Sansevieria, mother-in-law’s tongue!

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 and the plant is very resistant, especially to heat. Each variety bestows unique, trendy traits that fashionistas and designers like Nikki (photo author, top) can maximize in interior landscaping.

The right place for Sansevieria

Exposure for sansevieria

Sansevieria requires good light but fears direct sun that would tend to speed the plant’s dehydration.
Too much sun would indeed quickly desiccate the leafage and it would take on a yellow hue for a long time.

Although sansevieria tolerates light shade, its 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 directly.

Temperature for sansevieria

The temperature of a house or apartment is perfect, because ideal temperatures range from 65 to 70° F (18 to 21° C) all year round.

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

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

Regular 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, because the plant could suffer from it.

  • Sansevieria is much more vulnerable to excess moisture in the soil than it is to a temporary dry spell.
  • Don’t overwater Sansevieria.

If tap water in your area is hard, try to find any given spring water, or collect rainwater.
Lukewarm water is better than cold water. The temperature gap could dramatically 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 centimeters) before watering again with lukewarm 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 to a pot slightly larger than the previous one.

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

Upon repotting, choose a pot that is slightly wider across than the previous pot, but not too large. Check that the bottom of the pot lets water drain out through holes.

The root system of Sansevieria is quite powerful and has been known to burst pots apart when not repotted!

Enemies and diseases that attack sansevieria

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

Although it is sometimes visited by mealybugs, its main enemy is moisture that can lead roots and leaves to rot.

Different varieties of Sansevieria

There are over seventy species within the Sansevieria family, and many of them have different cultivars or varieties.

Here are a few types of Sansevieria

  • Sansevieria cylindrica – a notable variety is Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Boncel’. Leaves curl and form a thick cylinder. Single-leafed varieties are sometimes called “Spear Sansevieria”. They’re sometimes woven or braided together for a playful effect.
  • Sansevieria trifasciata – these are the most common sanseveria, the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. Long leaves boast wavy horizontal pale bands.Taller Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Zeylanica’ contrasts with the short, stout Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ variety which is generically called ‘Bird’s nest‘ sansevieria.

    Sansevieria 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 leaves that are like arched three-fourths 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, but it was formerly known 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 rather undisturbed.

You can also simply divide the clump, as shown for this ZZ plant division. Separating 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 astounding cultivars, some of which grow as tall as a person!

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

Smart tip about Sansevieria

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


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Sansevieria family pic shared by Nikki of LipstickLatitude
Cylindrical Sansevieria in pots by Wilfried Overwater © Bloemenbureau Holland
Braided sansevieria © Bloemenbureau Holland