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Snake Plants

It seems you love them or hate them…snake plants. But this useful houseplant is super easy to grow and will live under almost any indoor conditions. Also affectionately called “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue”, this member of the lily family is native to Tropical Africa. Most of the many species and varieties (over 125) of Sansevieria grow in a stiff rosette of succulent variegated leaves. In some of these, the leaves are straight and tall, some are shorter and wide-leaved, and then there are the bird-nest types. 

Popular varieties include Sansevieria. ‘Black Coral’, S. trifasciata (zeylanica) and S. trifasciata ‘Laurentii’, and the small S. trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ cultivars. Hybridizers have produced some new snakes with interesting markings and leaf shapes like S. ‘Japonesa’ and S. ‘Vittorio’. One of my favorite snakes is an old species, S. cylindrica, with rigid “rolled” leaves tapering to a point.

This plant is so familiar as a potted houseplant (especially in dish gardens) that it is interesting to see it growing in someone’s yard in warmer climates, like monstrous grass sending up its heavy spears saying “keep off the snake plant.” By the way, most snake owners are surprised the first time the plant flowers. A loose erect raceme of fragrant flowers points to its relationship to lilies.