Sansevieria is the botanical name of a group of succulent plants of African origin that go by many different common names – bowstring hemp, devil’s tongue and snake plant along with the well-known mother-in-law version are bur some of them. The most commonly cultivated species is Sansevieria trifasciata that originates from Central Africa. Various different hybrid forms and selections are used as ornamental foliage plants for indoors and out in the garden. The variegated leathery leaves are held in an upright rosette creating a stately appearance. The major virtue of these plants is their ability to “thrive on neglect”. They cope with heat and sunshine, drought and deep-shade, occasional flooding and high humidity along with poor soils. Not many other plants are so adaptable and accommodating.
Flowers are borne in spikes that emerge from below ground level and are held amongst the leaves which tend to obscure them somewhat. Colours vary from cream to green and brown to purple. The foliage is far more attractive than the flowers which are often left completely unnoticed.
Use tall (30 to 60 cm) Sansevieria plants as indoor specimens either individually or in groups. Outdoors they are useful for very shaded frost free positions. Some of the shorter forms only grow 15 to 20 cm high and are good as groundcovers in the garden or in smaller pots and containers in the home. Despite their toughness and resilience, they do benefit from regular watering, feeding and a rinse down for those that collect dust indoors.