Sansevieria (snake plants): Care, Types & Varieties, Propagation, and Watering

Sansevieria is one of the most common indoor plants, famous among plantsman and newbies alike due to its amazing adaptability and beautiful features. This plant has adaptations that allow it to survive in areas with low light and little water or moisture. If you’re new to plants, looking to start with something low maintenance, Sansevieria is the right choice for you. Perfect for your office, bedroom, or living room, this plant will surely brighten and freshen up your space without the hassle of worrying about it every day.

What are they?

We want you to delve into the world of nurturing plants seamlessly, so we carefully crafted this guide on how to care for snake plants. Read through our list of the different types and some important things to consider before starting your journey of tending these. By the end of this guide, you’ll surely be able to choose which variety of Sansevieria is perfectly suited for you and your home.

Are they safe or toxic to cats, dogs and other pets?

If pets and plants are what make your heart light with joy, you must be aware that, sadly, some can be harmful to your pets. Despite all their wonders and benefits, snake plants can also be toxic to dogs and cats when ingested. They contain saponins, which are natural toxins they use as protection against fungi. These saponins, however, can irritate the gastrointestinal tract when ingested due to its ability to destroy red blood cells, thereby causing diarrhea and vomiting.

Saponins are usually harmless to both mammals and other warm-blooded animals when ingested in small quantities, only producing short-term symptoms. But if consumed in moderate to large amounts, saponins will cause nausea, vomiting, pain, and diarrhea. So, if you notice your pets exhibiting symptoms of poisoning and you own one of these, contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible. Keep them out of your pets’ reach as much as possible. And keep an eye on your pets when they go near any type to ensure their safety.

Benefits

Sansevieria plants have various benefits besides being ornamentals; it has medicinal properties and can be a source of strong elastic fibers. But the most significant benefit of having these in your home is its ability to remove indoor pollutants in the air.

  • As a medicinal addition:

A study by Takariwa & Nordal (2002) summarized the medicinal uses of Sansevieria, and it included treatment of hemorrhoids, toothache, earache, wounds, and sores, among many others. 

  • As a source of strong elastic fibers:

The foliage is a great source of strong elastic fibers, and these fibers are used in the manufacture of ropes, bowstrings, and clothing.

  • As an air purifier:

Multiple studies have shown the benefits of having indoor plants in purifying air. They were among the common indoor plants that NASA studied, and results showed that Sansevieria could remove organic pollutants like benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and formaldehyde from the air.

A study by Rajapandian et al. (2017) developed a strategy to rank indoor plants on their ability to purify the air. Snake plants ranked 5th among the 38 plants studied, able to remove the most dangerous indoor pollutants (benzene, acetone, formaldehyde, toluene, carbon monoxide, TCE, and xylene) from the air efficiently.

Types and its Varieties

Sansevieria is native to tropical western Africa, and now, it also thrives in other tropical and subtropical parts of the world like Asia and islands in the Indian Ocean. Consisting of about 70 species, the names associated with this plant species include snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, cow tongue, devil’s tongue, bow-string hemp, good luck plant, and many more. However, the name ‘Snake Plant’ is the most commonly used one; thus, this name is sometimes considered synonymous with almost all species of Sansevieria. Below, you will notice that the other common names usually reflect the appearance of their foliage.

  • Sansevieria trifasciata (“Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” or “Common Sansevieria”)

This is one of the most famous and common types, with over 20 varieties being sold worldwide. Common Sansevieria’s foliage consists of dark green leaves with light gray-green cross banding. Below are some varieties that we think will suit your tastes, with their gorgeous color strokes, shapes, and patterns.

Image source: @succsandpups 

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ (“Variegated Snake Plant” or “Goldband Sansevieria”) – This cultivar is one of the most popular options, with its eye-catching contrast between the green foliage and its golden margins.

Image source: The Sill

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ (“White Sansevieria”) – For the minimalists, this cultivar of Sansevieria is definitely for you. Donning alternating variable pattern of white and dark green stripes on its tall thin foliage, this lush option will surely complete your aesthetic while giving you fresh air.

Image Source: foreverplanty

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Black Gold’ (“Black Gold Snake Plant” or “Black Gold Sansevieria”) – Like ‘Laurentii,’ the deep green leaves have light yellow- or gold-colored margins, creating a wonderful contrast. This contrast is made more apparent by the black-green banding on its foliage. 

