No indoor plant collection is complete without a snake plant. Called everything from St. George’s Sword to the unflattering Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, these sharp-edged plants are actually a family, with many tall cousins to choose from. They’re often sold under the same common names, making it hard to be sure what plant you actually have!
Sansevieria Zeylanica is a tall tough snake plant, with narrower leaves that feature pale waves of variegation running from edge to edge. sansevieria laurentii on the other hand is smaller and features a bold yellow border around its broader hardy leaves.
Let’s take a look at what sets these two relatives apart.
|Sansevieria Zeylanica||Dracaena Trifasciata “Laurentii”|
|USDA Hardiness zone||Zones 9 -11||Zones 10-12|
|Scientific Name||Sansevieria zeylanica||Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’,|
|Mature height||4 feet (120cm)||3 feet (90cm)|
|Leaf Color||Green with white variegation||Green with yellow edges|
|Habit||Some clumping, sprawling||Clumping|
|Light Requirement||Full sun to partial shade||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil Type||Well draining sandy loam||Well draining sandy loam|
|Soil pH||Mildly acidic to alkaline||Mildly acidic to alkaline|
|Watering Frequency||When dry, weekly||When dry, weekly|
|Pests||Mealybugs, spider mites||Mealybugs, spider mites|
|Diseases||Root rot||Root rot|
Difference Between Sansevieria Zeylanica and Sansevieria laurentii
These plants are virtually identical, so the most reliable way to tell them apart is through careful examination of the leaves. A key difference between their leaves is D. laurentii’s distinctive bright yellow border.
Sansevieria zeylanica lacks this band, with its mottled waves running from edge to edge of each leaf.
Besides this obvious difference, there are subtle structural differences, too. S. zeylanica has a narrower, longer leaf, while sansevieria laurentii tends to be broader and squatter.
As I will discuss at greater length in Similarities, neither of these plants are great bloomers. But should you coax them into blossom, the S. Zeylanica blooms best in the springtime. D. laurentii on the other hand may produce a rare winter bloom.
Both plants are generally clumpy, growing new leaves from root stock below the ground. However, D. Laurentii produces tight clusters of growth, whereas S. Zeylanica is more prone to spreading.
It’s not adverse to sending long-running roots all around its pot or garden bed, with single or small clumps of leaves popping up in surprising places.
Height and Structure
Their differing growth habits produce subtle differences in the structure of the plant. S. zeylanica’s tendency to sprawl out will result in a plant with a lot of room between its various clumps of leaves.
They can grow to be surprisingly tall, upwards of 4 feet Sansevieria laurentii on the other hand tends to stay together, its clumps forming tight clusters of leaves. It’s also shorter than S. zeylanica, topping out at around 3 feet.
Similarities Between Sansevieria Zeylanica And Dracaena Laurentii
While there are some cosmetic differences between S. zeylanica and D. laurentii, they have some key similarities in the structure of their leaves. Both plants produce hardy leaves with leathery surfaces and sharp edges.
In fact, their common names often call back to that sharpness, with both plants marketed as Dragon Tongue, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, or St George’s Sword.
Both these snake plants will tolerate a wide range of light levels. In fact, I’ve grown both in outdoor beds that receive full sunlight with nary a problem.
Indoors that translates to bright, indirect light, though they don’t mind a bit of direct sun inside, too. They manage just fine in partial shade and low light, making them a versatile member of your collection.
S. Zeylanica and D. Laurentii are both arid zone specialists. Their long, leathery leaves lose very little water even in the toughest of conditions.
Let them dry out between watering, and even in the growing season once a week is usually enough, and in winter once or twice a month will suffice.
Any soil capable of draining will do for these two hardy plants. While they prefer sandy, well-draining loam, they will put up with just about any sort of mixture provided it doesn’t retain excess water.
They don’t care particularly if their soil is acidic, alkaline, sandy, rocky, or full of organic matter. So long as it drains, they’re happy.
Neither of these plants is heavy feeders. General-purpose fertilization, diluted to half strength every three weeks will do the trick.
Over-fertilization sometimes causes growth spurts, with the plant producing leaves that are too weak to support their weight.
While not hazardous to the plant, the leaves flop and droop sadly rather than standing proudly erect. If you’re unimpressed, you can trim them off at the soil level to no ill effect.
It is a rare miracle to get either of these plants to flower reliably. Both generally prefer to propagate via leaf cuttings or division. But if the plant is root-bound or otherwise sufficiently stressed it may decide it is best to seed, and for that they need flowers.
Both species produce delicate sprays of tiny flowers on long stems. These flowers are pale, ranging from cream through to white with a faint green or yellow tint. They are quite fragrant and can produce a surprising amount of perfume for such a dainty flower.
Pest and Diseases
Neither s. zeylanica or D. laurentii like wet feet. Both are at risk of root rot should you be too heavy-handed with water. Let them dry out and they will be disease-free. A
s for pests, they may attract spider mites or mealy bugs, but no more than other plants, and respond well to treatment. These plants are tough and resilient.
I often recommend them to first-time plant owners as a near unkillable plant due to this strong pest and disease resistance.
It is a brave fool who tries to eat either of these sharp, leathery plants. Both are mildly toxic to eat, causing nausea or vomiting. However they are not very appetizing, given their leaves are more like leather than a salad green!