The Cylindrical Snake Plant, or African Spear Plant (Dracaena angolensis, formerly Sansevieria cylindrica), is very different from the more familiar flat-leaved species of Snake Plant. Instead of being sword-shaped, this little plant’s leaves are cylindrical with pointed tips and about an inch in diameter.
In their native habitat, they can grow upwards to 7 feet, but as indoor plants, they usually grow no more than 18 inches high. They extend outward from a rosette and are a soft, gray-green color with dark green horizontal stripes.
Like all Snake Plants, Cylindrical Snake Plants are natural air purifiers and remove toxins from the air, such as benzene and formaldehyde.
The cylindrical shape of the leaves lends itself to braiding as a decorative alternative to their natural straight spear shape. Braiding them together is easy, and when you’re done, your braided snake plant will be a living art form that is an excellent addition to your décor.
How To Braid Your Snake Plant
Assemble the items you’ll need to braid your plant:
Ø Two Snake Plants, each with three leaves at least 14″ long and about the same length
Ø Two bowls, one empty, one with water
Ø Twine or raffia
Ø Rubber band
Ø Spoon or scooper
Ø Pot with at least one drainage hole
Ø Moist potting soil, either a succulent mix or indoor soil amended with perlite, pumice, or sand
Prepare Your Plant Before You Braid
Take the two Snake Plants, clean the leaves, rinse the soil off their roots with water, and dry them with the cloth. Bind the two plants together with at least 12″ of twine just above the roots, and tie them firmly.
Steps To Braiding Your Plant:
1. Lay the two plants on top of one another with the stems facing you.
2. Take the left two leaves and bring them over the middle two leaves, holding them firmly because they’re going to want to bounce back.
3. Now bring the right two leaves over the NEW middle two leaves.
4. Repeat this process until the length of the leaves is braided.
5. Secure the tops of the leaves temporarily with a rubber band to hold them together.
6. Then, tie the tops with twine and slide the rubber band off.
Steps To Repotting Your Plant
1. Fill the pot part way up with moist, well-draining soil using the spoon or scooper.
2. Hold the braided plant firmly in the center of the pot and then fill the pot with soil to the base of the leaves just above the soil line.
3. Press the soil down around the plant.
4. Water your plant only when the potting mix dries out.
Braided Snake Plant Care Guide
Congratulations! Now that you have braided your Cylindrical Snake Plant, you’ll want to keep it braided as it grows. It won’t take too long for it to mold to the shape of your braiding, but it will still need to be tied securely at the base of the plant and at the top of the braid.
As the plant grows, you can untie the original twine and retie it with fresh twine, securing it firmly but allowing for any wider growth at the bottom or taller growth at the top.
You want to avoid damaging the leaves by accommodating their growth and by tying them firmly but not too tightly.
To give your plant the care it needs, you’ll need to know what its native environment is like. Cylindrical Snake Plants are native to southern tropical Africa in Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, where it is hot and dry.
If you can mimic the warm conditions in these places, along with the right light requirements, water, good drainage, and low humidity, you’ll be able to grow your plant successfully.
Although Snake Plants are adaptable and forgiving of uneven care, they do best in bright, indirect light rather than low light or direct sunshine.
An east- or north-facing window will give it the light it needs, but if only a west- or south-facing window is available, set the plant back or put up a sheer curtain to soften the strong light.
If you bring your plant outdoors in the summer to enjoy the warm weather, make sure it is in bright shade under a tree, porch, or patio, protected from direct sunlight.
Your braided plant grows best in 65 to 90-degree F temperatures, which are within the normal household range.
Above 90 degrees, your plant will wilt and become desiccated; below 60-65 degrees, its tissues will begin to die.
If you have it outdoors for the summer, remember to bring it in before temperatures drop in the fall.
The Cylindrical Snake Plant’s native environment is warm and arid, with about 10-30% humidity.
Average household humidity is approximately 30-50%, which is tolerable for the plant, provided it has enough natural air circulation and isn’t located in high-humidity areas of the house like the bathroom or kitchen.
NOTE: Snake Plants need some air circulation around their leaves, but they will not tolerate hot or cold drafts from hot air vents or air conditioners.
Cylindrical Snake Plants and Snake Plants generally need very light, well-draining soil. You can use commercial succulent soil or make your own with an indoor potting mix amended with peat, coarse sand, coco coir, perlite, or pumice to loosen it and give it better drainage.
Soil has a structure made up of solid pieces and air pockets. Both are essential for a plant’s livelihood – the solid parts give stability and nutrition to the roots, and the air pockets allow water and air to circulate through the soil.
