The Perfect Houseplant-Sansevieria

by Jan Cashman

We want our houseplants to be easy-care.  Even if we forget to water them or are traveling or don’t have fertilizer handy, we want them to thrive. Peace lily (Spathiphylim) and Spider Plant (Chlorophytum) are two houseplants that are easy to care for.  But there is no houseplant easier to keep in your home than the succulent Sansevieria (Dracaena trifaciata). 

Sansevieria is native to Africa, Madagascar, and Southern Asia.  There are 70 varieties.  It is commonly known as Snake Plant because of its long leaves with tapered ends.  Another common name for Sansevieria is “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” because the leaves are sharp, pointed and severe.  (Why do mother-in-laws always get such a bad rap?) 

Sansevieria make a good houseplant because of their unique spiky and erect shape and the fact that they filter toxins from the air and produce oxygen.  In fact, in NASA’s Clean Air Study, Sansevieria plants were one of the top performers.


TEMPERATURE: Sansevieria grow in a variety of temperatures, 60 to 85 degrees F, but will not grow well in colder temperatures.  A tropical plant, it grows well outside in the far South. 

LIGHT: Sansevieria survive in a variety of light, from low to bright but the leaves may burn in direct sunlight.

SOIL: Although snake plants are not fussy about most things, their roots can rot if they are kept too wet.  Plant snake plants in soil mixed with perlite or sand to improve the drainage.  Repot every few years with new soil to keep proper drainage.

WATERING: Don’t overwater—let the soil dry out between waterings. 

FERTILIZING: Sansevieria don’t need a lot of fertilizer. Use a house plant analysis or slow-release fertilizer every month or two.

PROPAGATION:  You can propagate snake plants three ways: in water, in well-drained soil, or by division.  For soil or water propagation, make a V cut in the bottom of the leaf to reduce the chance of rotting.  The new plants that grow from the bottom are called “Pups”.  More mature plants with many stems can be pulled apart and those stems replanted.

The shape of sansevieria is architectural and interesting.  They don’t require a lot of water or light, are relatively pest free and they clean the air in your home—the perfect houseplant.