- Sansevieria (Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)
- Snake Plant Care Guide
- Snake Plant Problems
- Community Comments
- The story of the Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Mother-in-law’s tongue production
- What do you need to look out for when purchasing Mother-in-law’s tongue?
- Range of Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Care tips for consumers
- Creative tips for the Mother-in-law’s tongue
- You can download the images and poster (link) below for free:
- Snake Plant
- Snake Plant
- Architectural Accents
- Snake Plant Care Must-Knows
- Propagating Snake Plants
- More Varieties of Snake Plant
- Five perfect plants for dad
- Snake Plant Overview
- Snake Plant Varieties
- Snake Plant Care
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Plants for Sale
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Plant
- Why Choose a Sansevieria Plant?
- Sansevieria Varieties
- Planting your Sanseveria
- Plant Propagation
- Temperature Requirements
- Caring for your Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Plant
- Growing Problems
- Best Companion Plants
Sansevieria (Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)
Snake Plant Care Guide
All Snake Plants like bright light with at least some direct sun for several hours a day, however they will still grow in any position (although a little bit slower) as long as it’s not deep shade.
Water moderately from Spring to Autumn/Fall, significantly less in the Winter months because it does not need as much water then and you will reduce the possibility of your Snake Plant rotting from being over watered.
Unimportant for all varieties of Sansevieria
When it comes to feeding a standard cactus or all purpose fertiliser during the Summer months is perfect. Careful not to over do it though.
Tough though Sansevieria is, it will suffer with very cold Winter temperatures. If the soil is dry it will survive without issue down to 5°C / 41°F. Good average growing conditions will need temperatures between 18°C – 27°C / 65°F – 80°F.
If you want flowers on your Snake Plant (see below) it will need to be pot bound. In any case due to their upright growth habit the plants look best in a smaller narrow pot. If you do decide to repot then you can do it at anytime of the year.
You can propagate S. laurentii, S. trifasciata, S. cylindrica and S. hahnii when you repot by removing the rhizome offsets at the base of the plant. Let them dry for a few days before pushing into a good drainage potting compost mix. You may also have luck with leaf cuttings; cut 2 – 3 inch of leaf from a mature leaf and after waiting a day for the edges to dry, push the cuttings about 1 inch into a compost mix (you must plant it the right way up i.e. matching the direction of original growth).
Be warned that If you try and propagate S. laurentii in this way you will almost certainly lose the yellow edges as it will revert back to the original all green S. trifasciata variety.
Speed of Growth
The Snake Plant does grow slowly which can be a draw back if you want a large one to screen an area immediately. If that’s the case, go large at purchase time.
Height / Spread
S. cylindrica, although rare, has the potential to reach 5ft after many years. S. hahnii in comparison will only reach a lowly 4 in. high. S. laurentii and S. trifasciata can get to 3ft or more, although this is quite unusual and normal expected height is between 1ft and 2ft. However if you want a more compact and wide spread plant rather than height, simply remove the very tops of the growing leaf when its reached your ideal height. Bear in mind if you do this that particular leaf will never grow taller.
Yes! Flowers do appear on S. trifasciata and S. laurentii in Summer on very fast growing stems from the heart of the plant.
They’re attempting to attract moths for pollination, so during the evening and night they smell strongly of something similar to Ylang Ylang. During daylight hours the smell is musky and not very pleasant, you may also notice sticky resin dropping onto or around the plant (There is a close up picture of the resin in the gallery above).
However, if you want to try getting them it can be tricky, in our experience you only get Sansevieria flowers when you are “cruel”. The plant needs to be so pot bound that there is literally no space for new shoots to emerge out of the soil (this may happen naturally in the center of a congested plant which isn’t fully pot bound yet). You also need to nick the top off some of the leaves which prevents it growing upwards. With absolutely no where left to grow you might get the plant trying to propagate itself by seed, i.e. through the elusive flowers.
Is the Snake Plant Poisonous?
