Snake plants are valued for both their beauty and their toughness: they usually do OK even if the plant care abilities are a little humiliating. But not every snake plant has the smooth, painted leaves that you’ve already seen on Instagram.
There are over 70 varieties of snake species, each of which comes under the Sansevieria genus. The most popular form is Sansevieria trifasciata, often referred to as the ‘ mother-in-law’s tongue. (In Latin, trifasciata means ‘ three packages, ‘ which corresponds to the growth pattern of the leaves.)
But if you’re feeling a bit of trifasciata fatigue, or if you’ve put so many in your apartment that it would look weird if you added another, here’s another snake plant to consider: Sansevieria cylindrica, which is also called the African spear plant. It’s less common nickname is “dragon fingers,” which sounds a little more badass than the plant’s actual appearance.
As its name would indicate, S. cylindrica’s leaves are cylindrical, not flat, and about an inch thick. Most importantly, those leaves look weird as hell: like a bunch of girthy, tapered fingers trying to reach the sky. Sometimes I look at my S. cylindrica, which is named Armie Hammer, and laugh at it, because it looks like it is trying to improve its posture and not doing a good job. In this way, it is more than worth the investment, which was already not very much ($12).
Ah, my S. Cylindrica grows straight up, then fans at the ends. Part of the appeal of this organism, though, is that their leaves can be twisted together, making them look like they’re constantly coming out of a middle school tea group. If you’re searching for an esthetically pleasing crop, this is certainly a look.
Fortunately, this aesthetic excitement doesn’t mean the plant is any more difficult to care for. Like its close relatives, it “thrives on neglect,” which should be music to the ears of anyone with a black thumb. Online plant shop The Sill recommends watering sansevieria varieties every two weeks, but you can probably water it a bit less from about October to May, when it’s not growing season. I have forgotten to water mine for about two months at a time without apparent damage.
It’s also important to remember that snake plants are succulent, so you’ll want to make sure your container is well drained and the soil is super dry between waterings.
When it comes to light, you don’t need to be incredibly picky. I’m holding my S. Cylindrica on the windowsill with a relatively low light intensity and a number of new spears are still rising. S. Cylindrica owner Mike, 28, says he’s been good in keeping his plant just a little out of the heat. “I put mine in the window which gets direct sunlight, but only to the side,” he clarified. “Not normally directly in the light.”