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Planty Profiles: Everything you need to know about Sansevieria

Mackenna Rowley

Posted on January 10 2019

Planty Profiles: Everything you need to know about Sansevieria

Hey Jungle Curators! You've seen the Snake Plant, right? Love it or hate it, it's all over the place. And for good reason, it's practically indestructible and comes in a range of sculptural, minimalist varieties ideal for everything setting from the local bank to your hippest insta-worthy shelfie. I've put together a little guide to it's care, history, and some other fun factoids for you to enjoy 😉First of all, let's go over my top three reasons why the Snake Plant is awesome:

1) I think they are absolutely beautiful. Especially the Robusta and the Whale Fin, but all of them are simple, clean, and modern looking and perfect for that big, statement planter you've been longing to fill

2) This is such an incredible office plant. From the low light tolerance to being able to go without water for ages, they can survive the darkest cubicle and provide even the most tentative new plant parent with confidence! Plus they help clean the air? What more could you ask for?

3) I love any plant that can be easily shared. Not to shoot myself in the foot (please do keep buying from us!), but you really don't ever need to buy another one after your first, because they spread quickly and are so easy to propagate! So get sharing!

Now, on to some background:

History

Native to parts of Africa, Asia, and Arabia, the Sansevieria was named after the 18th century Prince of Sanseviero, an Italian scientist and inventor, Raimondo di Sangro. Because they're crazy hardy, they've actually become categorized as invasive species all over the world. They can tolerate most light conditions, extreme heat, and drought. They also spread like mad, have minimal nutrient requirements, and are super pest resistant. So basically, the ideal houseplant, but not really something you want competing with native species on say, an island or atoll, where they can do serious damage. They've been used for everything from commercial fiber for rope to traditional medicine. It's believed they were introduced to North America all the way back in the 18th century, and were commercialized in Florida in the 1920s. Can't you just picture a giant Robusta gracing Katherine Hepburn's living room or Cary Grant's porch? Sigh. Someday, I'm going to find time to research houseplants in 1930s Hollywood. Back to real life though, the Snake Plant is also one of the stars of the NASA clean air study, where it removed 4 of the 5 toxins identified as part of "sick building syndrome". 

Care and Keeping

As I mentioned, the hardy, invasive nature of these beauties makes them one of the easiest and most forgiving houseplants out there. They do grow faster and fuller with medium levels of indirect light and temperatures over 60°, but they can handle just about anything you throw at them. Lower levels of light will cause longer, thinner, darker leaves, and they will generally lose some of their variegation. They are extremely drought tolerant, and like to dry out between waterings. In winter, they can even go weeks between watering.

Propagation

They are insanely easy to propagate thru both division and leaf cuttings. I prefer division because it's quicker and provides instant gratification, while leaf cuttings can take quite a while to root. Rhizomes spread under the potting mix from the original plant and pop up with new babies (a lot like Pileas!) that can be separated by cutting cleanly thru the rhizome and removing the new plant to its own pot. Their rhizomatic growth is actually strong enough to break pots, so it's a good idea to separate and pot out the new plants regularly to keep your planters intact! And to share with friends. Because this really is the ideal plant for gifting to newbie plant parents! 

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Well, that's a good introduction for now anyway. Below are links to some more in depth studies for you to look at if you're a plant nerd and into that kind of thing (no judgement—we are serious nerds over here!)

 

Invasive Species Compendium with extensive Info about Sansevieria and lots other great sources:
Link to download of The Sansevieria Book (which is full of bizarre stories and hilarious poems, but also useful information):
Sansevieria Production Guide:
Removal of trimethylamine (fishy odor) by C3 and CAM plants (apparently beyond just standard air purification, Sansevieria can also help remove the smell of fish!):

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