The Snake Plant does bite back if it’s eaten. The plant contains Saponins which usually irritate and can cause gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. This effects most pets such as cats and dogs and also humans.
A fantastic hardy plant that will cope with masses of different conditions and treatment, however if you want it to perform at its best you do need to treat it right.
Snake Plant Problems
Sansevieria has only two weaknesses, excessive cold, and excessive watering, everything else you throw its way will be taken in its stride and is therefore an almost impossible to kill house plant. One year my brother left his in a hot south facing window all Spring and Summer without watering it once. Some of the leaves went very pale and one died completely, but the plant slowly recovered as soon as conditions became more favorable.
Rot at base / Leaves are yellow and dying back
Likely basal rot disease. It typically happens in Winter from being watered too much (Remember, in Winter water less.) There is no treatment, but if only part of the plant has been affected you can simply cut the rot out. If all leaves around the bottom have it, the plant can’t be saved. You might like to try taking leaf cuttings from the leaves above the rot and try propagating replacements.
Rot at base (not over watered)
This is caused by cold damage. 5°C / 41°F is the lowest safe temperature, as you get lower the risk of serious damage increases.
Brown blotches on the leaves
Random blotches on the leaves might just be sun scorch, for example if the plant has been in a very dark place for a long time and you suddenly put it outside in the baking midday sun. However if the blotches appear on the tips of the leaves and work there way down then it is something much worse; the cause of this disorder is unknown and there is no cure. Fortunately it’s very rare and none of the Our House Plants.com team have ever seen it in real life.
About the Author
Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.
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The Houseplant for this summer month is the Mother-in-law’s tongue, also known as the Sansevieria. Each month a different plant is given the centre of attention as Houseplant of the month. Why don’t you join in? You can download some POS material for your shop, underneath
The story of the Mother-in-law’s tongue
Mother-in-law’s tongue is one of the easiest houseplants. The plants have rootstocks, out of which thick, tall, sword-like shape leaves with succulent characteristics grow. The name, Mother-in-law’s tongue, refers to the pointed tips of the leaves, which symbolises the sharp tongue of the Mother-in-law!
Mother-in-law’s tongue production
The plant originates from the dry areas of Southern Africa and Asia where it had to survive in the hot desert climate. Sansevieria was named after the 18th Century prince, Raimondo di Sangro from the Italian San Severo. Since approximately 2004, Sansevieria cylindrica has been in production, as well as the traditional Sansevieria trifasciata. This cylindrica now accounts for 38% of Mother-in-law’s tongue production. There is also a braided version and this cylindrica is produced in Thailand.
What do you need to look out for when purchasing Mother-in-law’s tongue?
• Size. Take a good look at the pot size and the thickness and length of the leaves.
• Leaves. Some varieties are determined by the way the leaves are grown or braided.
• Health. Check if the plants are free of scale insects and suberisation (on older plants). Also check the quality of the leaf points and the root system.
• Rot. When the Mother-in-law’s tongue has been too wet for a long period of time, they can begin to rot. So check if they are sturdy in the pot.
Range of Mother-in-law’s tongue
The range of Mother-in-law’s tongue has significantly expanded in recent years, with new varieties and cultivars. The most well-known is the Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’, the Mother-in-law’s tongue with green, long leaves and golden yellow edges. Within the variety trifasciata there are more cultivars which differ in leaf colour (green, silver or gold variegated) or in leaf length. The variety cylindrica is known for its round, long leaves. They come in many different sizes; fan shaped or braided, and the colours of the leaves are green or grey. The variety kirkii has a much smaller, thinner green leaf. This also comes in different shapes.
Care tips for consumers
Mother-in-law’s tongue is an easy care plant. The root ball needs to stay a bit damp and in the winter a bit dryer. Staying too damp for a long time isn’t advisable; the plant would rather be too dry. Don’t water the leaf rosette. Because of its succulent leaves, the Mother-in-law’s tongue can cope well with dry air. Give the plant enough light, it can even cope with full sun. A rest period isn’t absolutely necessary. The Mother-in-law’s tongue is air purifying and improves the humidity level. This improves the environment which is good news to share with your customers.
