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.
Do you love everything about your Snake Plant – except that you only have one? This article will explain how to propagate your Sansevieria by splitting off and transplanting the new shoots that grow from its roots. We’ll go over the benefits of this method and the supplies you’ll need, and then we’ll walk you through the process in detail. Get ready to welcome a thriving crop of baby Snake Plants into your home!
It’s usually easy to spot a Snake Plant’s pups, because they won’t sprout from the same spot as the rest of the foliage. Once these offshoots get large enough, you can take the plant out of its pot and slice through the rhizomes linking them to the root mass. Once you separate the pups, repot them in fast-draining soil.
While they’re settling into their new homes, keep your new plants out of direct sunlight and make sure not to overwater them. Then it’s time to watch and wait – Snake Plants grow slowly, so it will probably take a month or two before your clones begin producing new foliage. We’ll go over all of this in more detail below to ensure that you have all the information you need to divide and multiply your gorgeous plant.
How Snake Plants Reproduce
Like most plants, Sansevierias can multiply by producing flowers and seeds, but they have another reproductive strategy as well.
Their foliage grows from specialized root structures called rhizomes, which function as underground stems. As it grows, a Snake Plant extends new rhizomes to produce clusters of foliage at a distance from the main plant. These extensions can continue to live on their own if they’re separated from the rest of the roots by damage or disease, allowing the Sansevieria to clone itself.
This adaptation comes in handy for Snake Plant owners interested in propagating their plants! It’s easy to divide these clones from the main root mass and raise them separately.
Not seeing many pups on your Snake Plant? Read this article to learn how to encourage your Sansevieria to produce more offshoots.
Why Divide a Snake Plant?
There are lots of great reasons to propagate a Sansevieria. You want to sell them, you want to give them away as gifts, you’re obsessed with them and want one on every flat surface in your house…the list goes on. But you can also multiply Snake Plants from leaf cuttings, so why go to the trouble of digging them up and slicing through the roots?
The most important reason is that Snake Plants don’t always retain their coloring when they grow back from leaf segments. The horizontal bands of light and dark green will be there, but the new foliage may lack the vertical stripes that define some of the most popular varieties. These include:
- Laurentii, the most recognizable Snake Plant cultivar, which features bright yellow bands at the edges
- Bantel’s sensation, a tall and slender Sansevieria that produces white vertical stripes
- Golden hahnii, a dwarf variety that includes lots of yellow coloration
- Black Gold, which gets lots of its visual appeal from the contrast between the dark centers and yellow edges of its leaves
If you want your new Snake Plants to have the same sleek vertical stripes as their parent, propagating from pups is the way to go.
Dividing a Sansevieria is also a good way to give your main plant a little extra room if it’s getting root bound. When your Snake Plant’s roots and rhizomes fill up the pot, they start to squeeze together into a tight knot, restricting their access to water, oxygen, and fertilizer.
Sansevierias are tough, so it takes a long time before this condition starts to bother them, but it will eventually make your plant start to wither and die. By periodically splitting off some of the rhizomes to form new plants, you can keep your Snake Plant from getting too crowded. It’s often obvious when your plant needs more space because the pot will start to bulge at the edges (if it’s made of plastic) or crack (if it’s ceramic).
When to Transplant Your Snake Plant’s Pups
When they first emerge from the soil, a Sansevieriat’s pups are still mostly dependent on the parent plant. If you peek at one below the surface, you’ll see what looks like a single smooth tube sprouting off from the main root cluster and poking up through the surface.
New rhizomes can’t absorb moisture and nutrients until they grow roots of their own. If you cut them off at this stage, there’s a good chance they’ll die before they can dig into the soil and start gathering supplies. If you want your pups to have the best shot at surviving, wait until they’re at least a few inches tall before cutting them off and repotting them.
The best time of year to propagate a Snake Plant from split rhizomes is in the middle of spring. At that point, the growing season is getting underway. Your clones will have lots of solar energy to fuel their growth, and lots of time to get established in their new pots before the days start to get shorter again.
What You’ll Need to Propagate Your Snake Plant
Though it’s technically a form of cloning, propagating a plant isn’t exactly a high-tech operation. But you will need to put together a few materials to make it work.
