Cylindrical Snake Plant ~ Pro Care Guide (African Spear)

The Cylindrical Snake Plant, also known as the African Spear Plant (Dracaena angolensis, formerly Sansevieria cylindrica), is a succulent with rod-shaped, gray-green leaves. It is an easy plant for new gardeners because it is tough, adaptable to most household conditions, and seems to thrive on neglect.

The African Spear comes from a hot, dry environment in Angola, a country in Central Africa. Its striped leaves are 1 inch in diameter, and mature plants can grow to 6 feet high. It spreads by underground rhizomes and, in its native environment, can grow into enormous colonies.

There are three varieties of this plant, each with a different growth pattern.

3 Varieties of Cylindrical Snake Plant

While there are 30 kinds of snake plants, there are three varieties of African Spear:

Dracaena angolensis, Sansevieria cylindrica
Dracaena angolensis

1. Dracaena angolensis var. patula ‘Boncel’

This variety has leaves that grow outward in a fan shape rather than straight up.

2. Dracaena angolensis ‘Spaghetti’

Spaghetti has thinner leaves than the other African Spear varieties.

3. Dracaena angolensis ‘Skyline’

Skylines’ leaves are thicker and grow straight up.

All varieties of this curious houseplant are highly adaptable, and they will live their best life if you provide them with the soil, water, and light they need. Here are the conditions that are just right for your Cylindrical Snake Plant.

Care Guide for Snake Plant Cylindrical

potting a Cylindrical Snake Plant

Light

Your African Spear can handle different amounts of light, but bright indirect light, such as in a north- or east-facing window, is best. Harsh afternoon sun, such as the direct sunlight in a west- or south-facing window, might burn its leaves, but low light conditions can cause yellowing leaves and stunt its growth.

Temperature

Snake Plants aren’t fussy about temperature. Room temperatures that fluctuate seasonally between 65 and 75 are acceptable for the plant, but it will not thrive if the temperature dips to 50 degrees or below.

If you have your plant outdoors in the summer, make sure that you bring it indoors when the temperature is predicted to drop.

Humidity

Household humidity is usually about 30 to 40 percent, which is fine for your African Spear since they do well in dry air. You don’t need to boost the humidity with a pebble tray or humidifier because too much humidity could cause fungal growth on your plant.

Soil

As adaptable as these plants are, they need the right soil mix to stay healthy. Light, well-draining soil formulated for succulents and cacti will work well for your plant.

You can also mix your own with a good organic potting mix that you amend with perlite, coarse sand, coco coir, pumice, or peat to increase the air spaces and drainage. Your plant could develop root rot if it’s growing in rich, heavy soil with poor drainage and almost no air circulation around the roots.

Pot

The pot you choose for your plant will affect how quickly the soil dries out. Terracotta “breathes” and allows moisture to evaporate from the walls of the pot. Ceramic, composite, and plastic pots retain water and dry out more slowly.

Terracotta is the healthiest for your plant, but whichever type of pot you choose, ensure it has one drainage hole in the bottom. Without proper drainage, water will build up in the pot and rot the roots.

Cylindrical Snake Plants grow tall, so it’s safest to plant them in a wide, heavy container so they won’t topple over.

Repotting

Even though Snake Plants are slow growers and don’t require frequent repotting, it’s necessary when they become root-bound, meaning the roots have filled up the pot and have no more room to grow. This typically happens every 2 to 3 years. 

If your plant’s growth has stagnated or you notice roots surfacing above the soil or protruding from the drainage hole, it’s probably time to repot.

To repot your Cylindrical Snake Plant:

  1. Choose a new pot that’s a couple of inches larger in diameter than the current one.
  2. Fill the pot with a fresh batch of the right soil mix, place the plant into the pot, and fill in with more soil, ensuring the plant is at the same depth as in the previous pot.
  3. Remember not to water immediately after repotting; give it a few days to let the plant adjust to its new environment.

Water

When you love your plant, it’s easy to overdo and water it too much. African Spears do need to be watered, but only when the soil is dry.

Don’t water on a schedule!

Household temperature, humidity, and light fluctuate with the seasons and will influence how quickly the soil dries out, so it’s best to test the soil before you water. Dig your finger or a chopstick down 2 to 4 inches into the soil.

If it comes out dry, it’s time to water. But if it is still moist, hold off watering until the soil is dry. A moisture meter may make it easier for you to determine the level of soil moisture.

Water thoroughly so that it runs through the opening at the bottom of the pot and the soil is soaked through. Allow it to drain completely, then empty any excess drainage water from the saucer or tray underneath.

With average household temperature, humidity, and light, you will need to water about every two or three weeks from spring to fall, but it’s best to check the soil before watering.

During the winter, when the plant grows more slowly, and the sunlight is not as strong, cut back on the water to about once a month.

Fertilizer

Cylindrical Snake Plants grow slowly and are not heavy feeders, but you can fertilize your plant when it is actively growing with a fertilizer specially formulated for succulents.

Mix a small amount of granular fertilizer into the soil in the spring, or water the plant with half-strength liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring, summer, and fall).

Do not fertilize your plant at all during the winter months.

Pests and Diseases

Pests

The main pests that attack African Spears are spider mites, mealybugs, and fungus gnats.

