Snake plant or Sansevieria is a plant that cannot be killed, even with effort. It owes its nickname “mother in law’s tongue” to the leathery texture of its large slender leaves, a nickname that it shares with other indoor plants such as Aspidistra. Variegated, dark green or even speckled, the snake plant is available in several shapes well suited to our modern interiors, and it’s also considered as a depolluting plant. So even if it’s your first indoor plant you can start with that one.
Common name: Snake plant, mother in law’s tongue, St. George’s sword and viper’s bowstring hemp.
Botanical name: Sansevieria sp
Botanical family: Asparagaceae.
Plant type: Perennial with rhizome.
Foliage: Persistent, leathery, fleshy, ending in a thorn, often decorated with streaks, mottling or variegation of cream color.
Blooming: Ephemeral but fragrant, in spring or summer, spike of small flowers with very narrow petals and long stamens.
Color: Greenish white.
Height: 0.3 to 0.8 m, and more depending on the species.
Planting: repot in March – April.
Hardiness zones: 9 – 12
Plant origin: West Africa and Madagascar
How to grow Snake plants
Sansevieria genus contains many easy to grow plants, they are low growing, resistant and hard to kill.
It’s preferable to use indoor plants potting soil used for succulents. A mixture of loam, peat, potting soil and sand will be also suitable for Sansevieria.
Snake plants does not need too frequent potting. Every 4 or 5 years, when you see that it begins to be really cramped in its pot, give it a new container, with a diameter and a depth greater than 3 to 5 cm, no more . The important thing is that the pot provides good stability to the plant.
Snake plant needs sun or bright light to fully flourish. This does not prevent it from supporting the shade. However, do not place it in direct sunlight which could burn the plant. Place it near a south-facing window. Be sure to gradually accustom the plant to a change in exposure.
Given its tropical origin, the Sansevieria likes warmth. A room temperature between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Below 50 degrees, Sansevieria may die.
Choose a pot pierced at the bottom, neither too small nor too large (12 to 14 cm in diameter), to let the rhizomes and surface roots take place while knowing that the Sansevieria likes to grow cramped.
- Place a bed of clay balls or gravel or a few pieces of sandstone, to promote draining.
- Cover with part of the potting mix, taking care not to bury the collar. It must remain at ground level.
- Place your Sansevieria right in the center so that the pot remains stable when the plant grows.
- Fill with the rest of the soil and tamp well.
- Water moderately, without leaving water in the saucer.
Snake plant likes water regularly, once a week. Excess water is its biggest enemy and the root ball must dry well before watering again. If you are the type to forget to water your plants or to go on vacation without finding the time to water your pots, no problem: the Mother-In-Law’s Tongue supports it perfectly. When its leaves start to wrinkle, it is really time to give it a drink, but it will only send you this signal after several weeks of dry diet.
Never mix Sansevieria with plants that need a lot of water in the same container.
Caring for Snake plants
Plant cleaning: Remember to regularly clean the leaves of your plant on both sides, using a damp cloth. This allows them to breathe well. It is not really recommended to bathe the foliage.
Caution: Never use a polishing product.
Snake plant pruning: Sansevieria do not require pruning; simply remove damaged and yellow leaves as you go, cutting them at the base with a clean, sharp knife. Never cut the tips of the leaves, even if you find it a little pointed. This is where the growth point is. If you remove it, the growth of the plant will be stopped.
Snake plant pests and enemies: The Sansevieria is very resistant. However, it can be prone to attacks by Floury Mealybugs. In this case, wipe the foliage with a cloth soaked in alcohol or soapy water, then rinse it with clean water. If its leaves turn pale and lose their stripes, it is surely due to a lack of light or a lack of nutrition. Place the Sansevieria in a more suitable place and make a suitable fertilizer supply.
Propagating Snake plants
We can propagate Snake plant in spring by dividing the rhizomes or all year round by cutting the leaves.
This propagation process keeps the variegated appearance of the species:
- Choose new shoots 20 cm long for tall forms and only 5 cm for dwarf forms.
- Detach them with their roots, using a very clean and sharp knife.
- Prepare pots filled with a mixture of leaf compost and heath soil.
- Place them directly in the pots.
- Grow normally.
This propagation process is slower and it does not allow the variegated appearance of the species to be reproduced:
- Choose a beautiful leaf and cut it using a very clean and sharp knife.
- Cut the sheet into pieces of 5 to 10 cm approximately and locate the top and bottom.
- Let the pieces dry for 2 days.
- Prepare pots 8 to 10 cm in diameter, filled with moist peat and sand.
- Place 3 or 4 pieces in the same pot, in the direction of the initial sheet, pushing them 1 or 2 cm.
- Place the pots in a bright and warm place (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Water very lightly to maintain low humidity.
- After some time, roots will form which will give small shoots.
- Then grow normally.
Varieties of Snake plants
There are many varieties and cultivars for this species including dwarf forms or more or less spiraled leaves:
Sansevieria trifasciata var. “laurenti”: Also called Variegated Snake plant; 1-1.5m tall with leaves edged with creamy yellow, mottled and streaked transversely. If you want to propagate Snake plant you need to divide it rather than cutting it leaves.
Sansevieria cylindrical: Also named Cylinder Snake plant; it can be recognized by its long, thin leaves with gray-green, cylindrical patterns, like javelins. It has a more contemporary graphic side.
Sansevieria trifasciata “Hahnii”: A dwarf form with larger leaves. It’s also known by Bird’s Nest Snake plant because of its clusters of leaves that look like bird’s nest.
Sansevieria trifasciata “Gold Flame”: Short with dark green broad leaves edged and washed with creamy yellow and a green central stripe.
Sanseveria desertii: Fan-shaped nested leaves, dark green, semi-cylindrical, tapered, horizontal stripes and light color edge. Fragrant flowers reminiscent of mimosa.
Sansevieria metallica: Also known as giant Sansevieria; up to 1.60m high, it has flowers with a caramel scent.