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A Houseplant Anyone Can Grow…Mother-In-Laws Tongue

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

If you have trouble growing houseplants, the Mother-in-Laws tongue is for you.

The Mother-In-Laws Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), also known as snake plant, is one of the most durable houseplants and is a plant that anyone can grow.

This plant is extremely easy to grow, tolerates neglect and a wide range of temperatures. I don't know how it got the name Mother-In-Laws Tongue, but for me a great plant is named for a great lady. Like the plant, my mother-in-law is dependable and always there to provide cheer on a cloudy day.

This plant has tall, upright clusters of stiff leaves. Although many varieties are available, most have broad crossbands of grayish-green that decorate dark green foliage. The height is usually 3 to 4 feet. Cultivars offer different color variations and heights.

Most people grow either the tall green one or the cultivar 'Laurentii'. 'Laurentii' has yellow margins along the edges of the tall leaves. Other cultivars include 'Hahnii', the birds-nest sansevieria that grows only 4 to 8 inches tall, or 'Moonglow' that has leaves of creamy silver-green.

I've had one of my snake plants since I was a little girl and it now often flowers for me. Typically, only mature plants will flower. The flower is on a tall spike with white to green fragrant blossoms. My flowers lasted quite a long time.

This plant will grow almost anywhere, but ideal conditions are as follows. They will tolerate most light conditions from very low dark areas to full sunlight. This plant prefers dry soil and does need to dry out between watering. Ferree says that if someone can't grow this plant they are probably overwatering it. They have very few pest problems.

The plant is also easy to propagate. Simply divide your larger plant into two smaller ones. Leaf cuttings can be taken too. Slice the leaves cross-wise into 2 inch long pieces and place in moistened soil to root, being sure not to turn the cutting upside down when placing in soil.

As an added bonus, this plant is reported effective in tests to freshen or purify air. The Foliage for Clean Air Council has documented living plants' ability to absorb chemicals in the air such as tobacco smoke, and chemicals released from carpet, paint, and furnishings. Some plants can remove as much as 85 percent of certain common pollutants. As few as one efficient plant for every one hundred square feet can make a healthy difference to indoor air quality.

Put a snake plant in your house today. If you already have one, pull it out of the corner, clean it up and enjoy it even more.



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.