How To Trim A Snake Plant: Step-By-Step & Why You Should Prune

Considered to be an almost unkillable houseplant, snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) are notoriously easy to grow and require little maintenance in order to flourish. 

Although pruning is not required as part of its regular care routine, occasional trimming will ensure your snake plant remains healthy and looking its best. And if you don’t know how (or why) to trim a snake plant, then this guide is for you.

3 Reasons Why You Should Prune a Snake Plant

Snake plants typically require very little pruning. However, there are several instances whereby trimming your snake plant may be necessary or simply beneficial.

1. Aesthetic Purposes

snake plant that needs pruning

Pruning can maintain the overall appearance of your snake plant. Over time, some leaves can become particularly tall and leggy, so simply trimming these away will create a more uniform shape.

If you have ever wondered, ‘how do I make my snake plant bushier?’, you will find that occasional trimming will encourage your plant to develop new, fuller foliage.

2. Removing Dead, Damaged, or Diseased Leaves

a snake plant turning yellow

Although snake plants generally tolerate various conditions, poor care practices can result in damaged or diseased leaves. There are several reasons a snake plant can exhibit damaged leaves:

  • Overwatering: Sansevieria requires little water and are sensitive to overwatering. Leaves will become yellow and mushy if the plant is overwatered. In this instance, your snake plant may also require repotting, as it will be susceptible to root rot.
  • Underwatering: Although snake plants are drought tolerant, they still require a little water. Leaves will develop brown tips and edges in extended periods of water stress.
  • Physical damage: Leaves can become torn or bruised while handling, repotting, or planting.
  • Intense sunlight: Snake plants prefer bright, but indirect light. In direct sunlight, leaves can become scorched and develop brown spots.

Removing damaged leaves will help to keep your Sansevieria looking its best. In these instances, it is essential to identify the cause of the damage to adapt your care practices accordingly.

Adjusting the watering schedule and ensuring correct light levels are steps to improve the overall health of your snake plant.

3. Propagation for New Plants

snake plant water propagation

Snake plants are relatively easy to propagate by leaf cuttings. Trimming your Sansevieria is an excellent opportunity to grow new plants from the cuttings.

What Tools Do You Need To Trim A Snake Plant?

You will only need a couple of simple tools to trim your snake plant:

  • Pruning shears, scissors or a sharp: it is important that the blade is sharp to ensure a clean cut.
  • Disinfectant or rubbing alcohol: clean, sterilized cutting tools will reduce the risk of infection.
  • Gloves: Sansevieria sap is mildly toxic, so wearing gloves is a good idea if you are prone to irritation.

How To Trim a Snake Plant Step-by-Step

Preparation

Before getting started, take a moment to consider the entire plant and what you want the finished effect to be. If the plant is damaged or diseased, it should be clear which leaves should be removed.

If reshaping for aesthetics, it is helpful to identify the leaves beforehand to ensure you achieve the desired result.

How To Cut Snake Plant Leaves

Snake plant leaves should be cut at the very base of the plant at the soil line. This stimulates growth and encourages the plant to develop healthy, new leaves.

It is important to cut a snake plant cleanly using sterilized, sharp tools. A clean cut promotes healing as the plant is able to form a callus quickly. Rough or jagged cuts can create open wounds that are susceptible to infection.

  1. Select the leaf that you would like to remove.
  2. Hold the leaf at the tip and gently pull upward to ensure the leaf is taught.
  3. Using a pair of sterilized pruning shears or a knife, cut the leaf at the soil line in a single, swift cut.
  4. Dispose of any diseased or infected leaves.
  5. Sterilize your cutting tools.

Propagating Snake Plants By Leaf Cuttings

showing how to propagate snake plant

If you are removing mature, healthy leaves from your snake plant, they can easily be propagated to make new plants:

  1. Cut large leaves into smaller sections in order to propagate multiple new offspring.
  2. Lay the cut sections in a dry, well-ventilated place for a few days to allow the cut edges to seal.
  3. Plant the sections about 1 inch deep in a well-draining growing medium.
  4. Place the planted cuttings in bright but indirect light and keep the soil slightly moist until the cuttings have successfully established. Snake plant cuttings may take several weeks to root and develop plantlets.

Caring for Snake Plant Cuttings

When propagating snake plant cuttings, it’s crucial to use a well-draining soil mix to prevent waterlogging. A combination of standard potting soil and perlite or sand can be an excellent snake plant soil mix.

Ensure the cuttings are placed in a warm location with indirect light and only water sparingly until roots have developed. Overwatering can lead to rot, which can kill the cutting before it has a chance to root.

What Is The Best Time To Trim A Snake Plant?

Although snake plants can be trimmed throughout the year, spring and summer are ideal. When the plant is in active growth, it can direct its energy toward healing and new growth.

Of course, you may need to remove damaged leaves throughout the year. In this case, snake plants will still respond relatively well to pruning, even during the dormant months.

Snake Plant Pruning Aftercare

Pruning can cause plant stress, so creating the appropriate conditions to support recovery is vital.

Often, the environment should mirror the requirements of the parent plant. However, some adaptations must be considered to ensure a smooth recovery for your snake plant.

Adjust Watering Schedule

watering a snake plant

Refrain from watering briefly after trimming your snake plant to allow the plant to settle. Reducing moisture will also help prevent infection before the cut edges are sealed. At this time, overly humid conditions should also be avoided.

Avoid Fertilizing

Due to their tolerance to arid conditions, snake plants only require a little fertilizing during their growing period.

After pruning, however, snake plants can be particularly sensitive to fertilizing. This should be avoided until the plant has settled and resumed active growth.

Maintain Appropriate Care

Continue providing your snake plant with optimal care, including bright yet indirect light, allowing the soil to dry out before watering, and avoiding extreme temperature fluctuations.

Snake plants respond relatively well to the occasional trim thanks to their robust and tolerant nature. Simply providing the necessary care and using sterilized tools, your snake plant should easily recover, look its best and continue to thrive.

FAQ

Can you cut just the snake plant leaves or tips?

Yes, snake plant leaves, or tips can be safely cut for maintenance or propagation, but cutting the entire leave from the base is better. Cutting the tips of a snake plant will lead to scarring once the cuts heal, so if you want a beautiful plant, cut at the base.

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Stephanie is a horticulturist specializing in interior plants. While living in Germany, Stephanie worked at a hydroponic herb farm, assisting in the research lab that developed new ways of growing. She gained her horticultural certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK and wrote for a German gardening publication. Her interests are in medicinal herbs, community gardens, and eco-therapy. Linkedin