Snake plants are ornamental houseplants with rigid, upright, succulent leaves. The leaves can be dark green with lighter green or gray horizontal markings along them and the most distinguishing feature of this plant is its variegated yellow edging. Some leaves can even be more gray than green. Snake plant is notable for its clustered long fleshy leaves that reach 3’ – 4’ tall; there are short versions of this plant, as well.
The botanical name for this plant is Sansevieria and it is also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue. Snake plants are simple plants to grow in low light gardens. While a traditional houseplant, gardeners have found the snake plant worth growing with other plants outside, too.
This is one of the easiest houseplants to grow and once the ideal conditions are met it will happily grow in the same pot and spot for years. Snake plants grow from an underground rhizome and are easily propagated but in the main they can be bought in shops and garden centers.
The one most important aspect of successfully growing a snake plant is water, so important that it deserves its own set of rules.
Snake plant is favored by gardeners for its ability to grow in low-light situations. The durable snake plant will tolerate benign neglect in a wide range of temperatures.
Despite all that, Sansevieria houseplants do require care to be healthy good-looking plants. This plant prefers potting soil with a sandier consistency that is allowed to thoroughly dry out between watering. Snake plants that are allowed to grow in routinely moist soils or with poor drainage will develop unnatural yellowing and weak leaf growth.
Basic plant care should include cleaning leaves, fertilizing and digging and dividing. The smooth leaves benefit from cleaning, either wiped with a damp rag or by misting. Snake plant should be fertilized at half-strength every two to three months during the growing season.
Mother in law’s tongue has thick short rhizome roots that need to be dug and divided every three or four years. The thick short rhizome roots are so strong that when they become root-bound the roots are known to bust apart containers. Digging and dividing snake plant is an excellent way to have more plants for the garden. Cutting leaf sections is another acceptable strategy to propagate this houseplant.
The tropical snake plant most often used as a houseplant in an indoor garden can grow in outside gardens too. In an outdoor garden, the plant thrives in dappled sun away from hot western and dark woodland sunlight extremes.
The main problem with these long lived plants is root rot caused by over-watering.
The first sign of root rot is softness at the base of each leaf and also when the leaves are easily separated from the underground rhizome. Once root rot is established there is nothing for it but to remove the plant from the pot. Ruthlessly cut away any spoiled stems, even stems with a minimum of softness will not survive.
Once the rotten stems have been cleaned away re-pot in fresh compost. The new plant will benefit by the removal of the damaged leaves and in the new compost the rhizome will be rejuvenated and start sprouting new shoots in no time.
Increasing the stock with this plant is easy and is done very much the same way as root rot is removed. Lift the plant, look for new shoot tips along the rhizome and cut through the flesh between the parent plant and the new tip – then plant the new cutting with the tip just peeing through the compost. If no new tips are visible just cut through the rhizome and continue as above.
Snake plants are toxic and are sometimes confused with Dieffenbachia or Dumbcane plants as they both can cause swelling in the mouth and throat if ingested even in small quantities.
For the indoor gardener, Sansevieria plants have everything. Long lasting, elegant variegated foliage and very low maintenance.
Indoor gardeners can easily incorporate snake plants into a houseplant collection. Individually, large snake plants act as a focal point in the home garden with its very strong structural appearance. Vertical space can be taken full advantage of by hanging trailing vines above the upright snake plant resting on the floor. Dish gardens growing short rosette forms of Sansevieria varieties can be planted with other plants or singly in a six-inch pot.
Snake plant leaf shapes and color variegations make interesting contrasts and can be planted outside in a mixed plant combination. Choose annuals or perennials that will grow in similar light outside, the mixed planting will make an interesting mini garden.
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