If you think the only type of plant you can keep alive is made of plastic, think again. Sansevieria (commonly known as the snake plant) is a very tolerant plant that is hard to kill. It can survive low light levels, drought, and generally being ignored. They will even reward your neglect by helping to clean the air in your home.
Historically, Sansevierias have been treasured in Chinese, African, Japanese and Brazilian cultures. In China, they were kept near entrances inside the home because it was believed that the eight virtues could pass through. In Africa, the plant was used to manufacture fiber, valued for its medicinal qualities, and used as a protective charm against bewitchment.
The genus was named for Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, a faithful patron of horticulture in 18th century Italy. Its common name is derived from the wavy stripe pattern on its leaves. Not only does the snake plant have roots in history, but it is also a popular decor element for a multitude of spaces.
Snake Plant Overview
Sansevieria are evergreen perennials that can grow anywhere from eight inches to 12 feet high. Their sword-like leaves are approximately two feet long. The foliage is stiff, broad, and upright, in a dark green color variegated with white and yellow striping. They are famous for their ability to survive in the most unsuitable growing conditions.
They are also renowned for their qualities that help purify the air we breathe. Since they produce oxygen mainly at night, snake plants make for a great bedroom companion.
Types of Snake Plant
There are around 70 different species of snake plant, native to Africa, Madagascar, and southern Asia. It was originally prized for its fibers, which were used to make ropes and baskets.
Take a look at a few of the most interesting species and cultivars:
Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-in-law’s tongue)
The most commonly used species for gardening, Sansevieria trifasciata is also called mother-in-law’s tongue due to its sharply pointed leaves. Although it’s rare for these plants to bloom, you may wake up one day to find a long flower stalk covered in buds. This tends to happen when the plant is mildly stressed, but it won’t hurt your plant. Their white or cream colored flowers resemble lilies when fully open. Like some lilies, they boast a pleasing fragrance that can fill a room. Unfortunately, pests may also find the scent attractive.
As the name suggests, this cultivar has twisted leaves. A relatively low growing plant, Sansevieria ‘twist’ produces green and yellow variegated foliage. Flowering is erratic, and after flowering, it will cease to produce new leaves. It grows to a height of about one to two feet, and to approximately the same width.
Native to India, Sansevieria ‘robusta’ is a unique and highly sought after cultivar. With its robust nature and immunity to neglect, it is often referred to as a “bulletproof plant.” Its leaves are shorter and wider than others in the species, with essentially the same color and pattern of horizontal leaf cross-banding.
Snake Plant Care Tips
While the snake plant is easy to care for, it’s always good to familiarize yourself with a plant’s basic preferences and needs. If you’re wondering how to take care of a snake plant, read on for a few suggestions.
Light: As we’ve mentioned, snake plants are very hardy options that are easy to care for. While they can withstand full sun and handle low light, indirect sunlight is ideal for a snake plant.
Water: Snake plant can easily rot so make sure the soil is well-drained and don’t water it too much (especially in winter). Allow the soil to dry in between waterings. As they originate from arid deserts, these plants do well in sandier soils.
Temperatures: Conditions ranging from 55 – 85℉ are fine for sansevieria, however, they prefer warmer temperatures. Temperatures below 50℉ can cause them harm.
Toxicity: While the toxicity levels are low, it’s safest to keep pets away from your plant. It can cause excessive salivation, pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Being educated on poisonous plants can help you avoid any accidents all the while enjoying your greenery.
Pests and Problems: Although it is easy to grow, there are still a few problems you may come across. Overwatering and exposure to cold are the key culprits. These hardy plants have few insect problems, however, it can become infested with mealybugs and spider mites. As these pests suck sap from the leaves, they cause small wounds and leaf shedding. You can dab mealybugs with alcohol as a control method. Spider mites can be eliminated by washing the leaves and increasing humidity around the plant.
Sansevieria are truly the easiest of plants to look after, making them a perfect choice for novice gardeners or as a first houseplant. If you think an adaptable, low maintenance and stylish houseplant is right for you, take a peek at our selection of snake plant available here.