Creative tips for the Mother-in-law’s tongue
Because of its straight tall shape, the Mother-in-law’s tongue is very suitable for plant arrangements with a vertical line. Especially in combination with lovely tall pots, this will create a trendy result, especially in modern interiors. Another nice idea: place a whole family of Mother-in-law’s tongues together, which will work well with so many varieties.
One of the toughest houseplants, snake plant can tolerate most indoor conditions. With its stately upright foliage that almost looks artificial, the snake plant—also called mother-in-law’s tongue—adds great architectural form to a room and complements all styles of decor. Like many houseplants, it helps filter indoor air.
There are no stems on the snake plant, just tough, thick, upright leaves. Since there are no branches, its slender profile makes it an ideal floor plant for small spaces. There are also dwarf varieties that form small rosettes of leaves. The most common foliage showcases shades of green with grey/silver horizontal streaks. Some variegated varieties have gold-colored edges.
Snake Plant Care Must-Knows
This plant is extremely drought-tolerant, but its Achilles’ heel is too much water. Plant sansevieria in a well-drained pot with a potting mix that doesn’t hold a lot of water. Fertilize periodically—even just a dose of slow-release fertilizer will do the job. Be careful not to over-fertilize as too much can cause a snake plant to put on soft, floppy growth.
Ideally, the snake plant likes partial sun. But you can park it in a dark corner and it’ll be happy or set it in a sunny southern window and it will be happy there, too. In full shade, the color in some sansevieria can become slightly washed out, and taller types can become leggy and floppy, but generally this isn’t much of a concern.
Under the right conditions, a snake plant will bloom. While not overly showy, flowers are borne in large clusters, generally white with a greenish tinge. The small, tubular flowers emit a sweet floral fragrance that can fill a room, especially at night. But don’t plan on a snake plant blooming with any regularity; many bloom just once every several years, not following any schedule.
Try these indoor plants that tolerate low light.
Propagating Snake Plants
It is easy to propagate a snake plant. You can propagate by leaf cuttings—just cut a 3- to 4-inch section of the leaf and stick it in some moist potting soil. Keep this evenly moist but not wet, and in several weeks to a month small plantlets will begin to grow from the base of the cutting. These can be separated into individual plants or left as a clump. Most varieties of snake plant with variegated leaves are actually a periclinal chimera, a plant mutation that causes the variegated foliage. Chimeras can’t be propagated via leaf cuttings as with normal snake plants because the new plants will lose their coloring, turning into all-green versions. The only way to propagate variegated chimeras is by division.
Learn how to propagate houseplants here.
More Varieties of Snake Plant
Bird’s Nest Snake Plant
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ grows to only 6 inches tall, forming clusters of leaves that form a cup, similar to a bird’s nest.
Cylinder Snake Plant
Sansevieria cylindrica produces round, rigid leaves that can reach several feet in length. Leaves arch outward from a central crown.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ is a popular variety with creamy yellow leaf margins. It does not come true from leaf cuttings; it reverts to the green form. So divide the plant to make new ones just like the mother plant.
Variegated Snake Plant
Sansevieria trifasciata is grown for its dramatic upright form with leaves 2 to 4 inches wide and several feet long. It is one of the best plants for low-light areas.
Five perfect plants for dad
Whether it’s a cactus, snake plant or the cool-sounding dragon tree, this Father’s Day show dad he’s the greatest with one of these five plant picks.
For a plant that’s as hardy and low-care as dad, choose a cactus. These slow-growing desert dwellers are unique thanks to their prickly suit of armour – and while it’s true cacti are troopers and have a built-in tolerance to extreme drought, they still need the occasional watering. Dad can grow his cacti indoors or in the garden, as long as it gets plenty of sun. But if dad forgets from time to time, it’ll carry on without complaint. Learn more about cactus care.
