From The Plant Encyclopedia

Upload an image
Sansevieria hyacinthoides

Loading slideshow...


Kingdom Plantae
Order Asparagales
Family Ruscaceae
Species in this genus
Add a species

Please enter the plant name in this format: 'Latin name - Common Name'

Aden Earth Zone



  • Cultivation:
  • Light:
  • Soil:
  • pH:
  • Moisture:


  • Form:
  • Habit:
  • Flower:
  • Fruit/Seed:
  • Foliage:
  • Uses:


Sansevieria whose common names include: mother-in-law's tongue, devil's tongue, jinn's tongue, Bow String Hemp and snake plant, is a genus of about 70 species of flowering plants in the family Dracaenaceae, native to the Old World.[1]


The genus was named in honor of Raimondo di Sangro (1710–1771), prince of San Severo in Italy. Spellings "Sanseveria" and "Sanseviera" are commonly seen as well, the confusion deriving from alternate spellings of the Italian place name.


There is great variation within the genus, and species range from succulent desert plants such as Sansevieria pinguicula to thinner leafed tropical plants such as Sansevieria trifasciata. Plants often form dense clumps from a spreading rhizome or stolons. [2][3]


The leaves of Sanseveria are typically arranged in a rosette around the growing point, although some species are distichous. There is great variation in foliage form within the genus Sansevieria. All sansevieria species can be divided into one of two basic categories based on their leaves: Hard leafed and soft leafed species. Typically, hard leafed Sansevieria originate from the arid climates, while the soft leafed species originate from tropical and subtropical regions. [2]

Hard leafed Sansevieria have a number of adaptations for surviving dry regions. These include thick, succulent leaves for storing water and thick leaf cuticles for reducing moisture loss. These leaves may be cylindrical to reduce surface area are generally shorter than their soft leafed tropical counterparts, which are wide and strap-like.[2]


The flowers are greenish-white, produced on a simple or branched raceme. The fruit is a red or orange berry. In nature, Sansevieria flowers are pollinated by moths, but both flowering and fruiting is erratic and few seeds are produced. [2][3] The raceme of Sansevieria is derived from the apical meristem and a flowered plant will no longer produce new leaves. Unlike plants such as agave which die after flowering, Sansevieria will simply cease to produce new leaves. The flowered plant will continue to grow by producing plantlets via its rhizomes or stolons.


Rope and Traditional Uses

In Africa, the leaves are used for fiber production;[4] in some species, e.g. Sansevieria ehrenbergii, the plant's sap has antiseptic qualities, and the leaves are used for bandages in traditional first aid.

Ornamental Purposes

File:Snake plant.jpg
A variegated cultivar of Sansevieria trifasciata (namely 'Laurentii'), the most common Sansevieria in cultivation

Several species are popular houseplants in temperate regions, with Sansevieria trifasciata the most widely sold; numerous cultivars are available. The Chinese usually keep this plant potted in a pot often ornated with dragons and phoenixes[5]. Growth is comparatively slow and the plant will last for many years. The tall-growing plants have stiff, erect, lance-shaped leaves while the dwarf plants grow in rosettes. As houseplants, Sansevieria thrive on warmth and bright light, but will also tolerate shade. Sansevieria can rot from over-watering, so it is important that they are potted in well-drained soil, and not over-watered. In Seoul, potted Sansevieria is commonly presented as a gift during opening ceremonies of businesses or other auspicious events.

Other Sansevieria species are less common in cultivation, but another beautiful species is Sansevieria cylindrica which has leaves which look quite different from S. trifasciata, but is equally tough.

Air Purification

Like the Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans), Sansevieria species are believed to act as good air purifiers by removing toxins (such as formaldehyde, xylene and toluene[6]) from the air, thereby gaining a reputation as a good cure for sick building syndrome[7][8][9]. Some reports seem to suggest that Sansevieria produces oxygen at night which makes it suitable as a plant to be placed in the bedroom[10].

Feng shui

Because their leaves grow upwards, Sansevieria can be used for Feng Shui purposes as well[11][12]. Some believe that having Sansevieria near children (such as in the study room) helps reduce coarseness[13], while others recommend placing pots near the toilet tank to counter the drain-down vibrations[14].

Selected species

Formerly placed here


  1. Mbugua, P. K.; D. M. Moore. "Taxonomic studies of the genus Sansevieria (Dracaenaceae)". in L. J. G. van der Maesen, M. van der Burgt, J. M. van Medenbach de Rooy, editors (hardcover). The Biodiversity of African Plants (1st ed.). p. 880. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Stover, Hermine (1983). The Sansevieria Book. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chahinian, B. Juan (2005). The Splendid Sansevieria: An Account of the Species. ISBN 987-43-9250-9. 
  4. Kirby, F. Vaughan (1899). Sport In East Central Africa: Being An Account Of Hunting Trips In Portuguese And Other Districts Of East Central Africa. 
  14. Englebert, Clear (2001). Bedroom Feng Shui. Crossing Press. p. 143. ISBN 1-58091-109-9. 
  15. "Species: Sansevieria pinguicula P.R.O.Bally". GBIF. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "GRIN Species Records of Sansevieria". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-10-29.