Meet the mother-in-laws tongue plant
The snake plant (scientific name Sansevieria trifasciata; also known as the mother-in-law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp, or Saint George’s Sword) is a popular indoor and outdoor plant in Australia. It requires very little effort in terms of plant care, making it a perfect choice for most urban homes and beginner plant owners.
Aside from ornamentation, the snake plant can actually benefit your air filtration. According to a NASA Clean Air Study it can get rid of most indoor pollutants present in most homes today. A word of advice though: the plant is toxic to cats and dogs, which can make this a poor fit for homes with active, untrained pets.
Appearance and varieties
It looks like a bunch of stiff, pointed leaves with a circular base. Mature plants have a dark-green colour, sometimes striped, speckled, bordered, or tipped with shades of yellow or grey depending on the breed. It comes in many varieties, though it crossbreeds easily.
Here the most common varieties (or cultivars) we you should get:
- Bantel’s Sensation: narrow leaves with white, vertical stripes
- Golden Hahnii: short leaves with yellow borders
- Sansevieria Twist: twisted leaves with yellow edges and horizontal stripes
- Cylindrical Sansevieria: round, dark-green striped leaves
- Rhino Grass: red tinted leaves
Snake plants can grow anywhere from 12 inches to 3 feet tall, depending on the breed and environment. The number of varieties available combined with their low maintenance make them very popular plants in Australia.
Snake plant care
Like succulents, snake plants need little watering and sunlight to thrive. They grow fast in soil with good drainage and are resistant to insects, heat, and warm climates. A potted snake plant should only be watered once every two weeks (or once a month during winter) as over-watering can cause them to die.
Let the soil dry between waterings. Dampness can trigger plant rot, which can spread through the entire plant in a matter of days. Keep it in a place where it gets plenty of sunlight, though some varieties of snake plants can grow well in shady areas. Check with the store you bought it from about which breed of snake plant do you have.
Snake plants are flowering plants, and they can propagate fast! Potted snake plants will bloom small, fragrant greenish-white flower clusters on tall spikes occasionally. A snake plant that grows outside can spread rapidly, which can be a little difficult to manage unless you also keep it in a pot. A lot of people consider the snake plant to be an invasive species because of this – so be very careful about the breeds you plant outside!
Repotting, cutting, and planting snake plants
If you’re looking to grow your own collection of snake plants, you’ll need a good collection of sturdy pots. IKEA and Bunnings offer good selections that can fit snake plants of all sizes. Depending on the breed you get, you must divide and replant them once to thrice a year.
Cut a section containing both the leaves and the roots and place them in a new pot, with well-draining potting mix. The best time to do this would be in the spring. You can put some general purpose fertiliser and water as little as possible. For the bigger breeds, you can wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to get rid of dust.
We hope this article has given you a fair idea of what to expect when taking care of a snake plant. They’re easy to care for and do a lot of good in any room they’re placed in, so get planting!