Sansevieria Zeylanica [san-se-VEER-ee-uh, zey-LAN-ee-kuh], widely known by the common name of Ceylon bowstring hemp or simply bowstring hemp, is an evergreen perennial species of the Sansevieria plant genus from the Asparagaceae family.
Native to southeast Asia, particularly in Sri Lanka (hence, the name Ceylon) and India, the plant is often confused with Sansevieria Trifasciata, commonly known as mother-in-law’s tongue, devil’s tongue, or the snake plant.
However, both are different species of snake plants – they are closely related.
In its natural habitat in Sri Lanka, the plant is mainly found growing in the drier areas, among the rocks.
Care Guide For Sansevieria Zeylanica
Size & Growth
Sansevieria zeylanica (mother-in-laws tongue) is a stemless perennial flowering species characterized by its long, sword-shaped succulent leaves, which grow from a rhizomatous rootstock.
The leaves of snake plants are erect and rigid and grow up to 2.5’ feet tall and 1” inch wide.
The dark-green leaves of bowstring hemp feature creamy-white wave-like horizontal stripes across their surface.
They also have pointed tips.
Bowstring hemp is easy-to-grow and displays a slow to the moderate growth rate.
Snake Plant Flowering and Fragrance
Although sansevieria zeylanica is a flowering plant, it rarely blooms.
When it does, the sansevieria snake plant flower appears as pale green or greenish-white blooms, fragrant, and the flowering stems grow over 2’ feet long.
Light Conditions & Temperature Of Snake Plants
Snake plants need a moderate amount of bright light for proper growth.
While it can tolerate partial shade, very low light affects the color of the leaves.
Grow it at a location where it receives filtered bright light for best results.
Leaving the plant exposed to intense sunlight or full sun may sometimes cause it to turn yellow at the edges.
The plant can easily be grown as an indoor plant in front of a north-facing window or any window where it receives bright light.
Sansevieria zeylanica cannot tolerate extreme temperatures.
For best results, keep the plant protected from very hot and cold weather.
The snake plants are likely damaged when exposed to temperatures below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).
In the United States, bowstring plants grow in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.
Watering and Feeding
Like most other types of succulent plants, Ceylon bowstring hemp doesn’t require frequent watering.
Water the plant deeply once until the water starts to drip through the drainage hole in potted plants, and then allow the soil to dry completely before watering again.
Make sure to discard the water collected in the saucer underneath the pot and never let the plant stand in water or the soil to get soggy.
The plant also cannot tolerate over-watering.
Reduce watering of snake plants in winter and water only sparingly throughout the cold weather.
While established sansevieria zeylanica plants become drought tolerant fairly, it is recommended to provide adequate water when it is in its active growing season, during spring and summer.
Feed the plant with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer, at half strength, once every 3 weeks during the summer.
Ceylon bowstring hemp is a light feeder and can get damaged with too much fertilizing.
Soil Mix & Transplanting
Bowstring hemp can adapt to various potting soil types as long as they are well-draining.
However, it appreciates sandy loam succulent potting mix within the pH range of 6 to 7.
Sansevieria zeylanica cannot tolerate soggy soil and develops rot when kept in excessively wet soil.
Therefore, ensure the soil has good drainage and the grow pot has a drainage hole.
The plant doesn’t need to be transplanted often – it likes to be a little root-bound like all snake plants.
Transplant your sansevieria zeylanica to a larger pot only when it starts to show signs of overcrowding or congestion, like yellowing of leaves or leaf loss.
Grooming and Maintenance
Sansevieria zeylanica is a hardy and low-maintenance plant and can grow well even with minimal care.
It doesn’t even require regular pruning – do it only to remove damaged or dead leaves.
Check out the zeylanica cousin with silver leaves, the Moonshine Snake plant.
How To Propagate Zeylanica Snake Plant
Bowstring hemp will grow from seeds or propagated by plant division or leaf cuttings.
However, growing from seeds isn’t recommended as it doesn’t always get successful.
Propagation from leaf cuttings is the easiest and most commonly used method for sansevieria zeylanica propagation.
To grow Ceylon bowstring hemp from leaf cuttings:
- Take about 2” to 3” inches long pieces from thick and healthy leaves.
- Let the cuttings dry for a couple of hours.
- Dip the cut ends of the leaf pieces into water and then place them into a rooting hormone.
- Now, plant them in a damp potting mix made of two parts sand and one part peat.
- Or use a cactus or cacti mix.
- Place the newly planted leaf cuttings at a location where they receive bright but indirect sunlight.
- Water the new plants only when the soil is nearly dry.
To propagate through plant division, choose a mature plant and divide it into two or more segments carefully during repotting.
Be careful when dividing the root ball of snake plants – do it gently.
Zeylanica Snake Plant Pest or Diseases
While Ceylon bowstring hemp isn’t highly prone to many pests and diseases, it may get affected by mealybugs or spider mites.
In addition to this, too much water or poorly-draining soil can lead to root rot.
Like the snake plant and other sansevieria species, sansevieria zeylanica is mildly toxic and should not be eaten.
Keep your bowstring hemp away from children and pets.
Related: Are Sansevieria Plants Toxic To Dogs?
Sansevieria Zeylanica Uses
The bowstring hemp plant is mainly grown either as an indoor floor plant due to its hardy nature and easy care or, commercially, for its fiber.
The fiber obtained from the leaves of Sansevieria zeylanica and Sansevieria trifasciata is widely used in tropical countries (primarily cultivated for this purpose) to make mats, coarse cloth, cordage, sails, and paper pulp.
The dried rhizomes and roots of the plant are also used for medicinal purposes in some parts of the world.
This makes it one of the most popular tropical plants for growing indoors.