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Care of sansevieria -- tips and tricks

How to grow sansevieria -- tips and tricks
What are sansevieria?

Sansevieria spp. is a species of succulent plants that are distinguished by their proportionally long green leaves attached to a rhizome. There are several species of this plant such as Sansevieria cylindrica with a cylindrical leaf shape and the common Sansevieria trifasciata, which includes several cultivars such as 'Laurentii' with its lovely yellow variegation and 'Hahnii' (a dwarf form).

Sansevieria are native to West Africa, but they are common in southeast Asia due to the feng shui perception of them being auspicious plants. While its long straight leaves would normally attract negative qi, the plant itself expresses the concept of "upward mobility". In this application, the cylindrica form is common as the leaves can be braided.

Care of your sansevieria

Choosing your sansevieria

First, choose a sansevieria plant that has upright leaves which are green and healthy. Bruising or insect damage are signs of an unhealthy plant, as are drooping yellow leaves. If the leaves are drooping, the plant's roots may be rotted from overwatering. (This is common in plants sold at a big-box store with a 'one size fits all' watering technique.)

Potting your sansevieria

Select a pot with drainage holes that is 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Plant sansevieria so that the rhizome is fully covered. Pot up your sansevieria in a potting mixture intended for cactus and palms, using small stones or grit as a topdressing.

Watering your sansevieria

Sansevieria should be watered only every two to three weeks during the growing season. In the off-season, water no more than once a month, as root rot from excessive water will kill the plant. Use a toothpick or small wooden dowel to check the dampness of the soil. A clean toothpick means it is dry all the way down, so that would be a good time for watering.

Help, why are the leaves turning yellow?

If your lucky sansevieria turns yellow, it is getting too much water. These plants need fairly dry conditions to thrive. Pour off the excess water as best as you can, or even repot the whole plant in a dry potting mix. If you opt for repotting, let it dry out for several days before even thinking about watering it again.

Fertilizer for your sansevieria

Like most succulents, no fertilizer is required for an established plant. Fertilize young plants and offsets only when watering. A dilute fertilizer is best. I use a dilute solution of gentle fertilizer meant for epiphytes.

Lighting for your sansevieria

The common form of sansevieria has striations (a striped pattern). It is considered a shade plant and should be kept out of the sun. It is also intolerant of cold and will not tolerate even a light freeze. Remember, these are tropical plants, which makes them excellent houseplants.

Tip: If you don't have a lot of house room for a large plant, stick to smaller sansevieria such as S. subspicata, S. francisii, or any of the Hahnii variants of the standard S. trifasciata.

If you take your plant outside in warmer weather, keep in mind that they are only cold tolerant to about 40 deg F. Bring the poor thing indoors before it freezes.

Propagation of your sansevieria

Sansevieria are among the easiest plants to propagate as they readily produce offsets when left to their own devices. The offsets of many species of sansevieria will resemble the parent plant. However, S. trifasciata tends to produce offsets with a startling variety of patterns. One big pot of perfectly normal S. trifasciata might have offsets with yellow variegation.

To propagate your plant, simply unpot it and divide the rhizome into individual offsets with a clean potting knife. The offsets will grow out again in no time.

Happy growing!

Common sansevieria species and cultivars

  Sansevieria cylindrica

Sansevieria cylindrica

  Sansevieria francisii

Sansevieria francisii

  Sansevieria parva

Sansevieria parva

 
  Sansevieria subspicata

Sansevieria subspicata

  Sansevieria trifasciata

Sansevieria trifasciata

  Sansevieria trifasciata 'Moonshine'

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Moonshine'

 
  Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii'

Sansevieria trifasciata
'Hahnii'

  Sansevieria trifasciata 'Jade Hahnii'

Sansevieria trifasciata
'Jade Hahnii'

  Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii Hahnii'

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii Hahnii'

 


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