The holidays are over and the decorations are down, but it’s too early to start most seeds and summer bulbs; what’s a plant-loving Alaskan to do in the middle of winter? Even though it’s dark and cold, you can still grow house plants! They clean toxins from the air, increase humidity, and brighten up your office or home.
If you are new to growing indoor plants, consider trying Sansevieiria trifasciata, better known as the Snake Plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue. Popular since the 60’s, this versatile plant is a favorite of both novice gardeners and professional horticulturists.
Interior designers love the snake plant’s strong vertical growth, which compliments and accents many architectural elements. There are several sizes and colors to choose from, some of the most popular being the variegated ‘Laurentii,’ the dwarf ‘Hanhii,’ and the silver-leafed ‘Moonshine.’
The Sansevieria has a long and interesting history. Its strong hemp-like fibers were once used to make bowstrings. In its native West Africa the snake plant was used in rituals as a protective charm against evil or bewitchment. More recently NASA has conducted studies which identify the snake plant as one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality.
One of the Sansevieria’s best traits, however, is its ease of maintenance. It is one of the few indoor plants that can tolerate very low light levels, although over time it may lose its strongly vertical shape and begin to arch outwards. The snake plant needs very little care, as the soil should be allowed to dry almost completely before being watered. In high light a watering every two or three weeks is sufficient. In low light the snake plant can go as long as a month or two between waterings.
The snake plant is rarely troubled by pests or disease. As it is fairly slow growing it does not often need to be divided or repotted, although it does benefit from a little fresh soil added to the top of the root ball every year or two. If any leaves get too long or floppy they can be cut down at the base. If you shorten this cut leaf and reinsert it into the soil it will root and continue growing. This is a great way to make your snake plant fuller if it has thinned over
Although mainly grown for its stunning leaves, the Sansevieria may occasionally flower inside. The flowers are pretty although not particularly showy, and are lightly fragrant. Once the flowers have started to fade the stalk can be cut back to the base.
Stop by the Green Connection garden center if you have additional questions about snake plants or are thinking about adding one to your house plant collection. With Sansevieria and other house plants you can have it all living in Alaska; snowy winter outside, tropical oasis inside!