Mother in law plants

Horty Girl Sanseveria, also known as a Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law

A Sansevieria, also known as a “Snake Plant” or “Mother’s Tongue, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” is a great household plant to have in your home as it’s tough, durable and will even grow in conditions of low light or under watering. This plant is perfect if you are someone that has a busy busy schedule, or has never had a plant before in their home.

The Snake Plant has tall, narrow, sturdy leaves that are stiff and very pointy. The leaves can vary from pale to dark green, green edged with yellow or light green and yellow. As the Mother’s tongue matures, the plant can produce little delicate flower spikes in a pale green or yellowish color. This flowering is very unpredictable though, and some may never flower.

A Sansevieria is a succulent type plant, and therefore can survive with little attention as it retains water well. These plants can live on average for 5 to 10 years, and with the proper care of following these tips they can live much longer than that – 20 to 25 years! Don’t worry though it grows very slowly, growing to the height of 3 to 4 feet.

Caring for a Sanseveria Plant

Snake plants love the heat!The plant should be placed in a bright area, in indirect light. If this isn’t possible, it can survive in low light surroundings if necessary.

Water a Snake plant sparingly. It is better to under water than to over water. Use only about maximum 1/4 cup of water every few weeks. Let the soil become completely dry between watering. Always water on the edge of the base of the plant – never pour water over the leaves.

The Sanseveria will also give off warning signs of your watering habits. If you are not giving enough water, the leaves will lean or droop and will wrinkle up. Over watering? Leaves will turn slimy. If you notice your leaves beginning to appear soft, greasy or slimy – pull them out immediately! This will prevent it from affecting the rest of the leaves.

*Also, as the seasons change – your water amount should adjust as well. In the hot summer months your plants will need more water. In the winter months, your plant will need less water, and less frequently – once every month or two months*

A FOOLPROOF WAY to WATER A SANSEVIERIA SNAKE PLANT – Use the Horty Girl Smart Stick found with every plant. Similar to baking, stick the smart stick into the soil, wait a second and pull it out. If it comes out clean and feels dry then its time to water it.

OUCH! – Be careful, the leave tips are sharp! Put in a place that you won’t bump into it. Don’t trim off the tips of the plant either. ALSO – Do not let your loved ones eat this plant, as it is extremely poisonous!

From time to time you may find your snake plant leaves falling over. It’s happened to my plants and now I’m going to share with you what I do about it.

I’m not talking about a lot of leaves here; just 1 or 2 every now and then. If a lot of your Snake Plant leaves are falling over, it’s a good bet the cause is overwatering. The leaves, roots, and rhizomes (the underground horizontal stem by which they spread) all store water. The leaves will “mush out” at the base, crease and fall over. This could be another blog post and video so let’s move on.

I’ve received questions as to why a random leaf will fall over and what to do about it. Because it was happening to 2 of mine, I thought it was time to strike while the iron’s hot and fess up just in case you were wondering. It doesn’t happen to my Snake Plants too often, maybe once or twice a year.

In my experience, this happens with the taller growing varieties like my darker Sansevieria trifasciata “Zeylanica” and the yellow-edged Sansevieria trifasciata “Laurentii” which you see here. The leaves grow tall (some will reach 5′) so if the base cinches in, the weight of the middle and top of the leaf pulls it down. Random leaves falling or leaning over is just the nature of this wonderful plant.

The leaf has completely fallen over

And what can you do about a falling leaves? I’ll take you through the steps to what I do with my Snake Plants and give you a couple of options for propagation. You could always toss the leaf, but why? It’s simple – just prune and propagate. You can cut up the leaf into smaller sections if you’d like but I always take the route below.

Getting ready to propagate

How to Prune and Propagate Whole Snake Plant Leaves

Cut the leaf all the way down to the soil line. Make sure your pruners are clean & sharp to avoid a jagged cut &/or infection.

