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Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)
Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)

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Zone
Zones 13, 23, 24, H1, H2
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Sansevieria trifasciata

Bowstring Hemp, Snake Plant, Mother-in-law’s Tongue

Perennials

From western tropical Africa. Grown outdoors in mildest-winter climates; houseplant anywhere. Appreciated for thick, rigidly upright, patterned leaves that grow from thick rhizomes to form 2-ft.-wide rosettes. Leaves are dark green banded with gray-green and grow to 4 ft. tall and 2 in. wide. Bears erect, narrow clusters of fragrant greenish white flowers in Hawaii but seldom on the mainland.

S. t. laurentii is identical to the species but has broad, creamy yellow stripes on leaf edges. Dwarf ‘Hahnii’ has rosettes of 6-in.-long, broadly triangular, dark green leaves with silvery banding; rosettes pile up to make a mass 1 ft. tall and wide. Other varieties and species are collectors’ items; scores can be found in catalogs of succulent plants.

The first common name comes from the use of the tough leaf fibers as bowstrings; the second comes from leaf banding or mottling, which resembles some snakeskins; the third probably comes from the toughness of the plants and the pointed leaf tips. Outdoors, plants tolerate many soil types and take salt air and drought; indoors, grow in much or little light, seldom need repotting. Withstand dry air, fluctuating temperatures, and scanty, capricious watering.

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