The Perfect Houseplant

Which is the best houseplant?  Obviously, that is up to debate because most people have their favorites.  There are people that love African violets, those that love cactus, and those that just love anything tropical looking, but I sat down one day to ponder just which is the one best houseplant.  To decide, I had to take into consideration which has the most insect problems, which is picky, does it need special care, how much light does it need, is it forgiving (sometimes I forget to water houseplants), etc.  So, after looking over my history with houseplants (of which I only have a few left) I have concluded that without a doubt the best houseplant is sansevieria. 

Some of you are asking what in the world is a sansevieria.  There are over 70 species of sansevieria many of which are houseplants.  They are native to tropical regions and tend to like soils on the dry side and can take a lot of abuse.  Sansevieria prefers a bright window but will tolerate low light areas, dry conditions, as well as cool conditions (if it’s not freezing).  Sansevieria is one of those plants that you can take outside in the summer in a shady area, and it will become full and pretty.  You can bring it indoors in the fall without acclimation and it won’t drop leaves all over your floor.  You can put it in a dark corner for the winter and it will look the same come spring.  You can even forget to water it for a couple of months, and it won’t look a lot different than it did when it was well hydrated.  I know, you are thinking this must be a trick plant; it must be plastic or something.  But no, it’s a well-used old-time favorite houseplant that just happens to be coming back in vogue with new varieties that make you say wow!

            Sansevieria is one of those houseplants that I bet your grandmother had or has.  It’s one of those plants that are mixed into houseplant arrangements that get sent to funeral homes and hospitals.  It’s a plant that is used to give texture and form to room designs.  Finally, its common names include “Mother in Laws Tongue”, “Devils Walking Stick”, and “Snake Plant”.  I must admit that it has taken me a very long time to come around to appreciating sansevieria.  As a kid I thought man that is one ugly plant, but after gardening for 30 some odd years and babying violets, picking leaves up constantly from ferns and other tropical plants, and yes fighting the rash of insect problems from mites to scale, to mealy bugs, cleaning sticky stuff up from scale and aphid feces, and losing a few plants to forgetful watering I have come to love sansevieria.  I have never had it fuss about not getting water, it has never gotten insect problems, and it has never dropped a leaf on my floor.  I don’t have to worry about where I put it.  Sometimes a houseplant in the corner away from the window looks nice and sansevieria will live there just fine during the winter.  In fact, there are only two things that will kill sansevieria, freezing temperatures and overwatering.  That’s it unless you spray it with roundup, and I will bet it would still take a large dose to kill it.

            An interesting fact about sansevieria is that it is one of a handful of plants that will grow new plants from a leaf.  You can cut a sansevieria leaf up into segments, stick the cut end in damp soil and keep it covered with a plastic bag away from direct light and the leaf will root and grow a new plant.  Now, this takes several months but it is a neat process.  One thing to keep in mind is to make sure the leaf is pointing upward in the right direction.  You can start a bunch of new plants form one leaf!  Other plants that you can start from leaves are African violets and Rex Begonias, which are also great houseplants.  They just aren’t tough like sansevieria!

Submitted by Dennis Morgeson, Agent for Horticulture, Washington County Cooperative Extension Service

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About krjack4

Extension Agent for Horticulture Serving home gardeners and Green Industry professionals, including commercial fruit & vegetable producers. Advisor to: Christian County Master Gardener Association; Downtown Hopkinsville Farmers Market.