Boasting such colorful names as “snake plant” and “mother-in-law’s tongue,” the Sansevieria (now technically reclassified as Dracaena) genus of plants is an attractive and generally forgiving choice for indoor growers.
They are native to West and West Central Africa and known by several common names, including:
- African Bowstring-Hemp
- Snake plant
- Saint George’s sword
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Viper’s bowstring hemp
These members of the Asparagaceae family help scrub harmful pollutants from the air, but snake plants are mildly toxic to pets and small humans when ingested.
However, many fans of the snake plant in the US love the plant so much as indoor plants; they want to add it to their outdoor gardens.
All plants were meant to grow outdoors, but tropical plants such as Sansevieria can have a hard time surviving in the cooler climates of North America.
They rarely flower but once they do, they produce cream and greenish-white flowers.
Dracaena Trifasciata Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Name: Dracaena trifasciata
- Common Name(s): Mother In Law Tongue, Snake Plant, Bowstring Hemp, African Bowstring-Hemp, Saint George’s sword, Viper’s bowstring hemp
- Synonyms: Sansevieria laurentii, Sansevieria zeylanica
- Pronunciation: Druh-see-nuh try-fass-ee-AY-tuh
- Family & Origin: Asparagaceae family, native to West and West Central Africa
- Growability: Easy to grow and care for
- Grow Zone: 10-12
- Size: Can grow from 2 to 4 feet tall
- Flowering: Rarely flowers indoors
- Light: Thrives in bright, indirect light or dappled sunlight
- Humidity: Thrives in moderate humidity
- Temperature: Prefers prefer 70° degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Soil: Well-draining soil
- Water: Water it once every one to two weeks in summer
- Fertilizer: Fertilize once a month during growing season with a water-soluble commercial houseplant fertilizer or a balanced liquid fertilizer
- Pests & Diseases: Can be susceptible to scales, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites, root rot, powdery mildew, and Southern blight
- Propagation: Can be propagated through leaf cuttings
- Plant Uses: Air purifying, decorative plant for indoor spaces
The good news is you can grow wonderful snake plants outdoors across a fair range of zones with some careful planning and attention.
Tips On Mother In Law Plant Care Outdoors
First of all, remember that snake plants are all tropical evergreens that commonly grow from 2′ to 4′ feet tall and may require a bit of careful placement outdoors.
The following tips will help you ensure your snake plant is happy and healthy, regardless of the species or sport.
The Best Outdoor Environment
As a general rule, snake plants (bowstring hemp) prefer 70° degrees Fahrenheit or higher but cannot handle temperatures below 55° degrees.
They can tolerate moderate household humidity levels and handle similar ranges outdoors but will also be okay in moderate humidity.
Place them in a spot that’s free of sudden airflow, as mother-in-law’s tongue doesn’t like drafts.
These plants are recommended for USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, where they’ll thrive year-round.
However, you can also grow them as outdoor container plants in cooler zones, bringing them inside during winter when the temperature threatens to drop below 55° Fahrenheit.
Moreover, snake plants are also susceptible to insect pests, such as scales, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites, so ensure to keep your plant healthy, inspect it regularly, and use pest control treatment to prevent infestations.
Avoid waterlogging your plant and maintain humidity levels as it can also result in root rot, powdery mildew, and Southern blight.
They can also be propagated via leaf cuttings.
Depending on the species or cultivar, exact soil, and fertilizer requirements may vary. A water-soluble commercial houseplant fertilizer or a balanced liquid fertilizer of NPK 10-10-10 at half-strength monthly in the growing season will work best.
They thrive in well-drained soil. However, snake plants tolerate a wide range of soil types and qualities so long as the soil is well-draining. Soggy soil that does not drain leads to root rot.
As a general rule, your sansevieria will fare best in soil appropriate for cacti and succulents.
This may include a commercial potting mix or a homemade mix.
A good recipe is to mix equal parts of standard potting soil and coarse sand, lava rock, or perlite.
Always aim for a more neutral pH for the best results.
When planting in a level garden or terrace, it’s usually best to have a gravel or coarse sand substrate 1 to 2’ feet below the surface to serve as extra drainage.
This substrate will serve the same function as the drainage holes on pots, allowing excess water to drain into the spaces until it can be properly absorbed.
Moreover, snake plants require low water needs, so you can water it once every one to two weeks in summer and water sparingly during winter.
Bright, indirect light or dappled sunlight will make your snake plant happiest.
An ideal spot for it would be in a spot that catches morning indirect sunlight or evening light but is shaded during midday.
Conversely, you may choose to place it near a tree or shrub that will filter the sunlight.
This latter option may also help protect the plant from cooler winds.
Keep in mind that all snake plants are somewhat toxic to pets, children, and many other species.
Additionally, this plant may be well-behaved in a pot, but it will spread if given a chance.
Keep an eye out for signs that its root system is hogging too much space or of the plant attempting to take over the bed it’s planted in and prune accordingly.