When on the hunt for a plant for your brown thumb, there are many easy-care and hardy plants that come to mind. One of these plants is the snake plant, or Sansevieria.
This plant checks off many boxes on the “plant grim reaper” list, but you may find yourself asking a few questions, like how fast does the snake plant grow?
The Growth Rate of Snake Plants
As a general rule, the snake plant tends to grow fairly slowly in moderate or indoor light. If grown in a good amount of sunlight, the boost can cause the snake plant to grow rapidly. The final height and width depend on the variety of Sansevieria that you have planted.
The most common variety is S. trifaciata laurentii, which is also known as Mother-in-Law’s tongue. This is due to the long, straight, sharp leaves that extend from the soil and roots.
How Large Do They Grow?
The S. trifaciata laurentii is the variety that is most recognized when referring to the snake plant. It has variegated foliage, with a center of “snakeskin” green and yellow stripes up both sides.
The leaves tend to grow straight up into the air, and while it does not flower often, it may produce a fast-growing stalk of small, white, bunches of sweet-smelling flowers.
This variety of Sansevieria tends to grow to around 1-2 feet, with some growing in excess of 3 feet, depending on conditions. There are even reports of it growing up around 5 feet!
Another typical variety of the snake plant is the S. trifaciata. This type is very similar to the S. trifaciata laurentii, just without the laurentii. There are no yellow stripes along the sides of its leaves, just an abundance of green “snakeskin.” This variety tends to grow along the lines of the S. trifaciata laurentii as well.
One variety that tends to be a little more “exotic” is the S. cylindrica, or the Spear Sansevieria. The leaves of the S. cylindrica are cylindrical in shape and are not likely to bend without breaking once matured. The leaves grow upward and outward in a fan-like shape.
When the leaves are new, they are fairly easy to bend, and some nurseries take advantage of this fact. They weave the leaves of the snake plant together to create plaits or braids, much like what is done with “lucky bamboo” or a “money tree.”
A distinct difference, other than leaf shape, between S. trifaciata/S. trifaciata laurentii and S. cylindrica is the sheer size that the Spear Sansevieria can grow to. While the S. trifaciata/S. trifaciata laurentii can occasionally grow up over 3 feet, the S. cylindrica can grow to heights over 7 feet!
On the opposite end of the spectrum in size stands the variety S. trifaciata “hanhii.” This Sansevieria stands only 4-8 inches high, never reaching over a foot tall. Its coloring is similar to that of S. trifaciata laurentii, with yellow stripes banding a green snakeskin interior.
This S. trifaciata cultivar is a dwarf variety, keeping it small. For this reason and that of its slow growth, it is often used in terrariums.
How to Stunt the Growth of a Snake Plant
All varieties can have their growth stunted through a couple of ways. The easiest way to stop a leaf from gaining any more height is to clip the tip off of it.
The tips of the leaves of the Sansevieria produce a hormone that encourages upward growth, and with clipping it off, that hormone is no longer released. As such, the leaf ceases to grow upward.
Outward growth can also be stunted for the Sansevieria. This is done through the size of the pot it is planted in. If the pot is small for the plant, the roots will be forced to contain themselves to a smaller area. This does not allow for the snake plant to move outward, or grow additional leaves away from the base of the plant from the soil.
While the snake plant does not mind being contained to a smaller pot, or being root bound (see my post to fix this issue) it is a good idea to repot it every few years if you want it to keep getting larger. It can also get to the point, if in a clay pot, of cracking or breaking the pot with its roots.
Some gardeners will actually wait for the Sansevieria to break the pot before replanting. On the other hand, there are several ways to deal with unwanted growth, depending on the type you are presented with.
How to Handle Undesirable Growth
If there is unwanted outward growth, simply divide the snake plant and discard the leaves that are not wanted. You can also place the divided plants into separate pots if you are interested in maintaining multiple plants. They do well with dividing, as they have a root system known as a rhizome.
A rhizome is a horizontal root system that allows for new shoots or leaves to grow up out of the soil while it maintains its horizontal stance. Cutting the rhizome between shoots will allow for two separate plants to develop from the two separate pieces.
Similar, though slightly different, the Spear Sansevieria’s rhizome grows as a basal rosette, causing the leaves to grow close to the center, giving it its fan-like splay of leaves.
Alternatively, if there is unwanted upward growth, you can simply cut the leaf at the desired height. The leaf will not continue to grow. You can then discard the cut portions. These cut portions can also be used to start new snake plants. In order to do this, it will be necessary to cut the leaves into smaller portions, about 2-3 inches each.
The cut leaves will then need to dry out for a day or two so that the edges are no longer moist. You can then push them into the soil in a new pot to propagate them. Make sure the leaf is facing the same direction in the new pot as it was in the old, i.e. the end that was facing the roots is now in the soil. They will soon grow new roots.
Be aware that if you do this with S. trifaciata laurentii, you will more than likely lose the yellow stripes along the sides of the leaves. It will revert to looking like the S. trifaciata variety, all “snakeskin” green with no yellow. The only way to keep the yellow sides is to divide the S. trifaciata laurentii.
If you curb both upward and outward growth, you may push your Sansevieria into blooming. Without a means to grow in either direction, the snake plant will attempt to propagate elsewhere.
The Sansevieria does not bloom often, but this is a likely way to encourage it to bloom while only causing mild stress to the plant. After blooming, the plant will likely stop growing new leaves.
The snake plant has many beneficial qualities that make it a prime choice for a novice at plant caretaking. Though it may be hard to kill, taking great care of it and following instructions on that care will ensure a happy and healthy plant.
So if clean lines and beautiful, green foliage are two of your must-haves, the Sansevieria, or snake plant, is for you!