Sansevieria trifasciata-Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, Snake Plant, Etc.

Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, etc.) on 4-18-12, #87-12.

Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, Snake Plant, Viper’s Bowstring Hemp, Etc.

Sansevieria trifasciata

san-se-VEER-ee-tuh  try-FASK-ee-AH-tuh

Variegated Snake Plant

Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii (‘Laurentii’)

san-se-VEER-ee-tuh  try-FASK-ee-AH-tuh  law-REN-tee-eye

Sansevieria trifasciata Prain is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Sansevieria. It was named and described by David Prain in Bengal Plants in 1903.

Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii is the variegated type, the one with the yellow margin…

Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii (De Wild.) N.E.Br. is an unresolved infraspecific name. It was described by Nicholas Edward Brown in the Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Botanic garden-Kew) in 1915. It has previously been described as Sansevieria laurentii by Émile Auguste Joseph De Wildeman in Revue des Cultures Coloniales in 1904.

Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Plants of the World Online lists 73 accepted genera in the Sansevieria genus. The genus is currently placed in the Asparagaceae Family, formerly in the Dracaenaceae.


Sansevieria trifasciata flowering on 6-16-12, #100-9.

I was given three pots of Sansevieria trifasciata by my good friend and fellow plant collector, Walley Morse, of Greenville, Mississippi. I was living at the mansion in Leland at the time. He gave me a big pot of Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, etc.) and two pots of the Sansevieria trifasciata cv. hahnii (Bird’s Nest Snake Plant) in 2011. I always wondered why the pots were only about half full of soil but later I realized that was a pretty good idea.

In June 2012 I was pleasantly surprised with flowers. Some information online says they rarely flower, but this is the second experience I have had. I remember when I was a kid my parents has a HUGE Mother-In-Law’s Tongue in the living room. One day we noticed this incredibly sweet smell coming from somewhere. We couldn’t figure it out for days. Then we noticed the Mother-In-Law’s Tongue blooming. The plant was very old at the time and lived for many years afterward and never flowered before that and I don’t remember it ever doing it again. I wonder what happened to that plant? Well, that was a very long time ago…

Family: Asparagaceae
Origin: The species is native to west-central Africa
Zones: USDA Zones (° F)
Size: Up to 26 to 48” tall
Light: Light Share
Soil: Well-drained
Water: Water thoroughly when the soil is dry. DO NOT overwater and DO NOT allow the pot to sit in water.

Sansevieria do best in moderately bright or filtered light such as in front of a north-facing window. They tolerate low light, but brighter light will bring out the color better. To much light can cause their leaf edges to yellow.

Their soil should be allowed to dry out completely before watering again. They need to be watered deeply and thoroughly but water remaining in the saucer should be discarded because their pots should never be allowed to sit in water for any period of time. They will not tolerate soggy soil and their roots will rot easily if the soil remains to wet for any period of time.

Sansevieria are light feeders and to much fertilizer will make their leaves fall over. There are several recommendations about fertilizing and a few of the links below will give you some ideas. I never fertilized mine and many people don’t.

Sansevieria like a crowded root system. I read before that they are best grown in clay pots and should not be repotted until their roots break the pot…

Propagation by division and leaf cuttings is pretty simple. Cuttings should be about 4” (10 cm.) long and placed in moist sand. Umm… Be aware the offspring of variegated cultivars will lack the variegated margin if propagated by leaf cuttings.

The NASA Clean Air Study found Sansevieria trifasciata has air purification qualities, removing 4 of the 5 main toxins including carbon dioxide during the night.


Sansevieria trifasciata on 10-7-13, #103-71.

After I sold the mansion in Leland, Mississippi in 2013, dad asked me to move back to the family farm in mid-Missouri. I gave up around 200 pots of plants but still brought many with me including the Sansevieria trifasciata. It was still in the pot only half full of soil. Well, over the 2013-2014 winter I decided I was going to change that. It didn’t appreciate it and started going downhill after that. Next thing I knew, it was beyond resurrection.

Someday I will definitely bring home another one, probably the variegated variety next time. They are usually available at Lowe’s and Wal-Mart and there are many online sources. There are several other cultivars available.

Sansevieria are easy to grow and there are only a few basic rules to follow. 1) Part shade or in a north facing window is best. 2) Do not overwater. Water ONLY when the soil is dry, then thoroughly water. 3) DO NOT over water and never allow the pot to sit in water. And don’t forget, if you propagate the yellow edged variety by leaf cuttings, their offspring WILL NOT be variegated any longer.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.


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