Whatever variety of Sansevieria (also called Mother in law’s tongue or snake plant) you have, there will come a time when it will overgrow it’s container. It’s leaves will spread outside the pot. And sometimes the foliage might seem to be suffering due to the edges of the container. If so, it may be time for repotting your snake plant.
Although some varieties of Sanseviera grow tall instead of wide, many have the ability to develop horizontally. Especially, snake plants that grow outdoors in favorable weather conditions can multiply wildly. Their rhizomes (underground stems that spread horizontally) play a key role in the proliferation. However, potted plants don’t have much space to spread both underground as well as through the foliage. So, after every few years they need to be transferred to a new bigger container.
If you think your snake plant is due for repotting, this post will help you understand why and how to do it properly.
Why do snake plants need to be repotted?
Although most snake plants like to be root-bound, repotting is required if its roots have no space left to spread. Over time, your plant grows and becomes too big for it’s pot or container. When this happens, the plant can be uncomfortable and in distress. This can lead to stunted growth and curled or even cracked leaves. Because the plant is big, it might receive insufficient nutrients and moisture from the soil mix.
Furthermore, crowded leaves may hinder the photosynthesis process of the plant. When the roots are crowded inside the soil, it makes the soil dense and difficult to drain water. This is specifically bad for snake plants, because they prefer loose uncompressed soil. Dense soil can promote root rot. Therefore, it is important to repot your snake plants periodically.
What are the benefits of repotting?
The main advantage of transplanting your snake plants is to promote a healthy growth. In the new pot, your plant can grow freely.
Another benefit of repotting is you get to replace the soil. You can fertilize an old soil with depleted nutrients. Likewise, if your soil is too compact, you can mix in some sand or perlite to make it more breathable.
If you have a medium or large sized plant, repotting can also give you an opportunity to split the plant. You can propagate it by dividing into two or more pieces, and have new plants.
When should you repot your snake plant?
Plants will show signs when it’s growth is stunted. You should be on the look-out for these signs to know if it’s repotting time already. Here’s a list of some good indicators that your plant is suffering from insufficient space:
- The roots are peeping through the drainage holes of the pot.
- Roots are showing up on the surface of your container.
- Containers are bulging outwards. Particularly, plastic containers are prone to bulge if there is no space for the roots inside.
- Clay or terracotta pots are forming cracks.
- The foliage looks like it’s stuck in the pot. And the plant doesn’t come out of the pot easily.
If you notice any of these signs in your plant, you’ll know it’s definitely time to move it into something more spacious.
The active growth and flowering season of snake plants is usually during spring time. This is true for most varieties of Sansevieria. Therefore, late winter or early spring seems to be a perfect time for repotting a snake plant. This will give your plant some time to adjust in it’s new home. And allow it to freely grow and expand in the spring. However if needed, repotting can be done at any time of year.
Generally, snake plants need to be repotted every 2 to 3 years. But in some cases, you can wait up to even 6 years. It really depends on the growth rate of your plant and size of the pot. Meanwhile, just make sure that your plants look healthy in their pots.
After you decide to repot your plant, it’s time to get it done. Here are some important things you’ll need for repotting your snake plant.
It’s necessary to choose the correct type of container which is good for your plant and won’t require repotting soon. The size of your pot will depend on the age and size of the plant itself. Choose a pot which is at least 1 – 2 inches wider in diameter than the old one. Many snake plants grow rather tall, so consider the depth of the pot as well. If the new container is too shallow, the plant will get top-heavy and might tip over.
Make sure that the container has at least one bottom drainage hole. This will help to remove the excess water and allow smooth drainage. It’s good to invest in a pot with a stand, tray or drainage saucer. You can choose plastic, ceramic, terracotta or any kind of material.
Loose, free-draining soil is a must for snake plants, as they prefer to be on a dry side. They need little water to survive, and it’s really easy to overwater them. If the snake plants sit in a soaked soil for a long time, they are prone to get rotted roots.
