Snake plants (also commonly known as mother-in-law’s tongue, snake’s tongue or Viper’s bowstring hemp) are one of the most popular species of house plants that are grown indoors. They are very sturdy, easy to maintain and less susceptible to pests. Being such beautiful and beneficial houseplants, it’s natural to feel like having more of them. Are you thinking of creating new baby plants at home?
The idea of propagating a plant might sound daunting to some of us. Some might have already tried to propagate their snake plant, and it didn’t turn out great. This can happen because factors such as soil, temperature, sunlight and weather conditions vary from place to place. Sometimes you have to try different methods until you succeed on it. But don’t worry. In this article, I will try to explain the processes carefully and also share some tips that will surely help you grow your new snake plants.
Let’s see how you can propagate a snake plant at home.
What is plant propagation?
Plant propagation is a process of creating new plants from a certain part of a plant. There are several parts such as roots, leaves, stems, leaf cuttings, bulbs which can be used for propagation. There are both natural and artificial ways for propagating plants. For example, natural propagation is a normal plant reproduction process such as through dispersal of seeds. Many plants naturally reproduce by flowering and producing seeds. On the other hand, grafting and tissue culture are examples of artificial methods.
Different types of plants have different ways of propagating, and it is necessary to maintain special conditions to help them germinate faster. The type of propagation you will see in this article is a vegetative propagation. In this type, only one single parent plant is used and there is no exchange of genes. Vegetative propagation produces plants that are very identical to the parent plant.
Is it necessary to propagate a snake plant?
One of the good reasons to propagate your snake plant can be to bring it back to a manageable size. If your plant has outgrown it’s container and became huge, it can be difficult to move the plant easily. In this case, it might be a good idea to divide it and make more plants.
Snake plants have many amazing benefits. They purify air by absorbing toxins. They remove harmful pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde from the air. Research done by NASA suggests that having at least one plant per 100 square feet at home or office space is good to keep the air clean. For this purpose, I’d say the more snake plants the merrier.
However, you don’t have to go out and purchase a new snake plant every time. Propagating this plant is quite easy.
I want to share with you 6 methods to propagate a snake plant. They are ordered from the quickest, reliable methods to the slowest yet unreliable ones. Don’t forget to check out important tips at the end of this article.
Methods of Propagating a Snake Plant
Propagation by Division
If you have a well grown snake plant and you need more snake plants quickly, you can just propagate by division. Dividing means separating a single plant root into two or more plants. Of course the size of your plant will determine how many plants you can divide it into. If your plant is smaller, you can only separate it in half, but if it is larger, then you can easily separate it into 3-4 pieces.
Here’s how to do it:
- Carefully slide the plant out of its pot or dig it up from the ground if it’s outdoors. Now inspect it’s roots. Make sure that the roots are strong and well-developed. If they seem weak or less in number, your plant is probably too young to divide.
- Now cut the plant from rootball such that there are at least 3-4 rhizomes, some roots and at least one healthy leaf per section. You can use a knife, handsaw or even sharp pruners. Make sure to sterilize the cutting tool.
- After splitting your plant, you can re-pot each section separately in a new container. Make sure the roots are completely covered in soil.
- Then give each plant some water.
Because the roots are strong and still intact, new plants will start to grow immediately.
Propagation by Rhizomes
First of all, what are rhizomes? Rhizomes are stems that grow horizontally underground or very close to the ground. They store energy to produce new leaf pups. Therefore, you can propagate a snake plant directly from its rhizomes.
- After you dig up your snake plant, look for rhizomes near the roots. They are whitish gray in color and look like tubular root vegetables.
- Cut a rhizome from the base. Try to cut very close to the roots but without damaging them. Use a clean sharp knife or handsaw.
- Allow the rhizome to heal for 2-3 days. Keep them in a dry place at room temperature.
- After it develops callous in a few days, plant the rhizome in a new pot. Plant it 1-2 inches deep into the soil and pour in some water.
You will see new growth In about 2 months.
Planting Whole Leaves in Soil
Another quick way of propagating snake plants is by using whole leaves. In this method, we don’t even need roots or rhizome parts.
Here’s how you can use leaves for propagation:
- Remove your snake plant from its pot and choose a healthy leaf.
- Separate the leaf from its base. Preferably tear it with your hands instead of using any tools. This is to ensure that it gets teared from as close as possible to the roots. Also, try to make sure that the leaf has a white colored part near its base. Having this part makes the leaves grow faster.
- After that, take your leaf and plant it in a new pot around 3 inches deep in soil and water it.
New leaves will start appearing in a couple of months. After 4 months you’ll see that a completely new plant has grown from a single leaf.
