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Complete Sansevieria Guide + FAQs

Types of Sansevieria (syn. Dracaena)

All varieties of Sansevieria were reclassified to the genus Dracaena in 2018, following molecular phylogenetic studies. Summer Rayne Oakes did a great video about it on her YouTube channel, check it out here https://youtu.be/lB6THTEcZ8U

The genus has around 120 accepted species (http://www.theplantlist.org/browse/A/Asparagaceae/Dracaena/) which are part of the Aspargaceae family.

Find out more about the Sansevieria genus and how each plant differs below, as well as tips on how to care for your Sansevieria and other useful facts.

Sansevieria zeylanica (syn. Dracaena zeylanica)

Growing to a maximum height of between 75cm-120cm, this striking plant can be easily spotted by its thick sword-shaped leaves which point straight upwards. S. zeylanica has grey-green horizontal stripes. 

Avoid pouring water into the heart of the plant as this can cause rotting. Sansevieria are really easy to propagate; using a sharp, sterile cutting tool, cut one of the blades and then cut it into a few sections (2-3”) and allow them to callous for a couple of hours. Insert the ends which would be pointing to the soil into your potting mix, water and place in a brightly lit spot; wait for the potting mix to dry out before watering again.

Sansevieria ‘Laurentii’ (syn. Dracaena trifasicata ‘Laurentii’)

Native to Nigeria, this plant is often given the common name of ‘Mother-in-laws tongue’ - I’m not a fan of this, I love my MIL. This plant is a great first plant, it’s known to tolerate a variety of conditions, minimal watering and rarely requires repotting. However, give this plant a bright indirectly lit spot and you’ll be surprised by it’s growth.

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Diamond’

The dark black blades of this Sansevieria makes it stand out from its relatives. Another easy to care for plant, and is capable of withstanding bright sunshine, shade, draughts and extended periods with no water. With that being said, overwatering and near-freezing conditions will still kill it off.

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’

This Sansevieria has beautiful silvery-green coloured broad leaf blades, there’s a tracery of dark green around the margin. Plants grown in deep shade have darker leaves. 

Sansevieria masoniana

This plant was originally collected in The Congo so is sometimes labelled as ‘Mason Congo’. One strong, single-bladed leaf sets Sansevieria masoniana apart from the other members of the family; give it time and they will produce pups!

Genus name honors 18th century Italian patron of horticulture, Raimondo de Sangro, Prince of Sansevero. The specific epithet masoniana honors Maurice Mason (1912-1993), an English farmer and succulent enthusiast who first collected and cultivated this plant. 

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’

Sansevieria hahnii is sometimes known as ‘Bird’s Nest Snake Plant’ for its flattened rosette arrangement of leaf blades.

The attractive grey-green striped variegations will be more prominent if this plant is kept in bright, indirect light, however, like its siblings, this plant will tolerate lower-light conditions too.

How to Care for Sansevieria

Do Sansevieria need sun?

All plants need sunlight to survive unless you provide grow lights. Sansevieria are very tolerant to low light spots but would thrive in a bright indirect light environment.

Can Sansevieria survive without sunlight?

Although they wouldn’t die immediately, they would eventually perish. Light is plant food, they need it to live.

Is Sansevieria an indoor plant?

In the UK, yes! Their native range is Africa, Madagascar and Arabia.

Where should I keep my Sansevieria at home?

Sansevieria require a spot that receives bright, indirect light to ensure that the plant can continue to grow. If you keep it in a low light spot, you won’t need to water very often at all and you won’t see much growth.

Can Sansevieria be kept in the bedroom?

Does your bedroom have a window, can the plant see the sky? Then yes, it is perfectly safe to keep plants in your bedroom.

How do you know when Sansevieria needs water?

Check the potting mix, when the mix has completely dried out, pour water evenly on top of the potting mix until it comes out of the bottom of the pot.

How long can Sansevieria survive without water?

If your plant is receiving adequate light, you may need to water every 2-3 weeks; it all depends on the light the plant is receiving and the potting mix the plant is in.

What is the best fertilizer for Sansevieria?

Although not known to be heavy feeders, using a balanced houseplant fertilizer every few waterings would be fine. I tend to further dilute the fertiliser than the label recommends.

