The Unique Starfish Snake Plant: Care, Propagation & Benefits

Are you on the hunt for a unique, low-maintenance, and visually striking addition to your indoor garden? The starfish snake plant could be the perfect choice with its ornamental, fan-shaped appearance and air-purifying properties. 

Here’s everything you need to know about this fascinating plant, from its unique characteristics and care requirements to propagation methods.

Overview Of the Starfish Snake Plant

The starfish snake plant, scientifically known as Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Boncel, is a compact cultivar belonging to the Asparagaceae family. 

This evergreen perennial is native to the southern African country of Angola.

Despite not being as common as other drought-tolerant plants like Aloe Vera or the Jade Plant, the starfish snake plant’s unique aesthetics and easy care make it worth seeking out.

Unique Appearance

starfish snake plant

The starfish snake plant is a resilient plant characterized by its cylindrical, elongated, dark green or light green foliage, which grows in fan-shaped clusters from a central rhizome.

The leaves feature distinct markings, called striations, which run either vertically down the length of the leaf or spiral in concentric circles.

This indoor houseplant is typically shorter and plumper than other plants in the Sansevieria genus. It can reach aheight of two feet (60 cm) and if it flowers, the stalks can grow up to three feet (90 cm).

Although starfish Sansevieria has the potential to flower, it is not common when grown as a houseplant.

Starfish Snake Plant Care Guide

starfish snake plant in white pot

Caring for the starfish snake plant is similar to caring for other species within the Sansevieria genus. They are low-maintenance, requiring minimal watering and fuss. 

Here’s a detailed guide to help you keep your plant healthy and thriving.

Watering

Like other Sansevieria species, the starfish snake plant is extremely drought tolerant.

During the summer, they need watering only once every two to three weeks. It is important to check that the soil is completely dry up to at least one inch (2.5 cm) below the soil’s surface.

Sansevieria cylindrica ‘Boncel’ are succulents, meaning they have fleshy, moisture-retaining tissue in the leaves. This adaptation allows the plant to survive in arid conditions and makes them sensitive to overwatering, which can lead to root rot.

In winter, water them only once a month. 

Water sparingly and allow excess water to drain through the drainage holes. Empty any water that collects in the tray or saucer to prevent the plant from sitting in water.

Lighting Requirements

Sansevieria species, including the starfish snake plant, thrive in bright indirect light.

Ideal locations include a spot in front of an east or north-facing window or a bright, sunny window covered by a sheer curtain. It will tolerate some direct sunlight in the morning but avoid the harsh afternoon sun.

While the plant can tolerate low light conditions, prolonged periods may make the leaves pale.

The growth rate may become slower and leaves can become long and thinner as the plant searches for more light. However, be mindful that intense, full sun can cause the leaves to scorch and exhibit brown or yellow patches. 

Balancing the light conditions is vital to maintaining the plant’s health and visual appeal.

Soil

starfish snake plant in fresh potting soil

Starfish snake plants require a loose, well-draining succulent or cactus potting mix suitable for succulents. Mix your substrate with sand or perlite to improve drainage and prevent waterlogging.

They prefer being root-bound, so avoid frequent repotting. 

Change the soil every couple of years. If repotting, choose a pot that’s one to two inches larger than the previous pot and ensure adequate drainage.

Fertilizer

Starfish snake plants have low fertilizer requirements and will only require one or two applications during the growing period in spring and summer.

Use a liquid, all-purpose houseplant fertilizer diluted to half or a quarter of the recommended strength. If your plant is already thriving, you might not need to fertilize at all.

Temperature

Starfish Sansevieria plants are adaptable to slight temperature variations and do well in most indoor environments. However, they are sensitive to drafts and cannot tolerate temperatures below 50℉. Snake plants can live outside, but you’ll need to be in the correct climate zone and site conditions.

Humidity

Contrary to many indoor plants, the starfish snake plant doesn’t require high humidity to grow. Misting is not recommended for the starfish Sansevieria as it introduces excess moisture.

This plant thrives in a dry environment, making it an excellent choice for indoor settings with low humidity.

