Carolyn L. Braun (

Thriving by neglect …

For many years I’ve had house plants in the dining room bay window. Most of them are low maintenance plants, such as cactuses, snake plants, etc. Why? Because I forget to water them. They are in the window bay, near the floor, and partially hidden by the dining room table. Now that I am on oxygen, they get even less watering because it’s hard to pull the hose around while watering. Fortunately, my friend has taken on the job of watering them.

As a result, the snake plant – commonly referred to as a mother-in-law’s tongue – actually blossomed! You might be thinking ‘why is that such a big deal?” Here’s why: Many people have owned these plants for decades and have never seen a blossom. Apparently, the plant blossoms when is it mildly and continually stressed, often when it is rootbound. So, there you have it – by neglecting the plant, it blossoms! It may have been because it now gets regular watering; it may be that it is getting too much watering. We’ll never know for sure.

My mother-in-law’s tongue (snake plant) in full bloom.

Here are some quick facts about these plants:

  • Sansevieria trifasciata is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, native to tropical West Africa from Nigeria east to the Congo.
  • Sansevieria trifasciata is commonly called “mother-in-law’s tongue” or “snake plant“, because of the shape and sharp margins of its leaves. It is also known as the “viper’s bowstring hemp“, because it is one of the sources for plant fibers used to make bowstrings. Apparently, sharpness of tongue relates to the mother-in-law part – but not in my case. I had the best mother-in-law.
  • Sansevieria was first cultivated in China and kept as a treasured houseplant because it was believed the eight gods bestowed their virtues (long life, prosperity, intelligence, beauty, art, poetry, health, and strength) upon those who grew the snake plant.
  • Poisonous for pets: If cats or dogs ingest parts of this plant it can cause them to feel unwell, start vomiting or have diarrhoea. They are not highly toxic but still can cause uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Good for indoor air quality. The snake plant is among the top plant’s tested and added to a list by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for removing, benzene, formaldehyde and other harmful toxins.

And the best news? Mother-in-law’s tongue is perfect for those who tend to kill any plant that enters their home. It is pretty hard to kill these plants – I’ve been working at it for years.

Thanks for reading. I hope you return!

Photos by Pammy Theim Luedtke; also the expert waterer.

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