Planting Leaf Cuttings in Soil
You don’t even need a whole leaf to make new plants. Yes it is possible to propagate a snake plant using just leaf cuttings. But remember that it is not 100 percent guaranteed. Above 3 methods mentioned earlier have more probability to grow new healthy plants. However, if you have a small snake plant and want to create many plants from a single leaf, then this is a good method.
Here’s how to achieve this:
- Cut off a healthy leaf from your snake plant. For this, you don’t need to remove the plant from its pot.
- You may clean the leaf with water, but it’s optional.
- This is a very important step. Before you start cutting the leaf, make sure to remember the direction of the leaf base.
- Cut the leaves vertically making 4-5 inches long cuttings. You can get up to 7 or 8 cuttings from a single big leaf.
- Now plant these cuttings base-side down into a pot. Push the leaf cuttings at least 2 inches deep into the soil. Try to keep few inches of distance between two cuttings. The best type of container for this method is a small, shallow dish.
- After planting into soil, give them some water. Place your container in medium light (no direct sun).
It will take 30+ days for the roots to appear and 2-3 months for the new snake plants to grow.
Propagating Whole Leaves in Water
You might be surprised to hear this, but using water instead of soil is another popular method to grow new snake plants.
- Pluck out a leaf from your plant as mentioned in method 3.
- Take some clean room temperature water in a jar. You may use normal tap water or drinking water. If you have less number of leaves, you can even use a small mug or a bowl.
- Put the plant leaves in water. Make sure the base of each leaf is submerged at least an inch below the water surface.
- Don’t forget to change the water every 3-4 days.
Small roots will start to appear in about 3 weeks. After the roots are stronger and almost 2 inches long, you can plant them in soil. This might take 6-7 weeks.
Propagating Leaf Cuttings in Water
You can also make baby snake plants from just leaf cuttings in water. This method is very similar to the previous one, but it takes longer and a bit more unreliable.
- Cut the leaves to make 4-5 inches long cuttings and put them in a container.
- Leave them for about 3 days before putting them in water. During this time, they form little callous and it seems to make the new plants more hardy. It still doesn’t guarantee a 100% success rate but surely makes a difference.
- After keeping those cuttings in an empty jar for few days, pour in water so that they are submerged at least an inch in water. Be sure to keep leaf cuttings in the right direction, base-side down.
- Don’t forget to change the water after every 3-4 days.
You’ll start to see the roots in a month. Be sure to have at least 2 inches long roots, then you can re-pot it in soil. Don’t plant in soil before the roots are strong enough. It will take about 3 months for the roots to become ready to plant.
Tip 1: Do not water the snake plant every day especially when they are propagating. Just water the plant when the soil is all dried up. If you over-water, the roots will rot and the plant will die. Depending on the weather conditions, you can water them from once a week to once in 2 weeks.
Tip 2: Grow the new plants in smaller pots and not directly on the ground. It will take them longer to evolve roots if they are in big pots.
Tip 3: Don’t keep the snake plants in direct sunlight for long time. They should be kept in a well lit but shadowy place. You don’t even need to put them in a greenhouse. Just a shaded area of your house will do. You can keep them outside but make sure there is no direct sunlight.
Tip 4: It’s recommended to sterilize the cutting tools with alcohol. But if you don’t have it, just make sure the tools are clean.
Tip 5: You don’t need to use fertilizer to grow young snake plants. In fact, adding too much fertilize can burn its tender roots. The soil you normally use for snake plants, cacti or succulents will do just fine.
Tip 6: In case you already had a propagated plant in soil for some weeks or even months but the roots are still really short, it’s OK. No need to worry as long as the leaf looks healthy and the roots don’t get rotten. Just be patient and give it more time.
Tip 7: Insert the leaf cuttings in soil in the correct direction. If you put it upside down against the natural flow, the leaves will not grow roots or start dying sooner. This is because water and nutrients intake flows from root to top. To help you remember, you can mark the different parts with a pen.
Tip 8: Personally I find the water propagation method a bit risky. Changing the water twice or thrice a week is extremely important. If you forget to do that the roots may start rotting. So keep a watering schedule and remember to follow that.
Tip 9: The problem with cuttings methods is when you propagate a variegated snake plant, it will not grow as a variegated plant, but just the normal dark green type. In other words, whether you use soil or water cuttings methods, the new snake plants will have pure green leaves even if you have used leaves with yellow stripes. Yellow lines may appear when they grow bigger in size.
I hope you find the instructions and tips helpful. Now you can easily grow plants on your own. Have patience, give it some time and new leaves will grow from the roots. Even with a one single leaf, you will get a new plant in around 4 months.