Snake plants are pretty common yet amazing houseplants that can beautify your home and office. These tough and hard-to-kill plants can naturally thrive on anything from fertile soil to rocks. However, you probably have never seen a snake plant (Mother in law’s tongue) growing just in water. Yes, it is definitely possible, although with a little bit more efforts than your usual soil-grown snake plants. You can grow Sansevieria plants in water-filled glass jars. A big plus is they look amazing as tabletop decor. Read on to see how you can safely transplant your snake plant from soil to water, and how to take proper care of it.
Growing houseplants in water is also known as hydroponic farming or hydro-culture. Although commercially grown plants use soil as a medium, many houseplants can be successfully grown in water. You can keep such plants as an indoor decor for your workplace, or they’ll also look great in the kitchen and dining area. Now you might be wondering, “How do you feed the plants grown in water?” “Is there any special care needed for these plants?” Here are the answers for your common questions.
Can Sansevieria really survive in water?
The short answer is yes. But it sounds very counter-intuitive right? Overwatering is a common problem with snake plants and can kill them by causing root rot and fungal infestation. Sansevieria cannot survive in wet and water-logged soil for long, but can still grow in 100 percent water. I know it is confusing yet very true.
One reason for this is inactive fungal spores are more prevalent in soil and potting mixes. Pathogens make their food from sugar and organic materials in the soil. Although some of them can grow in water, tap water or drinking water is protected against such contamination.
Snake plants grow easily in water and are often propagated in water through leaf cuttings from an existing plant. Water propagation usually takes 2-3 months until the roots get strong and healthy. Even after the roots are formed, you can continue to grow your baby plants in bottles or the like. One thing to remember is that plants may grow slower in water than soil-based medium. On a positive side, it’s a good choice for indoor ornamental plants that are just kept for decoration and not for growing huge foliage in your living space. Keeping plants in water also allows for a greater flexibility in arrangement.
How to grow a snake plant in water?
Leaf cuttings are often the easiest to root in water, but already rooted plants may also be used. Here’s how you can grow leaf cuttings in water. To cultivate rooted snake plants in water, you need to follow some basic directions. First of all, it’s better to do this towards the end of spring or the beginning of summer, as this is a growth period for snake plants. Just as you do while repotting your plant in soil, take the plant out of its pot, clean the root system and trim the damaged parts off. After that you can put it directly into the hydroponics container, and add water. Let’s see all these steps one by one.
Selecting a container
You can choose almost any container that can hold water. No drainage holes this time! Growing plants in a glass bottle is a very common option, and it’ll go well with the long leaves of Sansevieria Trifasciata. You can use any type of waterproof container, such as glass jars, plastic pots, or tall ceramic coffee mugs. Dark opaque containers are helpful to prevent algae formation. Try to avoid pots that are lined with copper, lead or brass as metals may react with liquid fertilizers and get corroded or cause plant damage.
Choose a container according to the plant size. You may also let the pot style match the Sansevieria variety and complement the plant. Once you have picked the appropriate container, you can fill it with some decorative stones. You may use gravel, pearl chips, pebbles, marbles, beads or anything that sparks your imagination. Here are some recommendations for decorative stones. To keep the water clear and clean smelling, add a pinch of powdered activated charcoal.
Dividing the plant to appropriate size
For transferring your old and large snake plant from soil to water, you may need to divide it. It is likely that your mature snake plant won’t fit in the container that you’ve chosen. Also, if you are using a glass container, you don’t want to break the fragile pot while trying to fit in the whole plant. Older plants may get used to living in the soil, so you can keep the mother plant safe as a backup, if the transplant doesn’t work out.
It’s good to water the plant 1-2 days before, to make the soil loose and easy to remove the plant. Then carefully dig out your snake plant from its pot, and check the roots to see where it can be naturally separated. Take a sharp and sterilized knife (or pruning shears) and turn your plant into several smaller ones. You may choose to take just a small portion apart and repot the remaining plant as is. Just make sure that the selected part has a couple of leaves and some roots.
Removing soil by washing the roots
When snake plants are transferred from soil culture to hydroponics, it’s very very essential to clean the soil off the roots. The organic matter in soil can pose a risk of pests infection and diseases. Don’t neglect this fundamental point as it’s a key to success of hydroponics.
- Shake and tap the plant gently to make the root soil fall off and expose all the roots.
- Then soak it in clean water for 15-20 minutes.
- After that, gently wash the roots 2-3 times with water until the water runs clean and transparent with no silt.
