|Classified:||Byng & Christenh, 2018, (N.E.Br, 1911)|
|Propagation:||From From division, seeds|
|Adult size:||18 inches|
|Lighting:||Low light tolerated, high light preferred|
|Fertilization:||Monthly during active growth|
|Soil:||Extremely well drained|
|See more Dracaena|
Sansevieria gracilis, Snake plant
Dracaena serpenta is an attractive plant with firm, thick leaves. They are adapted to long periods of drought, harsh sunlight or low light and so make excellent houseplants.
Sansevieria is a historically recognised genus of flowering plants, native to Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia, now included in the genus Dracaena on the basis of molecular phylogenetic studies.
Dracaena comes from the Ancient Greek word, Drakaina, meaning 'female dragon' the red stems often found in Dracaena likening it to the colour of dragon blood.
Sansevieria was originally named Sanseverinia by biologist Vincenzo Petagna, to honour his patron Pietro Antonio Sanseverino, Count of Chiaromonte, in whose garden Petagna had seen the plant. Serpenta means 'snake like'.
D. serpenta forms dense stands, spreading by way of its creeping rhizome. Its stiff leaves grow vertically from a basal rosette. The leaves are green, striped, thin and tube like with bronze edging. The plant exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide using the crassulacean acid metabolism process, which is only present in a small number of plant species. It allows them to withstand drought.
D. serpenta flowers grow on a very long flower stalk. The stalk can reach a length of up to 3 feet (1 m.) and will be covered in dozens of flower buds. The flowers are white. The flowers also have a very strong, pleasant smell.
D. serpenta would prefer high light but can tolerate lower light levels. When placing this plant in direct sunlight it should be slowly acclimated over a few days to avoid the risk of leaves scorching or yellowing.
Use an extremely well draining soil mix (see succulent soil) and water thoroughly, allowing excess to drain. Do not allow the plant to sit in water. Allow the soil to dry through completely before watering again. If the plant is in a low light placement in your home, allow the plant to sit dry for several days to a week before watering again to ensure there is no risk of rot.
Brown spots on the leaves of a Dracaena is often caused by overwatering. These brown spots is called edema and is the cells of the plant bursting. Wait until the soil is entirely dry before watering again, and if the soil is staying damp for more than a week you may need to repot into a more well draining succulent soil.
Moving the plant from a low-light indoor aspect to a bright, south facing window or outside in direct sun will lead to leaves bleaching and scorching. When moving the plant outdoors, choose a spot in shade or that gets dappled or screened sunlight. Let the plant slowly acclimate to being outdoors and never move the plant into direct sun without slowly building up a tolerance first. Some direct morning or evening sun is fine but hot midday light will scorch the leaves without acclimatisation.
Succulent plants can experience a slow decline and death in the home. You are giving the plant lots of direct light and watering only when the soil is completely dry and yet the plant is still slowly dying. This is almost always because the soil and substrate the plant is in isn't right for it. The soil used by growers is often peaty and retains too much moisture, or becomes extremely difficult to rehydrate once it has dried through. This means your plant experiences extreme drought followed by long periods of being waterlogged.
Repot your plant using an extremely well draining succulent soil, stripping away as much of the existing substrate as possible. With a soil that is mostly inorganic minerals you can get away with watering your plant frequently, and knowing the substrate will be dry within a day or two. You should see an almost immediate change in your plants condition within a week or two.
Exposure to the right temperatures can be the difference between a thriving plant and a plant that looks ugly and unhealthy. D. serpenta will survive temperatures down to 5°C / 41°F. Daytime temperatures between 15°C and 26°C (60°F and 80°F), and night temperatures between 12°C and 21°C (55°F and 70°F) are ideal for healthy growth.