Black Gold Sansevieria (Dracaena Trifasciata 'Black Gold')
To most folks, the slang term “black gold” refers to oil. But not to us. With all due respect to Exxon, Shell, and whoever wrote the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies, our idea of black gold is this exquisite sansevieria, Dracaena Trifasciata ‘Black Gold’. True, it won’t help your car run, but we’d take it over a barrel of Texas tea any day.
At first glance, Black Gold Sansevieria looks an awful lot like Laurentii Sansevieria—a.k.a., the most popular sansevieria in the universe. Slender, blade-shaped leaves up to 4’ long but only 3” wide and held upright, marbled silver-green with yellow-green edges—but then you realize the colors are more dynamic. Those leaves aren’t just green. They’re rich, very dark green with barely a hint of marbling (especially in the older leaves). Also, that edge isn’t just yellow-green. It’s bright, neon-gold chartreuse. The overall effect is classier, more elegant, and even more striking than the usual sansevieria—and that’s saying something.
Of course, being a sansevieria, Black Gold is also among the easiest plants on Earth to keep alive and healthy. The plant shows off its best coloration when given direct sunlight in the morning and filtered or bright light in the afternoon (when the sun gets hot enough to scorch the leaves). However, it looks only slightly less incredible in medium or low light. Pretty much anywhere that isn’t a full-sun desert or a windowless basement is fine with Black Gold Sansevieria. It’s also unfussy with regard to water, fertilizer, humidity … even pests tend to avoid it. Ultimately, as long as you don’t let it sit in waterlogged soil or sit in sub-55°F temperatures, this plant is likely to stay with you, just hanging around and looking spectacular.
Black Gold Sansevieria has something for everyone. If there’s a more ideal plant for beginning (or just plain forgetful) plant parents, we’ve yet to find it. If there’s a plant lover anywhere who isn’t smitten by its dynamic leaf shape and rich, contrasting colors, we’ve yet to meet them. Finally, if there’s a plant on Earth that’s better at removing toxins like benzene and formaldehyde from the air, NASA has yet to find it. At the end of the day, we’re starting to wonder if ‘Black Gold’ might be worth its weight in actual gold.
Characteristics and traits of a Black Gold Sansevieria (Dracaena Trifasciata 'Black Gold')
Scientific Name: Dracaena Trifasciata 'Black Gold' (formerly Sansevieria Trifasciata 'Black Gold')
Family: Dracaenaceae (formerly Asparagaceae)
Common Name: Black Gold Snake Plant, Black Gold Sansevieria, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Devil’s Tongue, Bow String Hemp
Indoor: All year in temperatures above 60°F
Outdoor Zones: 10-11
Type: Perennial evergreen succulent, propagated via leaf cuttings and division
Mature Height: 24”-36”
Mature Width: 12”-24”
Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
Growth Rate: Slow to medium
Flower: Rare - central spike up to 3’ high, hung with dozens of non-ornamental cream-to-greenish flowers
Foliage: Flat, sword-shaped leaves 3” wide but up to 24” or more long. Leaves emerge mottled green, but turn very dark green as they mature, and have a thick, bright yellow-green stripe around the outer edge.
Plant Care and Advice for Black Gold Sansevieria (Dracaena Trifasciata 'Black Gold')
Grown In: Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 10-11
Light Requirements: Best with bright indirect or morning sun/afternoon part sun, but can handle anything down to low light.
Water Requirements: Give moderate water in summer (March-August) when the soil dries to a depth of 2”. In fall/winter, give just enough water to moisten the soil once per month.
Drought Tolerance: Great
Temperature: Best in indoor room temp. 65°F-85°F. Bring in when outdoor temps fall below 55°F.
Air Purification: Excellent - removes airborne pollutants including benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.
Toxicity: Mildly toxic. Can cause vomiting, nausea, and swelling of the tongue and throat if ingested.
Fertilizer: April-August, half-strength general liquid (or succulent food) every 1-3 months. Nothing in fall/winter.
Container Friendly: Yes - but good drainage is a must-have.
Sansevierias actually like smaller pots, which help prevent overwatering and keep the plants upright. So you should only need to repot once every 2-3 years, at most. However, if the plant feels top-heavy or tipsy, if it stopped growing or seems overcrowded, or if its roots are actually warping or cracking its container, it’s time to repot.
When spring comes (it’s the best season for repotting), choose a heavy pot—preferably terracotta, which “breathes” better, enabling faster drainage—1”-2” wider than the previous pot. Make sure it has adequate drainage, which is vital for this plant.
Black Gold Sansevieria is happy with most any soil that drains well. Pre-mixed African Violet soil blended 2:1 with sand (for drainage) is a popular choice. So is succulent soil, cactus mix, or a homemade 2:1:1 blend of sand/perlite, peat, and garden soil.
