The African Sansevieria, also known as the mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant, is an ideal houseplant for those seeking a tall, vertical element in their indoor garden. With proper care, this hardy succulent can grow quite large, up to 8 feet tall, making a bold statement in any space.
An Introduction to Sansevieria
Sansevieria is a genus of about 70 species native to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. These plants have long, rigid, sword-shaped leaves that grow vertically from a shallow root system. The leaves range in color from deep green to silvery-green with dark green striping.
Some common varieties include:
- Sansevieria trifasciata – Also called the snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. It has stiff, upright leaves with light yellow edges. Grows up to 4 feet tall.
- Sansevieria cylindrica – Features round, cylindrical leaves that can reach heights of up to 6 feet.
- Sansevieria patens – The leaves have a boat-shaped appearance and dark green color with light green striping.
- Sansevieria masoniana – Distinguished by extremely wide leaves that resemble whips. Can grow up to 8 feet tall.
Sansevierias are appreciated for their striking form and durability. They require very little maintenance and can tolerate low light and irregular watering that would kill many other houseplants. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as “set it and forget it” plants.
Benefits of Growing Tall Sansevierias
Here are some of the benefits and design features of incorporating tall Sansevieria varieties in your indoor planting:
Provides Height and Drama
With proper care and conditions, many Sansevieria varieties can reach ceiling-scraping heights of 6 feet or taller. This allows them to occupy vertical space in a way that few houseplants can match. The striking silhouettes of their sword-shaped leaves command attention.
Cleans Indoor Air
One of the Sansevieria’s most remarkable abilities is its effectiveness at removing toxins and pollutants from indoor air. Studies by NASA and others have shown that Sansevieria is particularly adept at filtering out benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
Tolerates Low Light Conditions
Sansevierias are CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) plants, meaning they can perform photosynthesis with very little light. They can survive and grow in dim corners and poorly-lit rooms that receive only artificial light. However, they will grow faster and taller with ample bright, indirect light.
Requires Minimal Watering
Another hallmark of this plant is its tolerance for drought conditions. Thick, succulent leaves retain moisture and allow the plant to withstand periods of neglect. Water only when the soil is fully dry. Overwatering can easily rot the fleshy roots and cause leaf yellowing.
Once a Sansevieria reaches an impressive height, new plants can be propagated from leaf cuttings. Simply cut off a leaf at the base and place it cut-side down in potting mix. This will root and grow a new plant over time.
Decorates With Minimal Maintenance
Sansevierias are one of the lowest maintenance houseplants you can grow. Given their ideal preferences are met for light and water, they can thrive for years without repotting or complicated care. Their resilience makes them excellent, tall accent plants.
Growing Massive Sansevierias Indoors
Cultivating towering Sansevierias indoors requires paying attention to a few key factors. Here is a summary of the care tips that will promote maximum height:
Provide Bright Light
Sansevierias will survive in virtually any indoor lighting conditions. But to encourage fast, upward growth, provide very bright light for at least 6 hours per day, or as much as possible. Southern or western windows are ideal. Supplement with grow lights in darker rooms. Variegated varieties may lose their patterning in low light.
Use Fast-Draining Soil
These succulents thrive in soil that drains quickly after watering. A cactus potting mix or homemade mix of equal parts potting soil, perlite, and sand will prevent soggy roots. Make sure the pot has drainage holes to remove excess moisture.
Water Thoroughly Then Allow to Dry
During the growing season, water thoroughly until water drains freely from the bottom when the top inch of soil becomes dry. Then allow the soil to completely dry out before watering again. Reduce watering frequency in winter but don’t let pots dry out for too long.
Provide Support as Needed
As leaves reach overhead, they can become top heavy and prone to drooping or breaking. Use plant stakes, trellises, walls, or other structures to support vertical growth and prevent damage.
Give Room to Grow
Re-pot in a container only 1-2 inches larger once roots have filled out the current pot. Going too big may cause root rot. Grow in deeper pots rather than wide to direct energy upwards. Divide congested plants.
Sansevierias prefer average room humidity of at least 40%. Boost moisture with pebble trays, humidifiers, or grouping plants together. Good air circulation is also critical.
Ideal Temperature Range
These houseplants grow best with day temps of 70-90°F and nights of at least 55°F. Avoid extreme cold or hot conditions. Monitor light and water needs in warmer environments.
Troubleshooting Tall Sansevierias
With proper care, Sansevierias are generally pest and disease resistant. But issues can arise if cultural requirements are not met. Here are some common problems and solutions:
Overwatering and soggy soil is the most common cause of yellow, drooping foliage. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Remove affected leaves and any rotted roots. Improve drainage if needed.
Leaf Tips Turning Brown
This can indicate too little water, low humidity, or salt accumulation from water or fertilizer. Increase water slightly, mist leaves, or flush the soil periodically to remove salts.
