Sansevieria (Dracaena)


Sansevieria (Dracaena) trifasciata var. Laurentii



Contents

  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.

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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Easy
  • Provide a bright, indirect location away from more than two hours of sunlight per day. Sansevieria are a great choice for a shady statement plant, as long as you remember to keep them under-watered. Those seeking Sansevieria to grow in a sun-filled location must build up their plant's tolerance and exposure to the sun over the course of the next eight weeks.
  • Sansevieria must endure periods of droughts between waters - if you're stuck with when to water it, think of the ukhouseplants' phrase of 'Drenches Between Droughts'.
  • Be careful when watering - allowing excess moisture to sit in the cubbyholes of the lower stem will result in diseases such as southern blight or basal rot.
  • Supplement at monthly intervals all year round, using either a Cactus or Houseplant feed, or a general plant fertiliser.
  • Repot every two years during the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled potting mix - this is the perfect time to perform propagation.
  • The Mother-in-Law's Tongue (pictured above), is one of NASA's recommended air-purifying houseplants, according to a 'Clean Air Study' conducted back in 1989.




Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

As mentioned above, Sansevieria are best located in bright, indirect light. Situations that offer more than two hours of direct light (especially in the summer months) must be avoided for the prevention of sun-scorch. Dark locations will reduce the patterns on variegated specimens, whereas too much sun may cause the leaves to turn yellow. Remember - the shadier the location, the less watering you'll need to do to combat the risk of over-watering.


Water - 🔸

The ukhouseplants saying, 'drenches between droughts' strongly applies to all Sansevieria species. Not only will continuous soil moisture destroy their root systems, it'll also breakdown the adventitious growths  (new leaves)  that'll develop beneath the soil line. Allow all of the soil to thoroughly dry out in between waters in the growing period, reducing this further in the autumn and winter.  Under-watering symptoms include a weakened grey stem, yellowing leaves, little to no growth and dry, crispy patches forming on the leaf edges; these issues are usually caused by too much light/heat or forgetfulness. Remember, the brighter the location, the more watering you'll need to do. Over-watering symptoms include a weakened grey stem, leaves that have a rotten base, no new growth, yellowing leaves and plant death. The differences between under and over-watering are very similar, with a rotten root ball stopping the plant soak up vital moisture and nutrients, leaving you with wilted grey leaves.


Humidity -

This is not a necessity; however, a quick hose down from time to time will hydrate the leaves and wash away dust or potential pests.


Fertilisation - 🔸

Supplement once a month using either a Cactus & Succulent Feed or a Houseplant-labelled Fertiliser. As Sansevieria naturally grow in nutrient-leached soils, forgetfulness of regular fertilisations won't be a serious detriment to their health. Never directly apply a 'ready-to-use' (RTU) without a pre-water first as this may lead to the burning or roots.




Sansevieria zeylanica



Common Issues with Sansevieria

Root rot is a common issue with specimens sat in too moist or waterlogged soil for long periods. Symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and a rotten brown base. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect health below the soil line. If the roots sport a yellow tinge, you're good to go, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately. More information about addressing root rot can be found on this link.

Curled leaves and dried brown edges are the result of too little water and over-exposure to the sun. Although Sansevieria can naturally do well in sun-filled locations, those that haven't acclimatised to the harsh rays will show signs of sun-scorch and environmental shock. Gradually increase the amount of light every few days, starting from an indirect location to a few hours of morning/evening sun over a few weeks. Prolonged exposure will significantly speed the process of dehydration, so consider transplantation into a bigger pot in the Spring to wrap the roots around moister soil.


Sun-Scorch.  Before...

... & After


Directly pinpointing yellow leaves is rather hard due to the many different issues that could be at fault. Problems include watering-related abuse, too much or too little light, and fertilisation issues. If you'd like to speak to ukhouseplants in regards to this issue, be sure to send us an email or message via our Instagram Page!

Never allow temperatures to dip below 8ºC  (40ºF)  as irreversible damage may occur in the likes of yellowed foliage and weakened growth. If this happens, remove the severely affected areas and immediately improve growing conditions - never cut through softened yellow growth, and only around brown, crispy squares. As rehabilitation can take several months because of its slow-growing nature, be sure to provide a stable location with better growing conditions to speed this process.



If a blade becomes yellow but is still hardened at the base, it may be a sign of nitrogen-deficiency.


Failed leaf-cuttings could be the product of several different reasons. As Sansevieria are best propagated during the spring when the plant is most active, those taken in the dormant months will root much slower, and could even die in the meantime. Study its environment - is there enough light to read a newspaper? If not, improve the growing conditions by increasing the amount of indirect sunlight it receives. Never situate the cuttings in direct sunlight as this will result in severe dehydration and most likely death. The overall size will play a big part in its success, too. The total height must surpass at least 8cm, with no visible signs of damage or cuts. Smaller specimens won't root appropriately due to the lower amounts of stored energy situated in the stem. If the leaves are propagated via hydroponics, replace the water weekly to prevent the risk of bacteria thriving within the container. Yellow or brown sections that are slowly rotting away must also be removed, as nasty pathogens will be released into the water, spreading onto unaffected specimens. Those directly placed in cold water will show signs of distress, too. If you're interested in propagating via soil, be sure to use a well-draining potting mix with a right amount of sand and grit. Those that are set too deeply or in excessive moist soil will begin to rot at the base, immediately reducing the chance of root development.




