Thursday, November 7, 2013

Plant of the week: Sansevieria suffruticosa

NOTE: In my original post from November 2013 I had been under the impression that my plant was Sansevieria cylindrica because it was so labeled. It wasn’t until March 2015 that I realized that it’s actually Sansevieria suffruticosa. I’ve changed all references in the post below.

When I first became interested in succulents, one of the biggest surprises was finding out that sansevierias were considered succulents. To me they had been houseplants and hence of little interest. (As much as I love plants, I’m not a house plant guy.)

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Sansevieria suffruticosa

Even though this newfound knowledge raised the profile of sansevierias in my mind, I still didn’t pay all that much attention to them. I should have because even Sansevieria trifasciata, the ubiquitous mother-in-law’s tongue, is an amazing plant. According to a NASA study, it’s one of the best air-filtering plants because it absorbs toxins like nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde from the air.

Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifascata)
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Sansevierias are tough plants, surviving on little water and tolerating a high degree of neglect. In addition, their architectural looks have made them the darlings of contemporary interior designers. Look at any upscale design catalog or web site and you’re bound to find a sansevieria or ten, typically in a sleek and minimalistic container.

My recent interest in sansevierias started in September when by chance, dumb luck, or whatever you want to call it, I won a relatively rare species at the monthly meeting of the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society, Sansevieria schweinfurthii. Most people probably think this is a deadly dull plant, just a few green tubes sticking out of the ground, but I found it quite exciting. (Yes, I like weird plants.)

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Sansevieria schweinfurthii

A few weeks later, at the 2013 Succulent Extravaganza, I came across another sansevieria that caught my fancy, Sansevieria suffruticosa (mistakenly labeled as Sansevieria cylindrica). The pot I bought contained five plants, which looked easy enough to separate—quite a bargain considering that typically you only get one plant at that price ($10).

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Sansevieria suffruticosa

I finally got around to splitting up the plants. I kept three for myself, which I repotted in a MANDEL container from IKEA, and the other two are set aside for friends.

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Sansevieria suffruticosa

Sansevierias maybe tough-as-nails houseplants, but they are wimpy outdoor plants. Pretty much anything south of freezing will do them in. With winter nipping at our heels, that means I now have two new houseplants to take care of. But I’m not really keeping track; I’ve started to bring quite a few plants inside already. More on that in a separate post.

NOTE: The info below is for a related species, Sansevieria cylindrica:

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QUICK FACTS:

Botanical name: Sansevieria cylindrica

Common name: African spear, skyline spear

Mature size: 36-48” high x 24-36” wide

Location: Cool sun, light shade

Water needs: Low

Hardiness: >32° F (zone 10b)

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A Google search revealed that Sansevieria cylindrica is quite a hot commodity. Here are some photos I found:

Growing in ground at T & E Agricultural in Johor, Malaysia. Source: http://teagricultural.blogspot.com

Dozens, if not hundreds, of plants ready for export. Source: zzdelong.en.alibaba.com

 

Apparently Sansevieria cylindrica is also sold braided. Not sure what to think of this. Source: ecplaza.net

Another braided specimen; this one actually looks quite beautiful, at least up close.
Source:
The Photo Argus (© Copyright 2013 Warren Krupsaw)

Even though I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable plant geek, there’s still a world of plants out there waiting to be discovered. I love it!

MARCH 3, 2015 UPDATE: Click here to see what my Sansevieria suffruticosa, Sansevieria schweinfurthii and a real Sansevieria cylindrica that has joined the collection look like now.

29 comments:

  1. Oh my! the only reason we did not buy them at the Extravaganza was we thought it was 10.00 per plant so that pot would have been 50.00. Oh well next time.

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    1. Laura, the two plants I separated are for you and Jeanne :-)

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  2. I see those braided numbers at Home Depot every once and awhile, yikes! And I love the way you summed it up with "Sansevierias maybe tough-as-nails houseplants, but they are wimpy outdoor plants. Pretty much anything south of freezing will do them in" so true! They will survive pretty much anything, as long as they stay warm.

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    1. I never look in the houseplant sections at HD or elsewhere. Of course that's where they would be!

      Sanseviera braiding does qualify as plant torture, doesn't it?

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  3. Got all kinds of sansevierias in my rock garden and hellstrip. They really are the easiest.

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    1. You are so lucky to be living in the Caribbean. It's got to be paradise for plant lovers! No wonder you can grow sansevieras in your rock garden, LOL.

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  4. I don't know why I haven't moved my three Sansevierias out of the basement and into my living space. Heaven knows the current plants up there are looking pretty ratty.

    The photo of them in the ground... they look HUGE. Very impressive.

