Black Gold Snake Plant, or mother-in-law’s tongue (Dracaena trifasciata ‘Black Gold’, formerly Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Gold’), is a strikingly handsome plant with a distinct upright growth habit and 2 to 3 feet tall, dark green sword-shaped leaves edged in bright yellow. It’s an excellent choice for beginning gardeners and makes an outstanding vertical accent in an indoor space.
In addition to being beautiful and easy to care for, Black Gold Snake Plants are well-known as air purifiers that absorb toxins from the air and pump back healthy oxygen into the room. They remove benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, trichloroethylene, and toluene from the air and also reduce allergens such as dust and pollen.
Snake Plants are native to Nigeria and tropical West Africa, where it is hot and dry. They are succulents, meaning they are drought-tolerant plants that store water in their leaves and have a thick, waxy surface to slow evaporation.
Keep these characteristics in mind when caring for your snake plant Black Gold. They only need a little maintenance, but it has to be the right kind for them to thrive and show off at their best.
Caring For Your Black Gold Snake Plant
Snake Plants are known as tolerant, easygoing houseplants that anyone can care for. This is true, but they do best in cultural conditions that match their native environment. Let’s look at these conditions and how you can re-create them in your home or office.
Although they are considered low-light plants, Snake Plants actually do best in medium to bright indirect light, such as in an east- or north-facing window. Harsh, direct sunlight in a south- or west-facing window can scorch the leaves, so set the plant back or hang a sheer curtain if these are the only available window directions you have.
If you bring your Snake Plant outdoors in the summer so it can enjoy the warmth and light, make sure that it is in a protected place in shade or partial shade, such as under a tree, patio, or porch where it will get bright light but is out of the direct sun.
Snake Plants do well in 65 to 90 degrees F, which are well within the range of most households. They don’t like drafts or extreme temperatures, so try to keep them in steady temperatures away from hot or cold vents.
Outside in the summer, they will do fine in the warmth, but if temperatures soar above 90 degrees, their leaves will become damaged. They are not frost-hardy, and even temperatures below 55 degrees will damage these plants, so keep them within a warm range.
Remember that Snake Plants come from an arid environment so that they can handle low humidity. Households have an average relative humidity of about 30% to 40% and are drier during the winter when the heat is on.
This is a fine humidity level for your Snake Plant, and it’s not necessary to sit them on a pebble tray or use a humidifier. Be careful of setting them in areas of high humidity, such as the kitchen or bathroom, or outside in high-humidity weather where they can develop fungal infections.
Since they are succulents, Snake Plants conserve water, so you don’t want to overwater them. The best way to handle this is by the soak-and-dry method rather than watering on a schedule.
Test the soil by digging your finger or a chopstick 2″ to 4″ down in the pot. If there is still moisture, hold off watering for a week or two, but if your finger or chopstick comes out dry, it’s time to water your plant. A moisture meter can also be helpful.
When the soil is dry or almost dry down to the bottom of the pot, run water through the pot until it soaks the soil and comes out of the drainage holes. Allow it to drain completely, and empty any remaining water from the dish under the pot. Then let the soil dry out before watering your plant again.
During the fall and winter, when the light is low, the plant won’t be actively growing and won’t use up water as quickly. Cut back on watering during that time.
Soil and Pot
Snake Plants need light, porous, excellently draining soil. You can use a commercial succulent mix or make your own with half indoor houseplant mix and half coarse sand, coco coir, peat, or perlite.
It’s essential that it has proper drainage so that water doesn’t sit in the soil and choke the roots. When the soil is too dense without enough air pockets, water can’t drain as well, and the roots can’t “breathe.” This scenario can cause root rot, a fungal disease, and an unhappy, unhealthy plant.
The shape and type of pot you choose also make a difference. The plant’s shallow rooting system makes it ideal for a low, wide, strong pot that will keep it from tipping over.
Terracotta or clay pots allow the soil to dry out more quickly than plastic, ceramic, or composite, so you’ll need to adjust your watering accordingly. But whatever type of pot you choose, make sure it has a drainage hole at the bottom.
Snake Plants are slow growers, so they can be repotted about once every 2 to 3 years. They won’t need any fertilizer when they are first repotted in fresh soil. But as time goes on, the soil will become increasingly depleted of nutrients, and you will want to add some fertilizer.
During the spring and summer, when it’s warm, the light is bright, and the plant is actively growing, you can fertilize snake plants two or three times with a dilute liquid all-purpose fertilizer or once in the spring with a granular blend. The plant will not be growing during the fall and winter, so fertilizer isn’t needed during those seasons.