I cut the bottom 5 – 10″ off of the leaves. How much depends on how thin the bases of the leaves are. You’ll want to take off those weak lower portions. Be sure to make clean cuts straight across. You can always propagate the lower leaf sections if you’d like. Just make sure to put the ends that were growing out of the soil into the propagation mix; not the other end that you cut the top portions off of.

The Zeylanica (L) & Laurentii leaves after a portion of the bottoms has been cut off.

Because those leaves contain a lot of water, I let the bottoms heal over for 2 days before planting. Anywhere from 3-7 days is fine. You want the stems to heal off so the cut ends callus over & protect them from rotting out while propagating. It’s hot in Tucson now so I only needed to heal mine over for a day or 2. By the way, I’ve let leaves heal over for a month or so & they’ve propagated just fine.

Time to Propagate

Spring & summer are the best times for propagation.

The way I do it is to put the leaf back in the pot with the mother plant; the one it came out of. You can also put it in a separate pot filled with succulents & cactus or propagation mix if you’d like. Either way, you’ll probably need to stake the leaf so it stays standing while the roots form & it’s able to stay upright on its own.

Either way, I let the mix stay dry & for 3-5 days after which time I water it.

The Zeylanica leaf planted, staked & tied back in with the mother plant.

Good To Know When You Find Your Snake Plant Leaves Falling Over

I’ve found that the outer leaves are the ones that fall over. The middle leaves, if growing densely, are able to prop each other up.

As your Snake Plant grows, this can happen 1 or 2 times a year.

You might have to tie your leaf to the stake to keep it anchored; depending on how tall & heavy it is. I like to use jute string because it’s tough, inexpensive & non-obtrusive.

The leaf propagating in a separate pot. A great method if you want to give it away!

I used to grow Snake Plants in my garden when I lived in Santa Barbara. I would use this same method of pruning, healing over, & sticking back in with the mother plant outdoors too.

Snake Plants Are Easy to Care For

Snake Plant mania—I definitely have it. How about you? You may also know them as Sansevierias or Mother In Law Tongues. Whatever you call them, they’re 1 of the toughest and easiest houseplants that you’ll ever get your hands on.

You can find this plant, more houseplants and lots of info in our simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive.

Snake Plants are the ultimate “set it and forget it” houseplant making them appealing to both novice and experienced gardeners. Just go easy on the liquid love – you don’t want to over water a Snake Plant. Don’t be discouraged if your Snake Plant leaves occasionally fall over, lean, or droop over the side of the pot. My Snake Plants have experienced this a few times. Lucky for us, they propagate easily!

Happy gardening,

Photo: Getty Images

Welcome to Bad at Plants, a new column in which plant expert Maryah Greene, of Greene Piece consulting, answers your questions about plants, so that we might all become at least slightly better at keeping them alive.

“A new little leaf guy started to grow from my snake plant, and I was afraid he didn’t have enough room where he was, so I tried putting him in his own pot. But that was, like, months ago, and he is not growing anymore. I guess if he was DEAD I would be able to tell? But he was growing so fast, and now he’s stopped?”

Okay, so two things might have happened here:

Possibility A: If the cutting was initially growing when placed in a new pot of soil, and has suddenly stopped growing, it is possible that the plant is exhibiting some symptoms of dormancy. During this period, growth and development come to a temporary stop due to a multitude of factors. One of the most common is a change in environmental conditions.

Possibility B: The other reason it may have stopped growing above the soil is that it’s simply stretching out its roots underneath the soil. Just because you don’t see any action taking place above the soil, it doesn’t mean that growth isn’t occurring underneath. Sometimes my plants show extreme amounts of growth and out of nowhere, they take a break. Trust that there is still life under the soil, even if the eye can’t see it.

I think it’s likely Possibility B.

