Propagating Snake Plant, or Sansevieria, is a great way to get to grips with your greenery, and understand the different ways to propagate houseplants. There are at least five ways to propagate snake plants that we’ve tried, and every one of them works without fail.
In this article, we’ll explain the best and fastest ways to propagate snake plants, but all of the methods below are tried and tested methods of growing new Sansevieria plants.
What is a Snake Plant?
Snake Plant, the iconic houseplant, revered for its longevity, its beauty and its carefree nature is an upright stemless foliage plant with spiked tips. Other names included Mother in Law’s Tongue, and its proper title, Sansevieria.
They are part of the plant family Asparagaceae, meaning they are closely related to asparagus – but don’t be tempted to eat them as Sansevieria are toxic. The only similarity they share with asparagus is their tendency to grow as leaves from rhizomatous roots.
Their closer relative is the spider plant, with similar propagation techniques too. There are so many varieties of Sansevieria, including the wonderfully alien Sansevieria cylindrical, but don’t worry, the guide to propagating snake plants below is the same for all snake plants.
What is the Snake Plant’s Natural Habitat?
Native to Madagascar and southern Asia, the snake plant holds water in its stems and can cope very well with drought, easily perking back up after prolonged dry spells.
Because they tend to grow in dry, stony soils, they are naturally adapted to growing in heavily restricted spaces. Snake plants prefer to be restricted in pots because of this, so while propagating by division is possible, it’s best to let them outgrow their pot before repotting.
The tussle for water encourages them to store more water in their leaves which plumps them up, and makes them grow slightly taller too.
How Do Snake Plants Propagate in Nature?
In nature, snake plants propagate through their rhizomes, which send out new leaves from the base. These are called pups, and they grow alongside their parent plants, fighting for water, and eventually crowding out old growth to replace it with new.
What is perhaps less well known is that snake plants flower. In perfect conditions, when temperatures are around 21oC (70oF) and they are only watered when they completely dry out, snake plants will send up flowering stems with beautiful sprays of flowers, similar to the flowers we see on common ornamental grasses.
When pollinated they develop small berries which are spread by birds to further arid spots, and stay on the soil surface surrounded by the bird’s droppings until the weather turns and rain sparks germination.
5 Ways for Snake Plant Propagation
There are five main ways to propagate snake plant:
- Leaf cuttings
- Root cuttings
Within each method of propagation, there are a few options, and it’s those subtle differences that will speed up the process of creating new snake plants.
In each section below we’ll talk about the benefits, and walk step-by-step through the process.
Propagating Snake Plant from Leaf Cuttings
Snake plant leaf cuttings are the most common method of Sansevieria propagation, as just like all the methods (apart from seed propagation) it means you get an exact copy of the parent plant.
The biggest benefits of Sansevieria leaf cuttings though, is that you can get multiple new plants from one large leaf, and that these leaves are a great way to use damaged leaves.
There are three methods of leaf propagation but preparing your leaf is the same for each. Here’s how to prepare Sansevieria cuttings for propagation:
- Cut your desired leaf as close as possible to the soil (choose a leaf that’s damaged where possible, as this will make great cutting material and improve the overall look of your plant).
- Cut a 45o angle at the base of the leaf, then separate the leaf into 3” or 4” sections, keeping a straight cut at the top of each leaf, and a 45o angle at the base of each leaf.
NOTE: This is important. Snake plant leaves are only capable of sending water one way. By cutting the 45o angle on the edge that was closest to the soil, you know which piece to place in the growing medium later.
- Now, leave your cuttings on a paper towel for 2-3 days until their cut ends callous over. This prevents bacteria getting in to leaf through open wounds when they are placed in soil or water (you can skip this step with water propagation).
- Before placing in water, soil, or moss, you can dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone if you have it (rooting powder and rooting gel are both fine), but it’s not essential and they will almost certainly send out roots with or without the rooting hormone.
How to Propagate Snake Plant Cuttings in Soil
To propagate snake plant cuttings in soil, follow the steps above, making sure the leaf is well calloused over (it will look and feel dry across its cut surfaces).
After dipping it in the rooting powder, the only thing you need to do is place the bottom part of the leaf into a 9cm pot, filled with well-drained soil.
The best mix is a pre-mixed houseplant compost, with extra vermiculite for more drainage at this early stage. Roots will appear after about a month, and after a second month you should begin to see new snake plant leaves appear.
The benefit of propagating in soil is that the plant will be more disease resistant in the long-run, having developed stronger roots that are better adapted to its compost mix, than plants propagated in water.
