About Mother-In-Law's Tongue
Mother-in-law's tongue is one the easiest to grow house plants available. Requiring only indirect light and occasional water, mother-in-law's tongue can happily grow without much attention, making it an excellent choice for beginners.
The variation in pattern and shades of green and yellow on its blade-like leaves make this succulent a beautiful addition to any area of your home. While all house plants help improve air quality in your home, mother-in-law's tongue was studied and noted by NASA for its ability to purify the air and remove toxins.
It's also extremely easy to propagate by dividing or leaf cutting, so new plants can be created and grown.
Mother-in-law's tongue is botanically known as Dracaena trifasciata or, by its synonym, Sansevieria trifasciata and is a member of the family Asparagaceae (asparagus family). Other well-known members of the Asparagaceae family include Hosta, Agave, and Yucca.
Mother-in-law's tongue is a stemless, herbaceous perennial with evergreen leaves.
Herbaceous perennials are a category of flowering plants known for their non-woody stems and propensity for dying back to the base during the winter months. Once the growing seasons of spring and summer arrive, the foliage and new growth and flowers return. Being classified as a perennial means the plant can be expected to return each season for two years or more.
In the case of the mother-in-law's tongue, the leaves will remain healthy and green when kept indoors and at temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mother-in-law’s tongue is native to tropical west Africa and surrounding areas, such as Nigeria and the Congo. It prefers humidity and rocky soil that drains quickly but will survive in dry air.
When allowed to grow freely in its natural habitat, the mother-in-law's tongue can grow 12 feet tall or more. Because the conditions in these areas are ideal for growth, mother-in-law's tongue is often considered an invasive species of plant in these areas.
Mother-in-law’s tongue is often referred to as a snake plant because of its appearance.
Its tall, pointed leaves are thick and fleshy like other succulent plants. The leaves grow from tuberous rhizomes, which will spread underground as the plant ages.
The leaves of mother-in-law’s tongue are variegated, with a dark green interior and faint grey striping with lighter, whitish-yellow hues on the edges. When grown in its natural habitat, mother-in-law's tongue will produce greenish-white flowers. Indoors, however, it's not likely to produce flowers at all.
Types Of Mother-In-Law's Tongue Plants
There are over 70 documented species of mother-in-law’s tongue (plants within the Dracaena genus). Not all of those, however, are commonly used as indoor plants.
The 10 most commonly grown mother-in-law's tongue varieties are:
D. trifasciata. Common snake plant. This variety is variegated with alternating light and dark green striations.
D. trifasciata ‘Laurentii.’ The most common and popular cultivar of D. trifasciata. Solid, yellow lines along both edges of the leaves characterize it.
D. trifasciata ‘Moonshine.’ A cultivar of the common snake plant. This species won the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
D. ehrenbergii ‘Samurai Dwarf.’ Perfect for small spaces, this dwarf version will only reach 4-6 inches tall. This extremely slow-grower also produces leaves in a V shape and alternating pattern, making it an unusual version.
D. trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation.’ This is also a cultivar of D. trifasciata. White stripes on its narrow, variegated leaves are the hallmark of this species.
D. masoniana. Also known as the whale fin plant due to its slow-growing, enormous leaves.
D. masoniana' Variegata.’ A variegated cultivar of the whale fin.
D. trifasciata ‘Hahnii.’ Another species perfect for small spaces, this cultivar is sometimes called the bird's nest snake plant.
D. angolensis (Sansevieria cylindrica). This unusual mother-in-law's tongue has rounded, cylindrical leaves that resemble bamboo shoots.
D. cylindrica var. patula 'Boncel.' Sometimes referred to as a spear orchid, this short, stubby-leafed species is not an orchid.
Mother In Law's Tongue Styling
Mother in laws tongue is best grown in containers.
Choose pots that are narrow and mildly deep. Mother-in-law's tongue can grow with just a moderate amount of root space and is so slow growing that frequent repotting isn't necessary.
Growing outdoors in the ground is also possible, but the temperature and sunlight must be just right. Too much direct sunlight, for instance, will cause the leaves to burn. The soil also needs good drainage to prevent mother-in-law's tongue from dying from root rot.