Dracaena Trifasciata: Care and Growing Guide

Dracaena Trifasciata: Care and Growing Guide

Dracaena trifasciata, or snake plant, is an evergreen ornamental houseplant with long sword-like variegated green and yellow leaves. The Dracaena trifasciata is extremely easy to grow at home and requires little care. In fact, the snake plant is so hardy that it almost thrives on neglect.

The identifying feature of Dracaena trifasciata is its long, thick, strappy leaves. The leaves grow in a cluster from rhizomes and resemble sword blades extending from the plant pot. Dracaena trifasciata is a popular indoor plant that also has air-clearing properties, making it a popular plant for bedrooms.

This article is a complete guide to caring for Dracaena trifasciata at home. As well as handy growing tips, you’ll find helpful advice on resolving growing issues with this succulent.

How to Care for Dracaena Trifasciata

To care for Dracaena trifasciata, grow the snake plant in bright light or partial shade. This houseplant grows best in loose, well-draining soil. Water the snake plant only when the soil dries. This Dracaena species doesn’t need extra humidity, and the plant thrives in temperatures between 70°F and 90°F (21°C – 32°C).

Dracaena Trifasciata (Snake Plant) Facts

close-up picture of Dracaena trifasciata (also known as snake plant and mother-in-law's tongue)

Dracaena trifasciata is also known as snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp and Saint George’s sword

The Dracaena trifasciata is a species of evergreen, perennial tropical plant in the family Asparagaceae. This plant is native to Africa, where it grows in sunny, warm locations. The stiff leaves grow vertically upward, giving the plant its unique appearance.

Dracaena trifasciata has green leaves that have dark green patterns, and some variegated cultivars have yellow margins. The long leaves taper to a point and grow between 28” and 35” (70 – 90 cm) long. The broad strappy leaves measure between 2” and 2.5” (5 – 6 cm) wide.

Dracaena trifasciata or snake plants grow faster when it’s warm, and there is plenty of bright light. However, these plants are typically slow-growing tropical plants. In the right conditions, the lifespan of Dracaena trifasciata is between five and ten years.

According to botanists, Dracaena trifasciata used to be known botanically as Sansevieria trifasciata. The plant species Sansevieria trifasciata has common names such as snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp, and Saint George’s sword. These common names refer to identifying features of Dracaena trifasciata long, sharp, stiff, pointed leaves.

Dracaena Trifasciata Flowers

Dracaena trifasciata is a perennial flowering plant that blooms in spring. Under ideal conditions, snake plants bloom with showy white flowers on the ends of long stalks. The small flower clusters resemble miniature lily flowers that give off a pleasant scent.

Dracaena trifasciata hardly ever flowers indoors. Even when growing conditions are optimal, the plant rarely blooms. However, if the plant does produce flowers, the white lily-like flowers are followed by round orange berries.

Dracaena Trifasciata Benefits

The snake plant is on the list of houseplants that help to clean air. A NASA study found that a Dracaena trifasciata cultivar ‘Laurentii’ (Sansevieria laurentii) helps remove harmful toxins from household air. Among the airborne chemicals that snake plants eliminate are xylene, nitrogen oxide, benzene, and formaldehyde.

Dracaena Trifasciata (Snake Plant) Care Guide

snake plant - Dracaena trifasciata

To care for Dracaena trifasciata, grow the snake plant in bright light or partial shade

Dracaena trifasciata is one of the easiest houseplants to care for. However, it’s vital to get a few care factors right. For example, loose soil, proper watering techniques, and adequate light are all essential care aspects for the mother-in-law’s tongue to thrive.

Here is the complete care guide to growing Dracaena trifasciata.

Dracaena Trifasciata Light Requirements

Dracaena trifasciata grows best in indirect light with a few hours of sunlight daily. However, snake plants are also low-light houseplants that grow well in partial to full shade. If you have a variegated Dracaena species, you may find that they perform better in brighter conditions.

When growing Dracaena trifasciata (snake plant) indoors, it’s crucial to keep it out of direct sunlight. Intense sunlight through a window can scorch the stiff green leaves. The result of too much light is leaves that start to yellow. If the Dracaena trifasciata is growing near a south-facing window, it’s best to place it behind a sheer curtain.

The beauty of growing Dracaena trifasciata indoors is that it’s an adaptable plant. Snake plants are ideal for rooms, offices, or areas that are in constant shade. However, you may notice that its growth is slower in dim light, and the stiff leaves lose some of their vibrancy.

The Best Soil for Growing Dracaena Trifasciata Indoors

Grow Dracaena trifasciata in a porous, aerated soil mix that has excellent drainage. Mix one part of regular potting soil with two parts perlite. This type of soil for succulent-like plants provides some nutrients and allows excess water to drain freely. Alternatively, you can buy a commercial potting mix for cactus plants.

