Robusta Sansevieria (Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’)
Dwarves are awesome. Think about it: Gimli from The Lord of the Rings would make a fantastic going-out buddy. The gang from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves were about as loyal as friends could be. Then there’s India’s own Robusta Sansevieria (Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’), one of the coolest dwarf tropical plants anywhere.
Robusta’s coolness starts with its look, which is pure sansevieria, but slightly softer and more vivid. Robusta’s leaves are still sword-shaped, but they’re slightly shorter and notably wider—all the better to show off that trademark sansevieria coloration. Are those leaves dark green with jagged, irregular horizontal stripes of light green, or the other way around? Doesn’t matter, they’re exquisite either way. Plus, Robusta holds its leaves a bit more loosely, so the plant has more of a graceful vase shape than the usual, rigidly upright, “forest of swords” look.
Smaller it may be, but Robusta Sansevieria is every bit as tough as its fellow “sans”—which is to say it’s virtually indestructible. This thing is also called the “Bulletproof Plant”, and the reasons why are obvious.
For example: All plants need water. But how much? Robusta is a succulent. Give it a deep drink once every few weeks or so and it’s good to go. Same thing with light. It’ll take bright indirect if you’ve got it, but it’s also fine with medium or low. Anything but full sun, really.
Humidity? No special effort needed. Fertilizer? Just a sip. Temperature? If you’re comfortable, so is Robusta Sansevieria. Honestly, if this plant was any easier to take care of, it would be a mushroom.
By the way, it’s also purifying the air all around it, removing toxins like benzene and formaldehyde. In fact, NASA says sansevierias purify the air more effectively than any other plant.
Robusta Sansevieria: There may be no better plant for beginners, expert gardeners, or even the atmosphere itself.
Characteristics and traits of a Robusta Sansevieria (Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’)
Scientific Name: Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’ (syn: Sansevieria Robusta, Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Futura Robusta’)
Family: Dracaenaceae (formerly Asparagaceae)
Common Name: Robusta Sansevieria, Snake Plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Devil’s Tongue, Djinn’s Tongue, Bulletproof Plant, Bow String Hemp
Indoor: All year in temperatures above 60°F.
Outdoor Zones: 9b-11
Type: Perennial evergreen succulent, propagated via leaf cuttings or division.
Mature Height: 24”-36”
Mature Width: 12”-24”
Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
Growth Rate: Slow to medium
Flower: Rare - tall, thin stalk with dozens of greenish-white flowers shaped like tiny, spidery lilies.
Foliage: Thick, upright, sword-shaped leaves marked with mottled alternating stripes of dark green and light silver-green.
Plant Care and Advice for Robusta Sansevieria (Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’)
Grown In: Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 9b-11.
Light Requirements: Bright indirect to low. Anything but direct sun is do-able.
Water Requirements: March-August, give moderate water when the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Sept-Feb, water just enough to wet soil every 4 weeks or so.
Drought Tolerance: Great
Temperature: Likes indoor room temp. 65°F-85°F. Bring in when outdoor temps fall below 50°F.
Air Purification: Excellent - removes airborne pollutants including benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.
Toxicity: Mildly toxic. When ingested, can cause vomiting, nausea, and swelling of the tongue and throat.
Fertilizer: Half-strength liquid fertilizer every 1-3 months in spring and summer, nothing fall/winter.
Container Friendly: Yes - but must have adequate drainage.
Robusta Sansevieria likes to be root-bound—it helps the plant keep its leaves upright and they actually grow a bit faster if their roots are crowded—so it needn’t be repotted frequently. However, if the pot is bulging (in the case of plastic pots) or cracking (terracotta), or if the plant seems top-heavy or to have stopped growing, it’s a good idea to upgrade to a new pot 1”-2” wider than the previous one.
Like most sansevierias, Robusta is very open-minded with regard to soil. It will make do with most anything that drains well. But there are a few options that sans-loving plant parents particularly prefer. The first is pre-mixed African violet soil, blended 2:1 with sand for extra drainage. The second option is equal parts cactus soil and garden soil. The third is a custom mix of 50% sand or perlite, 25% peat, and 25% garden soil.
