Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sansevieria trifasciata

It seems everyone in the world has had a Sansevieria trifasciata (Snake Plant) houseplant at one time or another. However, all the Snake Plants I’ve owned have been patio plants. Lately I’ve been tempted to place my patio Snake Plants in my garden to fill in a large bare area along a block wall.

I’ve been warned that these plants should stay in pots as they can be hard to control and can quickly take over an area by producing numerous offsets, which is exactly what I’m looking for in that area of my large yard. Strong sunlight supposedly bleaches out the leaves, so that may be one negative to consider. These plants can’t take prolonged temperatures below freezing, but we don’t often have prolonged cold spells, so I think I’m safe on that point.

Since the S. trifasciata is so easy to find and really quite cheap, I think it’s worth the effort to try it as a filler plant. I’m not particularly attached to my Snake Plants, so losing them will not really hurt if the experiment goes south.

This plant is also known as Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, either because of its sharp leaves or alternately, because it supposedly contains a substance that paralyzes the vocal chords. I’m surprised that, in these politically correct times, that someone hasn’t protested and petitioned to have the name banned because such negative connotations could be contrued as “hate talk.” As far as I'm concerned, there is an easier solution. If one doesn't like the name, then call it by its botanical name.


mr_subjunctive said...

Minor quibble: Sansevieria trifasciata is called mother-in-law tongue, I think, just because the leaves are long and sharply pointed (the same way it's called "snake plant" because of the patterning on the leaves); it won't paralyze vocal cords.

The confusion is because Dieffenbachia spp. do contain substances that can cause people's months and throats to swell up to the point where they can't speak, and for that reason is occasionally called mother-in-law plant. (Though usually it's "dumb cane," or else just Dieffenbachia: MIL plant was never a particularly common common name.)

Sansevieria is toxic to cats, according to at least one poster at Garden Web, but as far as I've seen it's pretty harmless to people.

No Rain said...

I always doubted that the s. trifasciata could do such a thing--that's why I qualified the comment with "supposedly." Since there isn't much similarity in the two, I wonder how these old wives tales come about. Thanks for the info--every little bit helps!

Dirty Knees said...

Oh for sure try planting them in your garden! I love experiments so be sure to keep us posted about the outcome.

kate said...

I've always known this plant as Snake Plant - the Mother-in-law's Tongue doesn't sound very good at all.

I imagine this plant would make a wonderful filler plant. I hope you try it and then let us know how it worked!

Julie said...

I have these running along in front of some tall cherry bushes on side of my house...I also have a cat, who is not interested in them at all. They do spread, and I think your idea for where you will use them is splendid. You have thought out every it...and show us some photos!!! Have a fun day!

Anonymous said...

Greetings from cold Finland. I have noticed that Sansevieria plants last cold and dry ground. Because of freeze I have to keep my plants inside the house and quite soon they become yellow._ The called name (tongue of mother in law ) is not suitable for this beautiful plant. I have been told that englishmen gave the name when they took the plant to Europe from Africa. Let´s give the better name for this royal plant! Eila

botany babe said...

Spoke to a guy who came from Vietnam and he said they planted Sansevieria as a barrier around their house to keep snakes out. It formed a kind of living fence I guess.