Insufficient light and overcrowding are typical growth inhibitors. Move the plant to a sunnier location and re-pot or divide rootbound plants. Lack of fertilizer can also limit size.
Bacterial or fungal disease is usually to blame for spots or lesions on the foliage. Prune affected leaves. Avoid wetting the leaves when watering and allow good air circulation.
Mealybugs, scale, and spider mites can sometimes infect plants. Wipe away visible bugs. Use horticultural oils or insecticidal soap sprays for infestations. Isolate affected plants.
With the right adjustments to care, most issues are easily corrected and the plants bounce back rapidly. Be patient, as it may take years for a Sansevieria to achieve its full height potential.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Tall Sansevierias
How tall can a Sansevieria grow indoors?
Given proper growing conditions, most Sansevierias can reach heights of 3-6 feet when grown as houseplants. Some varieties like Sansevieria masoniana may attain heights up to 8 feet over time. Grow rate and maximum size depend on factors like light, soil, and variety.
How long does it take for a Sansevieria to grow tall?
Sansevierias are relatively slow growing plants. Even fast growing varieties only put out new leaves at a rate of about 12 inches per year. To achieve maximum size, allow at least 2-5 years under ideal conditions. Increase heights gradually by re-potting into taller containers.
Do Sansevierias like direct sunlight?
Sansevierias can tolerate all lighting conditions. But to thrive and grow vertically, provide very bright, indirect light or several hours of direct sun from a southern or western window per day. Variegated varieties may burn in excessive sunlight.
Why is my Sansevieria drooping or bending over?
Tall, top-heavy leaves that start drooping or bending often need support. Stake the plant or situate it next to a wall or trellis. Overwatering can also cause leaves to weaken and bend under their own weight. Let the soil dry out completely before watering again.
How can I encourage my Sansevieria to grow taller?
Use a tall, slender pot to direct energy upwards. Keep soil evenly moist but not wet in the growing season. Ensure excellent drainage. Provide maximum sunlight. Mist leaves for extra humidity. Turn the plant periodically so all sides get light exposure to grow symmetrically.
When should I repot my Sansevieria?
These plants prefer to be pot-bound, so only repot every 2-3 years as needed. Repot in the spring into a container just 1-2 inches larger. Use fast-draining cactus soil. Remove any dead roots before repotting. Handle the roots gently to avoid damage.
Can I propagate my tall Sansevieria?
Yes! Once the plant matures and reaches the desired height, new plants can be propagated from leaf cuttings. Cut a leaf off near the base and place in potting mix cut-side down. Leave a little bit exposed. This will root to create a new, young plant.
Ideal Placement for Tall Sansevierias
When adding a tall Sansevieria specimen to your indoor garden, consider the following placement tips:
- Situate in front of a sunny window where it will grow symmetrically on all sides. Rotate periodically.
- Place in a corner to add color and architectural contrast.
- Use as a living screen to divide room spaces with its vertical form.
- Let it grow along a wall used as a support.
- Display in entryways or halls to make a bold first impression.
- Pair shorter plants around it to create visual interest.
- Grow alongside large furniture like shelves, entertainment units, or plant stands.
- Coordinate with other tall accent plants like yucca, dracaena, or bamboo.
Creative Design Ideas for Giant Sansevierias
In addition to using Sansevieria’s impressive height for visual impact, get creative with displaying and arranging these statement plants:
- Use its straight leaves as a living sculpture.
- Install grow light strips along the length of the leaves for a futuristic look.
- Let the leaves entwine through trellises or macrame hangers.
- Contrast the stiff leaves with soft, trailing plants like ivy or pothos.
- Group a few thinner cylinders or bird’s nest varieties together in matching pots.
- Add decorative pots or planters to coordinate with your decor.
- Surround with shorter plants like ferns, peace lilies, or pilea.
- Weave fairy lights along the leaves to create a whimsical display.
- Paint or decorate the pots to match your color palette.
The vertical nature and pure green color of Sansevieria offers so much possibility for interior designs. Give your imagination room to aim high when creatively incorporating these statuesque plants in your home. They will lend a touch of the exotic tropics to any space.
With striking architectural shape, incredible hardiness, and minimal care needs, the African Sansevieria is an ideal choice for adding impressive height and drama to indoor plant collections. Their sword-like leaves grow vertically, readily adapting to the tall, slender spaces of modern homes. Provided with adequate sunlight, well-drained soil, even moisture, and proper potting and support, Sansevierias can be encouraged to soar upward to their full genetic potential. A mature, multi-foot-high specimen will make an enduring living sculpture that fills a room with unique botanical interest. Aim high when growing Sansevieria, and enjoy watching your own giant snake plant unfurl its impressive vertical form.