When the soil is too dense, it doesn’t have enough air pockets to allow water to drain away from the roots or allow an exchange of oxygen. Water can build up, resulting in root rot, a serious fungal disease that can damage or kill your plant.
The pot you choose for your braided Snake Plant is another essential piece in keeping it healthy. Pots generally come in terracotta, plastic, ceramic, composite, or metal.
Terracotta is porous and will allow the soil to dry out quicker than the other materials, but whatever type you choose, make sure it has at least one drainage hole so water does not build up around the roots.
The way you water your plant is key to keeping it healthy. The time of year plays a part in the plant’s metabolism and how fast it uses up the water in its soil. As a result, your plant’s water needs will vary with the seasons.
But how do you know when to water?
Rather than watering on a set schedule, testing the soil first is always best. Snake Plants need water when the soil is dry or almost dry. Test the soil by digging your finger or a chopstick down several inches into the pot.
If it comes out dry, it’s time to water your plant. But if it is still moist, wait a week or so, and test the soil again.
Remember, only water when the soil is dry. Too much water too frequently can build up around the roots and cause the dreaded root rot.
When you water, let it run freely through the soil until it comes out of the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. Empty any excess water from the dish underneath the pot so the roots won’t sit in water.
The type of water you use is important, too. Like many plants, Snake Plants are sensitive to minerals in tap water, such as chlorine. If possible, use distilled or rainwater rather than water from the tap.
Snake Plants grow slowly and only need to be repotted once every two to three years. The nutrients already in the soil will be enough for the plant. But as time goes on, the soil can become depleted of nutrients and will need a boost of fertilizer to keep the plant healthy and growing well.
Once a month in the spring and the summer, use an all-purpose liquid fertilizer or powder or crystals that you mix with water.
Dilute all these to half the recommended strength to prevent fertilizer burn. If you prefer slow-release granules, mix a light sprinkling into the soil once in the spring.
The main pests that attack Cylindrical Snake Plants are spider mites, mealybugs, and fungus gnats.
If there is webbing on your plant or you see tiny red or black creatures with eight legs, you have spider mites. Mealybugs are white or cream-colored, cottony-covered insects 1/10 to 1/4 inch long.
Both of these pests thrive in warm, dry conditions with low humidity. They suck the juices out of the leaves, causing stippling and discoloration, and you can control them with a horticultural soap and/or Neem oil spray.
Fungus gnats infest the soil. Dormant gnat eggs are already in many of the commercial potting mixes you buy, and they will wake up out of dormancy in soggy soil, such as when it has been overwatered.
Tiny larvae hatch from the eggs and feed on the plant’s roots and the organic matter in the soil. After about two weeks, the larvae mature into flying adults that emerge from the soil and fly above the plant.
You may see a cloud of them fly up when the pot is jostled. The adults lay eggs back in the soil, and the cycle will continue.
To control them, you’ll have to treat the eggs and larvae in the soil and the adults above the soil. First, pour a solution of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to three parts water through the soil. This will kill the eggs and the larvae, and the plants will love it since it releases oxygen.
Catch the flying adults by putting sticky traps on top of the soil. Yellow traps are the best color, and you can obtain them easily online.
You may have to repeat the hydrogen peroxide treatment after two or three weeks when you’re ready to water the plant again. If you have a significant infestation, it would be best to discard the soil, wash the roots with the hydrogen peroxide solution, and plant your Snake Plant in fresh soil in a clean pot.
The most common disease of Snake Plants is root rot, a fungal infection from overwatering and poor drainage. When the soil becomes saturated without proper drainage, the roots can’t “breathe,” and it becomes a perfect environment for fungal growth.
If your plant is droopy, the leaf tissues have begun to deteriorate, and the soil has been wet without drying out, your plant may have root rot. Here’s how you can make a diagnosis.
Tip the plant on its side, gently pull out the root ball, and shake the soil off to get a good look at the roots. Healthy Snake Plant roots should be white to light orange, but if they are black, mushy, and foul-smelling, your plant has root rot.
Cut the infected roots and any droopy, wilted leaves off with clean scissors or a knife. Wash the remaining roots and drench them with a commercial fungicide with copper as an ingredient, Neem oil, or even cinnamon, a natural fungicide.
Once you have treated the roots, plant them back in fresh soil in a clean pot with a drainage hole, and set it in a warm spot in medium light, out of hot or cold drafts.
The initial moisture in the potting mix should be enough to give the plant a good start. Then water it after about a week; then only water when the soil is dry or almost dry.
Hold off on fertilizing it until a month or two goes by.
Your braided Cylindrical Snake Plant is beautiful and deserves to be displayed with pride. But remember to keep it in a spot that’s up and away from inquisitive little hands and paws because it is quite toxic to both humans and pets.
Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.