Snake plants, also known as the sansevieria plant, are one of the easiest indoor plants to grow, yet charming enough for the seasoned collector.
From the popular Mother-in-law’s Tongue to the Bowstring Hemps, these elegant treasures are some of the most popular houseplants around. They’re laid-back, hardy plants with low care needs, making them an ideal choice for just about any plant collection.
But you may be wondering, “How fast does a snake plant grow?” I’ve got the answers below based on my experience growing these lovely plants.
Table of Contents
Snake Plant Basics
Believe it or not, snake plants are a family of desert hardy plants from the Dracaena genus.
Despite their appearances, they’re more closely related to dragon trees and corn plants than succulents and have similar care needs.
Found across the tropics worldwide, snake plants are desert specialists that evolved to endure times of drought and spread in optimal conditions.
In the wild, they store water in a thick underground root called a rhizome, allowing them to tough it out through periods of drought.
When times are good, they use their rhizome to spread, creeping along underground until it finds room to pop up a new shoot.
All these properties make them great houseplants – but keep in mind that snake plants can be toxic if ingested.
No matter what species of snake plant you opt to grow, they do well in low light growing conditions, so indoor light is just about perfect – granted, they aren’t placed directly in front of a south-facing window.
They don’t need a lot of water and will thrive in the sort of low humidity that would crisp up other houseplants. The generally slow growth rate of snake plants also means you don’t have to prune or move into larger pots every six months.
With enough water and a bit of bright, indirect sunlight, they’ll keep producing healthy growth in their own time.
Fun Fact: The high growth rate of snake plants make them well-known as good luck plants and make great alternatives to bad luck plants like philodendrons and crown of thorns.
Fast Snake Plant Varieties for Indoors
First of all, it pays to set some reasonable expectations. Snake plants are, as a group, quite slow growers.
If you’re used to the lightning-fast growth rate of a pothos, spider plant, or mint, you’ll probably find a snake plant confusingly inert.
Snake plants are still capable of some remarkable achievements with the proper support. Choose the right type of snake plant and provide proper care, and they’ll grow a foot or two a year.
Here are my favorites for reliable new growth and ready propagation.
Dracaena zeylanica “Bowstring Hemp”
Native to India and Sri Lanka, Dracaena zeylanica is my go-to choice for fast and impressive growth. It has elegant sword-like leaves a few inches across, in deep green with pale rippled bands.
With care, the leaves of the snake plant will shoot up to three or four feet. It also spreads out with relative speed from its rhizome and can fill a smaller pot so completely it breaks it.
They’re the real monsters of the family, and I love them for their vigor and majesty.
Dracaena trifasciata is the plant most folks think of when they hear the names ‘snake plant’ or ‘mother-in-law’s tongue.’ It’s also commonly still sold under the old name Sansevieria trifasciata.
This snake plant is known for the bright yellow band that runs around the edges of its otherwise green and marbled leaves.
It’s from West Africa and the Congo, and like the Dracaena zeylanica it’ll just surge on, steady and stalwart, producing new shoots and leaves regularly.
The variety “Laurentii” is the quickest grower. It can hit four feet with the proper care, putting off new leaves and pups with some regularity.
A clumped and upright form of snake plant, the Dracaena francisii extends its rhizome into a fleshy stem from which it sprouts long, fleshy leaves.
It has a gorgeous lime green color with ribbons of silver and gray.
It comes from Kenya and is one of the less commonly grown snake plants. Why? I don’t know, as these funky-looking snake plants’ growth rate is one of the fastest in the Dracaena genus.
If you want true speed, it’s worth seeking them out.
How To Make a Snake Plant Grow Faster: Dos and Don’ts
- Do keep your snake plant warm. An ideal temperature sits between 25 and 30°C. They’ll slumber when cold and suffer from heat stress if allowed to become too warm.
- Do provide bright light levels. While they’ll plod along quite happily in low light environments, they need the energy of the sun to grow. Aim for at least a few hours a day of bright, indirect light.
They’ll also enjoy short bursts of direct sun, preferably during the early morning. A bright spot on a southeastern-facing window sill is an excellent place to perk up the growth of your snake plant.
- Do provide the correct type of soil. Snake plants need well-draining soil mix with lots of inorganic material mixed throughout.
A commercial potting mix blended for cactus and succulents will get the job done, though I like to mix my own from one part good quality potting soil, one part perlite, and one part coarse sand, with a few handfuls of gravel added for texture.
The right pot matters, too. They have shallow roots, so the pot size should focus on breadth more than depth.
- Do fertilize during the growing season. Once a month with water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength is a good choice.
Potted Exotics Pro Tip: Feed your plants with fertilizer derived from fish emulsions, seaweed, or other organic sources wherever possible. It’s the easiest way to provide trace elements and micronutrients that synthetics often miss. It also tends to be gentler on the sensitive roots of a slow-growing plant.
