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Home » Mother in Laws Tongue (Dracaena trifasciata): Plant Care and Growing Guide – House Plants Expert

Mother in Laws Tongue (Dracaena trifasciata): Plant Care and Growing Guide – House Plants Expert

by Elyssa Goins
This article was fact checked.
Helpful: 100%
This article was revised by Cassidy Tuttle

The mother in laws tongue (also known as Snake Plant, Saint George’s swordmother-in-law’s tongue, and viper’s bowstring hemp) is a flowering species primarily grown for its slick sword-like long leaves. This is a slow-growing plant that anyone can grow because of its low and high sunlight tolerance and ease of watering. In indoor lighting, snake plants typically develop slowly, but adding more light will speed up growth if the plant gets a few hours of direct sunlight. The optimal time to plant and repot is in the spring.

The only way growers can cause the Snake Plant serious problems is if they overwater or allow the plant to reside in very cold temperatures for long periods. ​​This plant can also be sunburned from too much direct light (especially if temperatures are above 90F).

Description of Mother in Laws Tongue Plant

snake plant potted

The Dracaena trifasciata picked up the name mother in laws tongue from the sharpness of the evergreen sword-like leaves that grow in an upward fashion. While this plant can bloom if grown outside, it doesn’t bloom frequently and is very unlikely to produce a flower if grown as an indoor plant(not impossible).

Varieties: There are several succulent type varieties available that include golden-edged leaves, white-edged, and the green and grayish mottled type. The golden-edged leaf S. trifasciata laurentii is the most common of these. Here is our Ultimate Guide to Snake Plant Types if you dare dive in.

Flowering: Small greenish-white flowers can appear once this species matures in age. This seems like it happens by luck rather than effort for some growers. Keeping to the right conditions gives the plant a higher chance of buds and flowers appearing.

Foliage: The tall leathery upright dark green leaves are what make this succulent visually appealing rather than the flowers that may appear. The leaves are fleshy, sit within a rosette arrangement, and can grow up to 3 feet tall.

Air purifying: While all plants are air purifying, this particular plant purifies air-borne toxins. The snake plant is among the top plants tested for purification of indoor air and added to a list by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for removing benzene, formaldehyde, and other harmful toxins.

Poisonous for pets: If cats or dogs ingest parts of this plant, it can cause them to feel unwell, start vomiting, or have diarrhea. They are not highly toxic but still can cause uncomfortable symptoms.


Origin:Western Africa.
Common Names:snake plant, Saint George’s swordmother-in-law’s tongue, and viper’s bowstring hemp. Dracaena trifasciata formerly Sansevieria trifasciata (botanical/scientific).
Max Growth (approx):Height 30 inches tall (70 cm).
Poisonous for pets:Snake plant is toxic to cats and dogs.
snake plant

Snake Plant Care

The Snake Plant is a native plant from an arid area of the world, on the African continent, and it does not require daily care, is resistant to bad weather, high temperatures, or lack of water, and, as some say, even hard to kill. But like any plant, in order to grow, it must be watered at least once a month in winter and the rest only when the soil becomes dry.

Temperature:Average warmth is fine of approximately 60-75°F (15-24°C) and no lower than 50°F (10°C).
Light:The mother in laws tongue is well known for coping with direct sun and low light conditions, although bright light conditions with some sunlight and shade are preferred they handle many light levels.
Watering:Because this plant is a succulent, it stores water within its foliage, so it is not necessary to keep the soil damp. Water from spring to fall when the soil becomes dry to the touch and during the winter only once a month. Be careful not to overwater, as this can cause the root and base of the plant to rot.
Soil:I would just use a common well-draining cactus and succulent potting mix available from all garden stores.
Re-Potting:The snake plant does not enjoy being re-potted very often, so I’d recommend repotting every 2-3 years or if the plant is filling up or looks too large for the pot it’s in.
Fertilizer:During the main growing season (spring-fall), feed with a diluted cactus and succulent fertilizer once a month.
Humidity:Average house humidity is advised – but this plant can tolerate dry air conditions and drafts.
Propagation:Propagating Snake Plant by division during re-potting time is a good choice given enough plant growth. You may also remove offsets that appear near the base of the plant or propagate 2-inch leaf cuttings. Dividing the plant seems to be the most successful approach.
Note:Handle this plant with gloves just in case the plant causes skin irritation.

Potential Problem of Mother in Laws Tongue

Base rot: The most common cause here is over-watering in cold conditions, which the leaves yellowing or drooping may first identify. You will need to remove the most affected parts or discard the whole plant if all the base is completely affected.

If you know you have not overwatered, check the room’s temperature because it may just be below 50°F (10°C), causing the rot. Remember to take cuttings for propagation if this happens.

mother in laws tongue

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to fertilize this plant?

