Dracaena trifasciata is a flowering plant that’s commonly known as the snake plant. Other names include mother-in-law’s tongue and Saint George’s sword. It’s a perennial evergreen that’s durable and easy to grow.
Native to West Africa, snake plants like to be warm. They’ll grow in most conditions, though, as long as they’re not exposed to freezing temperatures. Snake plants are happy outdoors, can tolerate direct sunlight, and grow well as houseplants.
Our guide to Dracaena trifasciata covers everything you need to know to grow and care for this plant at home.
Dracaena Trifasciata Plant Overview
- Botanical/Scientific Name: Dracaena Trifasciata (previously Sansevieria Trifasciata)
- Other Common Names: Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, Saint George’s Sword
- Family: Asparagaceae
- Genus: Dracaena (previously Sansevieria)
- Other Classifications: Flowering Plant, Indoor, Perennial, Evergreen
Dracaena trifasciata was botantically classified as Sanseviera trifasciata until 2017. It was reclassified because of its many commonalities with other species in the dracaena genus.
There are many varieties and cultivars of Dracaena trifasciata, most of which are suitable as ornamental plants. Snake plants come in a wide range of sizes and assorted colors. Most of them feature stiff, sword-shaped leaves that grow upright.
Snake plants are popular as houseplants for several reasons. They’ll grow in most parts of the home, even those with low light. They’re easy to propagate, don’t require much watering, and ongoing care is reasonably effortless in general. Snake plants are also among the best plants for air purification.
One downside of growing snake plants indoors is that they are likely to grow quite slowly unless they get plenty of exposure to light. They’ll typically grow faster outdoors, where they’re also more likely to produce flowers.
Warning: Dracaena trifasciata is poisonous to animals and humans. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause vomiting, nausea, and other issues. Make sure you keep children and pets away from your snake pets.
Where to Buy Dracaena Trifasciata
Dracaena trifasciata plants are available for sale at many outlets. You’ll find them at most gardening stores and online nurseries. Here are our top recommendations for buying snake plants online in the US.
Propagating Dracaena Trifasciata
Although it’s easy to buy snake plants, one of the reasons they’re so popular is the fact that they are also easy to propagate. You can propagate them from seeds, root division, new offshoots, or leaf cuttings.
We provide step-by-step instructions for propagating Dracaena trifasciata below, along with details of the plant’s growing requirements and ideal conditions.
Requirements and Ideal Conditions for Growing Dracaena Trifasciata
- Soil: Any well-draining soil, compost, or potting mix.
- Sunlight: Bright, indirect sunlight is best. Can survive in lower light.
- Water: Minimal watering required.
- Temperature: 18-30 degrees Celsius (65-86 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Humidity: No special requirements; medium humidity is best.
Planting Dracaena Trifasciata From Seeds
- Step 1: Add your chosen soil or potting mix to a pot (or other plant container) with a drainage hole.
- Step 2: Water the soil/potting mix so that it’s moist but not saturated.
- Step 3: Sprinkle Dracaena trifasciata seeds over the surface, then cover with a thin layer of soil/potting mix.
- Step 4 (optional): Add a clear plastic covering to the pot to provide an atmosphere similar to a greenhouse. Remove this covering once the seeds germinate.
- Step 5: Place the pot in a location with bright, indirect light.
- Step 6: Water the plant as necessary to keep the soil/potting mix slightly moist.
- Step 7: Transplant the seedlings to individual pots once they develop two leaves or more.
Propagating Dracaena Trifasciata From Leaf Cuttings
You can skip the first step in this process if you buy pre-prepared Dracaena trifasciata cuttings.
- Step 1: Cut a long and healthy leaf from an existing plant. Make sure your knife or other cutting tool is sharp and sterilized.
- Step 2: Put the leaf cutting in a jar of clean water, making sure the cut end is submerged. You can use a glass or any other glass container if you prefer.
- Step 3: Place the glass container in a sunny location with protection from direct sunlight.
- Step 4: Keep the container topped up with clean water as necessary. Empty the old water and add fresh water once a week.
- Step 5: Once roots grow to at least 2.5 centimeters (one inch) long, transplant to a pot with suitable soil/potting mix. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole.
- Step 6: Lightly water the soil until it is moist throughout.
- Step 7: Place the pot somewhere with bright but indirect light.
Be aware that propagating Dracaena trifasciata from leaf cuttings will lose any variegation of the plant. That’s why we recommend propagating via root division.
