My favorite houseplants: Sansevieria suffruticosa, Sansevieria cylindrica and friends

On November 7, 2013 I featured Sansevieria suffruticosa as my “plant of the week” (initially thinking it was Sansevieria cylindrica because it was labeled as such when I bought it). For whatever reason, that post has been one of the most frequently viewed posts on my blog. Maybe because more and more plants lovers—succulents fanatics or not—are discovering sansevierias?

It’s time to take another look at my Sansevieria suffruticosa and some others that have joined the collection since then!

This is the original plant:


It looks pretty much the same but has definitely grown.

A real Sansevieria cylindrica joined the club last fall. It’s a fan-shaped plant with significantly longer leaves, one of which curves down quite rakishly:


It surprised the heck out of me when it sent up a flower stalk.


While not the most stunning inflorescence I’ve ever laid my eyes on, it complements the leaves quite well.


The flowers themselves are long and thin. The hummingbirds would go crazy if this plant were outside…


…especially since there’s so much nectar, it’s forming beads at the base of the flowers. (It’s quite sticky and presumably sweet.)


For more information about Sansevieria cylindrica, please refer to my original post.

My third sansevieria, Sansevieria schweinfurthii (synonym Sansevieria erythraeae), has turned out to be a glacially slow grower. I think it’s still the same size it was a year and a half ago when I won it in a plant raffle at the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society. I recently repotted it and the roots filled the previous pot so it’s definitely doing OK.


In terms of appearance, Sansevieria cylindrica and Sansevieria schweinfurthii are fairly similar: long green tubes, either curving or upright. Here are the three of them in their home in the loft:


Left to right: Sansevieria cylindrica, Sansevieria suffruticosa, Sansevieria schweinfurthii

While this is fairly bright room, there’s very little direct light. For a long time, the flowering Sansevieria cylindrica was on the sill of the window you see on the right. That’s probably the reason why it flowered in the first place. However, its new pot is a bit too large for the window sill so I had to move it.

My fourth sansevieria looks completely different. In fact, most people think it’s an agave (I did, too, at first):


This rarity is called Sansevieria pinguicula. I first saw one at Arid Lands Greenhouses in Tucson, AZ during my trip at the end of December 2014:


This was a larger specimen, and I shouldn’t have left Arid Lands without it. But I did. Fortunately, I found the smaller plant you see above locally. It will grow in time, just not very quickly.

Sansevieria pinguicula is a true oddity. Mature plants form aerial stolons which end in new plants. They, in turn, form stilt roots which give the impression of the babies walking away from the mother plant (hence the common name, “walking sanseviera”). This photo is a good illustration.

Sansevieria pinguicula comes from one of the most arid regions of Kenya and in cultivation can go weeks without irrigation. In fact, it seems that most, if not all, sansevierias are extremely tolerant of dry conditions. In my book, that makes them perfect (house) plants.

In case you’re wondering, all of these sansevieras would do just fine outside from spring through fall, but they’re very sensitive to cold temperatures and wouldn’t be able to survive long at or near freezing.


  1. I never would have taken that last plant as a Sansevieria! The S. cylindrica looks a lot like one I've got but it was labeled S. suffruticosa.

    1. This article on Dave's Garden (by the incomparable Geoff Stein) is a great intro to sansevierias. Geoff says that S. suffroticosa forms rosettes. S. cylindrica is distichous (fan-shaped) all its life. But the actual leaves look quite similar.

    2. P.S. Maybe my first cylindrica is actually suffruticosa? It's more rosette-shaped than the second (the one that's blooming).

  2. I've had my eye on S. cylindrica for a while -- perhaps I'll pick one up after the potted succulents move outdoors for the summer, as there will be empty spots to fill indoors.

    What was the fragrance of that bloom like? Since you didn't mention it, probably not much. Another Sansevieria that I have indoors blooms every winter and perfumes the air like nothing I've ever grown before!

    1. BTW, love the shot of the three plants on the railing!

    2. The S. cylindrica flowers don't really have much of a scent. Which sansevieria of yours is so fragrant? Is it S. trifasciata?

  3. I need to start hunting for a Sansevieria pinguicula, such a strange, cool, little plant. And isn't it odd what posts continue to be popular? I just don't understand sometimes.

    1. Ask Sean Hogan. S. pinguicula would be right at home at Cistus!

  4. Great shots Gerhard, especially the solitary one on the windowsill and three on the ledge, like a magazine spread!

    1. LOL, thank you! Maybe I'll have a second career as a plant and garden photographer after I retire.

  5. I just watered one of my Sans for the first time yesterday. I got it last summer! They are incredibly tough and forgiving. The pinguicula does look like an Agave. It reminds me of Agave pumila.

    There's a "psychic reader" down on the main road with a mass of Sans in a planter outside by the front door--and they seem to do fine in the winter--perhaps being surrounded by concrete keeps them warm enough on winter nights. Or else the psychic has seen into the future and doesn't anticipate any frosts?

    1. Great story! I know that sansevierias do a great job purifying the air, maybe that's what that psychic reader is attracted to them?

      They are incredibly forgiving plants, esp. when it comes to watering. I water mine when I think of it, which isn't often, and they always look good. In fact, they've made me change my mind on the subject of house plants.

  6. I bought a braided cylindrica with brown tips. Will it still grow up or now give off shoots?

  7. Aren't Sansevierias members of the Agave family?

    1. Both sansevierias and agaves are in the Asparagaceae family so they're distantly related.


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