Snake Plant

Snake Plant aka Mother-In-Law’s Tongue aka Bedroom Plant

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata,  laurentii), AKA Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Bedroom Plant

What’s So Great About a Snake Plant?

snake plants purify indoor bedroom air of toxic gases at night
Beautiful, cleans the air, and doesn’t require attention. Yes, please.

Called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (for its sharply pointed leaves), Sansevieria is especially good at clearing formaldehyde out of indoor air. [ see NASA study]. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen often found in the glue used in carpet backing and wood furniture, among other places. This is a special plant that differs from most houseplants in that it produces oxygen and removes carbon dioxide at night. Keep this one in your bedroom.

Pests and Problems

This plant is easy to grow and is rarely infested with insects. The main problems you may encounter are largely under your control: don’t over-water and don’t set this plant out in the cold.

These hardy plants have few insect problems, but when it does, the most likely perpetrators are mealybugs and spider mites. The problem is that as these unwelcome pests suck sap from the leaves, they cause small wounds and leaf shedding, thus harming the plant.

Solutions: Dab a cloth in alcohol and apply to any mealybugs you see. Vanquish spider mites by washing the leaves and increasing humidity around the plant.

Great for Everybody (Except Hungry Pets)

Sansevieria are truly the easiest of plants to look after, making them a perfect choice as a first house plant for novice gardeners.

If you need to bring a housewarming gift, choose a Snake plant for the busy person or college student. This plant survives without a second look.  The snake plant offers a pleasing vertical contrast when grouped with other plants in a sunroom or atrium display.

The snake plant is, however, poisonous to your pets (due to hemolytic saponin and organic acids found in the leaves and flowers) so do not let them snack on its leaves. Symptoms of ingestion include pain, vomiting, excess salivation, diarrhea, and hemolysis. Not a good time.


  • Semi-sun to semi-shade to shade.
  • If the plant blooms, remove the flowers; they secrete a sticky substance.
  • Water sparingly and let the soil dry between waterings. The snake plant might suffer root rot if over-watered. Feed a dilute liquid fertilizer once a month or whenever the rent or mortgage payment is due.
  • Grow in standard potting soil in a standard container. Repot annually.
  • If you opt for hydroculture, the Snake plant can go years without repotting. Pretty low-maintenance!