Most important is the soil. Snake Plants are vulnerable to overwatering, especially right after you transplant them. The best way to avoid this risk is to give them the right growing medium. It needs to be loose, well-aerated, and fast-draining.
The simplest option is to buy a ready-made succulent blend. If you’re more the DIY type, you can make a great Snake Plant potting mix by combining:
- 40% coarse perlite
- 30% orchid bark
- 20% coconut coir
- 10% vermicompost
See our post on Snake Plant soils for more info.
Next, you’ll need pots to put all that soil in – one for each of the pups you’re going to replant. Small pots are best because if the soil volume is too high relative to the size of the root ball, the potting mix will take a long time to dry out every time you water. That will greatly increase the risk of root rot. Make sure the pots have drainage holes for the same reason.
Snake Plant rhizomes are pretty thick, so you’ll want a sharp and sturdy tool to cut them with. Pruning shears should work well, as will a garden knife with a serrated edge.
It’s also important to have some disinfectant. If there are lots of microbes on your blades when you cut into the rhizomes, you can wind up giving your plants root rot. We recommend 3% isopropyl alcohol or 10% bleach.
Finally, we’d like to suggest laying down some newspapers or towels. When you uproot your Snake Plant, you’re likely to spill a fair amount of soil, and you probably won’t want it going right on your floor.
How to Propagate a Snake Plant by Rhizome Division
You’ve nurtured your Snake Plant’s pups until they’re tall enough to live on their own. You’ve gathered your tools. Now you just need to follow a few simple steps to turn your Snake Plant’s rhizomes into healthy, independent plants.
Step 1: Uproot and Clean Your Plant
Snake Plants usually have pretty shallow root systems, so it shouldn’t take too much effort to get yours out of the soil. Grip it near the base of the foliage and tilt it over. If it’s badly root bound, you may need to smack the bottom of the pot a few times to loosen it up (or squeeze the sides if it’s a plastic container.
Clean the soil gently away from your Snake Plant’s roots. Loosen up the clods and brush them away with your fingers, or use some lukewarm water if necessary.
This is a good opportunity to check for any indicators of root rot. The roots should be light orange if they’re healthy; anything gray, dark brown, or black is infected. Test for squishy or slimy spots too.
Step 2: Make Your Cuts
If you found any indicators of root rot, you’ll need to remove the affected tissue before proceeding. Use a clean rag or microfiber cloth to apply some disinfectant to your blades each time you cut into your plant. Try to make each cut as clean as possible; ragged edges are more susceptible to infection.
Once you’re satisfied that your plant is free of rot, you can choose the points where you want to divide the pups.
You’ll see a large bundle of thin roots, plus a few thick rhizomes linking your Snake Plant’s pups to the rest of the plant. You’ll usually want to cut through these as close to the central root mass as possible. That will help ensure that each pup you’re planning to propagate has at least a few roots attached.
Make sure not to remove too much of your Snake Plant. At most, take away a third of the root mass. More than that could stress your plant too much to let it survive.
Step 3: Replant the Pups
Fill the new pots about ¼ to ⅓ full of soil, leaving a little space in the center for the rhizomes. Tuck each clone into its pot and bury the roots. Cover them until the white portions of the rhizomes are no longer visible.
Give them a little bit of water to settle them in place – just enough to moisten the potting mix.
Step 4: Be Gentle With Your New Plants
Sansevierias have a reputation for being unkillable, but being uprooted, cut, and replanted is traumatic for any plant. Your Snake Plant pups will be in a vulnerable state until they recover from the stress and start generating new growth.
Normally, Snake Plants can handle a decent amount of direct sunlight, but you should keep yours away from windows while it’s resting up. That doesn’t mean you want to leave it in the dark – your plant still needs energy to survive and grow. Just make sure that the sun isn’t shining right on its leaves.
Overwatering is another danger to watch out for. Your plant is at high risk of root rot after you transplant it, so be careful to water only when the soil feels completely dry to the touch. Don’t use any fertilizer, either.
You should follow these precautions for 4-6 weeks at a minimum. Once you see fresh foliage starting to poke up from the soil, it means that your Snake Plant is through the worst of the danger.
Congratulations! You’re now the proud parent of several Snake Plant babies. If you followed our advice above, they should have an excellent chance of growing up healthy and strong. Take a look at our other Sansevieria articles if you have other questions about how to make them as happy as they make you.