It’s not necessary to fertilize the Mother In Laws Tongue. Still, if you want to encourage growth, you can use a diluted cactus and succulent fertilizer once a month during the main growing season.

Where should I position my Mother In Laws Tongue?

These plants can thrive pretty much anywhere, but if you want to create optimal conditions for your snake plant, place it somewhere with indirect sunlight and temperatures above 50°F.

Is the Snake Plant unlucky?

You may have read about this plant’s reputation if you’re superstitious. To some, it is considered a bad Feng Shui plant, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Snake plant can bring helpful Feng Shui energy and has all the health benefits of other house plants. There’s nothing unlucky about that!

What type of soil for snake plant?

I would just use a common well-draining cactus and succulent potting soil available from all garden stores.

How do I know if my Snake plant is happy?

Its adaptability and easy-going nature indicate that it’ll be happy most of the time. However, look out for dark green foliage – this shows that your plant is well-nourished and receiving good amounts of sunlight.

Why are the leaves of my Mother in Laws Tongue turning yellow?

This could be an indicator of overwatering. They tolerate neglect really well and are used to dry conditions, so if in doubt, refrain from watering them!

Are Snake Plants Toxic to Cats? Are Snake Plants Toxic to Dogs?

This plant is toxic to cats and dogs. Humans should be fine handling the plant, but try and prevent children from ingesting the plant.


This uniquely named plant is known for its striking appearance. With long, angular, pointed leaves, the Mother in Laws Tongue can make a fantastic statement piece, bringing character into any space.

This plant will not produce luscious-looking flowers, but once it’s mature, it can bloom small green and white flowers. These aren’t very impressive, so if you purchase this plant, it’ll be because of its impressive foliage. 

With a range of varieties to choose from, you can decide which of these eye-catching plants will suit your space best. There are all types of Snake Plants to cheer up a space.

Not only does this plant provide plenty of attractive qualities in its appearance, but it’s also super easy to take care of, making it even more appealing as an addition to your home. You can relax knowing that this plant takes care of itself, and it looks gorgeous in the process!

It can cope well with varied light conditions, so whether you stick it in direct sunlight or keep it in a dark room, it is easily adaptable and won’t make a fuss. This plant stores water in its foliage as a succulent, so there’s no need to keep a rigid watering routine. Keep an eye on the topsoil and only water when the soil becomes dry in the summer months. During winter, you can only water this plant once a month. Be careful not to overwater the Mother In Laws Tongue, it’s susceptible to root rot!

If you love planting and growing houseplants, you can check out these plants:

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David Green
David Green
1 year ago

Thank you for the information of the care about this Plant.

Mary Lloyster
Mary Lloyster
1 year ago

Anaerobic activity, or when the soil or substrate has little to no accessible oxygen, is one of the most frequent causes of plant odor. Several things, like excessive or improper ventilation or overwatering, can contribute to this.
To stop the smell, increase the amount of space between soil particles and incorporate soil amendments to fill some of that space. The odor can be removed in stages. Smelly plants can be fixed by adding soil amendments such as perlite and vermiculite to the mix to increase the oxygen and drainage properties of the soil. When added, soil amendments would widen the gaps between soil particles and create a channel for water to freely drain.

Isaiah Aor
Isaiah Aor
1 year ago

Thank you for these informative care guidelines. Now I know why my mother’s tongue plant is turning yellow. It’s true that these kinds of plants don’t require full attention but should be placed in the perfect place.

Mary Joy
Mary Joy
1 year ago

I have had my fair share of experiences with snake plants and have learned a lot about how to keep them thriving. I typically water mine once a month or when the soil is dry to the touch. One thing I have noticed is that they can become top-heavy, which can cause them to topple over. Do you know how to prevent this?

Jan clemens
Jan clemens
11 months ago

Why is there uneven curves on the leaf of my mother in laws tongue

Mary Lloyster
Reply to  Jan clemens
8 months ago

This plant can get thrips that caused curled leaves. Look for tiny black spots and feel the leaves and if you find rough spots that is your problem. Cut out the bad leaves and wipe down the other leaves top and bottom. Wipe down a few more times and this may be enough. They can spread so don’t transfer to your other plants, tools etc.

8 months ago

Any chance that iguanas would live in or eat these plants?

Elyssa Goins
Reply to  David
8 months ago

David, great question! Mother-in-law’s tongue is used often in reptile cages, its a great match since it doesn’t have to have allot of light. It is not a particularly delicate plant so it would not be at the top of the list for dinner after the iguana gets used to it. Certainly check out some Iguana sites as well for ways to use them.

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