Snake plant, Sansevieria, Mother-in-law’s tongue

November 27, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Sansevieria Trifasciata

Sansevieria is the first house plant I am going to discuss. It occupies such a special position on this blog, because I find it such an exceptional plant. I have some important reasons for this, the most significant one being the extraordinary simplicity of growing it.


Sansevieria, sometimes referred to as “mother-in-law’s tongue” 🙂 or “snake plant”, will forgive you a great deal of neglect. Have you forgotten to water it? Not at problem, it is very resistant to drought. Have you not put it in a very well lit place? Sansevieria will even put up with second-best lighting conditions. You will also not need to worry about having fertile soil, or about frequent repotting. And as if that was not enough, you will not have to fight pests, because they very rarely choose it as a target.

Sansevieria’s only Achilles’ heel is excess water, or overwatering. As a matter of fact, this is all you have to remember in order not to lose it. Water it rarely, only when the soil in the pot is very dry. And if, in addition, you want the sansevieria to show all its beauty and to develop nicely – put it in a sunny place.

If I had to summarize this flower in one sentence, I would write: “Sansevieria is an ideal choice for all beginners in growing house plants.”

When my daughter was about one year old, she uprooted a young sansevieria with only frail, recently developed roots. My wife, without hesitation, squeezed it back into the soil. This accident did not in any way influence the development of the young plant, it simply continued to grow as if nothing had happened. Since that day I find it the most durable of all the house plants I know, it is even resistant to children 😉

You will find a lot of general information about the care of potted flowers in the post "The basics of house plant care".


  • Difficulty: easy
  • Watering: frugal
  • Light: very bright
  • Temperature: from 16ºC
  • Air humidity: dry
  • Propagation: leaf sections, division

Impact on the air

  • Toxin removal: 3/10
  • Water transpiration: 2/10


  • Origin: West Africa, India
  • Height: depending on the species, from 15cm to 1m
  • Growth rate: 3-10 leaves a year
  • Lifespan: many years
  • Fragrance: none
  • Poisonous: YES


The second reason why it is worth having a sansevieria at home is its particular beauty. All sansevieria varieties have hard elongated leaves that point upwards in rosette shaped clusters. As long as the pot a sansevieria is planted in is compact enough, then the clusters of leaves will expand and press against the sides of the pot to make a strong, dense thicket  which is a pleasure to behold.

Sometimes, especially in summer, sansevieria sprouts a tall, odourless, sticky inflorescence next to the leaves, with tiny yellowish flowers on it. These are not particularly attractive, as it is the leaves which are the main decorative part of the plant. You can remove the inflorescence, if its sticky leaves make marks on your windows, for example.


Sansevieria comes from West Africa and India, one can also find it in Southern Europe. There are more than 60 known species, of which about 6 are grown indoors.

It is named after an Italian prince, Raimondo di Sangro, from San Severo, who lived in the 18th century.


One of the specimens I came across on my last holiday in Algarve (Portugal)

Sansevieria belongs to the agave family. I used to come across other members of the family on my last holiday in Algarve (Portugal)


The most well known species of sansevieria is Sansevieria trifasciata “Laurentii”. It is characterised by long, green leaves with yellow edges (up to about 1m in length).

Sansevieria Trifasciata

Sansevieria trifasciata “Laurentii”

Sansevieria Futura

Sansevieria trifasciata “Futura”

Other forms of it are varieties with shorter leaves, all green. Sansevieria hahnii species forms thick, spreading rosettes of leaves 25 cm in height. Sansevieria futura has wider leaves but is shorter than trifasciata.

Sansevieria Hahnii

Sansevieria trifasciata “Hahnii”


You can reproduce sansevieria by division or with cuttings of leaves. After placing the cutting in a separate pot, new plants will start to sprout around it after about 2 months. Remember, however, that a young plant, which grows from a leaf cutting will lose some attributes of its mother plant – its leaves will not have the yellow edges and will be all green. A situation like that will not happen in the case of reproduction by division.

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Łukasz Dumiszewski

A computer scientist who likes house plants and who once wanted to be a writer. A blogger who writes about his experiences in growing house plants by using the benefits of computer science. 😉

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