Sansevieria, mother-in-law’s tongue!

Different sansevieria varieties in pots on a designer kitchen counter.

Sansevieria, also called Mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant, is a plant native to Africa. Used indoors, it boasts graphic designer leaves and is very ornamental.

Simple Sansevieria facts

NameSansevieria
Family – Liliaceae (lily family)
Type – indoor plant

Height – 1½ to 5 feet (0.5-1.5 m)
Exposure – well-lit
Soil – soil mix + sand

Flowering – March

Its leafage is original and elegant. The plant is very resistant, especially to heat. Each variety boasts trendy traits that home designers like Nikki (photo author, top) make use of to decorate interiors.

The right place for Sansevieria

Exposure

Sansevieria requires good light but fears direct sun that would tend to speed the plant’s dehydration. Too much sun would quickly dry up the leafage. It would then take on a yellow hue for a long time.

Although the plant tolerates light shade, growth will be slowed.

Try to place it near a window that gets plenty of light, but avoid having the sun’s rays hit it.

Ideal temperature range

A house or apartment is perfect, because the ideal range is from 65 to 70° F (18 to 21° C) all year round.

Sansevieria is unhappy when temperatures drop below 55°F (12°C).

From May to September, you can bring your plant outdoors without any problems. Bring it back inside in the evening if nights are cold.

Care for sansevieria

Watering in spring and summer

Watering must be moderate but regular, more or less once a week. Best is to water when the surface of the soil has dried out. Don’t wait too long, especially if it is hot. The plant will suffer from it.

  • Don’t overwater Sansevieria.
  • It more vulnerable to excess water than it is to a dry spell.

If tap water in your area is hard, try to collect rainwater.

Lukewarm water is better than cold water. The T° gap could stress your sansevieria.

Watering in fall and winter

Slowly restrict watering during the dormant state. Wait for the soil to dry off to about an inch deep (a few cm) before watering again. Use lukewarm water instead of cold tap water.

  • You’ll water again at a normal rhythm in spring, when the plant starts growing again.

Repotting sansevieria

Two sansevieria cylindrica in simple plastic pots.This step is mandatory and must be repeated every 2 or 3 years. Use a pot slightly larger than the previous one.

Once every 3 years at most, repot your Sansevieria in spring.

When repotting, choose a pot that is slightly wider across than the previous. It shouldn’t be too large. Check that the bottom lets water drain out through holes.

The roots are very powerful. If you don’t repot on time, your plant will simply swell and burst the pot!

Diseases that hurt sansevieria

This plant is extremely robust and can fend off most diseases.

Although it is sometimes visited by mealy bugs, its main enemy is moisture. Too much water can lead roots and leaves to rot.

Different varieties of Sansevieria

There are over 70 species within the family. Many of them have several cultivars or varieties.

Here are a few types of Sansevieria

  • Sansevieria cylindrica – a notable variety is S. cylindrica ‘Boncel’. Leaves curl and form a thick cylinder. Single-leafed varieties also go under the name “Spear Sansevieria”. They’re sometimes braided for a playful effect.
  • Sansevieria trifasciata – these are the most common, the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. Pale wavy bands stripe the long leaves. Taller S. trifasciata ‘Zeylanica’ contrasts with the short, stout S. trifasciata ‘Hahnii’. This last one is generically called ‘Bird’s nest‘. S. trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ is very typical in that two yellow bands run up the sides of each leaf.
  • Sansevieria hallii – this was until recently called the Sansevieria ‘Baseball bat‘. It sends out arched leaves that are like ¾ths closed cylinders. Very slow growing.
  • Sansevieria masoniana – each leaf is very wide in the middle and grows straight up. This gave it its common name “Whale fin” or “Shark fin” Sansevieria. Earlier, though, it went under the name “Sansevieria Mason Congo”

Propagating Sansevieria

Leaf cuttings is one of the easiest ways to propagate this plant if you want to leave the mother plant undisturbed.

You can also simply divide the clump, as shown for this ZZ plant division.

Splitting parts of the rhizome (roots) will also trigger new shoots in each.

Learn more about Sansevieria

Multiple stems of a sansevieria cylindrica are braided together.Sansevieria was named after an Italian village, Sanseviero. There are many bizarre cultivars, some of which grow as tall as a person!

Sansevieria is actually kin to another family that is famous for houseplants, the Dracaena family.

Smart tip about Sansevieria

This plant isn’t afraid of heat. If you check soil moisture often, you can even set it up near sunny windows or heat sources!

Sansevieria on social media

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Picture related to Sansevieria overlaid with the Picture related to Sansevieria overlaid with the

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Family picture (also on social media) by Nikki Gilland of Lipstick Latitude
Cylindrical by Flower Council Holland / the joy of plants
Braided by Flower Council Holland / the joy of plants