.
To propagate a snake plant using soil:
- Identify and Cut Snake Plant Leaf – Unlike water propagation, the cutting style is not as critical as soil propagation. When you place your cutting in the soil, no surface will prevent it from growing down. Therefore it isn’t necessary to prop it up. However, choosing a leaf that looks healthy and vibrant with no visible signs of pests or disease is essential. Also, ensure you are using a sterilized knife or pair of secateurs to prevent any spread of disease.
- Air Dry Your Cutting – Allow your cutting to dry for 2-4 days so it can form a callous over the wound. Make sure it is placed in a safe place so that it doesn’t accidentally get knocked to the ground.
- Prepare your Propagation Pot – Fill your chosen snake plant propagation container approximately two-thirds with good quality potting mix (check out our snake plant soil recipe HERE). Dig a hole in the middle with your finger that is big enough to fit the cutting. Make sure the propagating container isn’t too big. Otherwise, it will be challenging to maintain the proper moisture levels. You can read more about snake plant pot selection HERE.
- Plant Your Cutting – Place your cutting into the hole and backfill with more soil, so your cutting is well supported and stands independently. It is crucial to ensure the callous is completely covered with dirt to encourage root growth. Give the cutting a healthy watering with distilled water, and ensure any excess water exits freely from the drainage holes.
Ongoing Maintenance for Soil Propagation
Your primary responsibility is to ensure the soil remains moist but not soggy. Consistent, overly wet soil will encourage rot to develop on your cutting. For this reason, we use good quality soil with excellent drainage and retain enough water for your cutting.
You can expect your cutting to grow roots between 2-4 weeks. However, it will be difficult to tell with your cutting in the soil.
If you are determined to see your cutting develop roots, you can gently lift it out of the soil OR use the water propagating technique described above.
How to Propagate Snake Plants from Pups
The final method of propagation we will discuss in this article is cultivating snake plant pups.
This is the best propagation technique for those with snake plants that have unique patterns or gorgeous variegation. We say this because propagation through division will ensure the new snake plants retain the beautiful variegation and marks.
Snake plants propagated using the first two methods often lose their unique markings and revert to the generic dark green leaves of the common snake plants like Sansevieria Trifasciata.
Here is a quick summary of the steps involved in propagating your snake plant by division or pups are:
- Remove the root ball – lift the mother snake plant root ball out of its container.
- Clean and prepare the root ball – rinse your snake plant’s roots under warm water to clear the soil away.
- Identify the rhizome – find the rhizome attached to the snake plant pup. Cut the rhizome as close to the main root ball as possible. You want to retain as many thin roots as possible with the rhizome.
- Re-pot your Plants – re-pot your mother snake plant into the original pot with some fresh potting mix. At the same time, fill your propagation containers a third up with a good-quality potting mix. Place each pup into the pot and backfill with quality potting mix until the soil level covers the white parts of the rhizome and pups. Give all your plants good watering and ensure all excess water drains out.
For a full explanation and step-by-step instructions for propagating snake plants from pups, check out our guide HERE.
Ongoing Maintenance for Snake Plant Pups Propagation
The good thing about propagating baby snake plants is you instantly have a new pot plant.
You don’t need to wait for roots to develop; you can treat them like any other snake plant in your home.
The one difference we suggest is keeping the moisture level up during the first couple of months after propagation. It will help your pup settle into new surroundings and encourage new root development.
Snake Plant Propagation: The Facts
Now that you have three new methods of propagating snake plants in your gardening repertoire let’s learn some helpful facts about the snake plant propagation process.
How long does it take to propagate a snake plant?
As you can appreciate from the methods, we detailed above, setting the propagation can take anywhere between half an hour to a few days to complete. The main time-consuming part of the process is allowing your cuttings to heal.
The time it takes for your snake plant cutting or pup to become independent will depend on the growing conditions and the quality of aftercare you provide.
Assuming you are doting on your propagated plants like your own children, you can expect them to develop fully functioning roots within 3-6 weeks.
Will my snake Plant keep its variegation?
If you propagate by division or by cultivating the snake plant pups, your chances of reproducing a snake plant with the same patterns and variegations are high.
However, if you propagate your snake Plant from a cutting, it will likely revert to the more common snake plant patterns of dark green glossy leaves.
Can I cut the leaves of my snake plant?
YES – of course, you can cut the leaves of your snake plant. We encourage you to regularly perform general maintenance on your snake plant, which includes pruning and removing any diseased or dying leaves.
Troubleshooting Snake Plant Propagation (Common Mistakes)
Wouldn’t it be great if all your propagation projects worked out the way you wanted them to? There are no bumps, no hurdles, just a 100% success rate for new plant babies.
Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the propagation gods send curve balls or challenges to make life enjoyable.
This section will cover some of the issues you can encounter when propagating snake plants. Hopefully, it will help you overcome some challenges you may come across.
Why isn’t your snake plant cutting developing roots?
The bad news is there is no definitive answer to this question.
Your cutting may not be agreeable to the new environment.
Maybe there are some chemicals in your water that are preventing the roots from developing.
Or maybe, you need to give your cutting some more time.
As long as the cutting is not showing signs of rot, we recommend staying the course and keep working towards cultivating a new snake plant.
If you start to get impatient, you can always try using some rooting hormone to stimulate root growth.
Why is my snake plant cutting getting brown and soggy?
Any signs of browning or soggy water-marked patches on your snake plant cuttings are signs of rot.
As we said earlier, the biggest challenge with propagation is preventing rot from developing and setting in. Unfortunately, once rot sets in, it is an indication that there are bacteria on your cutting.
Remove your cutting and cut any rotten parts off. Then start the propagation process again by allowing your cutting to heal and develop a callous. Your cutting may be salvageable if the rot hasn’t spread too far up the leaf.
Why is my snake plant cutting, withering, and dying?
If your snake plant cutting is beginning to look sad, wrinkly, and dull, it is likely, that the conditions you have it growing are not suitable.
Check the temperature and humidity levels of the room. The ideal temperature for a snake plant should be between 65-90° Fahrenheit (18-32° Celsius). At the same time, the ideal humidity level should be between 30-50% relative humidity.
Snake Plant Propagation – Closing Comments
By now, you should have three different techniques for how to propagate snake plants.
The process can be a rewarding journey you can share with your friends and family. We recommend following our step-by-step guides for propagating snake plants. Before you know it, you’ll have a forest of snake plants in your home!
Send us pictures of your propagated snake plants.