Plant Care for Mother in Law's Tongue

Updated February 21, 2017

Sansevieria trifasciata is also call mother-in-law's tongue, snake plant, devil's tongue, good luck plant and lucky plant. This perennial plant produces stiff, leathery, long sword-like leaves. Leaf colour is usually variegated dark green with cream. The leaves reach the height of 4 feet with small, white, fragrant flowers on long flower stems. This plant tolerates temperatures of -2.22 degrees C. for very short periods of time. It also tolerates light shade. Mother-in-law's tongue is considered an outdoors plant in the warm, southern weather of the southern United States. In all other areas, it is grown as a houseplant.


Mother-in-law's tongue requires quick draining soil. When planting in a container use a soil designed for cacti purchased at a garden store or create your own. Mix together 1 part compost, 3 parts pumice, 1 part coarse sand and 1 part perlite. This creates a well-draining soil with slow release nutrients suitable for containers.


Water the mother-in-law's tongue only moderately during the summer. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. This plant is drought resistant, and rots easily if overwatered. Be careful not to splash the water onto the leaves. Splashing leads to water stains on the leaves. Do not water during the winter since the cooler temperatures do not cause the plant to take up water as quickly.


Mother-in-law's tongue is propagated through seeds unless a large number of plants are needed. Leaf cuttings are used for non-variegated leaf types and offsets are divided from the mother plant. When propagating from cuttings, place the leaf right-side-up in the soil. Upside-down cuttings do not develop roots. At 21.1 to 23.8 degrees C., leaves will emerge within 3 to 4 months. Do not water the rooting medium. Remove the developing plantlets when they are large enough to place in individual plant pots.

Pest Control

Mealybugs are a problem with a mother-in-law's tongue plant. Mealybugs are only 1 to 4 millimetres long and look like tiny cotton balls. For easy control of mealy bugs, dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol. Place the drops of rubbing alcohol on the back of the mealybugs. Use insecticidal soap if other bugs infest the mother-in-law's tongue.

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About the Author

Karen Carter spent three years as a technology specialist in the public school system and her writing has appeared in the "Willapa Harbor Herald" and the "Rogue College Byline." She has an Associate of Arts from Rogue Community College with a certificate in computer information systems.