The Simple Sansevieria


You may know Sansevieria by one of its common names. It is often referred to as a snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, we have also heard it called devil’s tongue and bowstring hemp. I know that they were reclassified a few years ago using some molecular phylogenetic studies to analyze DNA and it was determined that Sansevieria share a number of genes with the genus Dracaena, but I just don’t think I can call them Dracaenas, yet. No matter what you call them, Sansevierias, which are native to Africa and southern Asia, are a tough-as-nails group of plants that will grow incredibly well in your home.

While the sharp tongue of a mother-in-law is the obvious inspiration for the common name of this plant, its original botanical name was given to it by a Swedish naturalist, Carl Thunberg. It is said that he named the genus after Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of San Severo. San Seviero liked to dabble in alchemy and was known as the sorcerer prince.

With such a storied name-sake, of course the Sansevieria plant group would beguile and bewitch us. It may not have the trendiness of monstera or philodendrons, but if you are looking for a plant that you can’t kill, this is the plant family for you. It truly is tough. They can take low light, low humidity, high humidity, some cold, lots of heat, sandy soil, honestly if you break a piece off, stick it in water, you’ll usually start to see roots within a week. See below for our Sansevieria tips and know that this is the place to start if plants scare you. They are forgiving and will thrive in a variety of conditions.

Sansevieria Care

Light - Sansevieria can take very low light, but note that they may survive in a dark room with little sunlight, but won’t thrive. To get good growth you want to make sure that the room they are in has plenty of sunshine coming in. If your preferred spot is pretty dark, consider rotating the plant to another brighter room occasionally to give it a chance to make some food for itself.  

Soil - Being native to somewhat desert conditions, plant snake plants in a well-draining soil that approaches a cactus soil. Chances are they will grow in just about anything you plant them in, but a mix with rich peat and perlite or bark for drainage helps keep them happy.

Moisture - Let soil dry between waterings, while they will root in water, for some reason soggy soil causes rot.

Feeding - These plants are not heavy feeders. If you forget to feed them, they probably won’t mind. The easiest thing to do is give them Osmocote for a multi-month feed. Then you only have to do it a couple of times a year. See I told you this plant was easy.

Repotting - A happy Sansevieria will produce lots of pups and eventually will start to squeeze out of its pot. When it is getting too big for its pot, take it out and separate it into multiple plants. Then you can repot each little pup into its own pot and share your plant collection with some friends. 

Pests - There are not a lot of pest issues on the Sansevieria. On a few of the silvery varieties, we have noticed that fungus can be a problem, so make sure they dry out properly, avoid water on the leaves and spray occasionally with a copper soap fungicide.