How To Grow Snake Plant and Mother-In-Law's Tongue

Sansevieria trifasciata is commonly called the Mother-in-Law's Tongue and the Snake Plant.  It is so called because of the sharpness of the leaves (like mother-in-law's tongue) and the  the shape of leaves. The snake plant has green banded leaves and the Mother-in-Law's Tongue features a yellow border.

Learn how to grow and care for snake plant and mother-in-law's plant, its soil,  re-potting, watering and propagation methods.

The plant is an evergreen stemless, erect succulent perennial plant, a cultivar of the Sansevieria species in the family Asparagaceae and is a native Africa. These plants produce upright ovate or strap-shaped green leaves up to 4 feet tall and 2-2.5 inch wide [1].

You may see Snake plants or Mother-In-Law's Tongue plants in supermarkets and offices as they can absorb toxins such as nitrogen oxides, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde from air, no wonder, these plants are among the best plants for improving indoor air quality.

These plants may be placed in bedrooms as they gives off oxygen at night and absorb toxins.

Different types of Snake plants
Different names of Sansevieria trifasciata in different countries like USA, Australia, India, China, Japan, Turkey, Nigeria, Africa, Spain, France, etc. are mother-in-law's tongue, snake plant, viper's bowstring hemp, Saint George's sword, good-luck plant, huweilán, tiger's tail, tiger's tail orchid, Pasa Kilici (pasha sword), Ogoun, the Orisha of war, espada de São Jorge (sword of Saint George), lengua de suegra, lengua de vaca, chanvre d'Afrique; langue de belle-mère, etc.

The mother-in-law's tongue plant is an evergreen stemless, erect succulent perennial plant, a cultivar of the Sansevieria species in the family Asparagaceae and is a native Africa. These plants produce upright ovate or strap-shaped leaves up to 4 feet tall.

Sansevieria Types

  1. Sansevieria is of different sizes and colors. The Sanseveria Laurentii, the most common variety has a yellow boundary on the thick leaves of sword shape.
  2. Sansevieria 'Hahnii' is shorter with a rosette type of growth, while Sansevieria 'Superba' is somewhat larger and wider leaves. 
  3. The sansevieria 'Moonshine' and sansevieria 'Zeylanica' have silver-green foliage, while the sansevieria 'Black Gold' has a dark leaf center with a gold leaf edge.
  4. The growth rate of snake plant depends on its type, however, they grow slowly, about 4-10 leaves a year.

How To Grow Snake Plant

Snake Plant Growing Conditions

The snake plant is a care-free plant that will do well with minimal attention or even negligence.

Position and Temperature

The sansevieria prefers medium to bright light conditions.  It will survive in lower light if it is allowed to dry.  In very low light for prolonged time, the roots will rot. The plant will suffer if the temperature goes below 21°C (50 °F).

Soil for Snake Plant

What kind of soil is good for growing snake plant. The soil requirement is similar to that for cacti/succulent. 
Plant in a well-drained sandy soil. Add river sand and compost in the soil to provide drainage and nutrition. (How to prepare garden soil).  Alternatively, you can buy seed raising mix or cactus-succulent soil from garden shop.

Mother in Law Tongue, Snake Plant Propagation

  1. Snake plant can be rooted from division or by suckers or cutting. The easiest method of propagating snake plant is by divison of rhizomes. Cut a small piece of rhizomes (roots) with a sharp knife and plant it in a pot filled with free-draining soil.
  2. Rooting snake plant from cuttings is also quite easy. Cut a healthy leaf into 3-4 pieces and put in damp soil in a pot.
  3. Cut out new shoots, which emerge from the soil and plant in a pot.

How to Water a Snake Plant

The question is how often and how much you should water the snake plant? It is tricky. The snake plant does not need much water, give only less than half cup water at a time.
  1. Do not pour the water in the leaf rosette to avoid rot, water the soil, away from the ventrsl root system.
  2. The plant does not need too much water as the rhizomes store the water. Allow the soil to dry completely between watering if the light level is low. If the pot is in the bright light, water only if the pot is dry down to 3/4 of the pot depth.
  3. During winter, reduce watering to once a month.

Fertilizer For Snake Plant

Feed a mild cactus fertilizer during the growing season; do not fertilizer in the winter.

Pruning and Repotting

  1. There is no need to prune mother-in-law's tongue plant, however, if planted in a pot, it will need to be transferred to a bigger pot as it grows form extensive underground rhizomes (root). Re-pot in the spring. The plant may need re-potting or dividing every year. If not re-potted, the sansevieria plant can break a clay pot with its underground rhizomes.
  2. It is considered as a weed in dry and wet habitat in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions as they grow and propagate very rapidly and extensively [2].

Pests and Diseases of Snake Plant

The sansevieria species are generally disease free. However it may be attacked by the pest vine weevil, scale and mealybugs. remove them with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Life of Mother-In-Law's Tongue Plant

The Sansevieria species can survive more than 50 years. These plants are very tough and can withstand virtually any growing conditions. The only way to kill them is to over-water or never water at all.

Flowers of Sansevierias

Do Sansevierias produce flowers? Yes, but flowers are extremely rare. It may flower once in several decades.

The Mother-in-laws tongue flowers are white or cream colored which grow on a very long stalk. The stalk will be covered in dozens of flower buds that open into flowers looking like lilies. The root bound plant will produce a flower stalk when it is under continual mild stress.

  1. S. Csurhes and R. Edwards (1998), Potential environmental weeds in Australia: Candidate species for preventative control. pdf
  2. Australian Weeds Committtee, 2013, Weeds of Australia. Canberra, Australia