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What is a Snake Plant?

By Misty Amber Brighton
Updated May 17, 2024
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A snake plant, which is sometimes referred to as a mother-in-law's tongue, is a houseplant that grows as a cluster of several tall shoots. It is usually variegated shades of green with white or gray edges. It is a perennial plant so it grows for several seasons. It normally requires very little care and can often survive a number of harsh conditions.

This plant is usually grown in containers that are anywhere from three to 14 inches (7.6 to 35.6 cm) in diameter. Specimens that start out in smaller pots normally need to be transplanted into larger containers two to three months later. This is typically done when normal room temperatures are between 60° and 75°F (15.55° to 23.88°C).

The snake plant can thrive in a variety of light conditions. This can be full sunlight or even partial shade. They may even do well if they receive no sunlight at all as long as an artificial light source, such as a fluorescent bulb, is provided.

The shoots of this ornamental plant can grow anywhere from three to five feet (0.9 to 1.52 m) in height. A snake plant might also spread up to two feet (.61 m) in width. This is more common when it is planted outdoors, as a mother-in-law's tongue does not normally expand wider than the container it is growing in.

The leaves or shoots of a snake plant are typically slender and pointed at the tip. They are generally medium to dark green in color. They normally have horizontal stripes, in even darker shades of green, running the entire length of the shoot. These leaves usually have a light-colored border around the outer edges.

This houseplant is sometimes favored by amateur gardeners because it is often very difficult to kill. It can withstand low water levels and usually will not die even if it is not watered for a few weeks. In fact, one of the more common problems with this plant could be over-watering. A snake plant can often grow in a variety of different soils as well. It may be fed a houseplant food purchased from a nursery or garden center, but this is not generally needed.

These plants can be a good accent for a windowsill or desk. It might also be placed on a porch or patio, with a few tropical houseplants or hanging baskets, to add a splash of color. Even so, people should consider placing this plant where children and pets will not bother it because it can be poisonous if ingested.

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