To care for potted Dracaena trifasciata plants, you should avoid dense, clay soil. Too much organic matter in the potting soil makes it too damp. Snake plant rhizome roots quickly decay and rot if they grow in constantly waterlogged soil.

Ideally, the best soil mix for Dracaena trifasciata plants should dry out every few days.

Your choice of pot for snake plants can affect the health of your plant. Here are a few factors that can help choose the right pot for your snake plants:

  • The soil in terracotta pots dries faster, and clay pots tend to be better for succulent-type plants.
  • Pots that are too large or too small for the size of the plant hold too much moisture.
  • Always choose a pot with drainage holes to allow water to drain.

How to Water Dracaena Trifasciata (Snake Plant) Houseplants

Water a Dracaena trifasciata as often as the potting mix dries out. You may need to water a snake plant as often as once a week during warm summer weather. During winter, reduce the watering frequency to once a month or less. The critical care factor is to prevent soil from becoming soggy.

A general rule is to only water Dracaena trifasciata when half of the potting mix is dry. This watering technique for succulents doesn’t allow root rot to develop. You can tell when it’s time to water the mother-in-law’s tongue by poking your finger 2” (5 cm) into the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water it.

The best watering method for Dracaena trifasciata is to drench the soil and let the excess water drip out. The next time to water the snake plant is when the soil has dried.

Related reading: How Often to Water Houseplants and How to Water Them Correctly

Dracaena Trifasciata Temperature Range

The snake plant Dracaena trifasciata grows best at average room temperature. The temperature range for Dracaena trifasciata plants is 70°F – 90°F (21°C – 32°C). The minimum temperature is 50°F (10°C); however, growth will slow down when it dips below 55°F (12°C). Generally, if you feel comfortable, the snake plant should thrive.

Dracaena trifasciata plants don’t like to be outside in cold weather. Native to tropical climates, Dracaena trifasciata grows outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12. In temperate climates, you can grow this species in the garden in the warm summer months. Place the potted snake plant in a sunny location where it gets a few hours of sunshine daily.

Proper indoor care for Dracaena trifasciata means avoiding temperature extremes. So, in summer, avoid putting the plant in drafts or the AC unit’s airflow. In winter, ensure the plant doesn’t stand near heating vents or radiators. Cold or heat stress is a reason for the stiff Dracaena trifasciata leaves to become droopy.

Dracaena Trifasciata Humidity Needs 

You don’t need to mist Dracaena plants because average room humidity is ideal. You rarely have humidity problems if you grow snake plants in bright light, warm temperatures and water them occasionally. To keep the Dracaena snake plant looking good, wipe the leaves occasionally with a damp cloth.

How to Fertilize Dracaena Trifasciata (Snake Plant)

Dracaena trifasciata is a slow-growing plant that benefits from occasional fertilization. Use a balanced fertilizer for cactus plants, diluted to half-strength. Apply once a month during the growing season. Don’t fertilize the plant during winter when growth is dormant. You can also use an organic fertilizer because it is kinder on the roots.

Because Dracaena trifasciata isn’t a heavy feeder, you may not need to fertilize it at all.  Generally, if you care well for the snake plant, you’ll not need to worry about adding extra nutrients to the soil.

Dracaena Trifasciata Propagation

Dracaena trifasciata is an easy houseplant to propagate. You can divide the tuberous roots or take leaf cuttings to grow new plants.

How to propagate Dracaena trifasciata using rhizome division

Propagate snake plants by root division by removing the snake plant from the pot. Clean dirt from the roots. Look for sections of the plant that you can divide. Using sharp, sterile tools, cut the tuberous roots into two or three sections. Plant the Dracaena in the appropriate potting soil.

How to propagate snake plants from cuttings

Propagate Dracaena trifasciata from leaf cuttings by snipping off a healthy leaf. Allow the cut end of the leaf to dry for a day or two. Once the ‘wound’ has formed a callus, plant the leaf cutting in moist potting soil or vermiculite. The leaf should start to give roots in a few weeks.

How to propagate Dracaena trifasciata in water

Propagate snake plants by taking a leaf cutting and rooting it in water. Put the jar in a sunny location but protected from direct sunlight. To prevent disease, change the water every few days. When roots appear, transfer the rooted leaf cutting to an appropriate potting mix.

Repotting Dracaena Trifasciata 

Snake plants need repotting when they become rootbound. However, because they are slow growers, you only have to repot established plants every two or three years. Repotting snake plants is good to refresh the potting soil and check the roots for signs of damage.