Common Pests, Diseases, and Troubleshooting

Starfish snake plants are generally pest-resistant. However, there are certain pests that may affect them:

  • Spider mites can cause webbing and yellowing leaves. They can be mitigated using an insecticidal soap. 
  • Mealybugs leave a white, cottony residue on the plant and can cause stunted growth. Control mealybugs with an insecticidal soap or rubbing alcohol.
  • Fungus gnats are small flying insects that feed on the organic matter in the soil and can cause root damage. Avoid wet conditions and use yellow sticky traps to control these pests.

Root rot is the most common issue with starfish Sansevieria. Symptoms include yellowing leaves and a general decline in plant health. To treat root rot, remove the plant from the pot, cut off any blackened or slimy roots, and plant in a fresh, well-draining potting mix.

Avoid overwatering by allowing the plant to dry out between each watering.

Starfish Snake Plant Propagation

snake plant 'starfish' in a natural looking pot

Several starfish snake plant propagation methods allow you to multiply your collection or share new plants with others. Here are the steps for the different propagation methods:

Rhizome Propagation

Under the right conditions, starfish snake plants will produce offsets, known as pups, from underground stems called rhizomes. Pups are miniature versions of the mother plant and have their own root system.

To separate, gently loosen the soil around the base of the pup and lift it out of the soil. Plant the pup in well-draining soil, water lightly, and provide the same conditions as for the parent plant.

Leaf Cutting Propagation

If there are no pups, you can propagate the mother plant using leaf cuttings. Here’s how:

  1. Cut off a mature, healthy leaf at the base of the plant.
  2. Allow the leaf to dry out on a clean towel for a few days until the edges callus over.
  3. Plant the leaf in a well-draining potting mix suitable for succulents and water lightly. Mix the soil with sand or perlite to improve drainage.
  4. It may take several weeks for the leaf-cutting to establish and develop new roots.

Additional Tips

  • Starfish snake plants can also be propagated by division. When repotting, divide the entire plant into two halves, taking care not to cause too much damage to the root ball. Plant up each newly divided section into its own pot.
  • You can also propagate starfish Sansevieria in water. This method involves placing a leaf cutting in a vase of water and waiting for roots to develop. This process can take several months, but it’s a viable method for propagation. Make sure to change the water regularly to avoid mold or bacteria.
  • When planting the cuttings in soil, consider using root hormone powder. This powder can help promote root growth, but it’s not necessary for successful propagation.
  • Remember, propagation takes time. Whether you’re propagating in water or soil, it’s essential to be patient and wait for the new roots to develop.

Benefits Of Sansevieria Cylindrica ‘Boncel’

The starfish snake plant is known for its air-purifying properties. It can help to remove toxins and harmful chemicals from the air and is considered a beneficial addition to indoor spaces.

The snake plant ‘starfish’, holds symbolic meaning in different cultures. According to feng shui, it reduces fatigue and stress by absorbing negative energy, boosting concentration and creativity.

Toxicity & Lifespan

It is important to note that, this plant (along with all the types of snake plants) is considered toxic if ingested. Therefore, it is not recommended for households with pets or small children. 

These plants have a long lifespan and can thrive for many years, making them a lasting addition to your indoor space.

Starfish Vs. Cylindrical Snake Plant

group of Cylindrical Snake Plants
Cylindrical snake plants

The Sansevieria Boncellensis ‘Starfish’ plant and cylindrical snake plant (African spear plant), are two different varieties of Sansevieria cylindrica. While they belong to the same species, they exhibit distinct characteristics:

  • The cylindrical snake plant has long, tubular leaves that can grow up to 6 feet (180 cm). 
  • The starfish snake plant has shorter leaves that are wider at the base and taper to a point, resembling a starfish or fan.
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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.

Stephanie Bartlett
Stephanie Bartlett
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Stephanie is a horticulturist specializing in interior plants. While living in Germany, Stephanie worked at a hydroponic herb farm, assisting in the research lab that developed new ways of growing. She gained her horticultural certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK and wrote for a German gardening publication. Her interests are in medicinal herbs, community gardens, and eco-therapy. Linkedin