Image source: Hudson + Oak

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Twist’ (“Twisted Sister Snake Plant”) – This has twisted leaves, as its name suggests, with green horizontal stripes and yellow variegated edges. This cultivar is a dwarf Sansevieria, growing only up to 12-15 inches, and it will perfectly fit in your workspace.

Image source: Cellar Door Plants

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ (“Birdnest Sanseviera” or “Bird’s Nest Snake Plant”) – This has short funnel-shaped dark green glossy leaves. Despite the lack of bloom of this cultivar, its vase-shaped rosette foliage never fails to look good anywhere.

Image source: White Flower Farm

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Futura Superba’ — ‘Futura Superba’ resembles the cultivar ‘Laurentii,’ but its leaves are shorter and broader. The leaves have narrower yellow or gold margins, and each rosette contains more leaves compared to Black Gold. If ‘Laurentii’ is your favorite type, but you want something smaller, this cultivar is perfect for you.

Image source: Costa Farms

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Robusta’ (“Robust Sansevieria”) – ‘Robusta’ resembles ‘Futura Superba’ because you can get the former upon propagating the leaf cuttings of the latter cultivar. ‘Futura Superba’ has yellow margins, while this variety has silvery green leaves with dark green cross-bands. Both cultivars have broad leaves and a robust growth habit. 

Image Source: Pigment

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’ (“Golden Bird’s Nest Sansevieria” or “Golden Hahnii Snake Plant”) – This compact rosette cultivar, growing only up to six inches tall, has light green leaves with thick gold margins. 

Image Source:  suculentas.com

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Silver Hahnii’ (“Silver Birdnest Sansevieria”) – Another compact cultivar, growing only up to ten inches tall, has silvery gray-green leaves with dark green margins, all arranged in rosettes. 

Image source: In Succulent Love

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Silver Queen’ (“Silver Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” ) – The young leaves of this cultivar are silvery gray-green in color with dark green margins. As it matures, the leaves darken. The silver-gray foliage is narrow and grows upright, with a vase rosette formation.

Image Source: Exotic Plants

  1. S. trifasciata ‘Black Coral’ (“Black Coral Sansevieria”) – This elegant cultivar has silvery gray-green variegated foliage that can grow up to 36 inches in height. Like the other cultivars, this type forms a basal rosette. 

Image Source: Garden Goods Direct

  • Sansevieria francisii – This rare variety is a compact and herbaceous option, with its spike-like leaves spirally arranged. Its foliage has dark green vertical lines, and has a slightly rough texture.

Image Source: Greenery Unlimited

  • Sansevieria ‘Cleopatra’ – This is a rare hybrid, a gorgeous hard-to-find type that many collectors aim to add to their collection. It has a beautiful intricate pattern on its leaves, and its leaf margins are burgundy to brown in color. Its foliage forms a rosette, giving it a lush look.

Image Source: Sobesuccs

  • Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Boncel’ (“Starfish”) – This is another rare, hard-to-find succulent. Its leaves are short, cylindrical, fleshy, and grey-green in color, with dark green concentric circles up to the pointed tips. The foliage is spread out like a fan that resembles a starfish.

Image Source: AYANAS

  • Sansevieria zeylanica (“Bowstring Hemp” or “Ceylon Bowstring Hemp”) – The dark-green leaves of Bowstring Hemp are sword-shaped with pointed tips and are adorned with light gray-green bands. This closely resembles S. trifasciata, and thus, some mistakenly sell Common Sansevieria as Bowstring Hemp.

Image Source: Pistils Nursery

  • Sansevieria ehrenbergii ‘Samurai’ (“Samurai Dwarf”) – This hard-to-find compact cultivar is a favorite of many, with its short stature that only grows up to 4-6 inches tall. It has V-shaped leaves, with a reddish tint along the margins. This dwarf plant is the perfect ornament for small spaces like your office table.

Image Source: Pistils Nursery

  • Sansevieria stuckyi or Dracaena stuckyi – It has stiff, upright cylindrical leaves, which are dull green in color and adorned with dark green bands. It can grow up to 2 meters tall.

Image Source: mentor100.blogsot.com

  • Sansevieria masoniana (“Whale Fin,” “Shark’s Fin,” or “Mason’s Congo”) – It is named after the leaves’ unique shape. The leaves are dark green in color with light green spots and reddish tinted margins. It can grow up to 4 feet long and 10 inches wide.

