rambling observations

jderosa(z6 NJ)November 12, 2003

I have noticed a couple of things about my Sansevieria collection over the past few years, and wanted to share with everyone:

Most of my plants grow leaves in the fall/winter/spring, and have most of their underground new growth in spring/summer/fall. I noticed this for most of my plants while repotting. I try to repot in the spring, so that I can have a long season of growth with optimal conditions (I live in Zone 6) before it gets cool and dry. I noticed that any plants that had been slipped from their pots in the fall to check on progress hadn't produced a lot of rhizome growth over the winter, but my plants pretty much fill the pots with roots over the course of a single summer. I've also noticed that it sometimes takes a few years before rhizome production (and new plants) really take off. I haven't figured out why some plants will not produce new rhizomes every year, but I suspect it has to do with both the size of the plant and the maturity of the growth.

My S. cylindrica is a pretty big plant (over 4' tall), and it doesn't seem to want to push a new growth every year. It seems that it will only do this when the previous growth has matured beyond three large leaves, which can take 2 or three years for me. This plant has flowered for me, and each growth gets substantially larger than the previous before it flowers. My first plant had three leaves 24" tall when it flowered. The current growth has four leaves twice the diameter of the original plant 48" tall, and is showing no signs of flowering yet.

I've experienced similar situation with S. hallii, which doesn't produce a new growth until it has grown 3/4 the size of the parent plant. My S. hallii also took a couple of years to grow beyond a single leaf per growth, and the single leaves were only about 12" - now that I am getting two-leafs per growth, the leaves are 24-30" each. I haven;t had it flower yet, but the root system is getting substantially larger and heavier, so I expect something to happen when the pot is filled in another few years.

My S. masoniana has had a similar growth pattern, but it is pretty dependable in sending out yearly shoots. The first year I had it, it was just a single leaf with a short rhizome that the growth tip had been removed from. It took two years to produceit's first shoot (which was another single leaf), and then it produced at least one (sometimes three) growths per year. I attribute this to the rhizome branching. It took almost 5 years before it produced two leaves per growth, now it does that dependably. The largest leaves are about 24" tall and 8" wide. These leavs will usually break through the ground in August, and continue to grow for almsot a year. I haven't had any flowers yet, but I know it is only a matter of time. My repotting this specimin (and taking cuttings every few years) can be slowing the flowering down.

I've noticed that my variegated plants grow much slower than my non-variegated plants (trifasciata excluded). My S. hallii, cylindrica, fisherii and parva all grow MUCH slower than the non-variegated types. Also, I've noticed that WHITE variegates grow slower than YELLOW variegates, and are more sensitive to both sun and overwatering.

My S. parva (green) produces lots of stolens every winter - this year I have an 8" pot filled with parva that is sending out 25 stolens (that I can see). All of these will be large enough to seperate in the spring, but will probably take a year or two before they become heavy producers themselves. S. parva seems to want to get pretty big (for a small Sansevieria) before it will flower - mine all grow sn above-ground stem with leaves of about 1.5" before they flower. They also seem to produce a lot more stolens when they flower. This year, the pot has 2 plants flowering, which I attribute all the stolens to. Next year should be even better, as I expect 4 or 5 plants in that pot to be mature enough to flower. This plant was started from a single small plant 4 years ago, and now completely fills an 8" azelea pot.

I've leaqrned not to pot my sansevieria in gorwers pots (cylindical black pots with drainage on the bottom and sides). They are difficult to remove from the cylindrical pots (tapered are easier to use), and the shoots will always try and grow out of the side drainage holes. Many of my plants have heavy, thich rhizomes which will deform the sides of a pot - for these I prefer to use clay. It can be very difficult to remove a large plant from a deformed pot without cutting the pot, and large plants never give me a convenient place to cut the pot without doing damage to the plant.

These ramblings were in no particular order. I hope that this information is useful to the group, and I'll post more of my observations in the next few weeks.

Joe 'always helpful' DeRosa

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oosterholt(z7 Netherlands)

thank you for sharing your experience in growing sans, for newbies this is really very interesting.
Ton de Waard.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2003 at 6:51AM
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I agree with you, Ton. Joe, thanks so much - I'm going to have to read that a few times to absorb it; your kindness is much appreciated!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2003 at 2:23PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

I also enjoyed your rambling thoughts. One of the things I love about plants is studying their physiology. Your post is definitely worth rereading--please continue with more observations!

I live with the plants constantly coming out of drain holes. Bulb pans (plastic) are sometimes useful for sans with long rhizomes. This style of pot generally doesn't have side drain holes plus, the round shape encourages rhizomes to grow around and around until they are ready to sprout. Once or twice though, I have found that the rhizome came out the drain hole at the center of the bottom of the pot.

While the one gallon "growers pot" is definitely problematic with their lqrge side drain holes, I find the five gallon size is very useful for some of the giants--at least if you underwater and have very good light. A friend put his metallica in one and it took off, with six foot leaves. I put my ugly ugly senegambica in one and it actually grew into a decent plant. Then it popped a hole right through the middle of the pot and shot out a rhizome that grew about 18" and landed in the saucer of a neighbor, where it grew in through the drain hole, etc. etc. But, providing the plant doesn't smash through the side, the five gallon pot is useful because it is taller than wide, so doesn't take up a lot of room in a crowded collection. I think they are 12" in diameter, while a one gallon is 6". One wasy to prevent rhizomes from shooting though drainholes is to cover the holes with a piece of screen, either galvanized metal or plastic. They now sell plastic screen in rolls at hardware stores. It is easy to cut with scissors and holds the soil in while keeping out the slugs and pill bugs. Note: this is the sort of good advice that I don't actually follow myself (yet).


