19 November 2009
Sansevieria is a wonderfully tolerant plant. You see them in hospitals, hotels, shopping malls, banks and homes.
Sansevieria trifasciata, known as Mother-In-Law Tongue or snake plant may be the most common one. It is recommended as an indoor air purifier, since it converts carbon dioxide to oxygen at night.
Sansevierias will put up with most conditions including low light, lack of water and lack of repotting. They will not survive soggy soil or temperatures much below 65-F.
And, they propagate easily. One leaf can be cut horizontally into 3-inch pieces and stuck into damp sand where they will grow into plants. Just notice which way the leaf was growing and put its edge right side up into the rooting mix.
Sanseveria or Sanseviera was named for Raimondo de Sangro, the prince of San Severo, Italy who lived 1710 to 1771. In its native Africa, Sansevieria trifasciata is said to be a favorite gourmet food of elephants. The medicinal uses include ulcers, parasites, earaches and toothaches (www.killerplants.com/plant-of-the-week/20051226.asp).
The International Sansevieria Society (www.sansevieria-international.org) website says there are 130 to 140 species and varieties, with 60 of those being Sansevieria trifasciata. Several other popular plants are Sansevieria hyacinthoides with the common name bowstring hemp. The plant family they belong to is agave (Agavaceae).
The species are divided into three categories: normal full size, medium size with wide leaves (Futura type) and dwarf bird’s-nest size (Hahnii type).
Tips for success with Sansevierias
- Provide well-drained soil. Pumice, lava or sand could be added to peat based potting soil. Bagged orchid soil also works well.
- Top the soil with small gravel or lava rock chips
- In the summer, water well and let the pot drain
- In the winter allow them to stay dry
- Minimum temperature is 10C or 50F
- Good light will produce a better looking plant. Dappled sunlight will keep the color pretty
- Plants spread by underground rhizomes or roots that will break a pot if left untended or planted in a shallow pot.
Half of the Snake Plants grown in Florida in 1930 were shipped to Europe. Now they are grown in Central America and the Caribbean Islands where production costs are lower.
The Cactus Mall (www.cactus-mall.com) provides links to several growers.
Take a look at some of the varieties at Stokes Tropicals (http://tiny.cc/ScE8k) -
Bantels Sensation - discovered by Gustav Bantel of St. Louis, MO and patented in 1948. Lime-green leaves marked with alternating white and dark green stripes.
Black Gold Extreme - Black-green tall, thin leaves with gold borders.
Futura – New variety with shorter, broader leaves, rosettes and, narrow yellow outer margin.
Twisted Sister has the characteristic yellow outer margin and striped leaves but instead of standing tall it twists.
The Hahnii varieties are called Bird’s Nest Sansievieria. Silver birdnest sansevieria has silver-green leaves and dark green margins. Sylvan Hahn patented silver Hahnii in 1953. Its growth habit is nearly identical to that of Hahnii’s vase-shaped rosette of leaves.
Black Star has the dark leaf and gold rim of Black Gold but compact growth.
Sansievieria cylindrica or African Spear, has a tall, stiff cylinder shaped leaves that look like spears and have sharp points that some gardeners snip off. The rosettes can grow up to 4 feet long by three-fourths of an inch wide.
African Spear comes from Angola, in Western Africa. An artist in Arkansas gave me a pup of her plant when I admired it. The mother plant was thriving at the back of the store, sitting on a dark staircase, growing in an old coffee pot filled with caked, dry dirt from the back yard.
Anyone can grow Sansievieria.
Oklahoma State University Extension in Muskogee is taking 25 names for a Fall 2010 Master Gardener series. Call 918-686-7200 to be added to the list.