Be careful of using too much fertilizer, especially if your plant is in medium rather than bright light. It won’t photosynthesize as fast, so it won’t use up the soil nutrients as quickly.
Too much fertilizer will draw water from the plant’s roots, causing fertilizer burn.
The main pests that attack Black Gold Snake Plants are spider mites, mealybugs, and fungus gnats.
You have spider mites if you see webbing on your plant or tiny red or black critters with eight legs. Mealybugs are easier to see. They are usually white or cream-colored with fuzzy bodies.
Both of these pests suck the juices out of the leaves, causing stippling and discoloration, and you can control them with a horticultural soap and/or Neem oil spray.
Fungus gnats are another story altogether. Dormant eggs are in many of the commercial potting mixes that you buy. They come out of dormancy in soggy soil, such as when it has been overwatered.
Small larvae hatch from the eggs and begin to feed on the roots and the organic matter in the soil. After about two weeks, the larvae mature into flying adults that emerge from the soil and fly above the plant. You may see a cloud of them fly up when the pot is jostled. They will lay eggs back in the soil, and the cycle will continue.
To control them, you’ll have to treat the eggs and larvae in the soil and the adults above the soil. First, pour a solution of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to three parts water through the soil. This will kill the eggs and the larvae, and the plants will love it since it releases oxygen.
Next, use sticky traps on the surface of the soil to catch the flying adults. Yellow traps are the best color, and you can obtain them easily online.
You may have to repeat the hydrogen peroxide treatment after two or three weeks when you’re ready to water the plant again. If you have a significant infestation, it would be best to discard the soil, wash the roots with the hydrogen peroxide solution, and plant your Snake Plant in fresh soil in a clean pot.
The most frequent disease of Snake Plants is root rot, an overgrowth of fungus in the soil and on the roots from overwatering and poor drainage.
All potting mix has a structure made up of various kinds of material, such as peat or sphagnum moss, perlite, vermiculite, coco coir, compost, and bark. The best soil for indoor plants is loose and crumbly, with a lot of air spaces between the chunks of material.
These air spaces deliver oxygen to the plant’s roots and allow water to drain through. But when the soil is saturated with water, the air spaces can’t supply oxygen to the roots, and it becomes a perfect environment for fungal root rot.
If the soil has not dried out and your plant is beginning to droop with yellow or brown deteriorating leaves, you need to check the roots for root rot.
Gently tip the pot on its side and pull out the root ball. Shake or wash off the soil so that you can examine the roots. Healthy Snake Plant roots should be firm and white to light orange, but if you see black, shriveled, mushy roots that smell bad, your plant has root rot and needs attention.
Cut off the black roots with clean scissors or a knife, and discard them away from your other plants. Then drench the roots in a fungicide with copper as an ingredient, Neem oil, or even cinnamon, a natural fungicide.
Plant your Snake Plant back in fresh, moist soil in a clean pot (with a drainage hole!) and let it recover from the repotting. Set it in medium light out of any hot or cold drafts. You can water it after about a week but hold off fertilizing it for a month while it starts to grow new roots.
Propagating Black Gold Snake Plants: Leaf Cuttings & Division
When your plant is growing so well that you want to propagate Black Gold Snake Plant to make more plants for yourself or a gift for a friend, you can do it by cuttings or division.
1. Leaf Cuttings
Cuttings of Snake Plant leaves can be propagated in either water or sandy soil. Use a clean knife when you make any cuts on the leaves.
Propagating in Water
Use the whole leaf to do it this way. Cut it off where it attaches to the rhizome and put it in a jar of clean water. This method has the advantage of allowing new roots to be visible as they’re growing. You should start seeing them in 3 to 4 weeks.
Propagating in Sandy Soil
Another way to propagate cuttings is in a moist, sandy, peat-free potting mix. Cut 2″ to 4″ sections of a leaf and insert them right-side up in the soil, and you should begin to see roots in one to four months.
2. Propagating With Division
You can also propagate your plant by separating the pups from the mother plant. Cut down through the rhizome to separate the pups from the mother with a clean knife, and plant the little ones in a moist, loose potting mix.
It is also possible to divide the rhizomes with or without attached leaves. Gently take a rhizome out of the soil and cut or break it between the nodes where leaves grow. Then plant it in a moist, loose potting mix. Pups and rhizomes should begin to take hold in 3 to 4 weeks.
NOTE: When propagating your Black Gold snake plant, whether by leaf cuttings or by division, set the plant in a warm spot, in bright to moderate light, out of the way of any hot or cold drafts.
Hold off on watering for the first week since the moist soil should be enough, and don’t fertilize it at this time.
Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.