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Disadvantages of snake plants and the workarounds

A snake plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata) can be an ideal pick for new gardeners because it requires minimal care. These tropical, hard to kill plants are a popular addition to many households. They look stunning with their upright, sword shaped leaves and evergreen foliage. Because they do just fine in low light, snake plants are common in homes and offices. These lucky plants produce oxygen at night and also absorb some air pollutants. In spite of having such wonderful benefits, there are still some disadvantages of growing a snake plant at your home.

Toxic for humans and pets

A common problem with all Sansevieria is their toxicity. Many houseplants such as Peace lilies, English ivy, Pothos etc. are toxic for pets, and snake plant is one of them. Mother in law’s tongue plants are poisonous when chewed or ingested. Now this may not be a big problem if you have only adults in the house. But, with kids and pets around, having snake plants may make you a bit worried.

All the parts of this plant, including leaves, roots, flowers and rhizomes are mildly toxic because they contain a chemical called Saponin. Saponin is actually good for the plant because it acts as a natural insecticide and fungicide by keeping the diseases at bay. Because of this, topical application of snake plant juice has even been used as herbal remedies in some parts of the world. But consuming any part of this plant is not a good idea.

The poison found in the plant mainly causes gastrointestinal problems. It has a numbing effect that can make the tongue and throat swollen. Eating large amounts can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, abdominal pain etc. Touching the plant juice with bare hands can cause rashes or dermatitis in some people. The snake plants are more toxic to dogs and cats than to humans. Even though its bitter taste can repel them from eating large doses, curious pets may take a bite of the plant. In pets, the ingestion causes similar symptoms of poisoning (such as vomiting, diarrhea).

Solution

The best way to avoid any accident is to keep your plants away from children and pets. Place them on top shelves or in no-pet zones. Squeeze a lemon or orange zest on pot rims to create a strong pet repellent scent. Nearly all dogs and cats hate the smell of citrus. Even better is to sprinkle some cinnamon in the soil. It not only repels the pets, but also acts as a fungicide for your plant.

Easy to overwater

One of the main problems that all Sansevieria face is overwatering. Because they are drought-tolerant plants, snake plants can survive on little to no moisture. In fact, they can thrive on a bit of neglect. Sitting in the soggy and wet soil is the worst for snake plants. It can result in dark, stinky rotting roots. Leaves can turn yellow, mushy and start drooping. When the whole root system becomes mush, it is impossible to save the plant.

How much and how often to water the snake plant changes from place to place and season to season. To make things more difficult, there are many factors (low temperature, less sunlight, dense soil, big pot size etc.) that can promote overwatering.

Solution

To prevent overwatering, use a sandy, well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes. Water the plant regularly during the growing season, but only when the top soil layer is dry. Reduce the watering in fall and winter to about once a month. It is important to monitor the appearance of your plant to detect any symptoms of overwatering, and adjust the watering schedule accordingly.

Not cold hardy

Being a tropical species, the mother in law’s tongue is well adapted to dry and hot climates. But this plant is not very winter hardy. If you live in the region where temperature goes subzero in winters, leaving snake plants outside is a bad idea.

Exposure to cold temperatures (below 50° F or 10° C) can make the plant leaves scar permanently. Frost is also dangerous for the leaves as they cannot revive from the damage. Freezing temperature and wet soil is a deadly combination for snake plants.

Solution

Prevention is the key to avoid any cold damage in snake plants. Indoor plants are easier to manage because they can be kept near a heater. To save outdoor plants, you can cover them in thick cloth to trap some warmth inside. Avoid watering the plant in such conditions. Even if the leaves are damaged, new leaves can grow from a healthy root system later in summer. But keeping the roots moist in extreme cold will surely kill the plant.

Slow growing plant

Snake plants can grow as tall as 6-7 feet (depending on the variety), but they do it slowly. The plant growth rate of Sansevieria is slow to medium. After purchasing a sapling from nursery, it will take years to grow it to a substantial height. Snake plants are long lasting plants that live on for decades. Even propagating these plants takes months for the tiny roots to appear. So, if you are thinking of growing a dense garden in a year or so, snake plants are not a good choice.

Solution

Although bright light conditions seem to encourage the plant growth, the increase is not much. Mother in law’s tongue makes a great ornamental indoor plant that is perfect for small living spaces.

Doesn’t flower regularly

One of the disadvantages of a snake plant is that it’s flowering habit is very erratic. Some snake plants bloom every year, while others don’t bloom for decades. It can also depend on the specific variety and cultivar of a snake plant. Few varieties are more prone to flower than others. For instance, Sansevieria Cylindrica starts flowering at a younger age than other species. On the other hand, Sansevieria Golden Hahnii flowers on rare occasions. In general, blooming of snake plants is quite a rare event.

Solution

Well, there is no guarantee that anything can certainly make a snake plant bloom. Keeping your plant healthy and giving it bright filtered sunlight may help. But just the fact that the snake plant is a flowering species, doesn’t promise an annual blossom.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Marivic pedrosa

    How to treat brown spots on leaves of snake plants

  2. Vel Rogers

    Problem: My mother in law’s tongue has mushrooms growing from it. Why and how can I fix it?

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