Sansevieria zeylanica: Bowstring Hemp Snakeplant care guide

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Photo by ignartonosbg on Pixabay

Sansevieria zeylanica, also known as bowstring hemp or the zeylanica snake plant, is an evergreen perennial plant grown for its striking appearance and low-maintenance nature. Sansevieria zeylanica is one of more than 60 different species of Sansevieria.

Originating from the South East Asian region, particularly India and Sri Lanka, this member of the “mother-in-law’s tongue” family features vivid green leaves with wavy, mottled grey/green horizontal stripes.

It is hard to kill a Sanseveieria, including this variety. So, its resilience and adaptability make it a perfect addition for beginner gardeners and anyone looking to improve their indoor greenery.

Growing as a stemless perennial, the Sansevieria zeylanica’s long, sword-shaped succulent leaves sprout from a rhizomatous base. They can reach up to 2 to 3 feet (60cm to 100cm) tall and 1 to 2 inches (2.5cm to 5cm) wide.

Aside from its attractive appearance, the sansevieria zeylanica is known for its adaptability to different light conditions.

Although it thrives in bright indirect light, it can also tolerate lower light levels as well as direct sunlight, making it an ideal houseplant for various environments. Ideally the plant is best grown in indirect sunlight or lower light if you want to preserve the dark green colours of the leaves.

The sansevieria zeylanica belongs to the Asparagaceae family. Its flowers are less common, and when it does bloom, they are small and fragrant, typically appearing in clusters.

It is worth noting that the genus Sansevieria was incorporated into the Dracaena genus in 2017.

This means that the botanical name of the plant now technically begins with Dracaena instead of Sansevieria. However, as many people still know the snakeplants as Sansevieria, and search for information about them under that name, we have left the references in this article to Sansevieria.

Key takeaways

  • Sansevieria zeylanica is a low-maintenance and visually appealing evergreen perennial plant.
  • It originates from South East Asia, particularly India and Sri Lanka, and is closely related to the mother-in-law’s tongue plant.
  • This striking plant features tall, upright leaves with distinctive dark-green and creamy-white patterns.
  • Sansevieria trifasciata is sometimes mistakenly sold as Sansevieria zeylanica. They do have a similar appearance, so when buying make sure you are actually getting the zeylanica if that is the plant you want.

Sansevieria zeylanica – quick care guide

Sansevieria Zeylanica, is a hardy and low-maintenance plant that can effortlessly brighten up your living space. Let’s have a look at the quick plant care basics for this fantastic plant.

Sansevieria zeylanica care guide

  • Light: Direct or indirect light (see image below)
  • Water: Water every 2-3 weeks when soil dries out. Do not overwater
  • Humidity: Average humidity, mist leaves occasionally
  • Temperature: Copes with average room temperatures
    • Ideal range is 18°C – 24°C (65°F – 75°F)
    • Minimum: 10°C (50°F)
    • Avoid sudden temperature drops and cold drafts
  • Soil: Well-draining potting mix
  • Fertiliser: Apply rarely, only in spring
  • Propagation: Divide rhizomes or take root cuttings
  • Repotting: Every 2-3 years in spring, size up 1-2″ pot each time
  • Pruning: Prune to remove dead leaves.

Sansevieria zeylanica soil requirements

First and foremost, your snake plant prefers well-draining soil. Sansevieria zeylanica doesn’t take kindly to soggy or waterlogged conditions. To provide your plant with the best possible environment, create a mix that incorporates a granulated and coarse soil.

Since the main goal is to provide a well-draining soil that allows water to flow through easily, one good option is to combine a cactus mix with added perlite. This creates a light and sandy soil that drains well. Alternatively, you can use a standard multi-purpose mix with plenty of perlite, gravel or vermiculite for drainage.

What about soil pH? Your snake plant will thrive in soil with a pH level between 6 and 7, which is considered slightly acidic to neutral. This optimal pH range promotes nutrient availability, allowing your Sansevieria zeylanica to grow and develop as it should.

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When it comes to feeding your plant, a little bit of fertiliser can go a long way. Incorporate a balanced, slow-release fertiliser every few months to keep your snake plant nourished.

You can use a liquid feed monthly during the growing season, but make sure it is about quarter to half strength. The key is not to overfeed, though, as too much fertiliser can lead to leggy growth and susceptibility to pests and disease.