Repotting itself is fairly straightforward, though it’s a good idea to water sparingly for the first month after repotting. Also, this is the ideal time to propagate Black Gold via division, untangling any “plantlets” and giving them their own pots.
It’s legitimately stunning how easy it is to care for sansevierias, considering how gorgeous they are.
Black Gold Sansevieria is happy in almost any light. All-day full sun can scorch its leaves, and the very dimmest conditions will cause its colors to fade. Anything in between and it’s good to go. If you really want the plant to look its best, find a spot where it gets direct sun in the morning, but filtered or indirect sun in the heat of the afternoon. But again, most anything else is fine, too.
In the spring and summer, give Black Gold Sansevieria a deep drink, let it drain completely, and wait until the top 2” of soil becomes dry before watering again. Might be a few days, might be two weeks or more. No problem. In fall and winter, cut back even further and give it just enough water to moisten the soil once a month. Even if you undershoot a bit, the plant will forgive you and too little water is far, far easier to correct than too much.
Black Gold Sansevieria prefers the same general temperatures as people, 65°F-85°F. It can survive both warmer and cooler temps at times, but it’s a good idea to bring it in once temps drop below 55°F. Keep it away from cold drafts and A/C vents as well. Average room humidity is usually more than enough, so there’s rarely a need to mist or fill the plant’s drainage tray with pebbles and water.
Sansevierias are light feeders. Black Gold needs no more than a half-strength dose of quality balanced fertilizer or succulent-specific food every 1-3 months between April and August. There’s no need to fertilize during the fall and winter months.
The biggest threat to Black Gold Sansevieria is overwatering. Avoid that, and there are very few ways for this plant to fall ill.
The most obvious symptom of overwatering is leaves that become mushy, brown, and necrotic, especially near the soil level. If the symptoms are minor, you can probably get away with just watering less, but be ready to repot the plant into dry soil if the symptoms continue to worsen.
Oddly enough, sansevierias can get droopy leaves when overwatered and when underwatered. Some experienced plant caregivers can make a distinction between “bent” leaves caused by underwatering and “curled” or “folded” leaves caused by overwatering, but the difference can be difficult to discern in the moment. We prefer to just check the soil—not just at the surface, but inches down where the roots are—when we see leaves changing shape in any way.
If the leaves happen to look wrinkled and/or “crispy”—you’ll know it when you see it—the plant actually needs more water. Be careful not to overcompensate and send it straight from “parched” to “drowning”.
If only the leaf tips are turning brown, the plant needs to be watered more frequently. Not necessarily in larger amounts, just more often.
Dracaena Trifasciata 'Black Gold' has very few pest problems. Those that do appear, be they mites, mealybugs, or even vine weevils, are easily dispatched via mechanical removal, neem oil, or insecticidal soap. Most pests other than weevils can also be handled by dabbing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Note that scale insects may still have to be removed by hand even after they’re dead.
There are two ways to propagate Dracaena Trifasciata 'Black Gold'—but only one way is likely to result in a plant that looks like its parent.
Sansevierias reproduce naturally by division. The parent plant sends out an underground stem called a rhizome, and that stem grows a “plantlet” that is actually a clone of the parent plant and should look identical to it.
Once this plantlet gets to be 6” or so in height, you can carefully detach it from the parent (best done during repotting), give it a day or two to “harden off”, and then pot it in its own container. Water sparingly for the first month as it acclimates, then treat it just like the parent.
The downside to the division method is you have to do it on the plant’s timetable. You can’t force the plant to send out rhizomes. That’s where the second method, leaf cuttings, can come in handy. You can propagate your plant anytime you like.
However, leaf cuttings have one possible drawback: The plantlets that result will most likely not be ‘Black Gold’. They’ll be the original parent plant, Dracaena Trifasciata, whose leaves are lighter green/silver green and lack yellow-green edging. This is still a stunning, very worthwhile tropical plant, but it’s obviously different from Dracaena Trifasciata 'Black Gold'. So manage your expectations accordingly.
If you still want to propagate via leaf cuttings, the process is straightforward (though admittedly a bit time-consuming). Choose a leaf that you’re willing to sacrifice and cut it off at the base—be careful to not nick any other leaves in the process—and cut it into 3” long segments, making sure to note which end was “up” on the original leaf.
Give the cuttings a day to seal the cuts, then Insert the “down” edge of each cutting into moist potting mix and place it somewhere with bright light, but not direct sun. Then just keep the potting mix moist but not soggy and wait. In 2-3 months you’ll see roots, and a few months after that, plantlets will appear.