“I need a plant,” I said. To which Jarema Osofsky—aka, Dirt Queen NYC, aka, plant-problem-solver—nodded helpfully. I explained: “Well…it’s for this weird corner that’s wedged between a large crockery cupboard and a wall. It gets no light and no air—and oh, I’m known to forget to water my plants from time to time.”
I stopped, bracing myself for: “Get a plastic plant.” Instead, she said: “Get a snake plant.”
It’s been months since I brought home my snake plant, or Sansevieria, and it hasn’t just transformed that corner with its strong, sculptural form (perfect for fans of modernism!), it’s actually looking really healthy. No thanks to me: I only water it when I remember to, and consistently deny it food and fresh air. In contrast, my rubber plant has been dropping an alarming number of leaves, and my monstera’s leaves refuse to split, despite coaxing.
But the snake plant goes beyond just being a chill plant; it is actually happier left alone. “My snake plant is possibly one of the most consistent things in my life. Somehow, through all the many cycles of extreme neglect and under-watering, it’s remained weirdly healthy—it’s almost as though it thrives on abandonment,” says Caroline Mullen, former associate editor and fellow fan of low-maintenance greenery.
What makes this plant so…impossible to kill and easy to love? I checked in with Osofsky and asked for the best ways to care for it (even if it seems like it doesn’t need it).
Here are nine things you should know about the hardiest indoor plant ever:
They can grow both outside and in
As if I needed any more reasons to love this plant! They’re very amenable to many conditions, and can grow both in pots and in the ground (note: in Zones 9 and warmer).
They come in all sizes
Snake plants make for great little tabletop plants (or bathroom windowsill plants), but you can just as easily find really tall ones up to eight feet. Because it’s a slow-growing plant, the tabletop version can stay that way for ages. However, in stronger natural light, they’ll grow faster.
The color of its leaves can change
If it’s a cave you’re putting your plant into, like I basically did, try and get one with the darker green leaves. Snake plants with brighter variegations will become less patterned in lower light.
They need water infrequently (yes, you read that right!)
“Snake plants are native to arid climates, so they've evolved to be very drought-resistant. This means they can go weeks without water in our homes and persevere,” says Osofsky. Her best tip: Let the soil thoroughly dry out before watering again—every 10 days or so. The best way to tell is to feel the top few inches of soil to see if it's moist or dry. In the winter, plants go dormant and receive less light, so it's better to only water every 3-4 weeks. (In fact, the one thing that will kill your snake plant is overwatering.)
Also, remember not to water into their rosettes; water around the plant instead.
…But like well-draining soil
Snake plants are so convenient to have because they like being dry. Osofsky recommends using well-draining succulent soil and a planter with a drainage hole. The plant will survive if you’re heavy-handed with the water once in a while, but it really doesn’t enjoy having its roots sit in soggy soil.
…And indirect light
Snake plants grow in both bright shade and less light—and in my case, no light. “They prefer to be placed in ambient, indirect light. If they are receiving direct light, they can dry out fairly quickly and may need water closer to every 10 days,” says Jarema.
There’s more than one kind
There are many different snake plant species on the market with new ones being added all the time. “I love the Sansevieria Lancia—it’s so elegant and sculptural, and can get to be quite tall—and the dwarf Sansevieria Trifasciata,” says Osofsky.
You’ll never have to buy another
Snake plants are easily divided any time of year. However, spring is your best bet. Your newly propagated plants will also then grow faster, as summer is chief growing season.
However, it’s not for Fido
According to the ASPCA, this plant is somewhat toxic to cats and dogs, which means chewing or ingestion can result in vomiting. Our advice? Keep it out of reach—on open shelves and in tall planters.