Image Source: Plant Circle

  • Sansevieria pinguicula (“Walking Sansevieria”) – The common name came from the behavior of its leaves when it matures: the leaves elongate and migrate to distichous. Its leaves are thick and fleshy, blue-green in color, concave-angular from base to apex, with reddish-brown margins, and are arranged in a rosette.

Image Source: Charlotsy on Reddit

  • Sansevieria ‘Fernwood’ (“Fernwood Sansevieria”) – A rare hybrid option, ‘Fernwood’ is perfect for tabletops or countertops. Its foliage consists of dark green narrow cylindrical leaves with light green banding. A new hybrid, ‘Fernwood Mikado,’ has a more elegant look with its mature leaves arching slightly outwards, resulting in a foliage that resembles the shape of a fountain.

Image Source: (L to R) Plantscapers & Hortology

Growing: Care and Propagation

Since they are xerophytes (Gr. xeros “dry,” phuton “plant”), meaning, they have adaptations that allow them to survive in dry environments like deserts. These adaptations make them highly resilient, which is why these are the perfect options for newbies and for people who are too busy or do not want to tend to a plant frequently. Leaving them alone for a week or two at their preferred environment would do them little to no harm, and some may even thrive better since these are sensitive to overwatering.

There are three things that you have to remember when it comes to growing one: less water, indirect sunlight, and adequate temperature. Read further to know more about how fast they grow, the environmental conditions best-suited for growth, and how to propagate it if you want to expand your plant collection.

How fast do they grow? 

If your Sansevieria isn’t growing noticeably, you don’t have to panic. They are one of the slowest-growing ones you can find. Yes, they might be easy to grow, requiring minimal effort in terms of watering and propagating, but it doesn’t mean the process will be fast. If you placed it at a place with moderate to low light, as most of us do, then the growth rate would be fairly slow compared to the ones grown outdoors. If you want to boost its growth, you can put it in a well sun-lit place. 

The final height and width of would depend on its species or cultivar. S. trifaciata ‘Laurentii,’ for example, grows to up to 1-3 feet, depending on its environmental conditions. And as expected, compact or dwarf cultivars can only grow up to a few inches high, such as the Samurai Dwarf, which can only grow up to 6 inches tall.

However, if yours is not a dwarf or compact variety, but you want it to fit in a small area, there are ways to stunt its growth. The first thing to do is to limit the size of the pot it is in; they will be root bound and will prevent growth away from the base. Another way is to cut the tip of the leaves to limit the growth in their height.

How do I grow and take care of them?

Depending on the environmental conditions of a plant, it can either thrive, survive, or die. Luckily for everyone, they

As previously mentioned, they can survive in moderate to low light environments. However, if you want to boost its growth, then it would be best to place your plant in well-lit rooms, which will allow it to receive a bright and steady indirect or filtered light. Some types can produce flowers, and if you want to stimulate the production of its inflorescence, you can expose it to direct sunlight.

Although they are resilient, it is important to let them transition gently from one setup to another. Meaning, if you plan to transfer it from a dim room (low light) to outdoors (direct light), you must place it first at an area where it can receive steady indirect light for a few weeks before transferring it outdoors.

Water and the best soil

The amount of water is significantly less than other plants that need daily watering. Ranging from once a week to once a month, the frequency of watering depends on the temperature or the area they are placed in. Less water is needed for ones situated indoors or in shaded areas, especially if the temperature is cool and the soil used is moisture retentive. The simplest way to know if it is time to water is to check if the soil is dry. Underwatering would do little harm, but overwatering is a sure way to kill it.   

This is why we prefer to put ours on a shelf, situated at a well-lit room where they can receive sufficient indirect light. Placing them outdoors where rain can reach them is not ideal. If you’re worried about mold or fungi infestation in your shelves due to the chances of it getting wet while watering the plants, then I suggest you use a shelf made up of a material that won’t allow fungus growth that easily. One example is this marine grade plywood which can survive repeated contact with water, made up of high-quality wood that is cross-laminated, held together by waterproof glue. And while we’re on the topic of making shelves, you might be interested to check out portable bandsaw sawmills and wide belt sanders that can make woodworking much easier.

