A note on names: In scientific circles, Snake Plants are now considered part of the Dracaena genus, and the name Sansevieria has been retired. However, many people still know these plants by their former name, so we’ll sometimes refer to them as Sansevierias. We have an article on the subject here.
The signature feature of a Snake Plant is its vivid, blade-shaped foliage. But did you know that they can also sometimes grow beautiful blooms? Many houseplant owners don’t realize this because a Sansevieria can go decades at a time without flowering. This post will help you understand how a Snake Plant blooms and what you can do to encourage it.
Lighting and maturity are the most crucial factors for a Snake Plant’s flowering. These plants typically won’t blossom until they’re at least a few years old. And even older Sansevierias living indoors may not produce flowers, since they’re not getting as much sun as they would in the wild.
Snake Plant flowers emerge from a specialized stalk called a flower spike, which rises up from the center of its foliage. Each cluster of leaves can only flower once, and after the blossoms fade, you won’t get any new growth from that rosette. However, your plant will continue to send out rhizomes that sprout new bursts of foliage.
Cover Photo: By Michal Klajban – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
How to Make a Snake Plant Bloom
It’s no surprise that many Snake Plant owners don’t know whether their prized succulents can even produce flowers. For one thing, Sansevierias won’t bloom until they’re at least a few years old, even under ideal conditions.
And not many indoor growers keep their Snake Plants in ideal conditions. Snake Plants are so popular in home settings partly because they can get by on very little sunlight. But there’s a difference between “getting by” and “doing well”.
Your plant needs a good amount of sunlight to grow flowers. If you want to encourage your Snake Plant to bloom, try moving it into a brighter spot. A window sill is often the best bet. And yes, you can even put it in a south-facing window if you want! Although they’re sold as low-light plants, most Sansevieria varieties can handle direct sunlight just fine. You may need to water it a little more often, but that’s the only real drawback. Just be sure to transition it slowly if you’re drastically changing the amount of light it will receive.
Oddly enough, the other thing that can help is neglect. Snake Plants are more likely to flower when they’re under some strain. The plant senses that it’s in danger and tries to pass on its genes in case it dies.
This is a fine line to walk because you don’t want to stress the plant so much that its health seriously suffers. The best method is simply to let your Snake Plant’s roots get a little crowded in their pot. Normally, you’d want to increase the size of the plant’s container every 3-5 years to avoid this. But if you’re shooting for blooms, you can slow that down to every 5-7 years.
Your Sansevieria should be able to withstand being slightly root bound. Watch out for warning signs like wilting or discolored foliage, though. Don’t do major damage to your plant for the sake of a few pretty petals.
Fertilizer, Flowers, and Snake Plants
There’s one important myth we should address before we continue. Lots of people are under the impression that there are special kinds of fertilizers that will make plants more likely to bloom. Usually, these are high-phosphorus formulas, often sold as “bloom boosters” or some similar name that suggests they’ll induce flowering.
It’s true that an undernourished Snake Plant won’t flower. But once you’ve met your plant’s basic needs, adding extra phosphorus doesn’t help. All it does is leave behind potentially harmful mineral salts in the soil. Give your Sansevieria a half-strength dose of a well-balanced fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, and don’t waste your money on gimmicky “bloom boosters” for Snake Plants.
When and How a Snake Plant Flowers
You’ve probably noticed that, like many succulents, your Snake Plant pushes leaves up right from the soil. The “stem” of the plant stays underground, in the form of a specialized root structure called a rhizome. The rhizome pushes up a cluster of leaves called a rosette.
So when you manage to coax your Snake Plant into blooming, the flowers don’t emerge from the aboveground leaves – instead, the plant sends up a flower spike from the rhizome. This slender green stalk emerges at the center of the rosette and can reach up to 3 feet in height.
As the flower spike grows, it develops dozens of tiny green buds along its length. Within 2-4 weeks from a flower spike’s first appearance, those little nubs will start opening up into delicate white blossoms.
(Note: there are a few less common types of Sansevieria, like the Baseball Bat Snake Plant, that produce clusters of tall flowers right from the roots instead of creating flower spikes.)
Snake Plants usually flower in the springtime. The flowers bloom at night and close up during the day. They’ll stick around for 2-4 weeks before starting to wither away.
What Do Snake Plant Flowers Look and Smell Like?
The blooms that emerge from a Snake Plant’s flower spike are small and delicate. Their slim white petals curl out and down like ribbons, while a spray of tiny green-tipped stamens pokes out from the middle of each one. The flowers look almost like tiny fireworks bursting up from the center of your plant.
When they close during the daylight hours, a Snake Plant’s blossoms fold up into slender green or white finger shapes. This looks cool in its own way, more like an underwater plant than something you’d find in the desert.
A blooming Sansevieria gives off a strong fragrance that most find enjoyable (though as always, personal taste varies widely). The scent varies between different cultivars, but it usually includes a hint of sweetness that reminds many people of jasmine or vanilla.
The odor of a Snake Plant’s flowers will get stronger at night. The blooms also release sugary nectar, so you may want to lay down paper or towels around the base of your plant. Otherwise, this sticky fluid can create a bit of a mess as it drips down.
Pollination and Fruiting in Snake Plants
Snake Plants can self-pollinate, so some of your plant’s blooms may transform into orange berries instead of fading away. This is more common when they’re grown outdoors and they can get some help from insects, but it can still occasionally happen indoors. Each berry will contain one or two seeds.
If you want your Sansevieria to bear fruit, you can pollinate it yourself. Simply snip or pinch off one flower and brush its pollen-bearing stamens against another bloom. Note that Snake Plants grown from seed don’t always have the same variegation as their parents – so if you propagate your plant by pollinating it, the offspring may display very different patterns.
Do Snake Plants Die After Flowering?
Proud Sansevieria owners often post pictures of their blooming plants to online forums. And sometimes people respond with dire warnings that a flowering Snake Plant is doomed.
Fortunately, this is a misconception. It’s true that some plants are monocarpic, meaning that they die after the first time they produce flowers. Others are polycarpic, capable of flowering again and again.
Snake Plants are somewhere in between. Each rosette of a Sansevieria can only make a flower spike once in its life, and once it does, it won’t ever grow any new foliage. It won’t actually die, though – those lovely leaves will stay right where they are for years to come.
The root mass will also keep extending new rhizomes which will grow into fresh new rosettes. In time, these may create flowers of their own.
Your Snake Plant can absolutely grow flowers – very pretty ones, in fact. However, it’s hard to get this to happen consistently when you’re growing it indoors. Your best bet is to give it plenty of light, the right amount of fertilizer, and a slightly cramped container. Patience, optimism, and a little bit of luck won’t hurt either!