Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant – (Dracaena trifasciata Care)

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Snake Plant Care)

Fittingly described by its common names, Mother-in-Law’s tongue, also known as snake plant, is recognized as a welcome, verdant companion in the home. The succulent’s popularity is due to a few factors: 

First, the foliage happily exists without much attention and care. Because of its low light requisites, it can be situated in most rooms of the house. Like many favored houseplants, mother-in-law’s tongue is a natural and powerful air purifier.

Finally, the intriguing look of the lush leaves is reason alone to consider one of the many varieties for your own home. With the increasing amount of varieties available, it would be worthwhile to mention a few:

Snake Plant Varieties

Dracaena angolensis – the round snake-like leaves, capable of reaching several feet in height, sprout from a central crown.

dracaena angolensis

Dracaena pearsonii – ornate, red-tinted leaves grow a foot tall. Also known as rhino grass.

Sansevieria pearsonii

Peter A. MansfeldCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dracaena trifasciata

Laurentii’ – dark green, spear-shaped leaves have a smooth yellow trim. When mature, it can reach a height of five feet.

Volkensii’ – a tall, attractive variety from Eastern Africa. The skinny leaves can grow to be 4 ½ feet long.

Bantel’s Sensation’ – thin leaves with white stripes grow about 3 feet tall.

Bantel’s Sensation

MokkieCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Previously identified as Sansevieria trifasciata, the snake plant now bears the binomial name Dracaena trifasciata. This plant species is native to West Africa and Southern Asia and accustomed to mostly tropical climates. It will tolerate a vast range of conditions though, provided the ambient temperature is warm. Some varieties will gladly grow to 8’ outside under the sun.

On the other hand, the plant can be just as content, albeit slower growing, in a shady room indoors. Don’t overwater, keep warm and occasionally prune for new growth rejuvenation. Attention to these tasks should be enough to keep the plant thriving. A few more detailed tips on maintenance and growth habits will be helpful: 

Snake Plant Watering:

Be judicious when watering. Snake plants prefer it dry and are prone to root rot if kept wet. Wait for the soil to dry out between waterings. Water sparingly in the wintertime, about once a month. During the growing season, Spring through Fall, water weekly or as the soil dries out.


Mother-in-law’s tongue adapts well to low light or full sun situations. Temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees are ideal. Anything under 50 degrees can damage the health of this tropical plant.

Frost exposure will kill. The plants will bloom when exposed to consistent sun and warmth. The white, lily-like blossoms are an exciting contrast against the dark green leaves.   


Use a cactus potting mix when propagating or transplanting. These succulents prefer slightly sandy soil mixed with rich organic material. Aeration of the roots is crucial.

When roots begin to creep out the bottom of its pot and the plant looks crowded, it’s time to break apart the root clumps, divide them into separate sections and replant individually. Propagation by leaf cuttings is an effective way to produce more plants; starting by seed is possible, but more difficult. 


Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut leaves off at the soil line when they become overgrown or damaged. Customize the height and shape of your plant and encourage healthy new growth.


Beware: The sap from the leaves of mother-in-law’s tongue is poisonous and toxic to dogs, cats, and wildlife. Keep out of the reach of pets and wash hands after handling the plant. 

Dracaena trifasciata’s many common names invoke interesting imagery. Anybody with an imagination could entertain exciting visuals for each of its aliases: Saint George’s sword, viper’s bowstring hemp, snake plant, and mother-in-law’s tongue.

The plant’s value as an interesting and ambient force of life can’t be overlooked. This unique tropical plant can act as a beautiful indoor air-cleanser, or as a flowering cactus-like plant in hotter climates. The versatility and variety of mother-in-law’s tongue is impressive. It would make an appreciable addition to any home or landscape.  

Snake Plant

What Does a Snake Plant Bloom Look Like?

What Does a Snake Plant Bloom Look Like

When the mother-in-law’s tongue plants bloom, the flowers grow along long and erect flower stalks. The flower stalks grow up to three feet tall and are covered with small flowers. Each stalk can produce several dozen small white flowers that look like honeysuckle or lilies.

Plants have both narrow-leaved and broad-leaved varieties, and can even grow in a cluster. But they rarely have more than one flower stem.

Is Dracaena Trifasciata an indoor plant?

A snake plant is a classic yet flexible houseplant with sword-shaped foliage. It’s excellent for forgetful gardeners and it’s considered a good air purifier for the indoor environment. It’s an excellent plant for indoor spaces because its leaves are so effective at filtering out airborne pollutants.  Due to its air-clearing properties, it makes a great plant for the bedroom.

Does Dracaena Trifasciata need sunlight?

Many people will agree that Dracaena trifasciata grow best in indirect light with a few hours of sunlight daily. A Dracaena trifasciata in front of a south-facing window is better off being protected with a sheer curtain.

This plant has good adaptability to its indoor environment as well as tolerance to low light and dim conditions. Just be aware that this plant will be slow-growing in a dimly lit environment and the leaves might not be as vibrant.

What is Dracaena Trifasciata good for?

Dracaena is an excellent air purifier. It aids in the removal of chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene (a carcinogen), trichloroethylenes, and carbon dioxide These are chemicals that cause a number of health problems including headaches, respiratory problems, anemia, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, among others.

The Snake Plant is also great for a mental health boost.

Is Dracaena and Sansevieria the same?

Sansevieria Has Been Reclassified As Dracaena. As part of the trend toward modern science and taxonomy in recent years, Dracaena has been reclassified as a Sansevieria. Originally, the genus Sanseviera (Snake Plant) was named after someone. Modern science has now established wherein the plant kingdom Sanseveria fits and has merged it into a different genus – Dracaena (Dracaena sanderiana).

What is the difference between snake plant and mother-in-law’s tongue?

Mother-in-law’s tongue and snake plant are two types of Sansevieria trifasciata. One is yellow with a light greenish border (mother-in-law’s tongue) and the other has dark green leaves with lighter green horizontal stripes (snake plant).

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