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Confessions of a Houseplant Killer 2

Welcome to another chapter of “Confessions of a Houseplant Killer.” In my innocence, I was only looking for used pots, and the woman selling them practically begged me to take the plants they contained as she was getting ready to move. In an attempt to give them away to my fellow Master Gardeners, one of them informed me that they are scientifically proven to clean the air in your home so why not keep them. Well, ok, even though my house doesn’t have a lot of light and my track record isn’t the best, I would give it a try.

In my research I read that if you’re usually a houseplant killer this is the plant for you, so here we go again! Meet the snake plant (Sansevieria) also known as serpentine or mother-in-law’s tongue. Not sure why the mother-in-law reference, (I adore mine) but it has very distinctive leaves that look snake-like.

As I quickly learned, overwatering is one of the worst things you can do to a snake plant. Roots left sitting in water will rot, resulting in an inability to send nutrients to parts of the plants that need it. Once this happens, it is not easy to rectify. Luckily I hadn’t overwatered to the point of root rot; however, I was horrified to see the stalks turn to gelatinous goo in my hand as I picked them out.

As a rule of thumb with most houseplants, always err on the side of under watering. The soil should be left to dry out completely before watering again. Feel down to one inch or use a water gauge. What I also discovered is that the soil wasn’t draining sufficiently, so I amended with a cactus mix.

The second worst thing for snake plants is disease, often combined with overwatering, which will weaken the plant and cause further harm. Fungi can live in the soil and attack the roots, especially in humid or wet conditions. There are many kinds of fungi, and signs include brown, white, red, or yellow spots on the leaves. The best course of action is to remove the affected leaves to prevent the fungus from spreading and change out the soil.

Snake plants need to be repotted/divided every 3-5 years. If your plant has been in the same pot for a while and isn’t getting any bigger, you can be certain the plant is root-bound. Repot into a pot one or two sizes up, and it should be growing again in no time. Another culprit could be a lack of adequate sunlight, so place it in a sunnier spot but not in direct sunlight.

As you can see, the plant bounced right back and has already sprouted new growth! I plan on dividing it and putting more around the house to clean the air as well as gifting a few to friends.

Do you have questions about houseplants or a confession to share? We’d love to hear from you!

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