The Rocket Plant or African Spear Plant (Sansevieria cylindrica)



Origins

Sansevieria is a genus of around seventy species originating from the tropical regions of Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia. The most popular species, the Snake Plant (or Mother-In-Law's Tongue), mostly originates in areas surrounding Nigeria with its botanical name, S. trifasciata translating to 'three bundles' in Latin. The Sansevieria genus was discovered in the mid-1700s and is part of the Asparagaceae which holds members like DracaenaPonytail Palms and Aspidistra. There's considerable variation within Sansevieria, with some being arid-tolerate plants and others grown in tropical regions of South Asia. Although the genus is widely known to have been named after the Italian Prince of Sanseviero, it was initially penned in honour of Pietro Antonio Sanseverino, the Count of Chiaromonte in the 18th century. In 2017, a molecular study of the S. trifisciata conducted by David Mabberley found that the species, along with a few others, shared similar genetics to the genus, Dracaena. They were subsequently transferred into the latter genus in the same year.


The Distribution of Sansevieria


Temperature

10° - 32℃   (50° - 90℉)
H1b  (Hardiness Zone 12)  - Can be grown outdoors during the spring and summer in a sheltered location whilst nighttime temperatures are above 10℃  (50℉),  but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as it may result in sun-scorch. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.


Spread

The overall size can be up to 1m in height and 0.5 m in width, with the blades' width reaching around 7cm. Ultimate height will take between 5 - 8 years to achieve when repotted biannually, with several new leaves unfurling per annum.


Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.



An adventitious  (rhizomes)  growth developing from the plant's base. The plant was originally propagated via a leaf cutting, which in turn is where the offsets will develop once calloused.


Propagation

Via Seed, Division or Leaf Propagation. A word of advice is that if you take cuttings from variegated Sansevieria, the new growth will not have the variegated edges that many horticulturalists desire (i.e. yellow edges).


You can propagate this rhizome into two plants via the red lines. Be sure to use clean utensils and always water the plant 24hrs before propagation to avert 'Transplant Shock'. The middle section can be either discarded or be  propagated by placing it an inch horizontally in soil.


Rhizomatous Division (Easy) - For this method, it's best to divide in the spring or summer with the offshoots being at least half the mother plant's length of the blade. If you're unsure as to what they look like, have a look at the second image on this article. Take the plant out of its pot and place your hand in between the two growths; soil may have to be removed to get a better grip. While placing your fingers around to the nodal junction, gently push the offset downwards, supporting the mother plant. Once it snaps, cautiously separate the two roots systems, keeping great empathy in keeping the roots intact and damage-free. Place the new plantlet in a Cactus & Succulent-labelled soil and maintain the same care routines. If the offset doesn't have any roots, fear not - they'll soon develop if the compost is kept on the drier side of life. Never use a pot that is too big as a ratio of roots-soil that leans towards the latter will cause root rot and eventually plant death. For the first couple of months, allow all of the soil to dry out in between waters and provide a bright, indirect setting for best growth. 

Leaf Cuttings (Easy) - This propagation method is by far the most enjoyable, and the easiest way to duplicate the original plant. Leaves that are at least 15cm (6 inches) long and part of an established plant are most successful. To avoid making a mess of the serrations, use a sharp, clean knife and cut the leaf into three equal sections, all at least 5cm in length. Either place the cuttings wound-down in lukewarm water (until 3cm of root growth and then into the soil) or immediately into a Cactus & Succulent-labelled potting mix, with a pot that has adequate drainage. Provide a bright, indirect setting with relatively moist soil, but be sure to allow the top half to dry out in between waters. You'll know if propagation has worked as the main body will stay green and firm, while unsuccessful specimens will turn yellow after a few days. New adventitious shoots will surface to the soil line after around eight weeks but may take longer if the conditions aren't optimal. After a month of the new leave unfurling, transplant into a slightly bigger pot and treat it like a mature specimen with the care tips provided above.



Sansevieria ehrenbergii


Flowers

A domestically grown Sansevieria might never bloom due to the incorrect growing conditions throughout its lifetime. The sweetly-scented flowers are arranged in equal intervals along with the one-foot shaft that'll emerge from the plant's base. Each flower can last up to ten days, with the blooming process spread across several weeks.



The inflorescence of a Sansevieria (Dracaena) trifasciata var. Laurentii   


Repotting

Repot every three to four years in spring using a Cactus & Succulent labelled potting mix and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Sansevieria are far better being potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock) - so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary. A deformed plastic pot caused by the underground growths is standard and doesn't necessarily require a bigger pot.



If you're interested in promoting more basal offsets (i.e. foliage), use a terracotta bulb bowl to complement the rhizomes' explorative horizontal nature - these can be purchased at most garden centres for low prices. Copyright: Crocus

Hydrate the plant 24hrs before the tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce extra amounts of perlite and grit into the lower portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks. Click here for a detailed step-by-step guide on transplantation, or via this link to learn about repotting with root rot.

If you're still unsure of what to do, never hesitate to send us an email or direct message to get our expert advice on transplantation.



S. 'Fernwood'


Pests & Diseases

Common diseases associated wth Sansevieria are root rot, red leaf-spot, botrytis & southern blight - click here to learn more about these issues. Keep an eye out for mealybugs, spider mite, scale, thrips, whitefly & root mealybugs.


Toxicity

This plant is classified as poisonous due to high levels of saponins found in the leaves. If parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.


The typical size in which garden centres will sell a Mother-In-Law's Tongue - costing around £15.


Retail Locations

Dobbies,  IKEA,  B&Q,  Blue Diamond,  British Garden Centres,  Online Stores.



If you need further advice with indoor gardening, never hesitate to send us an email or direct message via the Instagram Page. This could be about your own specific plant, transplantation into a bigger pot, pests or diseases, terrarium ideas, & more!



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