What to do with a Big Sansevieria

Sanseviera by Phlora

TheGardenLady received this question from Ellen.

I was given a re-potted [Mother-in-law’s tongue] plant. It is so  tall that I am having difficulty finding a place to put it. Can the plant be cut off or will it die?

There are many kinds of Sansevieria, Mother-in-law’s tongue plants, and some can grow to be over 6 ft tall. Since you were given one of the taller types, it is understandable that you may be having trouble finding a spot to house it.

Whoever gave you the Sansevieria knew how to properly care for it. Many people want their Sansevierias to grow to full size as they do in nature and have concerns that their plants are not growing tall enough in pots in their home; you are having the opposite complaint. Perhaps because it was so tall that was why your friend gave it away.

If it is a specimen plant, you might consider giving it to someone who appreciates it as it is and maybe just keep one of its leaves to start a new plant. Or you might even want to exhibit this specimen in your local flower show and not cut anything off. Flower shows want to exhibit specimen plants like this; you don’t have to raise a plant to show it- you just have to own it.

It seems sad to destroy something that sounds so magnificent. In spite of what I wrote in the previous paragraph, if you still want to cut the leaves off, the plant may die but probably won’t. It may force new leaves to grow- Sansevierias are tough plants. And if you cut leaves partially back, the part you cut off will not return. The leaves will remain cut and not look as attractive as it did at its full height.

If you do cut off leaves or cut them off partially, you can use the leaves to start new Sansevieria plants. (Though, according to the International Sansevieria Society you cannot start new plants from the leaves of the variegated Sansevieria.)  Some people put the cut off part of the leaf in water and it should form roots. Others just bury the cut off parts in soil and eventually it will send out roots. See here.  The Gardenweb blog site has interesting discussions on Sansevieria plants.

Now if you do start new Sansevieria plants, to prevent them from growing too tall for your needs you will have to do the opposite of what your friend did. You may want to divide this large plant and put the divisions in smaller pots. You will want to stop re-potting the plant to larger pots unless the plant’s roots break the pot- the less room you give the plant the less it can grow. Do not fertilize the plant. Fertilizer makes plants grow. You will have to give it less light and less water. It seems strange to give you directions to stunt a plant’s growth and TheGardenLady is unhappy to do this. But the Sansevieria is such a tough plant and will generally continue growing even when you make its life difficult.

Or, if you give this beautiful specimen away, you can always find a Sansevieria plant that does not grow as tall or is a miniature. There are around 130-140 species and cultivars of Sansevierias. The Sansevieria Hahnii or Bird’s nest Sansevieria only grows 1 ft. tall and is a very handsome plant.

3 Replies to “What to do with a Big Sansevieria”

  1. I was once in the same situation as this lady, with a Sansevieria plant that was way too tall for my house. I took the drastic action of cutting back the leaves to about half their original height. Now while the plant survived it never looked so good or as healthy as before.

  2. Be sure not to plant this outside, as it is more invasive than any weed, and virtually impossible to stop without a literal bulldozing.
    It spreads underground and builds a web-like network ready to grow more.
    Realize how uncontrollable it is and always will be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 × one =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.