Propagating Dracaena Trifasciata Via Root Division
- Step 1: Remove the existing plant from its pot and place it on a flat surface. Gently brush the roots to get rid of all soil.
- Step 2: Using a sharp and sterilized cutting tool, divide the tuberous roots into two or three sections.
- Step 3: Plant each root into a separate pot. Each pot should have a drainage hole and be filled with a suitable soil or potting mix.
- Step 4: Water the soil/potting mix in each pot until it is moist. Be careful not to overwater and saturate the soil/potting mix.
- Step 5: Place each pot in a location that receives bright, indirect light.
The process for propagating Dracaena trifasciata from new offshoots is largely the same as above. Just cut off any offshoots instead of dividing the existing root structure.
Caring for Your Dracaena Trifasciata
As with most plants, the crucial part of caring for your Dracaena trifasciata is providing the right conditions in terms of soil, water, sunlight, temperature, and humidity. As snake plants are so easy to look after, there’s not much else you need to worry about.
Here are some other care tips for keeping Dracaena trifasciata healthy.
- Only water your Dracaena trifasciata when the top layer of the soil is completely dry.
- Water the soil surrounding your plants rather than the foliage.
- Do not mist your Dracaena trifasciata.
- Dracaena trifasciata plants do not need feeding to survive, but some gentle fertilizing can encourage quicker growth.
- You should repot Dracaeana trifasciata whenever they become rootbound or if you notice growing from the bottom of the plant.
- Avoid exposing your Dracaena trifasciata to extreme variations in temperatures. These plants do not like frost, either.
- Dracaena trifasciata plants will grow faster when they are exposed to more light. They can even tolerate some direct sunlight, but you should keep that to a minimum in the hottest months of the year.
- Only prune your Dracaena trifasciata if you notice any of the leaves are starting to droop or look unhealthy.
Common Issues When Growing Dracaena Trifasciata
If you provide the right growing conditions for your Dracaena trifasciata and follow the care tips provided above, you’re unlikely to encounter any serious problems with these plants.
Here are a few common issues you could experience, most of which are caused by improper care.
- Leaves turning brown: Most likely caused by overwatering. If only the very tips of the leaves are turning brown, the problem could be too much fertilizer.
- Mushy or floppy leaves: A sign of root rot, which is usually the result of too much water in the soil.
- Yellowing leaves: Usually caused by too much water on the leaves or in the soil.
- Leaf edges curling: Most commonly due to a lack of water.
Dracaena trifasciata plants are not majorly at risk from pests and diseases. However, they are a little susceptible to fungal infections such as leaf spot, especially when overwatered. They’re also prone to minor insect infestations, with aphids and spider mites the most likely culprits.
Dracaena Trifasciata Varieties and Cultivars
There are many known varieties and cultivars of the snake plant, but not all are widely available or suitable for growing at home. However, there are still plenty of Dracaena trifasciata types to choose from. The following are among the most popular.
- Bantel’s Sensation: Features narrower leaves than most snake Dracaena trifasciata, with white vertical stripes.
- Laurentii: Sometimes called the striped snake plant, the leaves are bordered with yellow edges.
- Hahni: One of the smaller Dracaena trifasciata varieties, its foliage grows in the shape of a rosette.
- Moonshine: Grows faster than most other Dracaena trifasciata cultivars and has pale green leaves that get darker as the plant matures.
- Prain: Very durable and almost impossible to kill, this snake plant can bloom tubular white blossoms.
- Whitney: One of the best varieties of Dracaena trifasciata to grow outdoors.
Interesting Facts About Dracaena Trifasciata
- Dracaena trifasciata yields bowstring hemp. This plant fiber was, and still can be, used to make bowstrings.
- In its native Africa, Dracaena trifasciata has religious connotations and is associated with deities known as Orisha.
- Some Nigerian rituals include the use of Dracaena trifasciata to ward off evil.
- Despite its popularity as an ornamental plant, some Australian authorities classify Dracaena trifasciata as a weed.
- The Dracaena trifasciata cultivars Bantel’s Sensation and Golden Hahni have both received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Dracaena trifasciata is one of several plants that are used in feng shui. Some who practice feng shui believe the plant brings good luck and positive energy to the home. Check out our list of good luck plants for other plants that are suitable for feng shui.
Somewhat confusingly, some feng shui followers believe dracaena trifasciata to be a BAD luck plant. You can find out more by reading our list of bad luck plants.