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Caring For Your Houseplants: Repotting & Dividing Sansevieria trifasciata aka Snake Plants

Sansevieria trifasciata aka Snake Plants are an exotic looking houseplant which are perfect for novice indoor gardeners and for those with low light conditions inside their homes. Sansevieria trifasciata come in a wide array of varieties from Black Coral, Laurentii, to Cyclindrica which can mix and match with many types of interior styles making them a fantastic houseplant to own.

About Sansevieria trifasciata

Sansevieria have several common names such as Snake Plant and Mother-In-Laws Tongue and can be found in most garden centres. These plants are one of the most purchased houseplants from our store and we are always bringing in fresh stock and varieties in on a weekly basis.

Sansevieria have a unique upright growth of its spear-like leaves which grow in a vertical structural way. This growth pattern makes them ideal for narrow spaces like hallways and corners. The colouring of these leaves vary greatly on the variety and can be a black/green, variegated yellow/green, green/silver and have vertical variegation and also horizontal patterning. Other varieties available dwarf and are shorter having a more squat growth pattern and are commonly called 'Birds Nest Snake Plants' Sansevieria trifasciata Hahnii. These shorter varieties are perfect office/desk plants where little natural light is available.

This plant species is extremely tolerant of various lighting conditions, handling anything from low-light to bright indirect to even some direct sun. Additionally, they prefer to be watered less than most houseplants and prefer dry soil conditions. This is due to their unique rhizomes which store much of the nutrients and moisture the plant requires between waterings. These fleshy roots are also susceptible to root rot from over watering.

Why Divide Your Sansevieria?

A unique feature of Sansevieria are their habit of creating 'pups' from the main plant. A fleshy rhizome will extend from the main root ball and then grow a vertical set of leaves beside the main plant. These pups will grow their very own root structures and can be divided from the main plant.

If you are like myself and partial to specific ceramic pots, this can become problematic when too many pups crowd out the main plant. But alas there is a solution! You can divide these baby Sansevieria away from the main plant and maintain the plant in the same pot. It is also a wonderful opportunity to provide new soil for your main plant which may have been suffering due to being root bound. Now, as a general rule of thumb, Snake Plants prefer to be root bound, so if you don't need to do this I don't recommend that you repot your plant into a larger pot. This can unnecessarily stress your plant out.

If you don't have a Sansevieria I highly recommend you add one to your houseplant collection! Currently we have 'Laurentii', 'Black Coral', 'Metallica' aka 'Siam Silver', 'Moonshine' and the dwarf 'Birds Nest' variety and add new varieties and sizes every week, so check back on a regular basis! From here onward, I will be using the common name Snake Plant to discuss our next steps.

The first step is to examine your Snake Plant to determine if it actually needs to be repotted. If it is currently in a plastic pot a good indicator is that the pot is beginning to be a bit deformed. The plastic may bulge where the 'pups' rhizome is pushing against the plastic.

From here you have two options, you can choose a larger pot and replant the whole Snake Plant into a new container about 1"-2" larger than the existing pot.

We have an excellent selection of new pots in at the moment so there really is something for everyone. If you have a #1 or #2 sized pot, check out our pot deck outside in the perennial house for a selection of larger ceramic, plastic and fibre-crete containers.

If you plant isn't looking crowded in its pot, there really isn't a need to repot it into a larger vessel and it might be detrimental to the plant if you do. If you want to just change up the look from plastic to ceramic or something else decorative, I highly recommend that you just buy a pot slightly larger than your existing pot and drop it into there. We also have a great selection of baskets, and these make a stylish alternative.

How to Divide or Repot Your Snake Plant

So now we will get down to the nitty gritty of how to repot your Snake Plant or divide it if you need to. Here are the supplies you will need:

  • ProMix Cactus Potting Soil
  • New Pot 1"-2" larger than your existing pot OR
  • if dividing, a pot just large enough for your pup (4" or 6")
  • Gloves
  • Sterile knife or box cutter
  • Plastic or newspaper to protect your work surface
  • I recommend that you use the ProMix Cactus soil because it already has the right amount of sand/aggregate in the bagged soil to promote good drainage. Another suggestion is to use a container which has drainage in it. If you don't I recommend you read our previous blog post about potting into containers without drainage and follow those preparation instructions.

Step 1

Gather all your supplies and lay down your plastic or newspaper to protect your surface. Once you get going with this, you won't really want to pause.

Take your to-be repotted Snake Plant and grasp the leaves gently with one hand, and with the other tug at the plastic or ceramic pot. If it doesn't slide off, squeeze gently all around the pot to loosen the soil and roots and pull the pot off. If it well and truly stuck, use your box cutter to carefully cut the plastic pot. If you are repotting from a ceramic container you may need to use a chopstick or pencil to loosen to soil around the perimeter, doing your best to not damage the roots. Pull the plant free.

Step 2

Using your fingers loosen and remove most of the soil away from the root ball to expose the root system. This is important if you are going to divide your plant so you can see the pups. If you are just repotting this gives you at opportunity to remove any old mushy roots.

Once you have cleared away the soil you will look for a L or J shaped protrusion from the main plant. This fleshy white rhizome is what we call the pup and it is what we are going to cut away from the main plant.

Step 3

Isolate a pup which has delicate roots already appearing on the white rhizome. These pups are likely to have the best success rate.

Take your sterile knife (I personally like a pairing knife with a curve) or box cutter and slice the rhizome doing your best to preserve as many small roots on the pups half. Work your way around the plant and thin out a few more pups. I would say only do about 1/3 of the plants total mass to not shock the plants.

Step 4

Now prepare your new pots with the ProMix Cactus soil, leaving about an inch from the top. Take the main plant and either repot it into its old container or into the new container you have chosen for it. Be sure not to mound soil too far up the leaves and try to match the old soil level to prevent rot. Press the soil down gently, just to secure the plant in the soil. If it starts to lean, you can support it with a bamboo stake until the roots reestablish.

Now take your pups and you can either repot them individually or cluster them together in a larger pot for a more full look. Like with the main plant, do not plant these pups too deeply, just enough to secure them into the soil with a firm press.

Step 5

Lastly, you want to lightly water the plants to just moisten the soil in the pots and place them in a medium light location meaning not direct sun, or indirect sun near a window, but a few feet away from indirect sunlight would work like that from a North facing window. This is because you want the roots to grow and high light may stress the plant out as it recovers.

And there you have it! You just divided or repotted your very first Snake Plant! During these times being stuck inside, it is these projects that help us all feel like we are accomplishing something. Gardening is very much therapy for many of us, so don't under estimate how soothing getting your hands dirty can be. If you are looking for all of the supplies used in our project today you can now get them all via online or phone order with contactless parking lot pick up.

Stay Home, Stay Safe Everyone

- Heather Youl

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