In summary, to provide your Sansevieria zeylanica with the best possible soil environment, aim for a well-draining, granulated and coarse mix, with a pH level between 6 and 7. Don’t forget to give your plant some love with a bit of fertiliser every now and then, and watch it flourish!

Potting Soil” by msscacti is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Planting and repotting

You will of course need to pot your Sansevieria zeylanica in a pot with adequate drainage holes to ensure that water can be easily rain through. A well-draining terracotta or ceramic pot would work well but you’ll need a pot holder or saucer to collect the excess drainage water

Generally, it’s a good idea to repot your Sansevieria zeylanica every 2-3 years, or when the plant’s roots seem overcrowded in its pot. When you do re-pot, it’s a perfect time to divide your plant into smaller ones.

Remember, when repotting, be gentle with your plant’s roots, and let the soil dry out slightly before transferring to a new pot. Give the plant some time to settle into the new environment before watering again.

Watering and humidity requirements

Proper watering and maintaining the right humidity level are crucial to the health of your Sansevieria zeylanica.

When it comes to watering, less is more. Snake plants are extremely drought-tolerant and can withstand prolonged periods without water. In fact, overwatering is one of the main causes of problems with this plant. To avoid giving your Sansevieria zeylanica too much to drink, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Water your plant sparingly and only when the top 2-3 inches of soil feel dry to the touch.
  • In colder months, reduce watering further as the plant goes into a dormant state and requires less moisture.
  • As noted above, use a well-draining soil mix to prevent water from pooling around the roots, which can lead to root rot.

Snake plants are native to arid regions, so they’re not too fussed about humidity levels. However, they can still benefit from a bit of extra care in that department. Here are a few tips for managing humidity in very dry indoor environments:

  • Place a tray filled with water and pebbles beneath the pot to create a small humid microclimate around the plant. Just be sure the pot isn’t submerged in the water.
  • Give your Sansevieria zeylanica a light misting every now and then, but don’t overdo it – too much moisture on the leaves can cause them to rot.
  • Group it together with other plants to create a more humid environment, but remember to give each plant enough space to breathe.

In summary, watch your watering habits, be mindful of humidity levels, and your Sansevieria zeylanica should thrive without any trouble. Happy plant parenting!

Light and temperature needs

Your Sansevieria zeylanica will thrive in bright light, though preferably indirect bright light. But, unlike many succulents, it can tolerate lower light levels and still live a happy life. So whether you place it in a room with big sunny windows, slightly shaded areas, or even a spot with poor lighting, it’ll still give you those stunning sword-like leaves.

Sansevieria zeylanica - indirect light

Now, let’s talk temperature. Your Sansevieria zeylanica can handle a wide range of temperatures. But Ideally, you should provide a comfortable temperature between 15°C and 30°C (60 to 80°F) for it to truly flourish.

However, be cautious with extreme temperatures and ensure that it doesn’t get exposed to frost or cold draughts for extended periods, as this can harm the plant. Remember, occasional dips in temperature are fine, but prolonged exposure to cold may hinder its growth and health. Try to keep it above 10°C (50°F)in winter

In summary, your Sansevieria zeylanica is quite adaptable and easy to care for when it comes to light conditions and temperature requirements. Keep it in bright, indirect light, away from direct sunlight, and maintain a cosy temperature range, and it will reward you with stunning foliage and a pleasant indoor companion.

Sansevieria Zeylanica: propagation techniques

There is something very satisfying about getting more, free, plants through propagation. Here are some ways you can propagate the Sansevieria zeylanica.

1. Leaf Cuttings

This method is super easy and requires minimal tools. All you need is a sharp, clean knife or a pair of scissors, and you’re good to go.

  • Start by selecting a healthy mother plant and choosing a mature leaf to take a cutting from.
  • Cut a portion of the leaf at least 5-8 cm long, ensuring the cut is clean and neat.
  • Before planting, allow the cutting to dry for a day or two. This helps to prevent potential rot issues.
  • Optionally, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, which can encourage faster root growth.
  • Plant the cut end of the leaf in a well-draining soil mixture, approximately 2-3 cm deep.
  • Water sparingly until roots form and new growth appears.

2. Division

Division is another straightforward propagation technique, best performed when your plant has outgrown its pot and needs repotting.

