Snake Plants (Sanseviera) Indoor Care, Propagation, Growing Problems and Solutions


Snake Plant, Sanseviera spp

Botanical name: Sanseviera spp
Synonym: Dracaena spp
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Nolinoideae
Common names: Snake Plant, Mother-in-law's Tongue, Saint George's Sword Plant, Jinn's Tongue, Bow String Hemp, Snake Tongue

Description

Snake Plants also called Mother-in-law's Tongue, Devil's Tongue, Jinn's Tongue, Bow String Hemp and Snake Tongue are slow growing, low maintenance and extremely hardy plants which are also good air cleaners.

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.

The leaves in Snake Plant species are typically arranged in a rosette around the growing point but in some species they are arranged in two-ranks.

Based on their leaves, Snake Plants can be categorised as hard-leaved or soft-leaved. Hard-leaved species have their origin in the arid climates while the soft-leaved species are native to the tropical and subtropical regions.

The hard-leaved species have several survival adaptations for the dry regions which include thick, succulent leaves for water storage and thick leaf cuticles to reduce loss of moisture.

The leaves in the hard-leaved species may also be cylindrical to reduce surface area, thus reduce water loss, and are usually shorter than those of the soft-leaved tropical species.

Origin

Sansevieria species which have recently been reclassified into the Dracaena Genus are native to Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia where they grow as evergreen perennial plants forming dense stands and spreading by means of rhizomes.

Air Purification

Snake Plants have been shown to be good indoor air cleaners for the removal of formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toulene and trichloroethylene from indoor air.

They also produce high levels of oxygen at night as they are CAM (Crassulacean Acidic Metabolism) plants.

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.

Varieties

There are about 70 species of Snake Plants, many of them are favoured for their variegated foliage with yellow or silvery-white stripes on the leaf margins.

The low-growing rosette varieties like the Sansevieria Golden Hahnii and Sansevieria Hahnii are ideal for the small spaces like a windowsill or table-top. Here are 19 Snake Plants Varieties For Your Home with Names and Pictures

Toxicity

Snake Plants (Sanseviera spp) are toxic to both humans and pets as indicated by ASPCA. They contain saponins which if ingested may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Keep these plants away from children and pets to avoid any mishaps.

Where to Buy

Snake Plants in various sizes are available online at Etsy. Buy Snake Plants (Sanseviera spp) online from Etsy.

Snake Plant, Sanseviera spp

Snake Plants (Sanseviera) Indoor Care

Snake Plants (Sanseviera) thrive 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

Snake 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.

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plants will also thrive under a grow light where the natural lighting is not sufficient.

Watering

Water Snake Plants 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.

Mother-in-law's Tongue 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

Snake Plants do well in average warmth between 16-290C as it mimicks their natural environment. A room temperature that is comfortable for you is ideal for this plant.

Sanseviera Plants are very tolerant to temperature changes but keep them away from drafts as they can cause reduced growth.

Humidity

Mother-in-law's Tongue Plants have 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 Snake Plants 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.

Soil

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

Cactus and Succulents soil is ideal for these plants. Purchase quality Cactus and Succulents Soil for Mother-in-law's Tongue online from Etsy.

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.

Pruning

Pruning Snake Plants 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

Snake Plants (Sanseviera) propagation can be done at the beginning of the growing season from splits or from leaf cuttings.

How to Propagate Snake Plant from Splits (Division)

Take the Snake 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.

Make sure that 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 Snake Plants 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.

Variegated Snake Plants grown from leaf cuttings will lose variegation; the new plant will not resemble the mother plant.

Snake Plant, Sanseviera spp

Snake Plant (Sanseviera) Problems

Snake Plant (Sanseviera) growing problems are mainly due to watering issues. The plants cannot tolerate overwatering or soggy soil.

Sanseviera spp 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 Snake Plant are caused by 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 Snake 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.

Decrease watering 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 Snake 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 Snake 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 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 Snake Plant is root-rot disease which is promoted by soggy soil.

Take out the 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 Snake 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 Snake 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 Snake Plant are Mealybugs and Spider Mites. Isolated the affected plant to avoid spread to the other houseplants and treat it with Neem oil or Insecticidal soap.

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