How to Grow and Care for Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant (Dracaena trifasciata) Indoors


Mother-in-law's Tongue, Snake Plant, Dracaena trifasciata

Botanical name: Dracaena trifasciata
Synonym: Sansevieria trifasciata
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Nolinoideae
Common names: Snake Plant, Mother-in-law's Tongue, Saint George's Sword Plant

Description

Dracaena trifasciata commonly called Mother-in-law's Tongue, Snake Plant or Saint George's Sword Plant is a slow growing, low maintenance and extremely hardy plant which is also a good air cleaner.

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plants are hard to kill plants which can withstand low light, dry air, draughts and periods without water. The major drawback for these plants is root-rot due to overwatering or soggy soil.

Snake Plant's leaves are stiff and succulent. These sword shaped leaves give an architectural look making Snake Plant ideal as a room divider.

The bold foliage provides an excellent background for plants with a ferny foliage or small flowers.

Air Purification

Saint George's Sword Plant has been shown to be a good indoor air cleaner for the removal of formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toulene and trichloroethylene from indoor air.

Mother-in-law's Tongue also produces high levels of oxygen at night as it is a CAM (Crassulacean Acidic Metabolism) plant.

CAM plants are plants that harvest Carbon dioxide at night and use it during the day to make their food. As the CAM plants make their food they store the oxygen they produce in the process and release it at night.

This is an adaptation of CAM plants to their drought-prone climate which enables then survive the harsh climate.

Origin

Dracaena trifasciata formerly called Sansevieria trifasciata are native to tropical regions of West Africa from Nigeria east to Congo where they grow as evergreen perennial plants forming dense stands and spreading by means of rhizomes.

Varieties

There are many varieties of Snake Plants, many of them are favoured for their variegated foliage with yellow or silvery-white stripes on the leaf margins.

Sansevieria trifasciata aka Dracaena trifasciata and Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii aka Dracaena trifasciata laurentii are the more common varieties.

The low-growing rosette varieties like the Sansevieria Golden hahnii and Sansevieria hahnii are much less common but they are ideal for the small spaces like a windowsill.

Where to Buy

Snake Plants in various sizes are available online at Etsy. Buy Mother-in-law's Tongue Plants (Dracaena trifasciata) online from Etsy.

Mother-in-law's Tongue, Snake Plant, Dracaena trifasciata

Photo Credit: Plant Craze

Dracaena trifasciata Care Indoors

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant (Dracaena trifasciata) thrives in bright light with some direct sunlight, average warmth and moderately moist, loose, fertile, free-draining soil coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season.

Snake Plants only require repotting when they become pot-bound. Pruning requires removal of dead leaves to keep the plant neat as well as reduce pest and disease infestations. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Light Requirements

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plants grow best in bright light with some direct sunlight. They easily adapt to shade and low light conditions but they grow more slowly in such conditions.

Rotate the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives adequate light on all sides for uniform growth.

Snake Plants will also thrive under grow light where the natural lighting is not sufficient.

Watering

Water Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil moderately moist.

Cut down on watering during the cold season to maintain the soil barely moist but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Snake Plants are prone to root-rot disease which is promoted by soggy soil, therefore, ascertain that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.


Temperature

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant thrives in average warmth between 16-290C as it mimicks its natural environment. A room temperature that is comfortable for you is ideal for this plant.

Dracaena trifasciata is very tolerant to temperature changes but keep it away from drafts as they can cause reduced growth.

Humidity

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant has no need for high humidity. Average room humidity is ideal for these plants. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant monthly during the growing season with a balanced, liquid fertilizer to promote lush growth.

Stop feeding the Snake Plant during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn and death of the plant.

Repotting

Repot Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant at the beginning of the growing season only when it becomes crowded in its current pot. You can divide a large plant during repotting to propagate new plants.

Use a pot 1 size larger than the current one and one that has a drainage hole to avoid getting soggy soil to prevent attack by root-rot disease.

Soil

The best soil for growing Dracaena trifasciata should be soil that is rich in organic matter, loose and well-drained to prevent it from getting soggy.

The soil should be loose enough to allow water to drain out fast enough. Cactus and Succulents soil is ideal for this plant. Purchase quality Cactus and Succulents Soil for Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant online from Etsy.

