Caring for a mother-in-law’s tongue plant

Problems with your Mother-in-law's Tongue plant? Conway Lum tells you what you might be doing wrong. 

Credit: Flickr / Marlon Machado

Mother-in-law’s-tongue plants are easy enough to take care Mother-in-law’s tongue plants are easy enough to take care

Q: I have a Mother-in-law’s tongue plant that I’ve had since the mid-sixties. It has grown to about 3-4 ft tall. About a year ago I re-planted it into a larger pot and moved it to the landing at the top of my stairs. Now the leaves are rotting at the base and I’m at a loss as to what to do. I only water it when it is dry. I admit the lighting isn’t good. I don’t know if this could affect the plant. Most of the plant is now dead. This is the second or third time I’ve repotted this plant over the years without any problems.

Mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant (Sansevieria) is generally not a problematic plant. There could be few reasons for this plant to rot. The main ones are if you let the temperature get too cold (below 12C [55F]), and if you let water stand too long in the rosettes. Also make sure your plant is not over-potted. Mother-in-law’s Tongue likes to have its roots cramped and left undisturbed for several years. Do not repot it every year. Instead just remove the top 2.5 cm (1 in.) of the old potting mixture. Replace with a fresh potting mixture and take care to cover any exposed roots. Any repotting should be done in the spring if the leaves are occupying most of the pot surface or the rosette-types have their roots packed in too tightly.