Snake plants (Mother in law’s tongue) are evergreen succulent plants characterized by their upright sword-shaped leaves. Although Sansevieria Trifasciata is a commonly known variety by the name Snake Plant, there are many more Sansevieria types. Sansevierias come in different shapes, colors and sizes. Some are huge species that grow up to 6 to 7 feet tall, while others are just a foot in height. Miniature varieties and cultivars such as Sansevieria Hahnii, Sansevieria Pinguicula and Sansevieria Parva are more suitable for indoor use. You can keep them on windowsills, tabletops or on the shelves. In this post I’ll introduce some large snake plant species that you can grow outdoors. They can also be grown indoors in the corners of your home or office.
Sansevieria Trifasciata Prain
Dracaena Trifasciata Prain is one of the most common species of Sansevieria. It is native to tropical west Africa, particularly from Nigeria east to the Congo. One can also find it naturally growing in India, Madagascar, Indonesia and other warm countries. Other common names for the plant are viper’s bowstring hemp, saint George’s sword, devil’s tongue etc.
This variety generally grows up to 5 to 6 feet in bright light conditions. It has green sword-shaped leaves with green irregular stripe pattern. The pattern resembles the skin of a snake, hence the name snake plant. Being a flowering plant, it may bloom once a year during springtime.
Another attractive and popular snake plant variety is Dracaena Angolensis or Sansevieria Cylindrica. It has other commonly known nicknames like African spear, Spear Sansevieria or Cylindrical snake plant. It is native to Angola in southern Africa.
African spear plants can grow up to 6 to 7 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. The leaves grow upright, but can be braided for a unique look. As the plant grows, upbraided foliage can become fan-shaped, because the leaves start bending due to their weight. Cylindrical snake plants have, as the name suggests, cylindrical fleshy leaves. If you cut them sideways, they have a circular cross-section (around 1 inch diameter). The plant can flower annually producing greenish white flowers on a tall flower stalk. It blooms at a younger age than other Sansevieria types.
You may like to read: How to grow and care for Sansevieria Cylindrica
Dracaena Hanningtonii, known by the popular name Sansevieria Ehrenbergii is a species with an interesting leaf arrangement. This plant also has an African origin. It’s specifically found in dry regions of eastern Africa and some parts of Asia.
Growing up to 5 feet tall, this Sansevieria is not stemless like most others. It has a short, foot long stem on which the pointy leaves grow in two opposite rows. The foliage forms a beautiful fan shape, almost 2 feet wide. This unique looking plant has been traditionally used for medical purposes. It is a natural antiseptic that can treat skin sores and eruptions. The thick, fibrous leaves also have a use as natural bandage. Although try to keep the plant away from pets and children, as it can be mildly toxic when consumed.
Sansevieria Trifasciata var. Laurentii
This popular variety of Sansevieria trifasciata (Dracaena trifasciata) is a variegated type with stunning yellow leaf borders. It does naturally grow in regions of Africa and Asia. Common names of this variety include Sansevieria Laurentii, variegated Sansevieria and Striped snake plant.
This species can grow up to 4 feet tall and almost a foot wide. It has upward growing succulent leaves with very slight wavy edges. The bright yellow margins surround the green leaves that have stripes similar to trifasciata prain. This snake plant variety has received a prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s garden merit award. You can grow this hardy plant indoors as well as outdoors.
Dracaena Stuckyi is a relatively less known species of Sansevieria. It is an evergreen plant that looks similar to Sansevieria Fischeri. This species has an unusual foliage with two kinds of life forms. The juvenile form has flat, striped green leaves that grow to form a fountain shape. In the mature phase, the leaves are tough, pointy, cylindrical and grow upright as seen in the above picture. The mature stage starts after 4 to 6 years of the plant’s life.
The ultimate height of the Sansevieria can be 6 to 7 feet, depending on the growing conditions. Although it is a flowering species, it rarely flowers. And the flower stalk is much smaller as compared to the plant height. The mature leaves of the plant are pale green in color, unlike most snake plants with bright green leaves.
Better known as Whale’s fin, Shark’s fin or Mason’s Congo, Sansevieria Masoniana is a wide leafed variety of snake plant. It is easy to recognize due to the wide, fleshy, green colored foliage. This species was originally found in Congo by Maurice Mason, a plant collector from England.
This variety has the ability to grow up to 6 feet, when the growing conditions are perfect. However, the usual maximum height of the plant can be 3 to 4 feet. Each leaf is up to 7 inches wide in the middle and tapers to the end. The broad, thick leaves grow only 1 or two per shoot. And they are mottled with pale green smudges. The leaves have a very thin reddish brown border.
You may like to read: How to grow and care for Sansevieria Masoniana
Sansevieria Bacularis is another stemless plant that looks similar to the cylindrical snake plant (Sansevieria Cylindrica). This variety is also often confused with Sansevieria Fernwood or Sansevieria Canaliculata. It is widespread in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The name Bacularis originated from a Latin word “Baculum” meaning a rod or stick.
With slender and stiff cylindrical leaves, the plant can grow up to 6 feet tall. However, the leaves are just half an inch in diameter. The foliage is rough and leathery with 1 to 2 leaves growing together. The plant can have dark purple basal leaves (sheath) when it is young. It can also produce white flowers with purple stripes that grow in bunches on a foot-long flower stalk. Good light conditions can make the plant grow taller and bloom more frequently.
How to care for Sansevieria plants?
All Sansevieria varieties are very durable and easy to grow plants that can sustain almost any growing conditions. They can survive on irregular watering, high heat and low light conditions. However, when provided with optimal conditions and properly taken care of, these plants will thrive and grow stronger.
Sansevierias don’t require daily watering. They are drought-tolerant plants and need water maybe once a week. Spring and summer are the months in which they grow faster. So, you need to feed them and water regularly during this time. On the other hand, reduce the watering in the winter season to about once a month. After watering, don’t forget to empty the drainage tray, so the plant doesn’t remain standing in the water.
Light and temperature requirement
Snake plants grow best in bright and filtered sunlight. Direct sun in the afternoon may be too harsh for the plants. Although they can tolerate full sun, don’t suddenly shift them from a low light place to a bright sunny area. Also avoid placing the plants in deeply shadowy corners in your house.
Average room temperature and humidity around 40-50% works great for snake plants. They are happy in the temperature between 50-85° F (10-29° C). But, being tropical species, Sansevieria plants are not very winter hardy. When the temperature drops below 45-50° F, they can develop scarring and damage on the leaves. Winter frost can even kill the plant, if the roots are not kept dry.
Ideal soil mix
For snake plants, it is very important that the roots don’t stay wet for too long. Water-logged soil can cause root rot and plant death. So, a well-draining, sandy soil is recommended for these plants.
Best soil ingredients are pumice, perlite, coco coir, gravel, peat, chicken grit etc. Most of these additives make the potting mix coarse while retaining a little moisture necessary for the plant. At least half of the potting mix should have such ingredients. The remaining part can be a regular soil.
Feed your Sansevieria at most once a month during the growing period. Spring and summer are the best seasons to fertilize your plants. Although if you live in a warmer climate, you can feed the plant all year round. Avoid fertilizing during cold winter months.
Liquid fertilizers and slow release granular fertilizers works great for snake plants. You can use any general purpose balanced fertilizer in a diluted form.
For more information on cultivation of Sansevieria, check out these posts.
Indoor care guide for snake plants
Growing snake plants outdoors