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Plant of the Month
Sansevierias are not often grown in the UK yet they are easy in cultivation providing you give them plenty of warmth. They are not a plant for the cold greenhouse but will do well on windowsills, heated conservatories – temperatures that you are happy with will suit sansevierias perfectly.
Sansevieria pinguicula is commonly known as the 'agave sansevieria' or the 'walking sansevieria' due to the aerial roots produced as the above-ground stolons move out of the pot. It is found in Kenya with the type locality at Bura in the Northern Frontier Province, and was first described by the Kenya-based Swiss botanist Peter Bally in 1943.
This species is slow growing and is not that common in cultivation, though plants do become available from time to time. Variegated ones are still very rare and command a high price. Cultivation is a simple matter – in habitat, most Sansevieria are extremely resilient and will thrive in a wide range of soils ranging from clay to nearly bare rock. However in cultivation, S. pinguicula, like most xerophytic plants, grows best in porous, well drained soil. Excessive watering will cause the fleshy roots to rot, so it is essential that the soil is allowed to dry sufficiently between watering. I use a coarse potting mix consisting of John Innes, horticultural grit and pumice in equal proportions. The mix is therefore quite porous and provides good aeration, but requires more frequent watering to prevent over drying during the growing season. Like most sansevierias, S. pinguicula will die if temperatures drop below 7°C with wet soil. However, it can survive colder temperatures if the soil is dry, though the leaves may mark. The plant grows best in warm daytime temperatures from 25–35°C with cooler night temperatures from 10–20°C.
Propagation is easy too. Sansevieria seed is virtually never available, so vegetative propagation is the way to go. Offsets can be cut off from the mother-plant when the aerial roots are at least 3cm long and just planted in fresh compost. Leaf cuttings will take longer and should only be taken between spring and summer. Ensure that the cut end has dried out for at least ten days before planting in a porous mix.
Sansevieria pinguicula is arguably the most attractive sansevieria due to its chunky leaves (though watch out for that deadly spine at the end), compact and appealing habit, and the fact that it is slow growing. They always do well at shows and are very rewarding to grow.
Photo captions: Fig. 1 S. pinguicula in the author's collection
Fig. 2 A variegated plant offsetting Fig.
3 A larger cutting ready for planting