Here are a few signs that it’s time to repot Dracaena trifasciata:

  • The long, rigid spiked leaves have grown tall, and the plant has become top-heavy.
  • You notice roots poking out the pot’s drainage holes.
  • You have been overwatering the snake plant, and you suspect root rot.

Pruning Snake Plants (Dracaena Trifasciata)

It’s rarely necessary to prune Dracaena trifasciata leaves. Usually, trimming the succulent-like fibrous foliage is only required to remove dead or dying leaves. When pruning snake plants, use sharp, sterile tools and cut the tough leaf at the base. New growth will then appear.

Although you can snip off brown tips of Dracaena trifasciata, you should remember that they won’t grow back. If the leaves are brown and unsightly, it’s best to shear off the whole leaf to improve the plant’s appearance.

Pests Affecting Dracaena Trifasciata Growth

Snake plants are prone to spider mites and mealybugs. Treat infected plants with a natural pesticide such as neem oil. To make the neem oil spray, mix 2 tsp. neem oil, 1 tsp. liquid Castile soap, and 1 quart (1 l) water. Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray all the sword-like leaves liberally with organic insecticide to remove the bugs.

It’s vital to spot the signs of houseplant pest infestations. Bugs, mites, and other pests feed on the plant’s sap and, if left untreated, can kill your prized houseplants.

Because snake plants prefer dry soil, spider mites can be a problem. You can spot spider mite activity by thin silky webbing on the strappy green leaves.

You can identify mealybugs by the white fuzzy substance they leave behind on plant foliage. Scale insects hide in the nooks and crannies of the snake plant foliage. If left alone, the pest infestation can weaken the plant, and it will eventually die.

Diseases Affecting Dracaena Trifasciata Growth

Dracaena trifasciata – Snake plants – have root rot if you notice that the leaves start to yellow and then droop. Root rot in Dracaena trifasciata happens due to overwatering. If you look at the roots, you’ll notice that they will be brown and mushy. To fix root rot, it’s vital to repot the snake plant.

Root rot is preventable if you water Dracaena trifasciata properly. However, if you notice the signs of rotting roots, you’ll need to take more action. First, remove the snake plant from its pot and remove all diseased roots. If there are still healthy roots, remove and discard the diseased ones. Then, repot the healthy part of the plant in a fresh potting mix.

Is Dracaena Trifasciata Toxic?

Snake plants are poisonous to cats and dogs. The ASPCA lists Dracaena trifasciata on its list of toxic houseplants. Snake plants contain saponins that can result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if dogs or cats ingest the fibrous Dracaena leaves.

Dracaena Trifasciata Plant Care — FAQs

The snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) seems to grow best when you leave it alone. In fact, many plant owners say this Dracaena species is almost indestructible. However, a few reasons can cause this plant species to develop brown or yellow leaves or have drooping growth.

Why has my Dracaena trifasciata leaves got brown tips?

Watering issues, especially overwatering, are usually the reason snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) leaves get brown tips. The Dracaena trifasciata’s rhizome roots decay when standing in wet, soggy soil. Rotten roots can’t absorb nutrients, and the leaves will turn brown.

Other reasons why Dracaena trifasciata gets brown tips can be excess fertilizer salts, cold stress, or watering plants with chlorinated water.

Can I cut the brown tips off my snake plant?

Only cut brown tips off Dracaena trifasciata plants if there is minimal damage. Brown tips on snake plant leaves that have been cut off won’t grow back. Sometimes, cutting the leaves can cause more damage to the plant. So, it’s better to cut off the whole leaf at the soil line to improve the plant’s appearance.

Why are my Dracaena trifasciata leaves yellow?

Snake plant leaves turn yellow for two reasons: overwatering and too much direct sunlight. Remember, Dracaena trifasciata doesn’t need much water to survive. So, only water them when the soil is dry. Ensure the potted snake plant doesn’t get too much direct sunlight as intense sunshine scorches the leaves.

How do I fix sagging snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) leaves?

The Dracaena trifasciata leaves start wilting and drooping if there’s excessive moisture in the soil. To fix overwatering, repot the plant in fresh potting soil that is only slightly moist. Allow the potting mix to dry before watering the snake plant again. During winter, you can leave off watering the plant completely.

Why is my snake plant dying?

Too much water in the growing medium is probably causing root rot and killing your snake plant. Resolve the problem by repotting the plant. After removing the rhizome from the pot, check for damage and cut off the diseased, mushy part. Unfortunately, if the damage is extensive, you may have to cut your losses and dispose of the plant.

However, you can cut off healthy leaves and propagate a new Dracaena trifasciata.

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