The Dracaena trifasciata ‘Moonshine’, more commonly known as the Moonshine Snake Plant is one of my absolute favorite plants because of its uncommon shade of green, large upright shape and ease of care! This plant is perfect to tie together any room as it tolerates a wide range of light conditions.
Position your Moonshine Snake Plant on a side table when it’s small and then transition it to that empty corner as it grows. This post is dedicated to all things regarding Moonshine Snake Plant care!
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Up until recently, the Moonshine Snake Plant’s scientific name was Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’, however in 2017 it was reclassified as part of the Dracaena genus. The Moonshine Snake Plant is a variety of the well known Dracaena trifasciata or Snake Plant, also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, St. George’s Sword and Viper’s Bowstring Hemp.
The Moonshine Snake Plant has the same upright, sword-like leaves of a Snake Plant but the color is very different. The Moonshine Snake Plant is a stunning mint green with a frosty, silver finish. The margins, or edges of the plant, are thinly lined with a deep forest green. The leaves slightly bend and twist, ending in a sharp tip.
- Common Name: Moonshine Snake Plant
- Scientific Name: Dracaena trifasciata ‘Moonshine’
- Mature Size: up to 2 feet tall
- Sunlight: bright, indirect light
- Water: when majority of soil is completely dry
- Soil: well-draining, succulent or cactus mix
- Temperature: 55°F-85°F
- Propagation: leaf cuttings and root/offset division
- Hardiness Zone: 10-11
- Toxicity: toxic to humans and pets
Growth Pattern and Habits
The Moonshine Snake Plant is native to the countries of West Africa. It grows in areas with rocky soil that receive minimal rainfall and experience the hot temperatures of the desert. Due to these harsh conditions, the Moonshine Snake Plant has evolved to be an expert at surviving with little water!
This plant’s ability to be drought tolerant is due to an interesting process called crassulacean acid metabolism. Instead of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide during the day like many other plants, the Moonshine Snake Plant and others like it, exchange gas only during the night. This prevents water from being unnecessarily wasted through evaporation under a hot sun!
Considered a succulent-like plant, the Moonshine Snake Plant is a slow growing evergreen plant with stiff, dense, upright leaf growth. The signature mint green (reminds me of mint chocolate chip ice cream!) leaves grow from a basal rosette, very low to the ground, which gives this plant the appearance of being stemless.
The Moonshine Snake Plant grows from rhizomes which are underground stems that grow out horizontally. This is how a Moonshine Snake Plant spreads. As the rhizomes grow outwards, they send out new shoots along intervals.
While it is most normal for a mature Moonshine Snake Plant’s height to exceed two feet, given optimal care, this plant can grow upwards of six feet!
A Moonshine Snake Plant’s light requirements are a bit different from that of other snake plant varieties. In order to maintain its cheerful mint color, a Moonshine Snake Plant must be exposed to ample amounts of bright but indirect sunlight.
To achieve the best light conditions possible, position your Moonshine Snake Plant in either a large east or west facing window. Alternatively, you could consider housing your plant in a window with southern exposure if one of two conditions are met: either the Moonshine Snake Plant is positioned just outside of the reach of direct sunlight or the window has a sheer curtain to filter bright, midday sun rays.
While many snake plants are known for being able to grow well in low light conditions, the Moonshine Snake Plant is not one of them. If your Moonshine Snake Plant receives too little light, you can expect its leaves to become darker and darker. Once a leaf has lost its minty color, it cannot be reversed.
Take a darkening leaf as a sign that your Moonshine Snake Plant needs more light. Gradually introduce the plant to brighter and brighter conditions over a couple of days. Again, the already darkened leaves will not revert to the Moonshine Snake Plant’s signature color, but new growth will sport the minty hue!
The Moonshine Snake Plant is a drought tolerant plant, meaning it is best to water only when the majority of the soil is dry. In fact, if you’re not sure if you should water your plant or not, it’s best to hold off and wait a couple more days. It’s better to underwater than to overwater this plant!
To best mimic a Moonshine Snake Plant’s natural habitat, completely saturate the soil by pouring water into the container until water begins to run out of the pot’s drainage hole. When watering, try to avoid getting the leaves wet. This practice helps prevent fungal infections.
Remember that the Moonshine Snake Plant originates from a hot, desert climate. This plant has evolved to survive with minimal water so overwatering can actually cause damage quicker than in other plants. Keep an eye out for signs of root rot such as yellowing leaves and stunted growth, as this is a common issue.
There really is no need to get fancy when it comes to soil. A Moonshine Snake Plant will be happy with commercial succulent and cactus soil. This type of soil drains excess water quickly away from the roots, preventing any chance of standing water at the bottom of a container.
It is important to plant your Moonshine Snake Plant in a terracotta pot with a drainage hole. This kind of container along with proper soil will keep your plant happy and healthy.
Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperature range in which to grow a Moonshine Snake Plant is between 55°F to 85°F, making it a perfect household plant. This plant is known for its easy going nature so it is not necessary to make any adjustments to your thermostat to keep it happy.
