One of the most popular houseplants, (formerly Sansevieria) Dracaena trifasciata [druh·see·nuh, try-fask-ee-AH-tuh] is a flowering species in the Asparagaceae family.
These plants are native to West Africa, ranging from Nigeria to Congo.
The genus name pays honor to the Italian inventor and scientist, Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansviero.
Complete details on our guide on Snake Plant Care
While it’s popularly known as a snake plant, the species has other interesting common names including:
- Viper’s bowstring hemp as the fiber of the plant was used to make bowstrings.
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Saint George’s sword for the shape of the leaves
(Sansevieria) Dracaena Trifasciata Care
Size & Growth
The mother-in-law tongue is a long-lived evergreen perennial with upright leaves, which make them a popular ornamental as houseplants.
The leaves grow from a basal rosette.
The height and width of the leaves depend on the variety of which there are many sports ‘Trifasciata’ available.
Some can grow upward of 5’ feet while others reach barely reach 12” inches.
Sansevieria cylindrica has round stiff leaves which can grow several feet tall.
Similarly, the pattern on the leaves also varies depending on the variety.
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ has creamy yellow margins on the corners of the leaves.
Common Sansevieria plants within the species have dark green mature leaves with light gray-green cross-banding.
I own a book published in 1986 by B. Juan Chahinian titled The Sansevieria Trifasciata Varieties. The book details all the large, compact and dwarf varieties along with the charts on the origin of known varieties at that time.
Flowering and Fragrance
Mother-in-law tongue does flower in the spring. However, snake plant flowers are not very showy.
They are slightly fragrant and greenish-white in color. The flowers bloom in mature plants and are followed by orange berries.
Light & Temperature
Snake plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 10 to 12.
They tolerate a wide range of temperatures, especially when used as houseplants. They tolerate warm temperatures and low humidity well.
If you have snake plants outdoors, move them in before temperatures drop too low as they don’t do well in snow and frost.
The plant prefers medium light levels and will do well in low light. They will grow outdoors in full sun. However, if grown indoors do not move them directly out into the full sun or the leaves will scorch.
Watering and Feeding
- Be careful when you water the plant.
- Overwatering can cause root rot.
- Allow the soil to dry before you water it again.
- Do not pour water right over the rosette.
- You don’t have to worry about the humidity.
- Snake plants don’t necessarily need to be fertilized.
- Add an organic, all-purpose fertilizer for houseplants in spring or summer for some added support.
- Feed the plants twice at most.
Soil & Transplanting
- The plants don’t have very specific soil needs but do their best in succulent potting soil with sufficient nutrients.
- Since indoor snake plants have a high susceptibility to root rot, well-drained soils are crucial.
- If the soil is too dense and has poor drainage, it will retain too much water and kill the plant.
- A blend of cactus and succulent mix with potting soil is the optimal choice for snake plants.
- Repotting the plants shouldn’t be rushed, especially if the plant is young.
- Trifasciata loves being pot-bound and might not react well to being repotted.
- Plants may need to repotting after 2-5 years if the plant is growing in bright light, 5-10 years if growing in low light.
NOTE: I have a trifasciata growing in the same pot for over 7 years
Grooming and Maintenance
These plants are truly some of the easiest plants to care for and are incredibly low-maintenance.
You don’t have to prune trifasciata, only removing dead or yellowing leaves if root rot, is affecting the plant.
How To Propagate Mother In Law Plant
Snake plants are not only easy to care for but also propagate.
When planted outdoors in the ground, the plants multiply rapidly with underground rhizomes.
- Using a sharp knife, divide the rhizome.
- Make sure the section has at least one healthy leaf.
- Let the section dry for a day before plating it in.
Alternatively, new shoots emerge in the growing season.
Take these shoots and repot them to grow new plants.
Also, propagate this succulent with leaf cuttings.
- Using a sterile pair of scissors or shears, remove a healthy leaf from the plant.
- Allow it to callous for a few days before planting in houseplant potting mix.
- Cut the leaf and place it in water in a tall container.
- The water should cover only a few inches of the leaf.
- Place the container in low light and change the water every few days.
- Once roots develop repot into a container with soil.
Mother In Law Plant Pest or Diseases
Besides the common problems indoor plants are susceptible to, snake plants are virtually free of serious pests or diseases.
Do look out for mealybugs and spider mites.
Neem oil is a good non-toxic solution for controlling pests on your trifasciata plant.
The plant does have some trouble with base or root rot when many over water in the winter.
It’s identified by yellowing and drooping leaves.
Remove the affected part if the rot is not too widespread.
If the rot has spread a lot, you may have to discard the entire plant.
All plants in the Mother-in-law’s tongue family are slightly toxic to cats and dogs.
It can cause excessive salivation, pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
If humans ingest the plant, it may cause short-term symptoms such as increased salivation, mild nausea, and mouth pain.
Learn more on the topic:
- Is the Snake Plant Poisonous?
- Is Mother In Laws Tongue poisonous to Cats?
- Reasons Why the leaves of Mother In Law’s Tongue fall over?
Sansevieria Trifasciata Uses
If there was any species to grow as an indoor plant, it would be the viper’s bowstring hemp.
These plants are popular in many parts of the world as a houseplant.
However, they also make great additions to landscaping.
Use as a potted specimen or plant directly in the ground.
Besides its ornamental uses as both an indoor and outdoor plant, S. trifasciata was once used to make bowstring hemp.
The plant fiber was considered pretty viable and was cultivated for it.
NASA Clean Air Study has found potential air filtration properties in the plant.
The study found the plant to have the capability of removing 4/5 toxins associated with sick building syndrome.
Mix different varieties such as ‘Sansevieria Moonshine’, Whale Fin Sansevieria Sansevieria laurentii ‘variegated snake plant’ or S. trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ to help purify the air you breathe at home.