    Wondering why you left the three in the same pot...won't they multiply? I suppose you have enough potted plants around already though. :)

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    1. Alan, I have newfound appreciation for sansevierias. I'll be looking for more to keep as houseplants. At least they don't need constant attention like some.

      I left the remaining three in one pot because S. cylindrica supposedly is very slow growing. I don't think my trio will outgrow this pot anytime soon.

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  5. Your comment about them being tough indoors but never outdoors made me laugh, yep, agree with you. They are wonderful house plants really, and didn't know until now that they're extra good in air filtering too.

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    1. I would love to be able to grow these in an outdoor bed. Their shape is very architectural and would combine well with rosette-forming succulents. But to do that I'd have to move to a warmer climate. Maybe when I retire....

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  6. I love sansevierias. I have put them in classroom for the winter. I wonder if it will remove locker room smell from the classroom as well as other toxins. (LOL) I just got a wonderful S. Cylendrica from someone at the SCSS.

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    1. You gave me an idea. I should put sansevieras in my kids' rooms, LOL.

      I love that Sansevieria schweinfurthii I got at the SCSS Country Store in September!

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  7. Hey you! I have really discovered my like for this species also! I have quite a few now such as Sansevieria cylindrica wisdom horns, Sansevieria trifasciata Gold Hahnii, Sansevieria ehrenbergii and a few others! When I get babies of ehrenbergii I will give you one!

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    1. How are your sansevierias doing? Any pups from the S. ehrenbergii, nudge, nudge?

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  8. I have an unidentified sansevieria that I bought in a tiny 3cm container and it was not more than ten centimeters high... I though, hey, thats a cute little plantie for my small room... Got it repotted and the plantie grew into one meter tall monster plant, still looking gorgeous though :) They are wonderful, but I still have some kind of dislike for the classic house-type Sansevierias that were everywhere when I was a kid - from school corridors to restaurants and cheap hotel receptions.

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    1. The more I find out about sansevierias, the more I'm fascinated with them. What a cool genus of plants!

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  9. cylindrical is actually pretty dangerous around small children because the tips are so sharp. If you have toddlers, keep them put up where if they fall, they won't get speared, or blunt all the tips with scissors. They can seriously put an eye out and inflect serious damage

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    1. You're definitely right about that. I've poked myself a time or three. If I had small kids or curious cats, I'd simply cut off the tips with scissors.

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  10. My favorite sansevieria is S. schweinfurthii. I have had my plant since at least 2008 and it has survived forgetting to water it for a month or so at a time, a cold sunroom, moving, and less than optimal winter sun in the new location. And yet, it's putting out a pup this winter (Very slow growing, only about the 3rd pup it's produced since I purchased it). I particularly appreciate it as I feel it has an architectural look to it with the V-shaped fans standing between 24" and 30" high. Right now the 3rd pup it's produced is growing fast and after about 3 weeks is already about 2" tall and beginning to fan out. I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to buy one of these to do so (I ordered mine from Glasshouseworks.com in Ohio and they provided the initial, tall plant in beautiful shape. I'm indebted to them for starting my love affair with S.schweinfurthii

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    1. I know what you mean about S. schweinfurthii being slow growing. It redefines the meaning of slow! I'm not sure mine has grown an inch in two years. But I love it all the same, especially since it's so undemanding.

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  11. It took me FOREVER to figure out that my cylindrica was a sansavaria! Try to google image a plant that you don't know the name of! My friend gave me a pot with just two large central tubes (for lack of a better word) sticking up, at least 1" in diameter and approx. 10" tall. I called it my HORN plant, that's exactly what it looked like, two green horns in a pot. Like you, I instantly liked them because they were different! Once repotted, they immediately had three babies. I'm hooked.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean! So different from the "typical" sansevierias with wider leaves.

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  12. Do you by any chance know what causes the tips of S. Cylindrica to dry and turn brown?

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    1. Is it indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, it could be frost damage. If indoors, it could be a lack of water.

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    2. Thanks...we also have "stink bugs" around here and there are also lesions further down the leaf which look to be bug munches.

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  13. I have one of these at my office a friend gave me but it is in potting soil and attracts nats very badly. I did some digging around on good and it says to pot it in a cactus succulent soil, is this true?

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    1. Gnats are usually a sign of overwatering. Sansevierias prefer to dry out between watering. Cactus/succulent provides much better drainage than regular potting soil so that's what I would recommend.

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    2. Yes, that is what I was told but I went weeks without watering it and it was very very dry but still full of gnats. I will go ahead and purchase some cactus/succulent soil and re-pot and see if it takes care of the gnat problem :) . Thank you for your advice!

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  14. I have one of these here at the office that a friend gave me. It is potted in regular potting soil Miracle Grow brand and attracts nats so bad. I read online that it should be potted in the cactus succulent soil, is this tru?

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