[PLANT OF THE WEEK]

Sansevierias – Snake Plants

Sansevierias is a genus of flowering plants, native to Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia. Common names you will hear include Snake Plants, Mother-in-Law Tongue, Bow String Hemp Plant, and Snake tongue.  Related to Agaves, sansevierias are succulent plants with strong, stiff leaves that erupt out of the ground from the roots or rhizomes. There are no stems or trunks. Flowers are whitish to pale yellow-green and some are nicely scented. Flowers are rarely seen on indoor plants, so here in the north-east you’ll be growing sansevierias for their terrific sculptural form and low maintenance care rather than for flowers.

The most common variety is known as Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and has long, pointed leaves that stand straight up in the pot. These hardy, long lived plants were all the rage during the 1970’s and now seem to be enjoying something of a revival as a houseplant! There are so many more varieties that the standard Snake Plant. Here we have 6 varieties we’re growing in the greenhouse.

From the rear  (sitting on the double pot) in a clockwise direction

  1. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonglow’ – from Africa with broad 3 to 4” by 2ft long leaves light silvery-green in color with faint longitudinal lines and a narrow dark green margin.
  2. Sansevieria masoniana ‘Mason’s Congo’ – A giant among the tough Mother-In-Law’s Tongues the paddle shaped leaves are up to 10″ wide and reach 3-5 feet high! An unusual variety, great as a conversation piece.
  3. Sansevieria Cylindrica – Spear Sanseveria grows 2-5 feet tall This plant’s round stiff leaves are pointed (but not sharp). This is a beautiful structural plant that makes a great sculpture in a pot on the patio or as a house plant.
  4. Sansevieria Trifasciata – from West Africa grows spears to around 2 feet tall on a rhizome
  5. Sansevieria Cylindrica ‘Starfish’ is a succulent plant with fat short leaves and while it looks similiar to the Spear Sansevieria does not grow as tall. The leaves spread out like a fan and over time produce offsets that will fill the pot with similar fan-like growths.
  6. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Gold’ creates a clump growing up to 36”inches tall. The leaves are flat, wavy and vary from dark evergreen to almost a green black color. The distinct bright yellow edging contrasts against the green black center.

Light Place Sansevierias in moderately bright or filtered light. Good locations include a spot in front of a north-facing window or in front of a bright, sunny window covered by a sheer curtain. Although the plant tolerates low light, bright light brings out the colors in the leaves. However, intense light may cause the edges of the leaves to turn yellow.

Watering Allow the soil to dry completely before watering, and then water deeply until water drips through the drainage hole. Allow the pot to drain and then discard water that remains in the saucer. Never allow the soil to become soggy and never let the pot stand in water. Water sparingly throughout the winter.  Like most succulent plants that store water in their leaves, Sansevieria rots quickly in excessively wet soil. You are better to neglect this plant than over love it with water and fertilizer.

Temperature Place Sansevieria in average room temperatures. Protect the plant from drafts and cold temperatures as it is damaged at temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

Feeding Feed the plant once a month in summer. Use a general-purpose fertilizer for houseplants diluted to one-half the strength suggested on the container. Sansevieria is a light feeder and too much fertilizer makes the leaves fall over.

Repotting Repot the plant into a container one size larger only when the roots outgrow the pot. Sansevieria thrives — and may produce blooms — when its roots are crowded. Some people repot plants only when the roots crack the pot.

Remove dust by wiping the leaves with a soft, damp cloth. Avoid commercial leaf-shine products, which may damage the leaves or cause them to take on a rusty appearance. If any leaves are damaged or blemished, cut them off, even with the soil.

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