- Use your hands to clean the gaps so that the roots are completely free of soil. If necessary, you can use bamboo or wooden sticks or a brush to dig out the soil stuck in crevices. Just make sure there must be absolutely no soil left.
- Wash the leaves with water as well.
Trimming off old roots and dead leaves
After removing all the soil from the roots, you may be able to see the root damage if any. Next step is to remove all the diseased and old parts of the root. Only keep white and firm healthy roots. If there are any yellow, droopy or curling leaves cut them off as well. To avoid any contamination from cutting tools, again thoroughly wash the plant with water.
Putting the plant into water
After the plant is properly cleaned, you can directly put it into the container. Pour in clean tap water or drinking water. Make sure that the roots are fully submerged in water.
As you can imagine, water is the main component and water quality is the most important aspect to a hydroponic system. It’s best to use plain drinking water or water out of the tap. Your tap water must satisfy certain safety requirements by the law, so it’s usually safe for hydroponics. If you are thinking about using pond water, rain water or water from a well, it’s a good idea to first get it tested for mineral content. Too much of a particular mineral can prevent the snake plant from absorbing other nutrients properly. Apart from minerals, the water may contain bacteria and other microorganisms. And because there is no soil to filter out the impurities in water, they go straight to the roots.
Some plants can react badly to chlorine in the water. To avoid this, you may fill another container with tap water and leave it standing overnight. Because chlorine is gas at room temperature, chlorine molecules will evaporate into the air. Then give this water to your snake plant. In winter, the air is very dry (depending on the region) and there is little moisture in it. In this case, you can mist the snake plant with a fine spray to increase the humidity.
Temperature and Light
Your snake plant in water can survive a temperature between 50-85°F (10-29°C). Being a tropical plant, it does prefer warmer temperatures around 70°F (21°C) or higher. For indoor plants, this should not be much difficult to maintain.
In addition, snake plants prefer bright light, whether grown in soil or water. You can use moderate to bright filtered sunlight by placing your plants on a windowsill. However, snake plants don’t necessarily need the sun. Scattered light from lamps works just fine. Only make sure it’s sufficiently bright.
Snake plants require several elements and inorganic compounds to grow and thrive. Good news is they do not care whether these compounds come from soil or water. Macro-nutrients like Nitrogen are necessary for new growth, and they can be added artificially. You can use fertilizers to meet these nutrient requirements of snake plants. However, there is a huge difference between adding fertilizers to soil versus water.
You must use a soluble fertilizer that quickly dissolves in water and makes its way to the roots. Choose a fertilizer in liquid or easily water-soluble salt form. Some are even specially designed for hydroponic plants. This one is a good liquid fertilizer for Sansevierias. Feed your snake plants once a month only during the spring and summer seasons. Make a diluted mixture of water and fertilizer using one-fourth the recommended amount on the package. Keep your plant in this mixture for a week, then replace it with plain water. This should be enough to keep the plant growing, though it’ll grow slower than in soil.
Organic fertilizers are not recommended as they don’t properly dissolve in water, and it’s hard to know how much nutrient is being supplied to the plant. Also there is a risk of pest infestation.
Important tips for cultivation
Change the water regularly
It is extremely crucial to replace the water in your pot on a regular basis. The main purpose for doing this is to ensure the continuous oxygen supply to roots. Fresh water contains oxygen and it is slowly used up by the plant. If you don’t change the water for a long time, pathogens start growing in it. Snake plants may develop soft rot caused by several types of bacteria.
A general water replacement schedule is once every 5-10 days in spring and fall, once every 5 days in summer, and once every 10-15 days in winter. However, if algae becomes an issue or water starts smelling funky, change it more frequently. It’s better to keep a close eye on your plant, at least for the initial few weeks till you get a general idea of water-changing frequency.
Clean the container when you replace water
Every time you change the water, rinse the roots and pot with clean water. This will ensure that no bacteria or fungi remains sticking to the container and re-enter the water. If you notice any rotten parts on the roots or leaves, cut them off and wash the plant thoroughly after that. As long as you change the pot water frequently, root rot is rare to develop.
Protect the plants from cold
Snake plants don’t like cold weather, so protect them from the influence of dropping temperature in winter. If you have a hydroponics grow room, ensure proper air circulation inside it, so that the temperature remains constant throughout. Place your snake plants near the heater, especially during nights. If necessary, you can also arrange an aquarium heater. In any case, do not let the water freeze, or it will be impossible to save the plant.
Hope you find these tips useful and will be able to grow your snake plants in water.