There’s a saying that goes “if a room has enough light for you to see a sansevieria, there’s enough light for that sansevieria to survive.” That’s an exaggeration—but only a small one. The reality is that Robusta Sansevieria does best in bright indirect light, but also does just fine in medium light and can even handle low light. It might not grow as quickly or have as much colorful variegation in low light, but it’ll still hang in there. It loves fluorescent lighting, too. In fact, the only light it really dislikes is direct, unfiltered sunlight.
As a succulent, Robusta Sansevieria knows how to make do with minimal water. Also as a succulent, it’s highly susceptible to root rot if overwatered. As such, these plants actually do best when watered very sparingly. Wait for the top 2” to be dry to the touch, then water moderately and allow to drain completely. If you’re not sure if the plant needs water just yet, wait. It can go a month or more without water and not even notice. In fact, during fall and winter, it’s best to plan to water only once a month, and in smaller amounts. This will help prevent the situation of the plant sitting in root rot’s favorite environment: soggy soil.
Tolerant as it may be of … just about anything, actually … Robusta Sansevieria does prefer temperatures in the range of 65°F-85°F. It is not remotely frost tolerant.
Robusta Sansevieria does just fine with average household humidity, so there’s almost never a need for misting or pebble trays. Fertilizer is optional, but it won’t say no to a half-strength dose of balanced liquid feed every 1-3 months during spring and summer—nothing in winter, though.
Given the legendary toughness of its genus, it’s no surprise that Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’ doesn’t require a great deal of coddling or troubleshooting.
The biggest threat to this plant is overwatering. It’s a succulent, so it requires very little water. If overwatered, possible symptoms include leaves that become mushy, rotting, slimy, and/or brown.
By comparison, leaves of a plant that is underwatered (which is hard to do, BTW) will become thin, flattened, and “crispy” and may turn tan/dead.
Both underwatering and overwatering trigger changes in the shape of a sansevieria’s leaves, which can make the condition difficult to diagnose. The general guideline is that underwatering will cause the leaves to bend and wrinkle, but not to curl. Overwatering, by comparison, will cause the leaves to droop, fall over, fold, and curl, but not to bend.
The challenge, of course, is figuring out the difference between a leaf that’s bent, a leaf that’s folded, and a leaf that’s curled.
As a rule, the easiest solution is to examine the moisture level in the soil itself, not only at the surface but 2”-3” down, where the roots reach. That should make clear whether your plant is dealing with too much moisture or not enough.
If the leaves of your Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’ are tipping over and water doesn’t seem to be the problem, there could be too much room in the pot (letting the leaves flop around), or it could be it’s been too long since the plant was exposed to bright light.
On the bright side, if only the tips of your Robusta Sansevieria’s leaves are turning brown, it means the plant is getting water, but not frequently enough. Give water more often and the tips should stop browning (the already-brown tips won’t grow back, though).
Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’ has very few pest problems. Spider mites are the biggest threat, followed by mealybugs and scales. All three can be treated by physically removing them, by rubbing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol (though this won’t remove the scales, it’ll just kill them), or by treating the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
There are two easy and effective ways to propagate Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Robusta’.
The first is by simple division. This plant reproduces naturally by sending out underground stems called rhizomes, which sprout buds that grow into new baby plants. These “plantlets” can be separated and placed in their own pots as soon as their root systems form.
If you’d rather not wait for the plant to reproduce on its own, it’s easy to grow more plants via a leaf cutting. Simply cut a leaf off and then cut that leaf into 3”-4” sections (make sure to take note of which end was pointed up). Wait a day for the cut edges to seal over, then stick the “downside edge” or each leaf section about ½” to ¾” deep into damp potting soil. Place it in a sunny spot and keep the soil damp, but not soggy, and your cuttings should sprout roots of their own within a month or two. A few months after that, you’ll have plantlets.
Note that plants grown from leaf cuttings usually revert to the “base” version of the plant, which is usually the original wild version. For instance, Sansevieria Trifasciata “Black Gold” leaf cuttings will produce regular Sansevieria Trifasciata plants, not the “Black Gold” variety. So if the babies from your leaf cuttings don’t seem to match the parent, they’ve probably reverted.