Pruning

Pruning Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant involves removal of any dead or diseased leaves to minimize pest and disease infestations. Cut the leaves at the soil level to maintain the plant neat and tidy.

Propagation

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant (Dracaena trifasciata) propagation can be done at the beginning of the growing season from splits or from leaf cuttings.

How to Propagate Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant from Splits

Take the Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant out of its pot and using a sharp sterilized knife, cut through the roots and the rhizomes to divide the plant into sections.

Ensure each section has adequate roots and pot each section in its individual pot.

Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to avoid getting soggy soil as it can lead to rotting.

Place the pots in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight and maintain the soil moist through out until the new Mother-in-law's Tongue plants are well established after which routine care can begin.

How to Propagate Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant from Leaf Cuttings

Take Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant leaf cuttings of about 2 in. length. Allow the cutting to dry out (callous) for a few days.

Insert the lower cut end in moist, free-draining soil and place in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight.

Maintain the soil moist until there is new growth from the base of the cuttings.

Allow substancial growth before transplanting the new plants after which routine care can begin.

The new Snake Plant grown from a leaf cutting will lose its variegation; it will not resemble the mother plant.

Snake Plant, Dracaena trifasciata

Photo Credit: Carousell

Dracaena trifasciata Problems Indoors

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plants (Dracaena trifasciata) problems indoors are brought about by watering issues. The plants cannot tolerate overwatering or soggy soil.

These problems include leaf spots, brown leaf tips, bloated and stinky leaves, blotches, rotting, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems, their solutions and remedies.

Brown and crunchy leaf spots

Brown and crunchy leaves in Mother-in-law's Tongue plant are due to underwatering. If there isn't enough moisture in the soil, the leaves develop brown and crunchy spots.

Remove the affected leaves by cutting with a sharp, sterilized knife. Water the Dracaena trifasciata immediately.

Thereafter, water the plant liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to maintain the soil moderately moist.

Water less during the cold period to keep the soil slightly moist but never allow the soil to dry out completely.

Bloated and stinky leaves

Bloated and stinky leaves in Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant are due to overwatering or soggy soil. The excess water in the soil causes the plant cells to explode within the leaves leading to bloating and odor.

Remove the affected leaves by cutting with a sharp, sterilized knife or a pair of scissors.

Check the drainage of both the soil and the pot. Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

Reduce watering and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Never allow the plant to sit in soggy soil.

Brown leaf tips

The are two possible causes of brown leaf tips in Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant. Don't remove the brown tips as it leads to scarring.

One possible cause of brown leaf tips in Snake Plant is inconsistent watering.

The second possible cause of brown leaf tips in Snake Plant is overwatering.

The remedy is to adjust the watering schedule and to let the plant recover on its own.

Water the snake Plant moderately while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings and never allow the soil to dry out completely.

Rotting base, yellow leaves and die back

The cause of rotting base, yellow leaves and die back in Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant is root-rot disease which is promoted by soggy soil.

Take out the Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant from its pot and inspect the roots. Cut off the affected moldy, mushy roots.

Treat the healthy roots with a fungicidal solution and repot the plant in fresh soil and fresh pot.

Thoroughly treat the pot or discard it to avoid future contamination.

Place the repotted plant in a warmer place and maintain the soil on the dry side.

If the entire Snake Plant is affected discard it as it cannot be saved. Read more on how to treat root-rot in houseplants.

Leaf scarring

The cause of leaf scarring in Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant is too much touching of the leaves or brushing against them. Avoid touching the leaves unnecessarily and place it away from the line of traffic.

Brown blotches on the leaves

Brown blotches on the leaves of Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant are due to a non-infectious disorder which starts at the tips working downwards along the leaf. The cause is not know and there is no known cure.

Pests

The common pests in Mother-in-law's Tongue Plant are Mealy Bugs and Spider Mites. Isolated the affected plant to avoid spread to the other houseplants and treat appropriately.

Is Snake Plant toxic?

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plants (Dracaena trifasciata) are toxic to both humans and pets as indicated by ASPCA. They contain saponins which if ingested may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

You liked it? Share on social media.

On the Blog

You liked it? Share on social media.