You have spider mites if you see webbing on your plant or tiny red or black critters with eight legs. Mealybugs are easier to see. They are usually white or cream-colored with fuzzy bodies.

Both of these pests suck the juices out of the leaves, causing stippling and discoloration, and you can control them with a horticultural soap and/or Neem oil spray. 

Fungus gnats are another story altogether. Dormant eggs are in many of the commercial potting mixes that you buy. They come out of dormancy in soggy soil, such as when it has been overwatered.

Small larvae hatch from the eggs and begin to feed on the roots and the organic matter in the soil. After about two weeks, the larvae mature into flying adults that emerge from the soil and fly above the plant.

You may see a cloud of them fly up when the pot is jostled. They will lay eggs back in the soil, and the cycle will continue.

To control them, you’ll have to treat the eggs and larvae in the soil and the adults above the soil. First, pour a solution of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to three parts water through the soil. This will kill the eggs and the larvae, and the plants will love it since it releases oxygen.

Next, use sticky traps on the surface of the soil to catch the flying adults. Yellow traps are the best color, and you can obtain them easily online. 

You may have to repeat the hydrogen peroxide treatment after two or three weeks when you’re ready to water the plant again.

If you have a significant infestation, it would be best to discard the soil, wash the roots with the hydrogen peroxide solution, and plant your Snake Plant in fresh soil in a clean pot.

Diseases

The most frequent disease of Snake Plants is root rot, an overgrowth of fungus in the soil and on the roots from overwatering and poor drainage.

All potting mix has a structure made up of various kinds of material, such as peat or sphagnum moss, perlite, vermiculite, coco coir, compost, and bark. The best soil for indoor plants is loose and crumbly, with a lot of air spaces between the chunks of material.

These air spaces deliver oxygen to the plant’s roots and allow water to drain through. But when the soil is saturated with water, the air spaces can’t supply oxygen to the roots, and it becomes a perfect environment for fungal root rot.

If the soil has not dried out and your plant is beginning to droop with yellow or brown deteriorating leaves, you need to check the roots for root rot.

Gently tip the pot on its side and pull out the root ball. Shake or wash off the soil so that you can examine the roots. Healthy Snake Plant roots should be firm and white to light orange, but if you see black, shriveled, mushy roots that smell bad, your plant has root rot and needs attention.

Cut off the black roots with clean scissors or a knife, and discard them away from your other plants. Then drench the roots in a fungicide with copper as an ingredient, Neem oil, or even cinnamon, a natural fungicide.

Plant your Snake Plant back in fresh, moist soil in a clean pot (with a drainage hole!) and let it recover from the repotting. Set it in medium light out of any hot or cold drafts. You can water it after about a week but hold off fertilizing it for a month while it starts to grow new roots.

Pruning

While Snake Plants generally don’t need much pruning, there may be times when it’s beneficial. For example, if you notice any leaves that are damaged, diseased, or yellowing, you can remove these to help maintain the overall health and appearance of the plant.

When pruning, use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to prevent the spread of disease. Cut the leaf off as close to the base as possible. This will prevent new growth from that leaf, so only prune when necessary.

Even though Snake Plants are slow growers and don’t require frequent repotting, it’s necessary when they become root-bound, meaning the roots have filled up the pot and have no more room to grow. This typically happens every 2 to 3 years.

Propagation

If you want to grow more plants for your collection or to give them away, Cylindrical Snake Plants can be propagated by leaf cuttings or by rhizome division.

Leaf Cuttings

The best way to propagate your snake plant with leaf cuttings is in soil. Cut a leaf into 2-inch to 4-inch segments with clean scissors or a knife and plant them in a moist, loose, peat-free potting mix.

Make sure that they are standing upright so that they grow straight, and you should see new roots in one to four months.

NOTE: Always plant your cuttings with the tops facing up. Cuttings planted upside-down will not develop roots.

Division

Snake Plant leaves grow directly from rhizomes which easily separate into sections. Gently remove a rhizome from the soil with or without its leaves. Cut or break it into segments between the nodules where leaves will grow.

Plant the rhizomes an inch or two down in a moist, loose potting mix, and you should begin seeing new growth after a month.

When propagating your plant by either method, set the pot in bright light out of hot or cold drafts from air vents or windows.

Braiding

A unique feature is that they can be braided. During propagation or pruning is the perfect time to create your own braided snake plant.

Toxicity

Sansevieria cylindrica and a cat

All Snake Plants, including the Cylindrical Snake Plant, are toxic to pets and to people. Keep your furry friends and little ones safe by keeping the plant out of their reach.

Benefits

Aside from its unique aesthetics, the Cylindrical Snake Plant offers several benefits. One of the significant benefits is its air-purifying qualities. Snake Plants are known to remove toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air, improving the overall air quality in your home.

Furthermore, Snake Plants release oxygen at night, which most other plants do not, making them an excellent bedroom choice. They can improve sleep quality by enhancing oxygen levels around them.

In addition to these health benefits, they are excellent for beginner plant parents due to their low-maintenance care requirements. This makes them a stress-free addition to any home.

Final Thoughts

Your Cylindrical Snake Plant is a resilient succulent plant. It should live for many years if you give it good light, the right soil, and don’t overwater.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.