2. Dragon Tree
What dad wouldn’t love to be gifted a plant with a cool name like dragon tree? While the name of this otherworldly plant may sound like something out of Game of Thrones, the dragon tree actually originates from the Spanish island of Tenerife (which could be argued is just as exciting). As a tree capable of living for centuries, one thing we can all agree on is that the dragon tree is one hardy plant. Learn more about dracaenas.
3. Jade plant
Also known as a money or lucky plant, this Father’s Day skip the scratchie and bring dad luck in the form of a jade plant. You’re welcome, dad! This popular plant produces fleshy, glossy leaves and dad can enjoy its positive vibes potted up inside or planted in the garden. As a hardy succulent, the jade plant has just two main requests for a healthy, long life – water and plenty of light. Learn more about caring for succulents.
4. Snake plant
Dad will love the almost un-killable nature of the snake plant as much as he’ll love its other common name – mother-in-law’s tongue. Ouch. Easy to grow and tolerant of life indoors, the snake plant is a model house guest. It thrives on neglect (green thumbs not required) and with its striking, hard and upright foliage, offers a twist on the usual greenery. Learn more about sansevierias.
5. Cast iron plant
If dad fancies himself as a bit of an iron man, give him a plant to match. Almost indestructible, this plant is perfect for adding life and lush, large foliage to an otherwise dull and dreary spot inside or out. No sunlight? No worries! As a native of the dark forest floors of Japan’s Osumi Islands, you won’t get any complaints from this fellow. Discover more foliage plants for shade.
If I had to create an award for the best houseplant for beginners, the humble snake plant or “Mother-In-Law’s Tongue” would win it.
You can pretty much ignore this plant for a month and it will be fine. They have a beautiful and striking appearance in your home, and even remove toxins (benzene, formaldehyde) from your home.
Without further ado, let’s get into exactly how to care for, troubleshoot, and propagate the wonderful snake plant.
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Snake Plant Overview
Full snake plant care guide on my YouTube channel.
|Common Name(s)||Snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp|
|Scientific Name||Sansevieria trifasciata|
|Height||Up to 40 inches|
|Light||Direct sunlight, filter harsh light|
|Soil||Free draining soil|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize in spring with a 20-20-20 fertilizer mixed in a watering container.|
|Propagation||Cuttings or divide|
Mother in Law’s Tongue has thick, vertical sword shaped leaves. The leaves are dark green and are accented with lighter green bars going horizontal along the blade like leaves. Some varieties have a yellowish colored border along the leaves.
Snake Plant Varieties
While most people recognize the snake plant as the one classic green-yellow variegated leaves, there are plenty of different cultivars to choose from.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Gold’
‘Black Gold’ has starkly contrasting leaves, with extremely dark-green centers surrounded by light yellow / gold edges.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Jack’
‘Black Jack’ has a similar leaf pattern, but grows much shorter than it’s ‘Black Gold’ relative.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Robusta’
‘Black Robusta’ looks like a fully black-leafed snake plant from afar, but the leaves are actually a dark shade of green. The leaves have flecks of silver sprinkled throughout.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Cylindrica’
‘Cylindrica’ is the most unique cultivar, with completely round stems that look like bamboo stakes stuck in soil.
Learn More: Sansevieria Cylindrica Care
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Futura Robusta’
‘Futura Robusta’ has wider leaves and grows much shorter than other varieties. The leaves are primarily a silvery-green, with dark green stripes.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Futura Robusta’
‘Futura Superba’ has the classic snake plant leaf pattern, but it grows much shorter. Great for small spaces and apartments.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’
‘Gold Hahnii’ is a compact cultiva with thick golden edges and a light green center. A very bright choice!
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Golden Flame’
‘Golden Flame’ is one of the most interesting cultivars. The new leaves start out a fully bright yellow color and then slowly “fade” to a natural green color.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’
‘Moonshine’ is best thought of as an ‘albino’ cultivar. The leaves are almost pure silver, creating a beautiful contrast to other cultivars.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’
‘Laurentii’ is one of the more popular cultivars sold in stores, with bright yellow edges and a zig-zagged green pattern in the middle.