If you live outside the recommended USDA hardiness zones of 10-11, feel free to keep your Moonshine Snake Plant on a porch, but remember to bring it inside once temperatures begin to drop below 60°F.
Humidity levels that are comfortable for humans are comfortable for a Moonshine Snake Plant. Because this plant is from a desert climate, I suggest not placing this plant in high humidity areas of the house such as a bathroom or laundry room.
Because of its slow growing nature and adaptation to harsh desert conditions, a Moonshine Snake Plant doesn’t require frequent fertilization. I suggest fertilizing this plant once at the beginning of spring and once at the end of summer. Use a fertilizer dedicated to succulents and cacti. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid burning your plant.
Moonshine Snake Plant propagation is carried out by leaf or by offsets/rhizomal division. Both methods of Moonshine Snake Plant propagation are easy and successful, however a leaf cutting will take much longer to root and grow into a mature plant. Let’s discuss both techniques!
Propagation by Offsets
Ok, well this is technically just separating a baby plant from the mature plant, but the end result is a second plant which is all we really care about, right? To begin this method of Moonshine Snake Plant propagation, you will have to gently remove the plant from its container.
- Once removed from the container, gently shake off excess soil so you can visualize the rhizomes. These are modified, underground stems that look like horizontally growing roots. The rhizomes are what we want!
- Identify areas of the rhizome that have new growth shooting out and up.
- Using a sterilized knife, remove this section of the rhizome (or multiple sections if you are lucky!).
- Let the cuttings sit for a day before planting in succulent/cactus soil.
- Keep the soil slightly moist for two to three weeks to encourage root growth.
- After a couple weeks gently pull on your new plants. If you meet resistance, the new roots have become established and it’s time to transition to mature Moonshine Snake Plant care.
Propagation by Leaf Cuttings
Another way you can propagate your Moonshine Snake Plant is by leaf cuttings. This technique requires patience and more patience. It is a slow but rewarding process and because the maintenance is minimal, it’s definitely worth a shot.
- Remove at most, two healthy leaves from your Moonshine Snake Plant. Using a sterile knife, cut the leaves right at the base of the plant.
- Cut each leaf into two to three inch long sections. REMEMBER which side is up and which side is down!
- Plant in either cactus soil or LECA, covering the bottom half of the cutting.
- Keep the cuttings moist with daily misting and keep in a bright area of the house.
- Again, patience is the key. It can take several months for roots to form. At this time, gently pull on your growing leaf cuttings. If resistance is met, you can transplant the rooted leaves into their own containers and provide mature Moonshine Snake Plant care.
If you choose to use LECA (baked clay balls that are used as a growth medium), pre-soak the balls before transferring to a container. Insert the leaf cutting halfway into the LECA and add an inch or two of water to the bottom. All of the LECA will soak up the water. This is a great medium because it acts as a controlled releaser of water and provides substantial aeration to the roots.
Moonshine Snake Plants are pretty resilient so are perfect for first time plant owners. The main issue to look out for is root rot, which is caused by overwatering! Another issue is pests, however, if given proper care, a Moonshine Snake Plant is not likely to have a pest issue. Let’s discuss some common issues in further detail.
Root rot is caused by overwatering. An overwatered Moonshine Snake Plant will have yellowing leaves. Chronic overwatering leads to root rot. Once a Moonshine Snake Plant has root rot, you will note mushy brown spots on the leaves.
It is possible to save a Moonshine Snake Plant that has root rot, but you have to act quickly. Remove the plant from its container and gently shake off excess soil. The affected roots will be black, slimy and mushy. Using sterilized cutters, remove all affected roots.
Run the healthy roots under fresh water then allow to dry before replanting. If you decide to use the original container, sterilize it with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach.
Mealybugs and spider mites are the two main pests you need to watch out for. Mealybugs are tiny, white soft scale insects that like to group together creating the appearance of small cotton ball clumps. Spider mites create fine webs between leaves.
To rid your Moonshine Snake Plant of pests, remove all signs of the insects using an alcohol soaked cotton ball. Spray neem oil over the entire plant every other day until all signs of the pests are gone.
Remove all damaged parts of the plant to avoid inviting future issues!
Southern Blight is caused by a fungus that eats through a Moonshine Snake Plant’s stems and leaves over a period of a couple weeks. In the early stages, white spots will appear on the plant’s surface. Quickly, the leaves will turn brown and mushy.
This fungus can be transmitted from plant to plant using unsterilized shears and pots, so make it a habit to clean all tools before moving to a new plant.
Moonshine Snake Plants are mildly toxic to humans and pets due to a group of compounds found in the cells called saponins. If ingested, one can experience GI issues and mouth irritation.
I absolutely adore my Moonshine Snake Plant because its leaves stand out against a sea of dark green. The silvery mint tone is incredibly unique and playful. What is even better is how easy it is to care for this plant! It requires minimal, infrequent waterings and in fact, prefers to stay on the dry side. Because this plant isn’t fussy, Moonshine Snake Plant care is incredibly easy and an excellent choice for those wanting to try out their green thumb.