How to Repot Snake Plants

Don’t mess up the health of your snake plants by repotting incorrectly. Read on to learn how to do it the correct way!

These strikingly architectural plants go by many names:  sansevieria, mother-in-law’s tongue, snake’s tongue are just a few. There are also many cultivars to choose from, from the familiar yellowed edged ‘Laurentii’ to the short growing ‘Hahnii’ to the silver-green leaves of ‘Moonshine,’ there are over 70 cultivars of snake plants. They are easy to grow, make few demands, thrive on a bit of neglect, and are adaptable to low light conditions.  

Snake plants are native to West Africa, Madagascar, and southern Asia. Each year, they grow wider, sending out rhizomes (underground stems) that sprout up new leaves. They do the same in a container, sending shoots up from the root system as they grow outward. Eventually, the roots and shoots run out of room and have nowhere to go.

Then it’s time to move your sansevieria into a new, bigger home. Best of all, after dividing it, you have an additional plant to use as decor somewhere else such as on top of your entryway cabinet.

A grown snake plant with exposed roots, no planter.

How to Tell If Your Plant Needs Repotting?

There are several signs your snake plant needs repotting. Any one of these indicators is enough reason to take on this project:

  • The plant has spread so wide that you no longer see any soil surface. When you water, you only wet the leaves and the water runs right off them. 
  • Water rushes out of the drainage holes immediately after you water.
  • Roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot.
  • Stems and shoots are growing out of the drainage holes.
  • Your plant is top-heavy and topples over easily.
  • The sides of your plastic flower pot are bulging outward or have split. Or if you see cracks and breaks in your terra cotta or ceramic pot.
Bottom view of a plastic green pot with growing roots.

Reasons to Repot

While a snake plant doesn’t mind being crowded in its container, there comes a time when repotting is necessary. A larger pot gives the roots more room to grow, new soil provides fresh nutrients, and water and fertilizer will reach the root zone more completely.

How to Do It?

Tackle this job in late winter or early spring, if you can, while the plant is dormant. You should be able to do this in less than half an hour. 

What You’ll Need 

  • A new pot, 1 to 2 inches, or 2 to 4 inches wider than the old one, depending on the size of your plant. Roots can rot if grown in a larger pot, surrounded by a large volume of waterlogged soil.
  • Fresh potting soil. You can buy a bag of commercial potting mix formulated for cacti and succulents or make your own. Here is a simple recipe that is good for houseplants that require excellent drainage:
    • 1 part potting mix
    • 1 part peat moss or coco coir
    • 2 parts sand or perlite
  • A garden knife or pruners, and maybe a butter knife.
  • A trowel for scooping soil (although some folks like to use their hands).
  • Gardening gloves (if you like)
  • Newspaper to protect your workspace

8 Steps to Repotting

  1. A few days before, water the sansevieria thoroughly.
  2. Lay the pot on its side and gently tug on the plant to remove it from the pot. If it doesn’t come out easily, you may need to run a butter knife between the root ball and the sides of the pot. If your sansevieria is in a plastic pot, punching the pot with your fist can help loosen things up. Some plastic pots may even need to be cut away.
  3. Once the plant is out, inspect the roots, trim away rotten ones, and untangle or trim circling roots.
  1. There is no need to add gravel to the bottom of the pot. If the drainage holes are very large you can cover them with mesh or with a shard from a clay pot. You want water to drain out, but not soil!
  2. Add soil to the bottom of the new pot. You can use the old pot to help you determine how deep to fill the new one. Start filling the new container, then set the old pot on top of the new soil. When the top of the old pot is even with the top of the new pot, you know you have enough soil in the bottom.
  3. Center the plant in the new pot and add more soil around the rootball. Keep the crown  (the place where the stems and leaves meet the roots) of the sansevieria even with the top of the soil. Leave an inch or two of space between the top of the soil and the lip of the pot.  
A person repotting a snakeplant to a white pot.
  1. Don’t compact the soil too much. Firm the soil just enough to hold the plant in place.
  2. Water well. After watering, you may find you need to add a little more soil.

Caring for Your Repotted Snake Plant

Repotting is stressful for plants, so a little extra care afterward can go a long way. 

Keep your sansevieria out of direct sunlight for a few weeks while it recovers. Don’t fertilize for at least a month. Monitor water needs carefully. You may find that you have to water more frequently or less often than you did before repotting.  

Does your snake plant need to be divided? Some rootballs may have sections that are separating from the rest of the plant. Make sure to check out our article on how to divide a snake plant and what to do with those separations!

A golden snake plant planted on a beautiful peach planter.
Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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