Exciting houseplants and how to keep them alive

Exciting houseplants and how to keep them alive

The Sansevieria group makes up some of my favorite houseplants. Scientists have recently placed it in the genus Dracaena, but it appears that its former scientific name is also one of its common names. This plant has many common names including “snake plant” and my personal favorite, “mother-in-law’s tongue.” Like many houseplant species, there are some staples that have been around for decades, some newer species that have come onto the market, and some really interesting cultivars.

These plants have a rhizome, and leaves grow from the base of the pot. They are very prolific when they love their environment. In fact, they tend to break the pots they are in, so I recommend using plastic pots, as their growth will eventually become distorted. If you want to use a clay or ceramic bowl, I suggest placing it in a slightly smaller plastic bowl, then placing it in the clay bowl. You can hide the gap between the two pots with Spanish moss. Being native to Africa, they cannot tolerate cold temperatures. Typical household temperatures work well, but avoid anything below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Its upright growth habit allows the grower to obtain many varieties in a small area.

Overwatering is the quickest way to kill any houseplant, but this is especially true for these plants. In the winter, you probably want to water only once a month, and sparingly. Don’t let them get wet or this hardy plant will rot. In the warmer months when the plant is actively growing, let the soil dry out between waterings, but then water more liberally. These plants have a reputation for being a low-light plant, and they can certainly handle it. Sometimes, people put them in the darkest corner where they stay stuck for a few months, but eventually they run out of stored resources and they die. Remember, they need some light to photosynthesise, so bright, indirect light is best. Another problem I’ve seen is that its unique flat leaves can become covered in dust. Clean them by hand, use a blower, or take them outside in warm weather and hose them down.

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hi Colour’ is a highly variable hybrid species with lots of yellow (photo by M. Lisy).

The Sansevieria group can be divided into two types, those with flat leaves and those with cylindrical leaves. Among these groups, there are species that grow tall and some that grow short. Tall plants make great floor plants while shorter plants work well when placed on a table. All varieties are fairly easy to propagate. My favorite method is to let the plant grow, then divide it during repotting; This looks the best in my opinion. If you want more plants faster, you can take leaf cuttings. You can either dip them in rooting hormone and replant them, or you can place the cuttings in water until they root (change the water daily for best results).

Most of us are familiar with the green and dark green snake plant, as well as the golden-edged version. There are some absolutely stunning new cultivars on the market today that have been selected for any of those colors. For example, there is a variety called ‘Moonshine’, which has no leaf pattern at all, and is instead pale green. There is another interesting variety called ‘Hi Color’, which has more yellow than green in the leaves. There are other species that were chosen because of their dark green color that approaches black. One of my favorite new species is a different species called Sansevieria masoniana, commonly referred to as “whale tail,” “shark fin,” or some combination thereof. No matter which type you choose, you really can’t go wrong with these plants. They are readily available at most garden and home centers, so why not pick one up and brighten up your home?

For your gardening questions, please feel free to contact us toll-free at the UConn Home & Garden Education Center at (877) 486-6271, visit our website at www.homegarden.cahnr.uconn.edu or contact your local Cooperative Extension Your center.

    (tags for translation) Houseplants 

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