Mother in law’s tongue grows well in a ready-to-use, soilless potting mix made for tropical plants. You can mix in a cacti and succulents potting mix in garden soil. You can also make your own potting mix by combining regular soil with other ingredients like sand and perlite. A handful of compost or manure can be added to enrich the soil with extra nutrients and microbes. Just make sure that the soil mixture provides good drainage.
Apart from a pot and soil, you might need some equipment such as:
- Dull knife – Knife is helpful to loosen the plant from its container.
- Pruners or shears – If you want to divide the plant, garden shears, pruners or a knife is necessary to cut the roots and rhizomes.
- Gloves – to keep your hands clean.
- Garden trowel – for digging and scooping up the soil.
- Cloth, mesh tape, marbles, gravel or pebbles – to put on the drainage holes in a pot, so that soil doesn’t escape from the holes.
How to repot a snake plant?
Now that you are well prepared, let’s see how to transfer a plant to its new home. Repotting a snake plant is easy if you follow these simple step-by-step instructions.
- The first step is to remove the plant from its container. Thorough watering helps loosen the soil from roots and the pot. Use a knife to scrape off soil from the edges of the container. Now lay the pot on the ground horizontally and gently thump the sides of it. Try to pull out the plant from its pot. If it’s not coming out, use a trowel to loosen up more soil. Then turn the pot upside down and smack it gently until the plant slides out. Be careful not to damage the roots or leaves while doing this.
- Once the plant is out, examine the roots carefully. As snake plants are prone to root rot, look for the signs of rotting. If you see mushy and dark spots on the roots, it means the rot has already developed. However, it’s easy to remedy. Use a clean knife or shears to simply trim off the rotten portions.
If you find large, bulgy roots wrapping around the entire root ball, you can cut them off as well. This is to ensure that the plant doesn’t overgrow in its new pot. Use a knife to slice through these roots. However, if you want to divide your plant in parts, then follow these guidelines to propagate it by division.
- Next step is to examine the soil and decide if you want to use it further. A good soil has an ability to drain well, and can be reused. But if the soil looks dense, you can still save it by adding some sand, peat, perlite or cactus potting mix to allow drainage. Putting in some worm-compost or manure will add nourishment to the soil.
- Now you can prepare the container by filling it with potting soil. Ensure that the drainage holes are completely open. Then you need to cover the holes, so that the soil won’t just fall through them. Conceal the holes with a small cloth or mesh tape. Or, you can add a layer of marbles, pebbles or gravel at the bottom of a pot. After that, start filling in the soil mix. You can use a knife or trowel to measure the length of the root bulb. And guess the approximate depth up to which soil should be poured before placing the plant.
- The last step is to place the snake plant in the pot. Remember to plant it at the same depth as it was before. Top of the root ball should be just immersed in soil. Try to keep at least 1-2 inches distance from the pot rim to the top of the soil layer. Use one hand to hold the plant in the middle and continue to add soil with the other hand. Don’t pack the soil too firmly. You can top it with a thin layer of compost or decorative rocks and marbles.
After care is necessary to let the plant settle nicely, and avoid transplant shock. Here are a few tips on taking care of your snake plant after repotting.
- Don’t water the plant right after repotting, especially if you have already moistened the soil before removing it from the old pot. Wait for a few days until the soil gets dry.
- After watering, let the soil drain out all the excess water. This will prevent the roots from rotting. Click here to learn how to properly water your snake plants.
- Keep the plants in shade for at least one month. You can put them in bright but indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight can be too harsh for the snake plants after repotting.
- Avoid fertilizing your plants right away. If you put the fertilizer too soon, it might burn the roots. Allow the roots to develop for at least a month.
I hope you find this article helpful to understand the necessity and step-by-step procedure for repotting your snake plant. It’s a really easy and fun project to make your plants happy!