Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: Sansevieria happiest with minimal watering

Dear Helen: My husband has urged me to send you a photo he took or our snake plant, which a now-deceased neighbour gave us around 15 years ago. I never knew these plants could bloom. There are little drops of liquid on the flowers. Do you know what they are? Should I repot? The plant is in a clay pot that I like very much.


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Sprays of small, fragrant flowers appear on mature plants in highly congenial conditions that include moderate watering in spring and summer and little watering (around once a month) in winter. Repotting should seldom be done. Some house plant experts recommend repotting only when the plant’s roots have caused the pot to crack.

Because these plants (Sansevieria) are at their best with minimal watering and will rot in wet conditions, clay pots are considered the safest for them. The plants are fine in shade but prefer bright indirect light with perhaps a little morning sun.

The fragrant flowers form drops of sticky nectar. Hoya flowers, also perfumed, bear drops of nectar too.

The gold variegated plant you have is known as mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii). The green and grey variegated form (S. trifasciata) is snake plant. There are also low-growing rosette varieties of Sansevieria. They are not as popular as the ones with longer, bolder foliage.

You could simply leave the clump in its current pot, or move it into a slightly wider pot. If you’d like to keep the plant in the same pot but don’t want to risk it cracking, unpot the clump, break it into sections, and replant younger, outer sections. Wait until the flowering period has ended and wash the pot well before re-using it.

Weekend column. I’ll be taking time off from writing a column for Saturday of this holiday weekend. The garden calls. I’ll be back one week from today. The Events below cover the period until then.


Native plant meeting. The Native Plant Study Group will meet on Thursday at 7 p.m. in room A102 of UVic’s David Turpin Building. Nathalie Chambers, author of Saving Farmland: the Fight for Real Food, will speak about the role of native pollinators in our ecosystems. Non-member drop-in by donation. Students free. Parking cost $3 in lot #4. npsg.ca.

Government House plant sales. Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria, will be holding plant sales on Tuesdays and Thursdays from May 7 to June 27, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Plant Nursery opposite the Tea Room.

HCP events. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is offering the following event and workshops. To register for a workshop call 250-479-6162. Details on the workshops and on Tomato Day at hcp.ca.

• Tomato Day, Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Choose from a variety of organically grown tomato transplants along with other vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs. Free admission to the gardens during the sale.

• The Art of Bonsai: Root Cutting workshop, Sunday, May 26, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Learn how to control roots by trimming and using different types of soil. Cost of $60 for HCP members, others $70, includes an Asian style shallow pot for your plant.

• Introduction to Garden Design workshops, 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, May 28, June 4, 11, 18, 25, July 9, and Saturday field Trips, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on June 22 and July 6. Learn to draft and design a residential landscape plan. Includes garden styles, site analysis, plants and more. Members $250, others $295.

• Plant Identification and Culture, Saturday, May 25, 1 to 4 p.m. This is an ongoing, monthly course that can be joined at any time. In each session Diane Pierce introduces 25 new plants, with descriptions, preferred growing conditions, landscape uses and maintenance. Cost to HCP members per session is $35, others $45. Cost for 12 sessions: members $350, others $450.

Plant a Holics sale. This sale on Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Robin Denning’s Brentwood Bay Nursery, 1395 Benvenuto (the road to Butchart Gardens) will feature rare, hard to find plants as well as Pacific Coast irises, ferns, fuchsias, succulents, geraniums, roses, plants from Abkhazi gardens, and garden stakes. Cheques or cash only please.

View Royal meeting. The View Royal Garden Club will meet on Wednesday, May 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Wheeley Hall, 500 Admirals Rd. in Esquimalt. Ann Nightingale, birder and naturalist, will speak about Backyard Birds of Victoria. Visitors, new members welcome.

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