How to Root Snake Plant Cuttings in a Flash

All you need is a knife, pot, soil, and a plant.

Potted snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Photo: Getty Images

I don't care if Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow or not. Days are still dreary, cloudy, and cold. What gardening project could divert you from dark thoughts and bring meaning to your hibernating soul? Turn one snake plant into two, three, or four! It's quick, easy, and cheap, cheap, cheap.

Also called mother-in-law's tongue due to the length of its slender leaves, snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) is an uber-popular houseplant because it tolerates low light and dry air, needs little watering or fertilizing, and is truly hard to dispatch. In fact, being too attentive is a good way to kill it. (Throwing it in the freezer is even better.)

If you grow a snake in low light perpetually, however, its leaves become lanky and eventually fall over. This happened to one of mine I stuck in the corner of the living room next to the sofa. Tired of looking at the same old mess, I cut off two of the floppy leaves, rooted them, and now have three plants.

How to Root a Snake Plant

  1. Use a sharp knife to cut off a leaf near the soil line.
  2. Place the cut leaf on a table or countertop for a couple of days. This allows the cut end to heal over before it hits the soil. If you skip this step, the leaf may rot.
  3. Stick the cut end in a pot filled with moist potting soil. No rooting powder necessary! The pot must have a drainage hole and saucer and be tall enough that the leaf won't pull it over.
  4. Keep the soil moist by watering a couple of times a week for two to three weeks. Always empty the saucer of excess water.
  5. In short order, you'll see new leaves emerging from the soil. A new plant! From then on, care for it as you did the mother plant.

Let's say, though, that you're working with the most popular selection of snake plant, 'Laurentii.' It features leaves with horizontal bands of green and silver edged with vertical yellow stripes. This plant is a chimera. Two types of genetically different tissue – the green and silver part and the yellow stripes – grow together to form a leaf. If you root it as a leaf cutting as described above, you'll get only the green and silver, not the yellow. Propagating the chimera requires taking a rhizome cutting.

Don't freak out! That's easy too. Here's how to take a rhizome cutting.

  1. Pop out the snake plant from its pot. Shake off all the soil. Don't worry, the plant won't at all.
  2. The roots of the plant consist of a cluster of rhizomes (swollen underground stems with feeder roots attached). Use a knife to separate a rhizome from mother plant, making sure the cut rhizome has both leaves and roots.
  3. Follow steps 2-5 above. You'll get another yellow striped plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do snake plants have deep roots?

    Snake plants have underground rhizomes and twig-like roots. The root system is shallow, and healthy plants have firm roots with a light orange hue.

  • What do orange roots mean on a snake plant?

    Root systems with a light orange hue are healthy for snake plants. The root's interior is light green to white when healthy and brown to black when damaged or diseased. Damaged or diseased root systems occur from improperly drained soil that remains soggy.

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