Starfish Snake Plant

OFFICIAL NAME

Dracaena cylindrica var. patula 'Boncel' (FKA Sansevieria)

ALSO KNOWN AS

African Spear Plant, Cylindrical Snake Plant, Spear Sansevieria, Spear Orchid

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

West Africa | Tropical Savannah

ABOUT THE
PLANT

This snake plant is distinguished by their chubby spear-like leaves that splay out to resemble a starfish. Often potted in multiples, the aquatic effect can be quite striking.

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

easy going, drought tolerant, bright indirect, low light tolerant, mid-size, upright, clusters, tabletop, savannah, variegation, shelf, plump

👌️ EASY PEASY 👌

Starfish Snake Plant

The basics

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% to entirely dry. Avoid overwatering at all costs. Watering may be even less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Water

Preferred Light

Extremely forgiving and can adapt to most light conditions. But if they had their pick, it would be primarily bright, indirect light with a few hours of direct light for a happy, thriving plant.

Light

Humidity Needs

While not at all bothered about high humidity, your Snake Plant will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but may complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

Snake Plant leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 3 ft tall with a 1-2 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Size

Overall Look

The spear-like leaves fan out from a central stem (usually very short or not visible) in a rosette pattern. The overall shape is a bit like their namesake, the starfish. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Format

Leaf Look

Chubby spear shaped leaves with unique streaky static-like variegation.

Leaf Shape

Pro Tip

While often touted for their low-light tolerance, if you're looking for significant growth year-over-year, your Snake Plant will be much happier in bright, indirect light. On the other hand, if you're satisfied with their size and would like to brighten up a dreary corner of your house—by all means, the Snake Plant is up for the job (as long as you cut back on watering)!

Pro Tip

Did You Know?

Once recognized and still widely known as Sanseveria, Snake Plants were recently reclassified as Dracaena! Yes, Dracaena as in marginata and fragrans. While it'll take some getting used to, we like to think of them as one big, happy blended family.

Fun Fact

Water

|

Allow half of soil to dry out before watering again.

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% to entirely dry. Avoid overwatering at all costs. Watering may be even less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Light

|

Low light tolerant. Bright, indirect light preferred.

Preferred Light

Extremely forgiving and can adapt to most light conditions. But if they had their pick, it would be primarily bright, indirect light with a few hours of direct light for a happy, thriving plant.

Humidity

|

Not too concerned by humidity levels.

Humidity Needs

While not at all bothered about high humidity, your Snake Plant will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves.

Temperature

|

Can adapt, but doesn't like sudden change.

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but may complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Toxicity

|

Mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.

Toxic or Not?

Snake Plant leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Size

|

An in-betweener. Not too big, not too small.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 3 ft tall with a 1-2 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Format

|

Densely packed upright leaves.

Overall Look

The spear-like leaves fan out from a central stem (usually very short or not visible) in a rosette pattern. The overall shape is a bit like their namesake, the starfish. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Leaf Shape

|

Cylindrical spears in bright green with variegation.

Leaf Look

Chubby spear shaped leaves with unique streaky static-like variegation.

Pro Tip

|

Growth is always tied to light, no matter what.

Pro Tip

While often touted for their low-light tolerance, if you're looking for significant growth year-over-year, your Snake Plant will be much happier in bright, indirect light. On the other hand, if you're satisfied with their size and would like to brighten up a dreary corner of your house—by all means, the Snake Plant is up for the job (as long as you cut back on watering)!

Fun Fact

|

Sanseveria no longer. Re-classified to the Dracaena genus.

Did You Know?

Once recognized and still widely known as Sanseveria, Snake Plants were recently reclassified as Dracaena! Yes, Dracaena as in marginata and fragrans. While it'll take some getting used to, we like to think of them as one big, happy blended family.

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in an airy, light, fast-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for succulents/cactus or supplement a standard indoor mix with an equal quantity of pumice or horticultural grit. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

Try to repot every 2-3 years in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time or until you're satisfied with the size. It's still important to repot at this stage, but it'll be an exercise of refreshing to soil, keeping the pot size the same, and possibly doing some root trimming to restrict the plant's growth. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. A cactus and succulent specific feed would also work well. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

While no specific pruning is required for this plant, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. Ensure your scissors or pruners are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests. More on grooming techniques here.

Propagation

All you need is one leaf/spear to propagate a Snake Plant. First, you’ll cut the leaf at the base of the soil, and then you can actually cut that leaf into multiple sections horizontally. As long as you keep the leaf upright, you can place it in water, and roots will grow.  You can also propagate through division by simply separating the dense clusters of leaves into independent plants. Just make a clean cut through the rhizome (the much thicker, horizontal "root") and pot up! More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

Plants in the Dracaena genus can vary wildly in appearance. Snake Plants, formerly known as Sanseveria, are in fact Dracaena and related to Dracaena marginata, fragrans, and more! The most easily recognizable variant may be Dracaena trifasciata, which is also commonly known as a Snake Plant, but with flat blade-like leaves.

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why does my Snake Plant have soft, yellowing leaves at the base?

Symptom

One or multiple leaves feel a bit soft and may be starting to yellow or brown at the base.

Cause

This is a sure sign of persistent overwatering. The root rot has spread and led to stem rot as well.

Solution

You will have to cut back any leaves with signs of rot. To avoid further spread, you should also take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

You may be able to propagate some of the cut stems if the rot has not yet spread to the top of the plant.

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Why does my Snake Plant have dark brown spots or patches?

Symptom

Dark brown spots, or areas, that may be in the middle of a leaf or on the edges. These spots tend to be larger areas with an irregular edge, not a nice neat circular shape. They may also look “wet” or saturated in the middle.

Cause

These spots are usually the sign of a fungal leaf spot disease. These kinds of diseases often go hand-in-hand with overwatering or an overly damp environment, which weakens your plants and makes them more susceptible to disease.

Solution

The first step is to isolate the plant to avoid spread to your other plants. Then, prune or pinch off the affected leaves. Make sure to be diligent in your removal of any fallen plant debris from the soil. Most diseases thrive off humid environments, so it's best to stop misting or providing additional humidity for your plant (for now). You may even try switching to bottom watering to ensure you don't get any moisture on the leaves. Finally, a regimen of neem oil could be in order, focusing on a soil soak rather than spraying the leaves (at least in the initial treatment phase).

Once you've removed the infected leaves, the disease should drastically slow its spread. Make sure that you keep the leaves dry and check them regularly. If you see any symptoms return, remove those leaves as well and continue your treatments.

More on diseases here.
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Why does my Snake Plant have patchy, pale spots?

Symptom

Larger grey or pale patches on a few leaves. The spot may look dried out and somewhat bleached.

Cause

When your plant is exposed to the hot sun, it begins to evaporate more moisture from the leaf surface than the plant can replace. Leading to bleached areas or large grey patches on leaves.

Solution

You may be pushing the limits on how much direct sun your plant can handle. Try moving it out of reach of those direct rays of sun or moving to a spot that receives only minimal direct sun in the mornings or evenings. While this should prevent further burning, the spots will not "heal", so it's up to you if you'd like to prune off the affected leaves.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why isn't my Snake Plant growing?

Symptom

Slow or no new growth.

Cause

This is most likely due to insufficient light. While Snake Plants are quite tolerant of low light conditions, they will not grow very much.

Solution

Improve the lighting conditions for your Snake Plant to thrive. These plants prefer medium to bright, indirect light. Make sure to adjust your watering to accommodate the increased light.

More on lighting here.
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