Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Want An (Almost) Immortal Plant? Get A Snake Plant

If you’re searching for a plant that will forgive all your botanical sins and keep on growing despite of them, no need to go further than a Sansevieria trifasciata, commonly-referred to as the snake plant (because of the shape of its leaves) or mother-in-law’s tongue (because of their sharpness). This is a plant that is as close to being immortal as any plant can ever be. In fact, it’s so exceptionally hardy, it should qualify as artificial.

Sansevieria trifasciata’s ability to tolerate just about any growing condition - full sun or shade, humidity or dry air, frequent or infrequent feeding, and even extended periods between watering - makes it a perfect choice for beginners, chronic plant killers and houseplant abusers. It is almost impossible to kill this plant. The only thing that will ultimately defeat it is over-watering.

Use a fast-draining, highly-porous soil and water only when the medium dries out completely. Be extra vigilant with the watering can during the colder months when susceptibility to rot is high. If you’re not sure if you should water, put the watering can down and step away from the plant; Sansevieria trifasciata will easily survive a drought but not a flood. In fact it can go without water for a mind-bogglingly long period of time. For an alternative growing style that will eliminate all water woes, grow your snake plant in hydroculture.

Sansevieria trifasciata will tolerate any type of lighting, including shade, but the ideal location is one that offers very bright light and even direct sun. During the winter time direct sunshine is handled very well, especially the early morning eastern or late afternoon type. In the summer, you may have to protect against the direct rays in a southern location. Place your plant where it will receive bright, filtered light.

Average warmth is the preference but the plant can manage to keep on looking good even in temperatures as low as 10ºC (50ºF). A snake plant can also live through a level as low as 2ºC (35ºF), but it’s best to keep exposure to such low temperatures to a minimum to avoid cold damage. Humidity is not an issue; dry air does not bother the plant. Feed infrequently. A liquid fertilizer applied once a month during the spring and summer is sufficient. Do not feed during the fall and winter.

If you are one of those people that likes to water plants regularly, don’t buy a Sansevieria trifasciata. You’ll kill it. For everyone else, this is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a plant that is – almost – indestructible.


  1. LOL I ran out of room when making the last trip moving out of an apartment a few years ago. So I unpotted my snake plants and brought them to my mom's without soil. I didn't pot them back up for over 2 months - and they were fine!

  2. Ann, that is hilarious! It just goes to show how tough these plants are! And they're so cool-looking!

  3. I have 4 of these on the go and I love them Martha .. they take a lot of neglect and abuse and still come back ticking !
    I am really interested in switching over to your soiless system .. slowly but surely !!
    Joy : )

  4. Joy, these are just the best. I love snake plants because they will survive almost anything. Great plants for beginners.

    And I will teach you about the soilless system; you will just love it.