Snake Plant Care
Because the snake plant has succulent leaves, it falls into the category of “set it and forget it” type of houseplants. It doesn’t need much care, water, or light, but you still have to give it a LITTLE bit of love if you want it to thrive.
Give your snake plant bright, indirect light if you want it to do well. While it can survive in low-light conditions, it will grow slower and have less color. A good spot for it would be about 3-6′ away from a window that gets a lot of light.
Because snake plants have succulent leaves, they don’t need a lot of water. Keep the soil slightly moist and never over water. If you water too often your snake plant will become mushy and start to rot quickly.
The best type of soil for snake plants is an African violet soil mixture with a bit of sand added for additional drainage.
If you’d like to mix your own soil, use this recipe:
- 1 part garden soil
- 1 part peat
- 2 parts perlite or builder’s sand
To give your snake plant a good chance at thriving, fertilize once monthly during spring and summer. Use a quality houseplant fertilizer that is free of nitrates.
During the winter months, forgo fertilizing completely as the plant grows slowly.
Full repotting guide on my YouTube channel.
You don’t need to re-pot your snake often as it likes to be root-bound. However, if it becomes top heavy and starts to tip over, re-pot it into a pot that is only a couple of inches larger than the current pot.
Learn More: How to Repot Your Snake Plant
Sometimes the tips of leaves will turn brown or entire leaves will die. If this happens, all you need to do is cut the leaf of right at the soil surface to remove it completely. There’s no point in cutting part of a leaf as it will not grow back from the cut point.
Be sure to use a sterilized cutting instrument!
Snake Plant Propagation
Like most succulent-type plants, propagating snake plants is easily done through leaf cuttings or division. We’ve got a lot more information on how to do it in our article on snake plant propagation techniques.
If you want to preserve the variegation of your snake plant, propagate by division instead of leaf cuttings — if you try via leaf cuttings the plant will revert to green leaves.
Leaf Cutting Propagation Process
Cut a leaf off of your snake plant and slice into 3-4″ pieces. Make sure you remember which side of the leaf is the top and which is the bottom.
Put the cuttings right-side-up in fresh soil mix and keep the pot in an area that gets bright, indirect light.
After about 3-4 weeks, the cuttings will start rooting. After a few months, you’ll have a fresh batch of snake plants to enjoy!
Like many houseplants, snake plants are susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites. Both of these pests attack the leaves of your spider plant in a similar fashion, sucking the sap out of the leaves.
If you have a heavy infestation, it’s best to just start over with a new plant. But if you catch them arly, you can prevent the infestation from growing.
Combat spider mites by misting the plant and wiping them off. For mealybugs, wipe them off with a cotton swab of rubbing alcohol
The most common disease will be a root rot due to over-watering. It’s common because gardeners tend to treat snake plants like other types of houseplants that aren’t succulents, watering on the same schedule.
The solution for root rot is simple: water less, and repot into fresh soil to allow the roots to dry out. You may also need to cut off any mushy leaves.
You may also run into brown rust spots on the leaves, which is caused by allowing water to sit on the leaves during cold or cloudy periods.
Q. My snake plant isn’t growing and I’ve had it for months. What is going on?
A. If you bought it during the fall and winter months, it’s completely natural for growth to slow down. These are the dormant months that new growth is either completely stopped or extremely slow. However, if you are in the spring and summer months and it’s still not growing, revisit the care guide above and see if you’re not giving your snake plant what it needs.
Q. The leaves of my snake plant are becoming mushy but the soil is dry and I am not over watering it. What’s happening?
A. If you are positive you’re not over watering your snake plant, then there are two probable causes: your soil is holding too much water, or you have some kind of leaf rot. Check to see if your soil is too peaty and holds too much water, and re-read the diseases section to see if you may have a rot.
