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Snake Plant and Mother-in-Law's Tongue


Snake Plant and Mother-in-Law's Tongue

The snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). These are ideal plants for beginners.

Photo © Jon VanZile
The Snake Plant and the closely related Mother-in-Law's Tongue (S. trifasciata laurentii) are architectural plants with stiff, upright leaves up to 3 or 4 feet tall. The Snake Plant has green banded leaves, while the Mother-in-Law's Tongue features a yellow border. These plants are among the toughest of all houseplants—they can withstand virtually any conditions, from dark to bright. The only way to surely kill them is to overwater or never water at all.

Growing Conditions:

Light: Although they are very forgiving, the sansevieria prefers bright light with some sun. They can adapt to full sun.
Water: Let the soil dry between waterings. During winter, reduce watering to monthly, or whenever the soil is dry to the touch. Err on the side of underwatering.
Temperature: They prefer warmth and will suffer if exposed to temperatures below 50ºF.
Soil: A loose, well-drained potting mix. They will do well in sandier soils.
Fertilizer: Feed a mild cactus fertilizer during the growing season; do not fertilizer in the winter.


Sansevieria can be divided easily during repotting. Alternatively, new shoots, which emerge from the soil as spikes, can be taken and potted independently. They are rapid growers once established. Cuttings can also be taken, but it's much easier to rely on division.


Repot in the spring. Sansevieria are rapid growers and may need repotting or dividing annually. A well-grown sansevieria can split a clay pot with its mass of underground shoots. When repotting, always use fresh potting soil.

Grower's Tips:

These are one of the best houseplants for beginners and for striking displays. They are excellent in a grouping and will grow equally well on the floor or on table-top displays. Native to tropical Africa, the biggest danger is overwatering, especially in the winter. There are two low-growing varieties, but these are rarely seen in garden centers.
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