    Bookmark   November 14, 2003 at 4:16PM
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Jon: I tried using screening in the bottoms of my pots, but found that when I wanted to repot to a larger size or send a plant to someone, lots of fine roots had grown into the screening and got ripped away. Does this matter to the plants? Of course, even if it does matter, maybe Sansevierias cause so much trouble with their wandering ways that fine roots being damaged is the lesser of two evils, but for now, I have switched back to putting gravel in the bottoms of my pots.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2003 at 10:20PM
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Thanks Joe for your observations,
Could you tell us in what type of climat-conditions you are growing your plants.
I noticed big differences f.e. between in and outside.
And I can imagen the differences between "inside in a Northern place" and "outside in a southern place" just will be huge.
In our climat were we can keep them the whole year outside, the plants allways seems to grow.
So it nice to compare growinghabits between the different zones.

I noticed this year with S. grandis in a cylindrical pot that some rhizomes just didn't come out of the pot.
The rhizomes just died (dried) in the center against the side of the pot.
Jon D. could you sent us a foto of one of your plants in a bulbpan.
I would like to see this bulbpan because I am not sure what this is.
You also are saying the following:
"I find the five gallon size is very useful for some of the giants--at least if you underwater and have very good light"
please could you explain this underwatering and very good light relation.

Saludos Jover

    Bookmark   November 15, 2003 at 5:51AM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Hi Jover, I underwater because I have too many plants and not enough time or energy to keep everything properly watered, potted up and the garden watered. So, I just try to keep up. I guess what I meant was that sanseverieras do well in large pots if they are allowed to dry out between watering, just as we do with smaller plants. Sanseverierias do like to be grown with some care though they are tough. If given water on a regular basis they grow much faster. If dried out too severly they start to die back. For example, I have had full sized leaves on masoniana just dry up and turn this amazing golden color. I had thought of giving them to someone for flower arranging. Lighting for sansevierias is also a little controversal. I have many of my plants in pots in my living room, which has a long east wall of big picture windows. I found that they all can take this bright light, though the trifasciata types really like to be in lower light. So, if one is underwatering and also exposing a plant to very bright light, then a big pot like a five gallon nursery pot is OK.

Here in California, our typical outdoor nursery containers come primarily in one and five gallon pots. The one gallon is about 6 inches in diameter and about 8 inches deep. The five gallon is 12" in diameter and about 14 or 16" deep. They are made of black plastic and have rather large drainage holes that are on the sides and bottom of the pots. Since these pots are designed for use with bulk potting mixes they have drain holes that are too big for our dry gritty succulent mixes. I am always trying to pot things up while the potting mix is pouring out the drain holes.

A bulb pan is a term for the shallow type of round pot, either in terra cotta or plastic. They are thus much wider than they are deep. They also have their drain holes on the bottom whereas a typical deeper plastic pot will have drain holes along the bottom rim, with some of the drain hole area on the sides (like the nursery pots). So, an eight inch bulb pan might be about 3" deep , while a regular 8" pot is more like 6 1/2" deep. Sorry for all these measurements in inches. As for pictures of my plants--one of these days I'll get a digital camera and start posting--maybe this year! ;)

I generally don't see rhizomes dry up rather than sprout. When that happens I think that something wrong has happened. It generally seems that rhizomes will find a way to light eventually. What is frustrating are those species that want to make long rhizomes that need to wind around and around before they sprout. This is particularly true for the nice small foliaged but very long rhizomed S. concinna (with spoon type leaves). I actually got a nice looking pot of this by putting a number of growths together in a 10" plastic bulb pan and then letting it slowly fill in as the rhizomes eventually sprouted within the pot.

Biwako, those fine roots that attach to the screen won't be missed when you repot. Or, you can transplant leaving the screening attached to the roots.

By the way, on the subject of big nursery pots and sans, I have one plant that I put in a black plastic cymbidium pot. These are large, heavy duty pots that are wider and shallower than the five gallon pots--in about 3-4 gallon sizes. They are hard to come by but great for large plants. I have one that a S. kirkii v. kirkii has just distroyed. The pot has several large cracks and holes, with the soil spilling out. But, the plant continues to grow and I have yet to do anything about it. The pot sits in a plastic saucer which contains the overflow of soil and plant now.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2003 at 1:06PM
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Jon: I always learn something from your posts, and I certainly enjoyed hearing about the doings of your rambunctious plants this time! I can't wait for mine to begin acting up (maybe in the spring?). I am new to Sans and at the stage of fearfully hoping that I am not doing anything wrong to all the beautiful plants I got from Russ and the few I bought. It's like a mother with her first baby.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2003 at 10:20PM
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Thanks Jon for your answer about the underwatering and the light.
I bought yesterday something simular to your description of the bulbpan, I will give it a try with some cuttings.
It would be nice if you could make some foto's so you could share them with us.
I thought that the S. concinna was making aerial rhizomes, like parva or am I wrong?
A few weeks ago I got in a exchange a concinna so next year I can see myself the growth of this species.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2003 at 12:46PM
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elsier(z6 KY)

Jon, I also liked your idea of the screen in the bottom of the pot. I do not really like pot shards, and gravel just falls out. I have been thinking about experimenting with something like coffee filters. Do you think they would work or just disintegrate.?

Joe, I also enjoyed your "ramblings", very interesting.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2003 at 9:17PM
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I hope both J de Rosa and Jon D. will continue to favor us with ramblings and advice of all sorts. There being so little about Sans in books, this information is invaluable.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2003 at 3:44PM
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