Q. The leaves of my snake plant are drooping or wrinkling, what is going on?
A. Unlike most plants, the leaves of a snake plant will droop when they’ve gotten too much water not too little! However, if the leaves have a wrinkled appearance or start to bend, it’s a surefire sign that your plant isn’t getting enough water.
Q. Is the snake plant toxic?
A. All parts of the snake plant are mildly toxic. The poison found in the plant can cause the tongue and throat to swell and be numb. In severe cases there may be distress in the digestive tract.
While low doses of the plant normally don’t produce any symptoms, large doses can cause vomiting or nausea.
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Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant
Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (also known as Snake Plant) is one of the most carefree house plants you can grow. It thrives in just about any light. Prefers dry air and soil. Rarely needs repotted.
This succulent house plant grows stiffly upright variegated leaves.
Some varieties have leaves that are edged with yellow or white. ‘Laurentii’ is a popular variety that is edged in golden yellow. S. trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ is a low-growing (6 in/15 cm) variety. Its compact, rosette form gives it the common name Bird’s Nest Sansevieria. ‘Golden Hahnii’ has yellow leaf margins…’Silver Hahnii’ has silvery leaves marbled with dark green.
S.t. ‘Hahnii’ (shown at left) is a compact, low-growing variety that only reaches a few inches tall.
Clusters of small, white flowers sometimes grow at the base of a plant when it is a few years old. It rarely blooms indoors, and it may go years between flowering, so it’s a nice surprise when it does.
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is ideal for beginners, but seasoned gardeners also love this accent plant’s dramatic, sword-shaped leaves. Slow-growing, it will live for many years with good care.
Water the soil, taking care not to get water on the leaves, which will cause them to rot. If the leaves turn yellow, or get soft and mushy at their base, it’s overwatered.
Any problems with growing Sansevieria are usually related to watering. Allow the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil to dry out between waterings during the growing season. In winter, water just enough to prevent the soil from drying out. Overwatering will cause root rot.
Keep the leaves dust-free and glossy by wiping them with a damp cloth.
Repot in spring, only when plants get crowded and need dividing. Keep the rosette of the leaves at soil level. Use a wide, heavy container to prevent toppling. This tall plant can get top-heavy.
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Plants for Sale
Origin: South Africa
Height: 2 ft (60 cm)
Light: Bright light to full sun. Will tolerate low light.
Water: Keep soil lightly moist in the growing season. In winter, water just enough to prevent the soil from drying out. Take care not to water the center of the rosette of leaves because they’ll rot easily if kept wet.
Humidity: Average room (around 40% relative humidity). Mother-in-law’s tongue will tolerate dry air, but keep it away from air vents or drafts.
Temperature: Average room temperatures 60-75°F/16-24°C. It will tolerate fluctuating temperatures, but not extreme cold.
Soil: Soilless or cactus potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring through fall with fertilizer for succulent plants.
Propagation: Division or leaf cuttings. Sansevieria is easy to divide because it has shallow roots. Simply turn the pot on its side and pull out the entire plant. Use a sharp knife to cut through the thick roots and pot each clump separately. To propagate Sansevieria by leaf cuttings, cut leaf into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces and place them right side up (the way they were growing) in moist perlite or cactus potting mix; they will grow plantlets around the base of the cuttings.
- Houseplants A-Z
The mother-in-law’s tongue plant, also known as the snake plant or viper’s bowstring, is one of the most popular house plants around. They’re easy to grow, thrive on neglect, and are really quite stunning. Learn all about how to grow and care for them in this complete guide.
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Plant
This well-known house plant is in the Sansevieria botanical genus, which contains around 70 species of flowering plants. This family originates from Africa, Madagascar, and Southern Asia, and is a relative of the Asparagus (Asparagaceae) family. Although they do flower, it’s primarily the foliage that attracts us to this superb, architectural house plant.
Why Choose a Sansevieria Plant?
The mother-in-law’s tongue plant is incredibly popular as a tender house plant. There are a growing number of varieties available, all very easy to maintain. They also have a unique structure that sets them apart from any other house plant.
