How to Grow the African Spear Plant

Miss Chen
The African spear plant (Sansevieria cylindrica), also known as the cylindrical snake plant, is a succulent that consists of upright, gray-green, subtly striped leaves. The leaves are cylindrical in shape but narrow to a point at their tips. When grown in optimal conditions, African spear plants might send up a long flower spike from their center that's full of tiny, delicate, white blooms. They are best planted at the start of the growing season in the spring, and they’re generally a slow-growing succulent.

Botanical Name Sansevieria cylindrica
Common Names African spear plant, cylindrical snake plant, spear sansevieria
Plant Type Succulent
Mature Size 4–6 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Sporadic
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 10–11 (USDA)
Native Area Africa
Toxicity Toxic to pets and humans

African Spear Plant Care
African spear plants are generally very low maintenance. They will survive if you forget to water or feed them, and they can thrive being root-bound in a pot. They are hardy plants that don’t typically have problems with diseases or pests, and they’re not overly picky about their growing conditions. In fact, you are more likely to put too much into their care and end up overwatering or overfeeding them than you are to harm them with neglect. During the growing season (spring to fall) they will appreciate semiregular watering and occasional fertilizing. And over the winter plan to avoid fertilization and water minimally. Get this routine right, and that's the majority of the care that goes into keeping an African spear plant happy and healthy.

You typically won’t have any pruning to do on this plant, but you can remove leaves that have yellowed or otherwise discolored for aesthetic purposes. Simply cut them at their base with sterilized pruning shears. You also can remove plant offshoots that pop up from the soil to start new plants. Wait until these baby plants are at least 6 inches high before cutting them off from the main plant and planting them separately.

If you’re growing your plant in a container, you likely won’t have to repot it more than every few years once the roots start noticeably growing out of the pot. Move it just to one container size up, as its roots still will like being a little cramped. A heavy pot that is shallow and wide is best, as it will anchor the weight of the leaves; otherwise, your plant might easily tip over. Also, be sure the pot has ample drainage holes.

These plants can tolerate somewhat low light conditions, but they prefer some full sunlight along with bright filtered light. Outdoors they will appreciate morning sun but should be protected from direct hot afternoon sun. Indoors they like a bright north-facing window. Too strong of light can cause the leaves to yellow around the edges, and too little light can result in subpar leaf growth.

Like most succulents, these plants prefer a sandy soil that has excellent drainage and doesn’t retain water. A potting mix made especially for succulents is ideal.

African spear plants can survive long periods of drought. And being left in soggy soil or standing water for too long can cause the roots to rot. Let the soil dry out between waterings, and then water the plant deeply. Watering every week to every other week is generally enough. If you’re growing your plant in a container, be sure to empty the saucer of any excess water that comes through the drainage holes. During the winter months, put a little more time between your waterings than you did during the growing season. Watering roughly once a month should be fine.

Temperature and Humidity
These succulents grow naturally in hot, dry climates, and cold temperatures can damage or kill them. Make sure they remain in temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That includes protecting them from cool drafts, such as those from air conditioners. Humidity usually isn’t an issue as long as the soil isn’t saturated.

African spear plants can live in lean soil, and they don’t require much fertilizer. Feed them with a succulent fertilizer diluted to half strength monthly from spring to fall. During the winter no fertilization is necessary.

Is the African Spear Plant Toxic?
Like other members of the Sansevieria genus, all parts of African spear plants are toxic to pets and people when ingested. The reaction is usually mild, but it can cause severe symptoms in small animals or children who ingest a lot of the plant.

Symptoms of Poisoning
For both pets and people, symptoms of toxicity generally involve gastrointestinal issues, most commonly nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect poisoning, contact a medical professional as soon as possible for treatment instructions.

African Spear Plant Varieties
There are just a few varieties of African spear plants available, including:

Sansevieria cylindrica 'Spaghetti’: This cultivar features especially thin leaves.
Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Skyline’: This cultivar sports large, erect leaves.
Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Patula’: This plant’s leaves grow outward and bend down more than most other varieties.
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