We don’t believe anyone’s really black-fingered, but if you're want a plant that can withstand a bit of neglect, look no further than the mighty Snake Plant (aka Sansevieria). The Sansevieria genus varies greatly in terms of appearance, but all varieties are known for their hardiness.
How to care for Sansevieria
Sansevierias are probably the best succulents at adapting to indoor environments. Because succulents tend to come from hot, bright areas, some varieties - such as Haworthia cooperi - can struggle if they're brought into a less than bright home and become 'etiolated.' Etiolation occurs when plants are in environments with insufficient light and put all their energy in growing upwards in the hopes of getting more sun, making them weak and gangly.
Happily, this is NOT the case for the mighty Sansevieria. Sansevierias can endure in low light conditions without suffering. So if you’re looking to introduce plants into a workspace or studio which lacks natural light, this is a great one to consider.
However, while Snake Plants are reliable in low-light conditions, they way prefer light! So, if you have the option of placing a Sansevieria in a bright room it will reward you with a much quicker growth rate. Your snake plant's fronds can get scorched if they’re overexposed to direct sun, resulting in a loss of brilliance in terms of colour and texture. For most of the year you'll probably be fine, but in the height of summer, take your Sansevieria outside of direct sun.
Sansevierias thrive on neglect and only need watering once every 14 days in summer, and as little as once every 6 weeks in Winter. Succulents hold water in their thick fronds, as well as their roots, so their soil should be left to entirely dry out between waterings. But when you do water, don’t be afraid of giving your Snake Plants a good drink; just make sure it doesn’t sit in the excess.
As a general guide to watering houseplants, the following is best practice:
1. Remove the plant from its ceramic pot. 2. Water until you see it coming out the bottom. 3. Let it sit over a sink (or similar) for about 15 minutes. 4. Return your plant to its ceramic pot when you're sure it's fully drained.
How to prune Snake Plants
Although Sansevieria are relatively fast growing for succulents, as they grow only from their base, cutting of their tips won't encourage new growth from the top.
This means, if your tips are becoming discoloured, cutting them at the top will only worsen the problem. For minor scuffing, we recommend leaving your Sansevieria as it is and accepting that there's always variation when it comes to nature.
When a frond has clearly given up for good, cut the whole thing right down at the base and your plant will be able to redirect its energy to sprouting new growth elsewhere.
What are the benefits of Snake Plants?
Another reason we love these sturdy succulents is because of their air-purifying capabilities. The Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) was one of twelve plants to be put through rigorous testing by scientists from NASA in their landmark clean air study. The report indicated that plants help to absorb household pollutants and carbon dioxide, whilst recirculating cleaner oxygen.
Types of Sansevieria
'Snake Plant' and 'Mother-in-Law’s Tongue' are applied to different species and different varieties (subsets of species) fairly interchangeably. Here’s what you need to know to be able to tell them apart.
We call Sansevieria Laurentii and Sansevieria Zeylanicas 'Mother-in-Law's Tongue,' for their long thin, curling fronds, which rise into a sharp point - not something you'd want to be on the wrong side of.
Another of our favourites (not always easy to get hold of) is the Sansevieria Masoniana 'Victoria,' or the Shark Fin.
In the wild, these plants can clump together, but once in a pot you're more likely to get a single, sculptural wave.
Last but not least, the classic Snake Plant, the Sansevieria cylindrica, with its dense, rounded fronds, this one really is snakey.