Propagating Snake Plant Cuttings in Water
Once you have prepared your snake plant leaf cuttings, simply place it in water. Like all house plants, snake plants prefer rain water or distilled water, but it’s not essential.
Make sure the cutting is upright and just the bottom ¼” is submerged. Then wait for around a month for roots to appear, changing the water weekly, or whenever it begins to look at all cloudy. Once you see roots, it’s time to place the cuttings in soil to grow them on.
Propagating in water is more reliable than propagating in soil as there is less chance of bacterial infections in early stages, and roots tend to appear around seven days faster.
How to Propagate Sansevieria Cuttings in Moss
The fastest method, and my preferred method of propagating Sansevieria plants is to propagate using moss. You can buy Sphagnum moss in most DIY stores, or on amazon, and it has antibiotic and wound healing properties that protect your young cuttings from infection early on.
Thanks to its healing properties you can in fact skip the 2-3 day callousing step above too.
Step by step guide to propagating Sansevieria in moss:
- Once your leaf cutting is prepared (see guide above) get a drinking glass, and a good handful of sphagnum moss.
- Soak the sphagnum moss for 5-10 minutes, then squeeze it out to remove excess water.
- Fill the glass with sphagnum moss and place your Sansevieria cutting in the moss (burying around ¼” - ½”)
- Cover the glass with a plastic bag and secure it with an elastic band to retain humidity in the moss.
- Wait for 2-3 weeks and the leaf cutting should begin to root.
- Once roots appear, pot your cutting into soil and water whenever the surface dries out.
NOTE: If you ever notice the moss growing mold or losing its green coloring, remove the plastic bag and either replace the moss, or gently clean the leaf and return to water propagation.
By propagating Sansevieria in moss, you create much stronger plants that are far more resilient to diseases once they are potted into soil and await their first new leaves.
Moss propagation is the most complicated method but gives the best results.
How to Propagate Snake Plant from Root Cuttings
Because snake plants grow on rhizomes, they can be propagated from a section of root without disturbing the top growth of the plant at all.
A rhizome is a thick white underground stem, which carries and stores water that is later fed to the leaves. Rhizomes always grow horizontally so are easy to differentiate from fibrous roots.
Because Sansevieria are so well adapted to storing water in their leaves as well as their rhizomes, they will regrow roots from existing leaves if you cut part of their root away.
There is only one way to propagate from rhizomes, but it is incredibly easy. Here’s our step-by-step guide to propagating snake plants from roots:
- Gently tip your snake plant on its side and remove the pot.
- Shake off any soil until you see thick roots. If the roots are at the edge of the pot already, you can skip this step.
- Using a clean, sharp, knife cut off a 3”-4” section of rhizome and place your plant back in its pot.
- Leave the cut rhizome to be callous over as you would with leaf propagation, for 2-3 days.
- Place the rhizome horizontally on top of a pot filled two-thirds with houseplant compost, and lightly cover over.
- Leave it for a month, watering whenever the soil dries out, and you should see leaves appear from the roots.
Note: This should only be done with mature Sansevieria plants.
Sansevieria Propagation from Division
Propagating snake plants from division is by far the easiest way to create new plants, but is not without risk. Sansevieria like to be restricted, so by dividing plants you can give them too much space to grow roots, which will lead them to neglect their leaves.
If you do propagate snake plants by division, make sure to reduce the pot size to reflect the new plants (maximum free soil around the plant should be 1”).
The method of dividing snake plants couldn’t be easier though, two ordinary kitchen forks pushed down between the main leaves into the soil will pry the plant apart, and pull the root system into two halves without too much damage.
If your soil is loose enough and quite dry at the time or division, it may even be possible to divide the plant by simply grabbing each half of the root ball and pulling or tearing it apart.
Aim to do as little damage to the roots as possible during this process.
Propagating Snake Plant from Pups
Snake plant pups are small plants that grow up from the base of their parents. They are essentially just young leaves, but thanks to the natural habit of snake plants to grow from clusters of rhizomes, you can actually propagate entirely new plants from these young leaves.
With a narrow tool like a file, or even a narrow kitchen knife, you can tease out these young pups, and pot them into individual starter pots (2” pots are enough for this, or even egg cups filled with vermiculite).
Because snake plant pups are young plants, rather than cutting, it’s just a case of giving them a growing medium to set root, and a very, very, easy way to create new plants without having to cut any part of the original plant.
Because you’re not making cuts to either parent or child, there is no chance of infection in this method of propagation.
Propagating Snake Plant from Seed
There’s a good reason you don’t often see snake plant seeds on sale in garden centers; they’re not very reliable. Snake plants will grow well from seeds, but they do take a long time to germinate. The biggest problem isn’t germination, but the plant you get as a result.
