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Effortless snake plant

So easy to grow, everyone should have one

A Sansevieria trifasciata, which we think is at least 30 to 35 years old, sits in my kitchen. It was originally my mother’s, and while I like to say she gave it to me, I may have just claimed it one day and took it home. Do I have any secret as to how I have managed to keep this houseplant alive for so long? Absolutely not; it is alive and well because Sansevieria, also called snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, is an amazingly tough houseplant that is so easy to grow, everyone should have one.

CONSIDERED TO BE AS MUCH OLD-FASHIONED as it is new and contemporary, the Sansevieria can fill a spot in almost every home and works with all styles of décor. Its stiff, long, upright, sword-like leaves make it easy to use in even in the smallest of spaces. One reason it is so easy to grow is that it is extremely tolerant of very poor growing conditions often found inside our homes.

IDEALLY, SANSEVIERIA PREFERS TO GROW IN PART SHADE. The leaves of many varieties can grow over 3 feet tall, so it is important to put them in a container that will balance this height. Something heavier like clay or ceramic works best. Use a potting soil that does not hold a lot of moisture. When growing it indoors, water during the growing season, but reduce watering during the fall and winter months. Rotting can be a problem when plants are over-watered. They can be grown inside year-round, but they will be healthier and stronger if you can take them outside in the summer months.

THERE ARE SEVERAL TYPES OF SANSEVIERIA and not all of them are tall. The most popular and common varieties are tall with horizontal stripes or variegated leaves. Some new varieties with very interesting characteristics are becoming available. If you prefer something different, try the hybrid ‘Fernwood’—its round leaves have a distinct groove down their center. Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Boncel,’ or starfish, is one of my favorites—its leaves are short, stiff, and they fan out, making it look like a starfish. If you prefer something small, try Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Gold Hahnii,’ or golden birdnest sansevieria; it’s a real beauty. With minimal, but proper care, maybe your Sansevieria can live for 30 years or more like mine. While they are not indestructible, they can survive with hardly any effort.

Editor’s Note: THE SNAKE PLANT IS CONSIDERED TOXIC  to both pets and humans. Be especially careful with young children, dogs and cats if it is in an area that can be eaten. The University of California has a comprehensive listing of more than 200 Toxic Plants with a toxicity rating of 1-4 and symptoms if ingested. The snake plant is listed as causing minor toxicity for humans, causing vomiting or diarrhea. Other sources confirm its toxicity to pets. Contact your veterinarian or animal hospital if you believe your pet has ingested a poisonous plant. Contact the Kentucky Poison Control Help Line, (800) 222-1222, if you believe someone may be sick from ingesting poisonous plants.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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