Soil

They grow better in a fast-draining potting mix because snake plants are sensitive to water and are prone to root rot. A sandier mix of potting soil would be ideal to allow drainage. You can buy commercially available all-purpose cactus or succulent potting soil, which is perfect for water-sensitive plants. If you’re worried about soil-borne diseases and carrying harmful microorganisms into your home, you can opt for a soilless potting mix instead. Just make sure that the mix allows proper water drainage.

Temperature

Snakes don’t like the cold, and neither do these plants. As xerophytes that are native to Africa and thrive in tropical and subtropical areas, it is expected that they would fare terribly at a temperature below 50 ℉, especially in freezing temperatures. The ideal temperature is around 70-90 ℉. Make sure to never leave them outdoor during winter; they’ll surely die after a few hours of exposure to freezing temperatures.

Of course, this temperature rule extends to the water you use for them. Even if your plants do not have the ability to nag at you when you give them cold water, you’ll surely see the effects of exposing them to the cold after a few days such as browning and mushy leaves. Take that extra step towards the faucet that can give you warm water, or let that tap run until you get the right temperature, so it won’t suffer during watering. If you want to remove the shortage of hot water in your home, you might want to install a good hot water recirculating pump system in your home. 

How do I repot it?

They grow slowly, as mentioned earlier, but if you expose them to ample sunlight, then they might grow more rapidly. The first thing to consider when repotting is the sturdiness of your pot and the presence of drainage holes. Choose a material that would be sturdy enough to handle strong roots and cramped space. This is because they, unlike other succulents, prefer to be root bound (in simpler words, potted in a cramped space). You’ll only need to repot it if you notice signs of overgrowth like roots sticking out of the drainage hole.

To repot, fill the new pot with a fresh succulent potting mix or soil up until only a third of the pot isn’t filled. Get your snake plant from the old pot gently by holding a hand on top of the soil and then gently turning the pot upside down. If it does not pop out of the pot, tap the sides or water the soil for a bit to loosen it up. Then, place the plant in the freshly filled pot, making sure that it isn’t above the pot’s rim. Adjust the level by adding or removing the soil; situating it an inch or two below the rim would be ideal. Lastly, let it adjust to the new environment and establish its roots before watering it.   

How do I propagate it?

Propagating them is pretty easy and straightforward. You can either do division by cutting yours in half, or you can use leaf cuttings or rhizome cuttings. However, if you want to preserve the variegation, the former will give you your desired result compared to using leaf or rhizome cuttings. 

Propagating via division

It’s important to use a sharp knife when cutting your plant in half for a clean and swift cut. Cut yours in half right down the middle, and then simply pot each half separately. Do not water or add anything to the newly potted plants; wait for a few days until it establishes roots.

Propagating leaf cuttings

With a sharp knife or garden shears, cut a leaf. Make sure that your cut is close to the base. Then, cut the leaf into different sections, and mark the part of each section that was closest to the base since this is where the roots will take form. Let the cuttings dry out for a few days.

Next, ready your pot with fresh succulent soil and plant the cuttings, making sure that the marked bottom is the one touching the soil. Let your cuttings grow into a new snake plant in an area with steady indirect sunlight. For leaf cuttings, you do not need to wait for the roots to establish before misting the cuttings. Mist it once a day to keep it moist but not wet. Only water as usual once it grows larger, about the same size as the baby plants being sold in gardens.

Propagating rhizome cuttings

This process is essentially the same as using leaf cuttings. Spot a rhizome that already sprouted a leaf (do not use rhizomes that have not sprouted yet), and use a sharp knife to cut it as close as possible to the bottom. Let the cutting dry out for a few days. Then, plant it in a newly filled pot, with the cut facing down the soil. Like leaf cuttings, only mist the newly potted rhizome cuttings. Only water as usual once it matures enough to handle the water.

And if you’re someone who makes propagation a business, or someone who’d like to make your own fresh produce in your very own apartment, then you might want to know a few more things that can help you in propagating them. Propagating large amounts with different water and soil requirements can get taxing. Hydroponic farming eliminates the need for soil and allows you to utilize vertical gardens, giving you the freedom to grow them in small areas like your apartment in the middle of the city. For someone who owns a business doing it, on the other hand, you might want to check out these fuel transfer tanks that you can use to store not only fuel but also water and fertilizer.

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