This ornamental, evergreen succulent ticks an awful lot of boxes and is renowned as being exceptionally tough. As a genus, Sansevieria are tolerant of neglect and little watering. Basically, they’re happiest in conditions that duplicate that of their native environment. After all, their hard leaves have adapted to survive in the desert’s hot, dry conditions by storing water.
There’s always a perfect spot for this plant. Grow them in either shade or indirect sunlight, and enjoy the fact that they tend to suffer from far fewer pests and disease than most other house plants. Not only are they easy to care for, they’re also among many indoor plants well known for their air purification properties. Research shows that these plants remove toxins like formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from your home environment. All in all, this makes them a joy to own.
Today, we’re going to touch upon the subject of the mother-in-law’s tongue plant varieties available. Some are old favorites and are widely available, whilst others are much rarer and harder to get hold of. We’ll also look at the best sort of growing medium to use, feeding and watering, and propagation. Let’s get started!
Photo credit:Wikimedia Commons
- Sansevieria trifasciata – A tall variety with upright leathery, hard, lance-shaped, point-tipped leaves. The leaves are dark green in color with a white mottle, similar to that of a snake-skin print. Hence the common “snake plant” name.
- Sansevieria trifasciata “Laurentii” – Similar to the trifiasciata (meaning “3 bundles” in Latin). This plant has a golden yellow leaf margin with the same dark green leaves with white mottle. Will grow to around 1.4 meters when fully mature.
- Sansevieria cylindrico – Also known as the “Spear Sanseveria”, this variety has dark green, cylinder-shaped leaves that grow upright and outwards in a fan-like structure. Quite different to the other varieties, and a very attractive addition to any contemporary space.
- Sansevieria kirkii – Sometimes known as the “Star Sanseveria”, and a relative newcomer to the house plant market. “Kirkii” has the leaves as our first listed variety, but is slightly smaller. It will grow to around a meter when fully mature.
- Sansevieria metallica – This is a very rare variety with the same lance-shaped leaves, but these are mid-green with a beautiful silver variegation. The leaves’ variegation pattern goes from the base to sword tip, almost in lines. (Opposed to the other varieties’ variegation mottle which is horizontal).
- Sansevieria volkensii – A stunning tall variety originating from Eastern Africa. It has long, thin arching leaves which are dark green with a light mottle. Will grow to 1.3 meters in maturity and has the perfect form for a lone specimen plant.
Planting your Sanseveria
Use the Right Compost
All of the plants in this family tend prefer a slightly sand-based compost with a touch of vermiculite. This keeps the potting medium well-drained, and aids in enhanced oxygen levels within the soil structure.
Their roots are happy to be kept well contained—meaning tight in the pot. Repot them only when the roots are almost bursting out from their current container.
When you start to repot them, you’ll see that they’re clump-forming plants. They spread by way of rhizomes (which in Ancient Greek means “mass of roots”) or Stolons. This depends on which variety you have.
A rhizome is a main plant stem that sends out roots and shoots horizontally from its nodes. They go outwards and not downwards. A stolon is similar to a rhizome. These are stems also known as “runners”, which grow at the soil’s surface and form roots at the plant nodes.
All Sansevieria plants are repotted in the same way, and need to be left to dry out beforehand. I am basing the amounts I use here on a 5 – 7.5 liter pot. Should your pot be bigger than this, adjust the amounts of each medium accordingly.
First, mix together your compost with a few handfuls each of horticultural sand and vermiculite. By adding these soil conditioners you’re ensuring the soil will be free-draining.
Next, remove your plant from its existing pot. This can be difficult sometimes as it can be quite pot-bound, so have a pair of scissors handy to cut the pot off, should you need to.
Ensure that your new pot will hold the plant with a couple of cm space all the way around. Put some soil into the bottom of the pot and place your plant into it. You want there to be a couple of cm space between the pot rim and the soil. When you’re satisfied, fill the remaining space with soil. Don’t pack it in too much: keep it a little loose. Water in place and voila! Job done. It’s as easy as that.