Taking a step back: There are different ways to propagate the plant depending on the type of plant. In the case of a snake plant, what I recommend is to start it off in some water for a bit. Because snake plants are in the cacti family, they’re used to holding a lot of moisture, which is why they don’t need to be watered as often. It sounds like what you did was to cut the plant and put it in a new pot with fresh soil, which can totally be done, but I recommend starting in water first just so you can get the roots going and you can see that you’ve actually propagated successfully, in the sense that roots are growing in the water.

You can use a cup of water, a jar, or something that allows the plant to sit in water without touching the bottom, so there’s enough room for the roots to grow. The whole thing doesn’t need to be submerged in water. Then, you want to wait four to six weeks until you see the roots growing. You’ll see little white sprouts come from the bottom of that cutting, and that’s a good sign after those four to six weeks that you can drop it in a pot with fresh soil.

It sounds like you did what I did when I was brand-new to this whole plants thing: I took a cutting of a Monstera and plopped it in some soil and hoped for the best. It’s not dead, and it also hasn’t grown. I was so sick of it a month ago, I pulled it out of the soil thinking I’d throw it away. It had all these really long roots in it, so it was actually growing. So what’s probably happening with yours is that it’s growing roots inside that soil system, but you’re not going to see any more growth up top until you get a substantial amount of roots growing. The way to bypass that period is to put the piece in water to make sure the roots are growing first. Think of it as building a foundation before it can grow upward.

Also, snake plants are some of the slowest-growing plants. I’m so unsatisfied with them! If you let the roots grow one to two inches in length first, you should see growth within four to six weeks of potting the snake-plant cutting. Sometimes cuttings take a bit longer depending on how much, if any, adequate lighting they’re receiving, but that’s a general rule of thumb. You would know if it’s dead, though. (If the plant’s roots look mushy and have a dark-brown color as opposed to tan, the roots may be waterlogged, or drowning. You should always be able to easily see the contrast in color between dark soil and tan roots.) I would recommend you (gently!) pull the cutting out of the soil to see if there are any roots there. If there are no roots, I’d say you can backtrack and plop it in some water. Otherwise, you can throw it out. But if it’s not dying, it’s good to go. Overall, the No. 1 rule of thumb: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you aren’t seeing any death in the plant, then let it do its thing on its own time.

Do you have questions for Maryah? Send them to [email protected] and we’ll try to get you an answer.

Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) have a reputation for being very hardy. That’s probably why they’re a familiar sight in many homes. But even the toughest plants have their limits, and one sign of a problem is brown tips on snake plant leaves.

Why does your snake plant have brown tips on the leaves? Brown tips on a snake plant are most often due to;

  1. Inconsistent or improper watering
  2. Over-Chlorinated Water
  3. Excessive Direct Sunlight And Heat
  4. Cold Stress
  5. Excess Fertilizer
  6. Low humidity
  7. Pest infestation

These “indestructible” plants are supposed to be so easy to care for, but they won’t thrive or look their best unless you provide the right conditions for them. Read on and I’ll explain how to fix a snake plant with brown tips and how to prevent it from happening.

How Did Your Snake Plant Get Brown Tips?

You’re not supposed to need a green thumb to keep a snake plant healthy. But it is a living thing, and there are limits to the amount of neglect any plant can tolerate.

While snake plants will cope with the stress of imperfect growing conditions, there is a limit. Brown tips on a snake plant is a common response to stress. The trick is to find out what is causing the stress and fix it, before your snake plant sustains too much damage.

If your snake plant is showing other signs of damage, you may like to read my other article about the common reasons why your snake plant might be dying.

1. Watering Problems Causing Brown Tips On Snake Plants

Snake plants only like to be watered once their potting soil has completely dried out. This is probably the most important thing to do to keep your snake plant in good health.

Their health can suffer and the look of the plant will deteriorate when watered incorrectly. The following problems can cause brown leaves and brown leaf tips on your snake plant.

Underwatering

While snake plants are fantastic at conserving and storing water, there is a limit. When the plant gets extremely dehydrated, the first place you will see it is in the leaf tips.

