Do Snake Plants Like To Be Root Bound?

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Dracaena trifasciata is truly one of the most beginner-friendly houseplants out there. This succulent species not only thrives under conditions of neglect, but is also remarkably forgiving of plant care mistakes. The striking foliage is sure to bring beauty and warmth to virtually any space in your home, regardless of the attention afforded to your plant.

Over time, houseplants understandably expand and grow to take up all of the space in a pot. Snake plant is no exception, and will rapidly produce roots to permeate through suitable soil. 

This maximizes every watering session, as a full soak ensures that the entire root system is provided with access to moisture. 

Features of a Root Bound Plant

Unlike many delicate houseplants, snake plants actually like to be root bound! Depending on soil type, frequency of watering, and sun exposure, this can take 2-3 years to occur. This condition is easily diagnosed based on some simple, easily identified features. Examine your plant when the soil is dry, as this is the best time to lift the pot or handle your plant without creating a mess.

potted snake plants

When Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is root bound, the fully dry soil will often appear very compact. While fresh soil sticks to the side of a pot, the densely bound soil can appear separate from the sides. You can try wiggling the entire root bound plant out of the pot, and you’ll find that the roots may have fully encircled the soil.

It is normally customary to repot snake plants with these features into a larger pot with more soil. This is not necessary with snake plants as they actually prefer having crowded root systems. After some time, however, you may wish to repot or divide your plant to prevent your pot from breaking or for propagation purposes.

How to Divide a Root Bound Snake Plant

Place your potted snake plant on a workspace that can easily be cleared of soil. If your pot is light enough, you’ll want to carefully tip over the pot while using your palm and fingers to secure the soil and crown of the plant. If your pot is heavy, lean your pot over to one side and gradually force out the soil by tapping on the sides or using a shovel to loosen the substrate. 

Slowly but surely, tease apart the offsets of your plant. You can moisten the soil slightly to ease division. Try to keep the roots intact, but remove those that have dried up or are too difficult to pull apart from the mother plant. If dense roots have fully encircled the root ball, you may need to take a clean pair of gardening shears and cut up some of the roots. 

Once you’ve separated a few offsets with intact root systems, you may individually repot them. And just like magic, you’ll have new pots of snake plants to place around your home!

FAQs

How long should I wait until repotting a root bound snake plant?

If your snake plant is only lightly root bound (i.e., roots have not yet fully encircled the plant), and offsets have not yet covered most of the soil surface, you may give your plant a few more months. You can opt to wait until early spring of the following year, just before the growth period begins. 

Do snake plants like being crowded?

Yes, they do. This ensures that the roots are able to maximize moisture uptake from the soil. However, if offsets or roots begin to push or deform your pot, you may need to divide your plant.