snake plant

Plant profile: how to care for…Sansevieria

So, from my research, I can conclude that Sansevieria no longer exist.

Well.

They’ve done some molecular phylogenetic studies and, as it turns out, sansevieria are molecularly related to dracaena, so now they’re all dracaena.

I’m still writing this post. You know what I mean by Sansevieria. There’s a picture of one at the top of the article.

Quickfire Sansevieria care

  • Light: bright, indirect, will tolerate low
  • Humidity: whatever you give ’em, but they prefer dry air
  • Temperature: Hardy, but don’t let them get below 7C/45F
  • Watering: water infrequently but thoroughly
  • Fertilise: sparingly, preferably with worm castings
  • Potting medium: succulent mix
  • Propagation: pups, division, leaf cuttings
  • Pests: mealybugs, spider mites
  • Bloom? yes, but infrequently
  • Toxic? yes

Where do Sansevieria come from?

The artist formerly known as Sansevieria hails from Africa, and southern Asia. From the pictures I’ve found they seem to grow in scrubby land – not exactly desert but definitely not a rainforest.

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Where should I put my Sansevieria?

As long as it doesn’t get too cold, you can pretty much put your Sansevieria wherever you like. They’re really hard to kill, but my mother managed, simply by leaving it in their conservatory all winter.

It was too cold.

It looked ok, but as soon as anyone touched it, the leaves collapsed. I’m currently trying to propagate some of the leaves, but I’m not holding out much hope.

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What kind of light do Sansevieria need?

Ok, so you CAN keep a Sansevieria in really low light conditions. Like I said, they’re pretty tough. BUT if you want yours to thrive, give it bright, indirect light. Mines in a south-facing window and it’s a bit wrinkly, so I think that’s maybe a bit too much sun.

If you keep your plant in consistently low light, the leaves may grow really tall and thin. If you like that look cool, if you don’t, maybe move it or add a grow light.

What temperature do Sansevieria like?

They’re pretty hardy, and will probably be happy in the same temperatures you are. If you’re not happy to sit in the conservatory without being bundled in a coat and scarf, your plant won’t be either.

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What level of humidity do Sansevieria need?

They’re not fussed. I imagine if you give them too much humidity they’ll rot (though I kept mine in the bathroom for a couple of years and it didn’t complain). Regular household humidity will suffice.

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How to water Sansevieria

They need watering more often than you’d think, especially in summer. It’s best just to get a moisture probe and water when it hits number 1. Water them thoroughly, until water comes out of the drainage hole, remove excess water and them leave them to dry out completely.

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How to fertilise Sansevieria

Fertilise sparingly – you’ll only need to do it a couple of times a year. You can top dress the soil with worm castings if you’d prefer.

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Pests common to Sansevieria

They’re pretty resilient to pests, but they can get mealybugs and spidermites. The best thing to do is keep a close eye on them so you can deal with outbreaks quickly, and clean them regularly with a cloth and a neem oil/ dish soap/ water solution.

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What potting mix do Sansevieria like?

Something really well-draining – a cactus mix, African Violet mix, or regular potting mix with a lot of vermiculite and/ or perlite added.

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What type of pot do Sansevieria need?

I keep all plants that like to dry out thoroughly in terracotta pots. It really reduces the chance that your plant will get root rot, but you do need to keep on top of watering.

They’re pretty slow-growing, so you should be able to keep your Sansevieria in its nursery pot for a couple of years. If you repot it in a non-terracotta pot, make sure it has drainage holes. That goes for all plants ever.

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How to propagate Sansevieria

If you treat your Sansevieria right, it’ll produce pups – separate little plants growing next to the mother plant. You can just remove the plants from the pot and gently separate the baby before potting it up in its own pot.

You can also take leaf cuttings from a large plant, cut a triangle out of the the bottom and root it in water.

Be aware that it can take AGES. But it works.

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Are Sansevieria toxic?

Yes, mildly. Don’t let your kids/pets eat them. The leaves are pretty thick and succulent though, so aren’t particularly tempting for pets to eat. Keep them out of reach though, just in case.

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Notes

  • Apparently related to Dracaena. Who’d have thought? And now called Dracaena.
  • Go by a tonne of other names, like Snake Plant, Mother-in-Law’s tongue, and others I can’t be bothered to write. The different names apply to different plants, but they’re often used interchangeably.
  • There are loads of different types of sansevieria/dracaena – cylindrical, mohawk, yada yada yada.
  • Rumoured to be great at detoxifying air. How much good they actually do is subject to debate. A lot of people fight over it. my take is that whilst they probably help with purifying air a bit, they won’t replace an actual air purifier.
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