- Do leave them in peace. It’s tempting to fuss over our houseplants, especially if you’re used to divas like calathea that need constant attention. But snake plants don’t need to be repotted frequently, pruned regularly, or misted to keep their humidity levels high.
Often a bit of benign neglect is the best way to ensure a steady growth rate of snake plants.
- Don’t cook your snake plant. While they’re desert plants from warm parts of the world, they shut down completely if they get too hot.
They also suffer from scald if left in direct sunlight for too long, especially in the noonday sun.
- Don’t freeze your snake plant, either. While 20°C might make for a comfortable environment for us, for a tropical plant, it’s slow torture and will drop their growth rate down to nothing.
Keep your room temperature warm if you want them to grow. Keep them away from cold drafts too.
- Don’t overwater. Snake plants need a period of dryness around their roots to truly shine. Only water once their soil is completely dry.
Too much water effectively drowns the roots, leading to rot and fungal diseases.
- Don’t overfeed. Snake plants only need low doses of fertilizer during the warmer months and none at all during the winter months.
While they don’t really have a dormancy period, as tropical plants, their growth slows during the winter season.
Common Problems with Snake Plant Growth
Too Much Water
Overwatering is the worst thing you can do to a snake plant. Letting it dry out might seem like neglect, but excess water is one of the most common reasons a snake plant’s growth falters.
Its root system has adapted to absorb and hold every dreg of water from the soil. Their rhizomes are also particularly vulnerable to damage caused by soil-borne pathogens.
Overwatered plants are also vulnerable to other problems. Spider mites, root aphids, mealybugs, and other insect pests love to attack stressed plants and will descend onto what should be a pest-resistant plant.
If you notice pests on your snake plant, neem oil is a great way to take care of them without applying chemical compounds that can harm things like beneficial insects such as bees or ladybugs.
They’ll also be more susceptible to disease, including root rot.
Too little light
Light is the battery that powers all plant growth. Cut the light, and your snake just won’t be able to run its engines, so to speak.
While a healthy snake plant will survive in areas with a lack of light, they need more than the minimum to grow regularly. For rapid growth, they need a lot of light.
Snake plants rely on their sturdy rhizomes to force out new leaves, thrusting them skyward from beneath the soil.
Give them a potting blend that’s too rich or prone to compacting, and it’ll really have to work to get those new leaves moving. You’ll also have problems if the soil has become hydrophobic.
Coco coir is one great option to include in your soil to help with drainage and moisture retention.
Repotting is a good idea when the soil itself is hostile.
The blend I mentioned earlier is a great option; you don’t need to use a larger pot. Snake plants like close quarters, so you can leave them in a small pot so long as the soil is good.
It seems counter-intuitive – surely adding more fertilizer will help your snake plant ascend to the heavens?
The truth of the matter is more complex. Most fertilizers, especially synthetics, present the nutrients they need to the plant as salts.
Add too much fertilizer, and these salts accumulate in the soil, damaging the roots.
It’s worth flushing your snake plant now and then – I run plain old tap water through mine once a season to clear any buildup of salts, minerals, or other nasties from the soil.
Allow the pot to fill until water gushes from the drainage holes, then turn off the tap. Let the water rest in the soil to dissolve leftovers, then flush again.
How Fast Does a Snake Plant Grow (FAQ)
How Long Do Snake Plants Live?
Individual snake plants can live to be twenty or thirty years of age. But because the species can sprout a new snake plant from the same rootstock, it’s possible to have a pot of snakes for decades.
They may not technically be the same plant, but in practice, it looks enough like the same plant that it doesn’t matter that much.
Do Snake Plants Regrow Leaves?
Once you cut a leaf from a snake plant, that’s it. It won’t regrow. That doesn’t signal the end for the plant – or the leaf, for that matter!
If you trim away damaged or dead snake plant leaves, the rhizome will simply send up more. As a general rule, it’s beneficial for the plant to remove really ragged foliage. It’ll prompt new growth.
You can also cultivate the leaf for a whole new plant. Cut the base cleanly across the bottom, and all you need to do is keep the leaf in clean water.
Provide it with enough light – and really, ‘any’ is enough – and it’ll start producing new roots and even pups from the bottom.
I like to keep clipped leaves in water and harvest the pups as they develop, leaving the larger leaf to produce more new plants.
You can always plant the leaf once the roots are a few inches long, if you prefer, for a taller, more mature-looking plant.
Are Snake Plants Easy to Care For?
Get their needs right, and snake plants are almost ridiculously easy to care for.
Put them in an area with low to moderate amounts of light, keep them warm, and water them every now and then, and they’ll just plod along.
They’re very forgiving of extended periods of neglect and will thrive under even the most erratic of care.
Photo: Grumpy Cow Studios via Canva.com
Photo: Farhad Ibrahimzade via Canva.com
Photo: Dario Truco via Canva.com
Photo: Ellie Burgin form Pexels via Canva.com
Photo: Shihina via Canva.com
Photo: Anna Tarazevich from Pexels via Canva.com