Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’: Mother-in-law’s Tongue

The plant needs no introduction for it is grown practically everywhere. One of the hardiest of all plants, it tolerates both full sunshine as well as deeper shade and temperatures ranging from the highest greenhouse temperatures to 12°C (54°F) (and even less). What is more, nothing will happen if the grower forgets to water it for even a whole month.

Altogether, there are some 70 known species. In the wild sansevieria generally grows in dry places sparsely covered with shrubs or on stony grass banks and in many tropical countries it grows as an escape on rubbish dumps. Most species are found in equatorial Africa, several in South Africa and the remainder in tropical Asia. In cultivation there are a vast number of species and cultivars, notably the several outstanding hybrids introduced by growers in the United States during the past years.

Most widely cultivated is Sansevieria trifasciata from equatorial west Africa. It is a robust, herbaceous plant up to 160 cm (5’/2 ft) high with a creeping rhizome and leaves circa 7 cm (2% in) across, banded light and dark green. Though the type species is still cultivated, more widely grown are the various cultivars: ‘Laurentii’ — tall with leaves edged golden-yellow; ‘Craigii’ — with leaves striped longitudinally with whitish-yellow; and ‘Hahnii’ — a low plant forming a dense rosette and coloured like the type species. The last-named cultivar has given rise to two further forms: ‘Golden Hahnii’ (’Aureomarginata’) and the silver-striped ‘Silver Hahnii’. S. grandis is a lovely large sansevieria with leaves up to 60 cm (2 ft) long and about 15 cm (6 in) wide, coloured dark blue-green and banded with silver. Of interest also are species with leaves that are circular in cross section, such as S. cylindrica from west Africa with rush-like leaves about 75 cm (30 in) long and 2.5 cm (1 in) across, horizontally streaked in two shades of green.

Sansevierias should be grown in rather heavy, nourishing soil, such as John Innes potting compost. They are readily propagated by leaf cuttings, but variegated cultivars should only be increased by division of the rhizome, for plants grown from cuttings produce green instead of variegated leaves.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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