Because there is so much genetic variation in snake plants, it’s impossible to know exactly what the new generation will look like, as these plants are grown for their variegations, and propagated by cuttings in almost all commercial settings.
But, if you’re open to an experiment, and don’t mind the plant you get at the end, then here’s a simple guide that will give mixed results (we tried and got about 5% germination):
- Lay a sandy cactus compost, mixed 50:50 with vermiculite into a seed tray (drainage is crucial)
- Water them just enough to keep the soil just moist, but never wet.
- Keep their temperature between 75-80C
- Ideally use a grow light until they develop leaves, or keep them in a heated propagator on a bright windowsill in direct sunlight.
- Do not add any fertilizer or feed them until they have reliable roots.
- Prick them into larger pots when they have three small leaves that are large enough to handle.
How to Care for Snake Plant Cuttings
Water Requirements of Snake Plant Cuttings
Any snake plant cutting has the same water and feeding requirements, and it’s really quite simple. Only ever water snake plants when the top inch of soil is completely dry.
They need this time to dry out between watering to mimic their natural environment, especially at the cutting stage. Don’t ever feed snake plant cuttings, as fertilizer will overburden their young roots and force them into a growing stage they are not ready for.
How to Pot Snake Plant Cuttings
When your Sansevieria cuttings (from leaf or rhizome) are growing well in their starter pots and begin to distort the sides of the pot with their mature roots, they are ready to pot on to a bigger container.
This is usually around 4-5 months after cuttings take root. Gently tip the plant out of its small pot and inspect the roots for any signs of black fungal infections, or white spores in the soil.
If the soil and roots look healthy, it’s time to move your plant into a bigger pot. If it’s really compacted and won’t come out of the starter pot, don’t worry, that’s actually good.
Just cut the pot away with clean scissors rather than tip it out. When choosing a new pot, plastic pots are best, as ceramic pots are likely to crack in time as the roots force their way outwards.
The new snake plant pot should be around 1” bigger than the previous pot to encourage new top growth. The more space you give the roots, the more energy your plant will put into growing roots, and less likely it is to grow new leaves.
Common Problems for Propagating Snake Plants
Any method of propagating snake plants has one common problem: root growth. It can trick us into thinking the propagation has failed but is actually a positive thing.
Essentially when your snake plant is potted into a new space, its instinct is to grow new roots to support potential new leaves. No plant will grow leaves without a stem, and because the rhizome is the stem, your cuttings can put all their energy into underground growth before any top growth appears.
If you’re worried though, check the holes at the base of the pot. If there are roots poking out, you should have new plants soon. If not, gently tip to plant out of the pot and check for roots.
If the roots look healthy (white or creamy, rather than brown or black) then be patient. It will work.
Snake Plant Propagation FAQs
Can you propagate a broken snake plant leaf?
As long as a broken snake plant leaf hasn’t completely shriveled up it is perfect cutting material, and can even speed up the process.
By cutting the broken leaf near the soil, you can then cut off the broken part of the leaf, and place the calloused end directly into soil where it will root within around a month.
The unbroken parts of the leaf can be propagated faster in water.
How long does it take for a snake plant to grow from cutting?
Snake plant cuttings take about 1 month to develop roots, and a further month to develop leaves. While they are reliable and easy to grow as mature plants, snake plants are very slow to develop as cuttings.
How do you make snake plants have pups?
While it’s not possible to force a mature snake plant to grow pups, it will develop them regularly if it’s healthy. Make sure your plant is kept between 75-85oC and in a bright sunny location.
If you allow the plant to dry out fully between watering, it should quickly develop these young plants called pups that can be harvested and grown into new plants.
Do snake plants like to be crowded?
Snake plants love being crowded in a pot, and should be allowed to expand until they start bending the edges of their pots. They will never tell you outwardly if they are pot bound, so you need to regularly check the pot, and can even leave it until the plastic pot begins to crack under pressure before repotting.
For more information Sansevieria, be sure to check our comprehensive snake plants growing and care guide.
Start Propagating Snake Plants Today
Mother in Law’s Tongue, Snake Plant, Sansevieria. Whatever you call it, it’s one of the best plants to grow from cuttings because you can really experiment and have some fun without needing to take up too much space.
One windowsill could create five new plants, all using different methods, and makes a great biology experiment for kids wanting to learn how plants grow.
We’ve taken so many cuttings from snake plants now that I’m pretty sure our friends are going to down us if we give them any more plants as presents, but it’s just such a useful way to use up damaged plant material, and make sure you can keep snake plants in one pot for longer.
There you have it, with so many options available, you are now ready to start propagating snake plants.