Friday, March 19th, 2010...4:33 am

Taking Care of Your Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)

Sansevieria francisii by allloe

TheGardenLady has received a number of questions about Sansevieria or Mother -in- Law’s tongue. Two of the questions are listed here. Two others relate to keeping the Sanserieria alive after freezing and what to do if the plant has root rot.

My wife has a snake plant that’s starting to bloom, and it has a sticky liquid coming from the pod clusters. I’d like to know what it is and what it’s for?

I am caring my for my mother-in-law’s mother-in-law tongue. I of course don’t want to kill it, but it looks awful. I think it was over-watered at one time, and kept in the dark, damp, cool basement, over the winter months. I have recently brought them upstairs, where it is warmer and can dryout a little. It appaers the soil never dried out. The leaves at the soil line are yellowing and going up the plant leaf itself. They are falling over and nothing I do can keep them standing up. I think originally they were potted in Miracle grow potting soil. I would like to save these plants, but I not sure what I can do? Can I just cut the top portion of the leaf off and place it in soil to re-root?

There is no question that Sansevieria is a very popular plant. One of the reasons that the plant is so popular is because it is such a tough plant that is so easy to grow with so few problems or pests. There are about 70 species of sansevierias to have a variety of leaves to choose from. Because of its popularity there is an international Sansevieria Society in England. If you are interested, you might want to join or order some of their journals. Or you might want to join one of the many cactus and succulent plant societies in the US and around the world.

White milkglass with Snake Plant by sunshinesyrie

Sansevierias come from tropical and subtropical areas. Therefore a minimum temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended. Short periods of lower temperatures may be tolerated as long as the plants are dry. They die if left out in the frost. If your plant has frozen, there is little hope that it will survive. But you can cut off the mushy parts of the leaves and leave the roots in the ground. If the roots are not frozen, they may push up new leaves. Leave them in the pot for a while and put the pot outdoors when the weather is warm and see if anything grows. You can always throw the pot out if nothing emerges by the end of the summer and start over with new plants. They are a relatively inexpensive plant to buy or maybe a friend will give you one of her plants.

I cannot stress enough the fact that Sansevierias thrive on neglect, especially in the cold months. If potbound and under stress ( usually in the summer), the plant will send up a stem with small, inconspicuous flowers. The plant is not grown for its flowers, it is grown for its leaves. But the flowers are an exciting thing to see and they are very fragrant. The sticky liquid on the stem is the nectar.

Sansevierias don’t like a lot of water in cold months. As one reader of TheGardenLady pointed out, she waters hers once a month. TheGardenLady’s Sansevierias are given so little water in the winter when they are indoors that the soil has the consistency of almost desertlike hardness. Overwatering can cause root rot- one of the problems of Sansevierias. If the roots are mushy, throw them out and repot only the healthy parts of the plant or the healthy plants in the pot. When the root is rotten, you will probably smell a rotten odor. Do not save that rotten part.

Sansevierias indoors do not like dark. In low light situations you might get attractive long green leaves but these are not normal and these leaves tend to be weak. The plants like good light and dappled sun to grow naturally. TheGardenLady has kept hers near a window in all parts of her house and the plant has survived and don’t topple over even in a shallow pot.

You can use most any potting mixture to replant your Sansevierias. The Sansevieria Society recommends that “the main constituent needs to be a material which anchors the plant in the ground but at the same time keeps the compost open to allow for excess water to drain through quickly. You can even use pumice or lava or any other neutral material. But to this needs to be added about equal proportions of some kind of material containing humus and fertilizer. Again almost anything will be suitable, peat or even orchid composts with a slow release fertilizer added.” TheGardenLady has been successful just using a cheap potting soil and not adding anything. If you have to repot your plant because they are toppling over, repot in a deeper pot. However, TheGardenLady thinks that by bringing your Mother-in-law’s Sansevieria upstairs out of the cool, damp, dark basement into a warm room with dappled sunlight, the plants will show their appreciation by growing stronger and not toppling.

If you can take your plants outdoors in the summer, you can give the plants more water. Try to not let them sit in water but have the water drain through the pots. TheGardenLady takes hers out on the deck and doesn’t worry about them all summer even when it rains.

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  • My plant was given to me when my son#3was born 57yrs ago. Hate to lose it. VERY DRY earth. Spent all last winter in a closed lake house, alone. Survived. But bending over, limp, roots area starting to show. Today will re pot in loam from our tomato patch, and cut off bad stems. How am I doing?

  • I have my Sansevierias sitting in a sun room with great light. I don’t keep the blinds open but with nice slots. My main plant continues to fall over. We have split it into 3 pots the two smaller ones are doing fine but the main plant continues to fall over. We water her every two weeks with 1 to 2 cups of water. Is that too much?

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