  • Gently remove the plant from its current pot and shake off any excess soil.
  • Examine the root system and inspect it for natural divisions or clusters of leaves.
  • Using your hands or a clean, sharp knife, carefully separate the plant into smaller sections, ensuring each division has a good amount of roots and leaves.
  • Replant each division into a new pot with well-draining soil.
  • Water the newly potted divisions and give them a bit of time to settle in their new homes.

3. Water Propagation

If you’re curious about the rooting process, water propagation is a fun way to observe it.

  • Follow the leaf cutting method above to obtain a healthy cutting.
  • Place the cut end of the leaf into a container of water, making sure not to submerge the entire leaf.
  • Change the water regularly to prevent stagnation and bacteria growth.
  • Once roots have formed, plant the cutting into a pot with well-draining soil.

Now that you’re armed with these propagation techniques, you can grow your collection of Sansevieria Zeylanica and share with others.

Pests and diseases

Sansevieria zeylanica may occasionally face issues with pests and diseases that can hinder its growth.

One common pest is mealybugs. These tiny, white insects can be found on the leaves or at the base of the plant. To deal with a mealybug infestation, you can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove them. You may also want to check other nearby plants for signs of mealybugs, as they can quickly spread.

Spider mites are another type of pest that could affect your Sansevieria zeylanica. They are small, reddish-brown insects that create thin webs on the leaves. If you notice these webs or any discolouration and wilting, immediately isolate your plant and use an insecticidal soap or neem oil to combat the infestation.

Occasionally, Sansevieria zeylanica can suffer from root rot, which is a common disease affecting many houseplants. Root rot occurs when the plant’s roots are left in standing water for extended periods or if the soil retains too much moisture. To prevent root rot, ensure you use well-draining potting mix and avoid overwatering. Also, make sure to empty the saucer or tray under your plant after watering to prevent waterlogging.

Another issue that may affect your plant is an infestation of fungus gnats. These tiny, black flies can be found around the soil and may harm the plant’s roots. You mustn’t overwater your plant, as fungus gnats thrive in moist environments. There are numerous ways to get rid of fungus gnats, which you can find in this post.

Remember to keep an eye on your Sansevieria zeylanica and address any signs of pests or diseases early. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your plant remains healthy and attractive.

Precaution and safety

Sansevieria zeylanica can be mildly toxic when ingested and may cause some discomfort and symptoms like nausea and vomiting. It’s better to be safe than sorry—keep the plant out of reach of curious children and any pets, especially cats and dogs, that may chew on your plants.

Sansevieria Zeylanica: uses and benefits

Sansevieria zeylanica is known for its ability to purify the air in your home. Much like other household succulents, it helps remove toxins and pollutants from the air. More uniquely, it is one of the few plants that can do this even at night. The snake plant stores the oxygen it creates and releases it at night. This makes it an excellent plant to have in your bedroom, as increased oxygen levels can improve your sleep quality.

In addition to the clear health benefits, having a Sansevieria zeylanica plant also has some practical uses. The fibres of this plant are strong and were traditionally used for making bowstrings, hence the name “bowstring hemp”. While you might not need its fibres for bowstrings, you never know, you might have a use for them one day!

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Frequently asked questions

When should you repot Sansevieria zeylanica?

You should repot your Sansevieria zeylanica when its roots appears to be crowded in its pot. This is an excellent opportunity to divide your plant into smaller plants as well. Generally, repotting will be needed every 2-3 years.

Does Sansevieria zeylanica improve indoor air quality?

Yes, Sansevieria zeylanica can help improve indoor air quality. This plant is known for its ability to remove harmful toxins from the air, such as formaldehyde and benzene. Having a few of these plants around your home can contribute to a healthier living environment.

What are the differences between Sansevieria zeylanica and trifasciata?

Sansevieria zeylanica and Sansevieria trifasciata are both commonly referred to as Snake Plants. However, there are a few notable differences between the two. Sansevieria zeylanica has long, sword-shaped leaves with green and yellow stripes, while Sansevieria trifasciata has horizontal bands, typically dark green and a lighter green or yellow colour. Additionally, the leaves of Sansevieria zeylanica tend to be a bit more slender compared to the trifasciata.

Does Sansevieria zeylanica produce flowers?

Yes, Sansevieria zeylanica can produce flowers, although it’s not a common occurrence. These plants mainly focus on producing new leaves and offshoots for growth. It can take years for a Sansevieria zeylanica plant to mature enough to flower. The blooms are typically small, white, and fragrant, appearing on a spike-like structure called an inflorescence.

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