This is a normal response to underwatering, and rarely means your snake plant is going to die. Once regular watering is resumed, the plant will often grow a number of new leaves from the rhizome as it makes use of the new abundance of water.

Inconsistent watering

Most plants acclimatize to their conditions to a certain degree. An underwatered plant that is suddenly subjected to excess water can quickly show signs of stress such as brown leaf tips. This commonly happens whenever I suddenly remember about a plant that I have neglected for a while and try to overcompensate.

It’s always good to have a routine for checking your plants to see if they need watered or have any other problems developing. I normally check in on my snake plants about once per week to see if they need anything.

Overwatering

Overwatering results in the potting media remaining wet most of the time. This reduces aeration of the roots and potting media, allowing anaerobic bacteria and fungi to thrive, which can result in root rot.

Initially, overwatering will result in the plant absorbing too much water, so you will get signs of oedema or even blisters on the leaves. This can result in bacterial or fungal disease in the leaves which will present as brown or black spots on the leaves.

Once the roots are compromised by root rot, the plant will no longer be able to absorb water and nutrients, so you will see signs of nutrient and water deficiency in the leaves, such as discoloration and brown crispy tips on the leaves.

My best advice is to feel the potting media through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot before watering. If the soil is damp, your snake plant does not need watered.

Watering is one of the most difficult skills to get just right when it comes to houseplant care. I’ve written an article to teach you how to assess when your houseplants need water, so you get this right every time.

2. Over-Chlorinated Water Can Cause Brown Tips On Snake Plants

I’m sure you’re already aware, but there are some houseplants that can be quite sensitive to the type of water that you use when watering them. Most tap water contains chlorine and chloramine, which is very useful for ensuring that our drinking water is safe for human consumption.

However, some plants are more sensitive to these chemicals and can show signs of stress when they are present. Reduce or remove the chlorine by filtering the water you use or leaving the water you intend to water your plant with in sunlight for a day before using it.

3. Excessive Direct Sunlight And Heat

The amount of heat and sunlight a snake plant can tolerate is largely dependent on what they are used to. A snake plant can be grown very successfully in warm conditions, with plenty of direct sunlight, but only if this is what it is used to.

If your plant is used to lower light conditions, it will show signs of stress if it is moved into direct sunlight or warmer conditions. Your snake plant will develop brown tips if it cannot tolerate the intensity of the light.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t move your snake plant once it is used to one location. But try to adjust light and heat levels more gradually so that the plant can acclimatize. This is in much the same way as we acclimatize to hotter conditions over a period of weeks.

4. Cold Stress

Snake plants aren’t cold hardy and you generally shouldn’t expose them to temperatures below 50°F (10°C). Anything below this and the plant can become stressed and you will soon see your snake plant develop brown tips.

For those growing snake plants indoors, it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid temperatures that low, but if you keep your snake plants outside in the summer, just make sure to bring them in well ahead of the lower temperatures of autumn and winter.

5. Excess Fertilizer Can Cause Brown Tips On Snake Plants

Snake plants are tough succulent plants and have developed the ability to survive in nutrient deficient soils. As a result, their nutrient requirements are low.

If you feed your snake plant too often or use fertilizer that is too strong, you can cause damage to the foliage or roots. This can often cause brown leaf tips, significantly impacting the look of your plant.

I fertilize my snake plants once a month during the growing season. I use this fertilizer and make it up at half strength. Snake plants definitely thrive with a little food, but just be careful not to overdo it.

If you’ve been a little excessive with fertilizing your snake plant, stop for a few months. Flush the potting mix out by running plenty of water through it. This will help to leach the excess nutrients out of the soil. Once your plant looks happy again, you can and should resume feeding it. Just err on the side of too little, rather than too much.

6. Low Humidity

Many indoor spaces are more arid than houseplants like. Dry air causes excess water loss from the leaves and is a really common cause of brown tips on snake plants.