The mother-in-law’s tongue plant can be grown from seed, but it’s more commonly grown by leaf cuttings or plant division. This is a much faster way to get results. Plant division can happen when you can see the root rhizome off-sets. Just detach these from the main plant and put them in a small pot with some of that lovely mixed compost. Don’t forget to give them a little drink.
Growing from leaf cuttings is a very popular and effective propagation method. First, choose a good, healthy mature leaf from your plant. Cut the leaf off at the base using a clean knife or scissors. Cut this leaf into 3-inch pieces. Make a note of which is top and bottom of the cutting: these need to be planted the right way up!
Leave the cuttings to dry out for 24 hours, while you get your soil ready. You can use the same mixture as detailed above.
The following day, fill some small (9 cm) pots with some of the mixed soil. Push a cutting into each pot (top end up) to around 1 inch deep. When all of the cuttings have been planted, give them a light water and wait to see them take hold.
The Sansevieria family seriously dislike the cold weather, and are not winter hardy at all. They’re only suitable as a conservatory or house plant. They’ll temporarily survive down to temperatures of 5C, but their ideal is between 18 and 27 degrees C/65 to 80 F. By trying to replicate their native environment, we stand more chance of raising happy and healthy plants.
On the subject of positioning, they’re just as happy to be in a site with good indirect sunlight as they are in a partly shaded spot.
Caring for your Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Plant
Watering and Feeding
Throughout the growing season from March to September, your plant will need to be watered more than in the winter months. When the plant is active, I’d recommend giving it a good drink every week. It’s important to let the compost thoroughly dry out before watering it again as they don’t like to be kept moist.
Water the plant sparingly while it’s dormant during the winter months. This is the time of year that they’re most susceptible to being over-watered, which causes damage and eventually death. Only water when the compost is really dry—maybe once every 3 weeks.
I’d recommend using a diluted house plant feed (as per instructions), once a month through the growing season. Just mix this into your water and give it a good drink. Fertilizing at this time of year will provide stronger, healthier growth. Don’t feed the Sansevieria in the wintertime because the extra nutrients aren’t needed during dormancy.
This species doesn’t really suffer any problems, other than overwatering, and leaf scorching if kept in direct sunlight. Any split or damaged leaves can be removed at the base of the plant using a clean knife or snips—new leaves will form in due course.
Mother-in-law’s tongue plant leaves contain poisonous toxins, (saponins), which can cause serious gastric problems if eaten. They’re toxic to cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds, so ensure they’re kept at a distance to avoid unfortunate mishaps. Remember to always wash your hands after handling your plant or soil, especially when preparing cuttings and removing any damaged leaves.
Pests and Diseases
Luckily, because of their hard leaves and tight base, there aren’t too many pests to worry about. Just keep a look out for vine weevils and mealy bugs. These can get into the leaves’ base, usually when there’s too much humidity. A suitable insecticide can be sprayed to eradicate any critters.
Best Companion Plants
There are so many house plants to choose from now, all of which work well with Sanseveria. I personally think that a collection of palms, such as the Kentia palm (Kentia forsteriana), Areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens), and Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) are ideal. They offer diversity, create a tropical feel, and soften the aesthetic. Try adding the cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) and Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema christina) and you have yourself a miniature tropical oasis!
It’s also great to have a succulent collection. These could include the money plant (Cressula ovata), aloe vera (Sempervirens), Hobbit Jade (Crassula) and the fabulous ZZ plant (Zamioculous zamifolia). All of these will prove to be great companions to your mother-in-law’s tongue plant and are pretty easy to look after.
Have a go at creating your own plant collection, or even a Sanseveria grouping. Along with those plants listed above, they really are a pleasure to own, and easy to maintain. They create a living focal point that not only looks great, but also helps to remove harmful toxins from the air, keeping you healthy and happy.