One of the easiest but among the strangest houseplants you can grow is Sansevieria cylindrica or the African Spear plant.
Like many plants in the sansevieria family, it is a tough plant which is hard to kill, and likes the dry, warm environment that homes tend to offer, which would kill more fussy house plants such as orchids.
It’s instantly recognizable for its smooth, cylindrical-shaped leaves, which are often braided to bring another element into this lovely plant.
Interested in growing your own Sansevieria cylindrica? Here’s what you need to know.
At a Glance: What You Should Know About Sansevieria Cylindrica
Also known as the elephant’s toothpick, the African spear plant is perfect for those just getting into houseplants, or those who are very busy and don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to houseplant care.
Sansevieria plants can live for up to 25 years if given the right conditions, though some live for between 5 and 10 years.
On average, the foliage can reach 3 feet long, in a rich green, and some varieties feature differently colored patterns in the leaves, which is very iconic of snake plants in general.
Of all the Sansevieria plants you can grow as houseplants, Sansevieria cylindrica is one of the fastest growing, producing several new leaves per year, while some famously only produce one or two.
Both forms of the plant, braided, and grown as normal, make a striking statement in any room, like living, breathing art pieces.
Provided that you give it the right care, it will provide a wealth of greenery into your home, as well as helping to purify the air (see also Top Air Purifying Plants) all year round.
Mature African spear plants are capable of flowering, producing perfumed white flowers on spikes, followed by berries, but this is rare in Sansevieria plants that are kept indoors.
It may not come as a surprise to learn that the Sansevieria cylindrica is part of the asparagus plant family, considering its appearance.
How to Make Sure Your Sansevieria Cylindrica Thrives
Sunlight and Soil
In terms of light, Sansevieria cylindrica thrives in both full sunlight and shade, but you will need to make sure it adapts to it.
You will see the most growth out of this plant if you keep it in a bright position, where it can get as much indirect light as possible.
The soil needs to be very well-draining, to divert the water away from the roots once it has had enough, otherwise there is a risk that the plant will rot. It doesn’t need fertile soil, either. A succulent or cactus compost mix is best.
If you’d like to grow your Sansevieria cylindrica outdoors, you can do that too, but it will need to live in a much shadier position than you would place it inside. Make sure it cannot be drowned by downpours, either.
When Should You Water a Sansevieria cylindrica?
Very rarely! As a succulent plant, the African spear plant doesn’t need a lot of water, as it has its own reserves in the leaves.
So depending on the growing conditions, you may only need to water it every two weeks, or even less than this.
One thing that you should do is to always check the soil before watering your Sansevieria cylindrica. If it hasn’t fully dried out, wait until that happens before you water it again.
When you water this plant, make sure to give it a good, deep drink. This will allow the roots to grow down into the pot to search for water, helping to anchor the plant better into the soil.
Should You Fertilize Sansevieria cylindrica?
As Sansevieria cylindrica is classified as a succulent, it doesn’t need fertilizer regularly.
If you do want to boost its growth, you can apply a cacti or succulent fertilizer once during the spring, and once during the summer.
Under-feeding a snake plant is always better than overfeeding it, as they have adapted to live in poor soil conditions where nutrients are scarce, and overdoing it can upset its delicate growth balance, as well as burning the roots.
Always make sure to water the plant after you have fed it, as this will flush any excess fertilizer away from the roots, stopping any build-up in the soil.
Never feed a succulent plant during the winter months, as it should be dormant at this point. Allow the plant to rest.
When to Repot Sansevieria cylindrica
You won’t need to repot an African spear plant very often, as they are notorious for having a slow growth rate. And by not very often, this usually means for at least two years, if not longer.
If your Sansevieria cylindrica has outgrown its current home, it is a good idea to repot it during spring. Never repot it during winter while it is dormant.
Always choose a container that’s only one pot-size bigger than the current pot it’s in. Preferably, pick one that is wider, too, as this will help sustain the top-heavy foliage.
To make it easier, repot when the plant is bone dry. The soil should come out easily.
Once you have your Sansevieria cylindrica in its new home, water it in, and then don’t water it for a few weeks until the roots settle into the soil.
Common Problems When Growing Sansevieria cylindrica
There aren’t many problems that will really trouble your Sansevieria cylindrica, but there are some things that you should be on the look-out for.
Root rot is the biggest concern you’ll have when keeping this plant in the beginning. It’s also the biggest killer of Sansevieria cylindrica.
The good news is that it’s completely preventable. Ensure that the soil drains well, and allow the soil to completely dry out in between watering, and make sure the pot has a big drainage hole to allow the water to drain away properly.
Vine weevil damage is very noticeable. These little beasties attack the edges of the leaves, and, if left unchecked, they can attack the roots. Once they decimate the roots, the plant may be beyond help.
If you see signs of pest damage, use a solution of neem oil and water to treat the plant.
If your Sansevieria cylindrica is getting too leggy, this is the plant telling you that it’s not getting as much light as it needs (see also Beginner’s Guide To Succulent Grow Lights) to grow properly. Move it into a brighter position, and you should see normal growth resume.
If your Sansevieria cylindrica starts curling at the leaves, this is your plant crying out for moisture. Yes, they don’t need a huge amount of water to survive, but they will need a good soil soaking occasionally.
Give it a good water, and you should see the leaves straighten out soon enough.
As a member of the snake plant family, it’s worth knowing that the Sansevieria cylindrica is toxic to pets (see also Succulents Toxic To Pets).
It doesn’t have spines in order to deter animals from eating it, so keep this plant well away from your pets to avoid disaster.
If you do suspect that your pet has taken a bite out of a potentially harmful plant, take it and a leaf of the plant, and the name of the variety, with you to the vets.
How to Propagate Sansevieria cylindrica
To propagate Sansevieria cylindrica, you’ll need to take it out of its pot, and divide the rhizomes.
You will need to be patient, as you should only divide Sansevieria plants once the foliage is at least 15cm tall to give them a chance to survive as separate plants.
Take a clean, sharp knife, and separate any plantlets or offshoots, leaving several clumps per new plant.