Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria

Dracaena Trifasciata
© iStock.com/ByronOrtizA

Written by Heather Hall

Updated: October 24, 2022

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Sansevieria has been included in the genus dracaena since 2017 based on molecular phylogenetic studies. Scientists expanded the genus to include the species formerly known as sansevieria. Dracaena Trifasciata and sansevieria are different names for the same plant. Below we will discuss the common names for dracaena trifasciata/sansevieria and their origins. We will also go over the common uses of this plant, as well as how to grow one. If you have pets or children in the house, you will also want to read the toxicity section.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

The Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata or Dracaena Trifasciata ) is a great choice for arid terrariums. But it grows vertically, so make sure your enclosure is tall enough to contain it.

©iStock.com/Joimi Joh Abi

Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria: Common Names

There are many common names for this easy-to-grow plant. Because of its long strap-like leaves, dracaena trifasciata/sansevieria is called a snake plant, a mother in law’s tongue, and Saint George’s sword. Because of its strong fibers that are used to make bowstrings, it is referred to in some countries as vipers bowstring hemp.

Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria: Origins

Dracaena trifasciata/sansevieria is a member of the Asparagaceae family, otherwise known as asparagus. They are native to warm tropical climates like Madagascar, Nigeria, and Brazil. In the US, you will find them growing outside in Florida and Hawaii. They are not cold hardy; if you live in a more temperate climate, bring them indoors during colder months or grow them as a houseplant.


Dracaena trifasciata/Sansevieria is a common and easy-to-grow houseplant.

©Andri wahyudi/Shutterstock.com

Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria: Uses

Most people grow dracaena trifasciata/sansevieria plants in a pot inside the house. They are easy to care for as houseplants and tolerate indoor lighting conditions. If you live in a warmer climate, you can grow sansevieria as an ornamental bedding plant outside.

In Africa, people use Dracaena trifasciata/Sansevieria leaves to make fibers. Artisans then weave those fibers into bandages, bowstrings, and ropes.

In feng shui, practitioners believe that the upward-growing leaves have a positive effect on low vibrations.

Dracaena trifasciata/Sansevieria are also decent air purifiers. According to a NASA clean air study, they remove formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air when planted in large enough quantities.

Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria: Description

Dracaena trifasciata/Sansevieria is an evergreen perennial plant. The leaves grow vertically from a basal rosette and spread outward from the middle by creeping underground rhizomes. The leaves are dark green with grayish-green cross-banded markings. Each leaf is 2.5 to 3 feet long and 2 to 2.5 inches wide. The leaves can grow as long as six feet in perfect conditions!

Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria: Growing Conditions

If you plan to grow a Dracaena trifasciata/Sansevieria indoors, you will want to find a porous pot. An unglazed pot made from terracotta or cement works well. If you are growing sansevieria outside, mix a large quantity of sand into the planting site for drainage.

Next, use a well-drained loose potting mix. You don’t want a dense mix, or those underground rhizomes won’t be able to spread and grow. A commercial cactus or succulent mix is a good choice.

Lastly, place them where they get bright indirect light with a temperature that never goes below 50°F. If you have dark northern winters, your plant may benefit from an artificial light source, such as a plant grow light, and be sure to keep away from icy window glass and drafts.

Dracaena Trifasciata

Ornamental plant inside housing called Donkey Ear, Dracaena Trifasciata in Guatemala, Central America.


Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria: Watering

The most crucial care tip has to do with watering. Dracaena trifasciata/sansevieria is highly drought tolerant. It uses crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) to conserve water. The microscopic pores on the leaves are opened only at night to prevent water from escaping during the heat of the day. This fascinating plant can also reduce the uptake of C02 when under severe drought. This function of CAM combined with water-storing leaves means that it is effortless to overwater a dracaena – to death.

Dracaena trifasciata cannot tolerate wet feet. The pot should be completely dry, all the way to the bottom, before you consider watering. For a clay pot, the trick is to pick up the pot and test for lightness; if it is light as a feather, it’s time to water. This is only 4-5 times per year for the average indoor environment!

Dracaena Trifasciata vs. Sansevieria: Toxicity

Dracaena trifasciata/sansevieria is toxic to both pets and humans. It contains a soap-like substance that causes gastrointestinal upset and should not be ingested by anyone. The plant shows very low toxicity in adult humans but is more toxic to children and animals because of their smaller size. Very high quantities can even kill your pet, so be sure to plant in an area where children and pets will not be left unattended.

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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