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A group of sansevieria plants in pots.
Long lived, hardy and requiring minimal maintenance, mother-in-law's tongue could be just the plant for you! Learn how to grow Dracaena trifasciata with this easy guide.

What you need to know about mother-in-law's tongue

Name: Dracaena trifasciata (syn: Sansevieria trifasciata), sansevieria, snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue, bow string hemp

Height: between 70–90cm tall

Foliage: vertical, spear-like, stiff leaves, dark green, some with greyish lines and flecks, some with a creamy yellow strip on the edge of the leaf blade.

Climate: tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate. Indoors in cooler climates.

Soil: free-draining soil or in pots in light, free-draining potting mix.

Position: keep out of direct sun.

Flowering and fruiting: can produce sweetly fragranced white flowers in late winter and early spring.

Feeding: all-purpose fertiliser in spring and summer.

Watering: water when soil is completely dry.

Appearance and characteristics of mother-in-law's tongue

Mother-in-law's tongue is a long-lived, hardy, perennial evergreen indoor plant requiring minimal maintenance. The plant has stiff vertical, spear-like leaves growing from a rosette at the base. As an indoor plant, mother in law's tongue is a fantastic air purifier, able to absorb toxins.

These plants can create a great architectural statement in your garden, provided they are in pots. In some cultures, mother-in-law's tongue is considered good luck plants because of their ability to purify the air. Throughout coastal areas of eastern and northern Australia, mother-in-law's tongue is considered an invasive plant with serious weed potential, so keep it in a pot

A bottle of Seasol is being sprayed onto a Sansevieria plant in a terracotta pot.

Uses for mother-in-law's tongue

Virtually indestructible, mother-in-law's tongue is an ideal low-maintenance potted plant with a strong architectural element, suited to modern homes and decor both indoors and outside in pots.

Caring for a mother-in-law's tongue plant

Mother-in-law's tongue almost thrives on neglect and will tolerate both low and high light conditions. It will also do well in dry air in homes and offices, and just as well in spaces where humidity is high.

Make sure you always let the soil dry out before watering your mother-in-law's tongue, and try not to get the leaves wet. Too much water will make your plant rot. You can get away with watering this plant every 2–6 weeks. Mother-in-law's tongue needs very little food, but will appreciate a feed with an all-purpose fertiliser in spring and summer. 

Diseases and pests

This tough, no-nonsense plant can sometimes be infested with mealy bugs or spider mites, which can be easily washed off with a jet of water or squashed with your fingers. If the infestation is large, you can treat them with a pest oil. Over watering can lead to fungal disease, so make sure you only water your mother-in-law's tongue when it's completely dry, and don't let the pot sit in water. If fungal disease does become a problem, treat with a fungicide, always following the directions.

Mother-in-law's tongue propagation

Growing mother-in-law's tongue from cuttings

  1. When re-potting your mother-in-law's tongue, cut off any roots that have small shoots close to the plant.

  2. Pot these in pots containing free-draining potting mix—cactus and succulent mix with a handful of regular potting mix is ideal.

  3. Make sure any plant waste is disposed of properly. 

If you like this then try

Fiddle-leaf fig: hardy, easy to maintain indoor plant with glossy green leaves.

Yucca: adaptable indoor or outdoor container plant. Bold, handsome and adaptable.

Zanzibar gem: perfect low-maintenance plant with long succulent stems and shiny waxy leaves.

Calathea: attractive colourful indoor plant featuring beautiful patterned foliage with dark spots and lines.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!


Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.