Whilst snake plants don’t need high humidity to thrive, you should aim for humidity levels of at least 40%. I use a digital hygrometer to periodically check the humidity of the air around my houseplants.

7. Pests

Spider plants can be prone to mealy bugs, spider mites and fungus gnats. Of these three, spider mites and mealy bugs can cause brown tips on the leaves of your snake plant. Both these bugs are sap suckers, which can damage the leaves of snake plants causing leaf dehydration.

The dehydration caused by these bugs leads to stress in the plant, resulting in brown leaf tips. Pests are also a common cause of snake plant leaves curling. I’ve written about how to identify and fix snake plant leaf curling in another article.

If your plant has brown tips, it’s always a good idea to inspect the foliage for any sign of pest infestation. Look out for the fine webs of spider mites and the oval bodies or cottony masses of mealybugs.

There are plenty of good ways to get rid of these bugs, and you certainly should do this as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to quarantine any affected plant, as pest problems are prone to spread.

I generally like to use natural pest control methods first, before resorting to chemical pest control. I’ve written an article about the best natural methods for getting rid of common houseplant bugs.

How To Fix Brown Tips On Snake Plants

The best fix for brown tips on snake plants is to identify the problem and improve the growing conditions to prevent it.

Unfortunately, the damage to existing leaves and the cosmetic impact that this has on your plant is permanent. Even when the plant is given good care, the leaf damage will not resolve.

Don’t worry though, as if you give your snake plant the care it needs, it will grow plenty more healthy leaves and then the impact of the brown tips will be less noticeable.

Alternatively, you could choose to prune the affected leaves.

If the damage is minimal, you may snip off the brown part of the tip. The tip won’t grow back, so make sure you trim your plant in a way that looks good to you. If the damage is severe, chop off the whole leaf at the soil line. The rhizome root structure will send up new shoots soon enough.

Last Word

As you can see, most of the causes of brown tips on snake plants relate very closely to aspects of good snake plant care. If you’d like to learn more about how to get the very best out of your snake plant, read my snake plant care article.

Alternatively, you might like to read the following related articles.

  • Why is my snake plant dying?
  • How to get rid of houseplant bugs naturally.
  • How to care for a snake plant (sansevieria trifasciata).
  • 8 ways to tell when houseplants need water.
  • 10 ways to increase humidity for indoor plants.
  • 29 best houseplants for beginners that look amazing.

What to do with the damaged leaves of the Snake Plant(sansevieria)?

I live in a 8a. I had one for my work that I took home to fix. It was limp, yellow and generally sickly looking. The reason was over watering. Some leaves were even squishy with rot. I repotted it with miracle grow, but mixed that with perlite and bark so it would drain better. I kept it in deep shade for a couple of weeks, then moved it out to where it would get morning sun. Then I moved it to where it got full sun all day. It was still protected where it wouldn’t get rained on. I left it out all summer and watered it maybe 6 times. I watered it 3 times this winter. It loved it. The old leaves that weren’t deprived of light had been a super dark green. The new full sun leaves are very pretty and have lots of variegation. So I’d recommend lots of light and little watering.

Having said that, when your plants gets settled in, I’d cut off the bad leaves and repot them to make new plants. It’s very easy. I had one cluster left from the office and took off one junky looking, leaning blade. I cut it into 4″ and pushed them just far enough into the soil to stand upright. That was after a couple of days for the cuts to callous. After a month or so, you’ll have lost a few, but most will root. You can very gently try to tug them out of the soil and you should feel resistance. Eventually, they will put out a new plant from this cutting. Soon the whole pot will be filled. They like to be a little root bound. Just keep the original orientation in mind when cutting the leaf. If you take a segment and turn it upside down, I don’t think it’ll take. You can actually see what looks like little roots on the damaged section in your picture.

That’s just what I did with mine, but I’m really happy with the results. Most of my cuttings took, though they quite putting out new plants when I brought it in for the winter. I’ll put it back outside this summer and I’m sure the whole pot will be filled with an awesome plant.

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