A note on names: In scientific circles, Snake Plants are now considered part of the Dracaena genus, and the name Sansevieria has been retired. However, many people still know these plants by their former name, so we’ll sometimes refer to them as Sansevierias. We have an article on the subject here.
Reason number two million and twelve that we love houseplants: they’re the only decorative accessories that can multiply themselves. Snake Plants are especially easy to propagate since they sprout separate “pups” that you can split off from the main root mass and replant. But what if your Sansevieria doesn’t seem interested in having babies? How do you get a Snake Plant to make more pups?
Anything that boosts your Snake Plant’s growth should also prompt it to make new offshoots. The most important factor is a healthy amount of sunlight, which your plant needs to power its expansion. The other important growth boosters are water, fertilizer, and container space.
It’s important to be cautious as you increase these growth factors. All of them can harm your Snake Plant instead of helping if you provide too much. And remember that even in perfect circumstances, it will take several months to get pups that are large enough to propagate, so be patient!
Without further ado, here are our 4 best tricks for encouraging a Snake Plant to make new shoots.
#1: Put Your Plant in a Sunny Place
When a Snake Plant isn’t producing offshoots as fast you expected, it’s almost always because it needs more light. Plants can only get the calories to build new roots and leaves from one source: the sun.
And Snake Plants are hungrier than many indoor gardeners realize as they often use these attractive succulents to brighten up dreary, under-lit parts of their homes. Snake Plants are survivors, and they can keep on trucking with less illumination than most other houseplants, but they’ll take a lot longer to produce offspring in dim light.
Your Snake Plant may be more inclined to start a family if you move it to a brighter area. Try to find a location that gets between 1,000 and 2,000 foot-candles of light during the brightest part of the day. You can get an exact measurement with an illuminance meter, or a rough one using the shadow test – look for a spot where the shadows are dark and have sharp edges.
We recommend an east-facing window if you’ve got one available. Southern or western exposures can also be good, but you may want to keep your Snake Plant a few feet away from the window. They can get sunburned in intense heat. During the growing season, you can put your Sansevieria on a porch or balcony – just don’t let it get more than 5-6 hours of direct sun per day.
Make the transition from darkness to light gradually, because your Sansevieria may need time to adjust. Give it a little more sun each day until it’s getting the full dose we recommended above.
#2: Add Some Fertilizer
People often refer to fertilizer as plant food, but as we’ve already discussed, a plant gets its actual food in the form of sunlight. Fertilizer is more like a nutritional supplement. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, of course – we’re trying to get your Snake Plant to make some babies, and anyone who’s read a parenting blog knows the value of prenatal vitamins.
Just remember that more isn’t always better. Giving your Snake Plant more fertilizer than it can swallow will only leave a bunch of unwanted minerals in the soil. Over time, that can dehydrate and damage the roots.
You should be fine with a once-a-month, half-strength dose of a fertilizer with a 3:1:2 NPK ratio. A balanced formula like Jack’s Classic All Purpose Fertilizer will work too – again, though, make sure to dilute it to half the recommended strength.
Don’t give your Snake Plant any fertilizer when it’s not getting enough light to grow. As summer shifts over to fall, you should start tapering the dosage down, stopping completely around mid-autumn.
As long as you follow those guidelines, your plant should have the nutrients it needs to sprout healthy new pups.
#3: Make Sure Your Snake Plant Gets Enough Water
We’re about to give you some advice that will shock houseplant bloggers everywhere. Ready? Here goes: don’t let your Snake Plant’s roots dry out completely.
I know, I know – overwatering is the single biggest danger for Snake Plants, which are built for desert environments. If you let their soil stay soggy for too long, ravenous moisture-loving microbes can chow down on their roots. So yes, you should always avoid overwatering your Snake Plant. (More on that here.)
However, underwatering will slow down its growth, since photosynthesis requires water as well as sunlight.
You can strike the right balance by watering when the soil around your Snake Plant’s roots has just the slightest bit of moisture left. The simplest test is to poke the soil with your finger. Once the top 2-3 inches feel dry, your Snake Plant is ready for another drink. You can get even more accuracy with a soil moisture meter.
Whichever method you prefer, you should check on your Snake Plant every 5 days or so to ensure that you’re not letting it go too long without water.
You can greatly reduce the risk of overwatering by keeping your Snake Plant in soil that drains quickly. The key is to include lots of large-particle ingredients that take a long time to break down, like thick chunks of rock and bark. Our go-to recipe is 40% coarse perlite, 30% orchid bark, 20% coconut coir, and 10% vermicompost. Those who’d rather buy something ready-made can go for a sandy potting mix intended for succulents.
When watering, drench your Snake Plant’s soil until there’s a trickle coming from the bottom of the pot. Not only will this quench its thirst, but it will also help to wash away any excess fertilizer, making the plant’s roots less likely to burn. Just make sure your Snake is planted in a container with a drainage hole, and empty out the saucer underneath after it has fully drained.
#4: Provide a Bigger Space
This isn’t always strictly necessary, but if you’ve tried everything else and your Snake Plant is still hesitant about starting a family, it might be waiting on a larger home. When a plant becomes root bound, meaning that it’s filled up all the available space in its pot, its growth can stagnate. The roots get in each other’s way, which limits the amount of water and fertilizer they can soak up.
To avoid this, we recommend moving your Snake Plant into a bigger pot every 3 or 4 years. You don’t want to make it too much larger – an extra 2 inches of width should be enough. If you go larger than that, you’ll find that it’s harder to avoid overwatering – the excess soil will take longer to evaporate.
While you’re transferring your Snake Plant into its new container, use your fingers to gently spread its roots apart. This will encourage it to colonize the new space instead of staying bundled up. The best time to make the switch is in the early-to-mid-spring.
Your Sansevieria will need to rest and recuperate for about a month after you move it. During this time, keep it out of direct sunlight and don’t give it any fertilizer.
How to Propagate Your Snake Plant’s Pups
Assuming that your Snake Plant responds well to the above treatment, you should soon have a crop of new offshoots. They should be fairly easy to identify; they start out as pointy green nubs that poke up out of the soil. Over time, each one will turn into a separate cluster of leaves with its own center. We’ve got an entire article devoted to removing and repotting pups but we will go over the basics here.
It’s best to let your Sansevieria’s pups get at least a few inches tall before you transplant them. Once they’re ready, you can uproot your Snake Plant and identify the rhizomes connecting the little clones to the parent plant.
Disinfect your clippers with a 10% bleach solution or some rubbing alcohol, then snip through the rhizomes. Try to get pretty close to the main root mass to ensure that your new Sanseveria starts its life with as many roots as possible.
Place your baby Snake Plant in a small pot filled with the same fast-draining soil we described above. Bury it until the white part of the stalk is underground. Add a little water, place your Sansevieria in a spot that receives bright indirect sunlight, and wait for it to take root and grow. Don’t add any fertilizer until it’s well-established and producing new leaves, and be careful not to overwater.
When you give your Snake Plant the right diet and the right living space, it will start happily producing pups. Follow the tips we’ve provided to give your plant the boost it needs. And have fun producing a big batch of thriving baby plants!