The snake plant, a member of the Lily family got its name from the shape and sharp margins of its leaves according to online sources. It is also known as the "mother-in-law’s tongue” or sansevieria.
A popular house plant, the snake plant is native to tropical West Africa and is an important part of the African culture. Some communities in Africa believe it scares off evil.
In Kenya the plant is grown in most homes, in rooms, on the balcony and also indoors used as an added decoration.
When it comes to low-maintenance houseplants, snake plants top the list as being the most tolerant. Hosea Kipngetich is a consultant at Irish Gardeners in Lower Kabete, shares tips on how to take care of the Snake Plant.
Taking care of the Snake Plant
With their striking lines and hardiness and their ability to purify the air, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has highly recommended them as indoor plants.
The plant thrives at an average warmth of approximately 15-24 degrees celsius and a lower of 10 degrees celcius. It is well known for coping with direct sun and low light conditions, although bright light conditions with some sun light and shade is preferred.
“It is commonly recommended to beginners interested in cultivating houseplants for its easy care,” says Kipngetich.
1. Watering and Potting
Because the plant is a succulent, it stores water within its foliage, so it is not necessary to keep the soil damp. It does not require a lot of watering every now and then. It develops root rot if over watered.
“For you to know when it’s time to water, don’t just rely on how the surface of the soil looks. Instead, carefully stick your finger or a wooden chopstick a couple inches into the soil. If you feel any moisture or see soil stick to the chopstick, hold off on watering,” says Kipngetich.
Choose a pot with drainage holes. The plant does well within a clay pot that can crack once maximum growth space within the pot is used.
2. Soil and Propagation
Having a well-drained soil mix is essential. Propagate the plant by cutting off a healthy leaf near its base and make an upside-down V cut at the bottom. Then, place the leaf in a clean jar of water. Allow the water level to be slightly above the V cut. Once roots have started to form (3 to 5 weeks), you can keep in water or transfer to soil.
“Since these plant prefers dry soil, we recommend well-draining medium. You can add a handful perlite, vermiculite or pumice to your potting soil,” says Kipngetich.
3. Health benefits
Crowded, small and often poorly designed spaces like city apartments, make it hard for residents to feel healthy, happy and at home.
According to Kipngetich, the plant purifies indoor air by removing toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene and toluene that are known to be cancer causing agents.
The plant releases oxygen and absorbs harmful volatile organic compounds.
4. What to watch out for
Do not move a snake plant from a shady position into the bright sunlight or it will scorch. Over-watering is the most frequent problem, especially during the rainy season. Too much water results in rot, capsizing foliage and plant death. Very cold season will also cause rot and sudden plant death.
Each of the leaves have a pointed tip that you should treat gently. If the tip is broken, the leaf-blade stops growing.
Depending on where you are and the size that you want to grow, the cost of taking care of the snake plant varies. In Kenya, for example the leaf of the snake plant is sold for Sh100-Sh300.
The Snake plant is commonly sold at the side of the road. You can find it in pots and even paper bags at the boot of cars in highways.
Social media sites and online stores for example Instagram, Facebook and websites are platforms that are popularly used to sell the plant.
With over 15 varieties, the snake plant is the perfect plant for those new to caring for plants. And if your busy schedule keeps you away from home for days on end, your snake plants will get along just fine.