What does an overwatered Sansevieria look like?

An overwatered Sansevieria will have soft, rotten leaf blades.

How do you fix an overwatered Sansevieria?

If the potting mix is completely drenched and very heavy, I would recommend sliding your plant out of the potting and removing the potting mix. Trim any roots that are mushy and repotting into a well draining mix that includes bark or horticultural sand.

Why is my Sansevieria dying?

Overwatering is the most common reason your plant is dying, especially if the plant is positioned in a darker spot. Consider where the plant is in relation to the window, how frequently you water and what the potting mix is made up of.

Sansevieria FAQs

What is the etymology of Sansevieria?

Genus name honors 18th century Italian patron of horticulture, Raimondo de Sangro, Prince of Sansevero.

How long do Sansevieria live?

Sansevieria can live over 20 years, I know someone with Sansevieria trifasciata that is 28 years old!

Does Sansevieria grow fast?

Sanseviera aren't particularly fast growers compared to other houseplants, however, placing your plant in a position where they will receive indirect light will encourage faster growth. 

Do Sansevieria produce pups?

Sansevieria can produce pups (or offsets as they’re commonly known), these are new plants which grow at the base of the existing plant. You can separate the offsets from the mother plant and grow them in separate pots.

Sansevieria plant next to window

Where does Sansevieria look good?

Sansevierias are striking architectural plants and there are many varieties. If you opt for a larger plant they can make a real statement. Sansevieria masoniana 'Victoria' look especially nice with one or two small Sansevieria varieties; the single leaf blade is particularly eye-catching. 

For example, Sansevieria trifasciata spiky leaves and height makes it a good candidate for brightening up the corner of a kitchen or conservatory - provided the plant is receiving adequate life.

Meanwhile, Sansevieria 'Black Superba' arrives just 30cm tall (including the pot) so will look good on a coffee table for years, until it grows to a height where it would be more suitable to be placed on the floor. 

FAQs

What is Sansevieria good for?

People say that Sansevieria clean the air; this is based on NASA’s Clean Air Study from 1989. This information is considered outdated and like a lot of scientific information that is relayed, crucial details are lost. For example, the experiments were carried out in labs, plants were put into plexiglass air tight containers the size of boxes not regular room environments. Michael Waring of Drexel University (ph.D in Indoor Environmental Science and Engineering) calculated that “You would have to put 1,000 plants in a 3.1 metre by 3.1m by 2.4m office to have the same air-cleaning capacity of just changing over the air once per hour, which is the typical air-exchange rate in an office ventilation system.”

Choose your plants based on the conditions you can give them, open your windows, get some fresh air and enjoy.

Can I split Sansevieria?

Splitting or dividing Sansevieria is a simple process which involves removing the mother plant from its pot and using a sterile and sharp cutting tool to cut the rhizome base into two sections. Each section should have three rhizomes and a healthy leaf so that it can recover and grow independently once repotted in fresh potting mix.

Why is my Sansevieria splitting?

Sansevieria leaves can split for many reasons, usually, mechanical damage is the main cause. If this isn't a possibility, check the root system of the plant and the potting mix to ensure the plant isn't overwatered.

Do Sansevieria like small pots?

Sansevieria can grow in small pots, as they have shallow root systems, however as they grow upwards, they can be susceptible to falling over. Choose a heavy pot to avoid the plant toppling over as it grows or place the plant into a cache pot.

Do Sansevieria like to be root bound?

Sansevieria tolerate being rootbound but equally it's important to provide your plant with enough space to grow and thrive.

How do you know when to repot Sansevieria?

Most sources suggest repotting Sansevieria every 3-6 years, depending on the size of the pot it's growing in and the size of the plant itself. Every plant is different due to the individual home conditions we provide them, just check your roots.

How do I repot Sansevieria?

Repotting Sansevieria is a simple process which involves transplanting the plant from the old pot into a new pot that is 1-2 inches wider. You should ensure that you use fresh well-draining potting mix. Slide the plant out from its original pot and check the roots, if any are mushy or rotten, trim these using sterile snippers. Loosen the rootball slightly and add some potting mix to the new pot, place your plant inside and continue to back fill around the sides. Press the potting mix down and give the pot a few big taps, give the plant a drink to bed into it's new pot.

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