Sansevieria cylindrica

This plant was given to us as an off-shoot of an office plant, by the contractor that looked after them (and was visiting to tidy them up and replace as necessary). It’s a curious cultivar of ‘Mother-in-law’s tongue’ (or, ‘unspecified parent-in-law’s tongue’, as I believe it’s now more politically correctly called), with dark green, mottled leaves that are roughly cylindrical. The leaves want to splay outward, taking up a lot of space – this is a plant with sharp elbows.

This specimen is in our conservatory, wedged between two window frames to keep it constrained. For some time now it’s been producing what, after an unpromising start, has turned into an impressive flower spike.

The individual, cream-coloured flower tubes have a faint, rather dry and fruity fragrance to them. Apparently the plant is known for being very easy to care for (some sites call it indestructible!) It will take full sun, or shade. In our conservatory it’s in sun all morning, so perhaps it’s this that provoked it to bloom.

This plant, along with some of our others, has suffered an infestation of fungus gnats (also known as sciarid flies). These little blighters are a menace. The tiny grubs live in the compost until they hatch out. Expert advice is that they do little harm, feeding on the microscopic fungi that lives among the compost. But who wants to have clouds of tiny flies in their house? Contrary to expert opinion, I know from first-hand experience they sometimes eat plant roots too – I once had a cactus collapse, and on further investigation discovered it was being consumed from the inside out by wriggling sciarid fly grubs!

Fungus gnats seem to love peat-free compost – presumably because it contains a lot of fungus. A thick layer of gravel on the surface can discourage them. Watering from below helps too, as they seem less likely to lay their eggs in dry compost. You used to be able to get systemic insecticide pins (definitely a tool of last resort), but even those don’t seem to be available now. These insects are ubiquitous outside in the UK, so as soon as you open a window you’re inviting them into your home.

Oh, the trials of growing house plants!

text & photos © graham wright 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *