One reason these drought-defying tropical plants are so popular could be that they combine an exotic appearance with hardy resilience. This also makes them a great choice for the newbie gardener.
With over 70 varieties to choose from, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Sansevieria. Each type is uniquely beautiful and of course, will require different kinds of attention to help them thrive.
Here I will cover some of the rarest sansevieria plants with photos. By the end of this article, you should be able to identify a few varieties which you’d be happy to grow at home.
Characteristics of Rare Sansevieria
Although sansevieria come in various shapes and sizes, they share a few universal traits which set them apart from other more faint-hearted plants. They are all evergreen perennials with stiff and upright foliage and are renowned for their ability to improve the air quality in your home.
While some have striped leaves, all have a sharp, sleek appearance, that has long made them a favorite among interior designers.
Native to Africa, Madagascar, and Southern Asia, some sansevieria can tolerate bright sunlight but many grow well in the shadier areas of your home or garden.
Although they are known for their tolerance for neglect – especially underwatering – they do not like to be moved suddenly from full light to shade or vice versa. When exposed to these types of changes, they may suffer from stunted growth or leaf chlorosis.
Grown directly in the soil or in pots, outdoor sansevieria require a little extra attention. Although impressively adaptable, they won’t easily tolerate temperatures below 55 F.
When it comes to light, they are more forgiving. They prefer shade to bright direct sunlight, especially if they are going to be left vulnerable to harsh rays for hours at a time.
Even a room with only a little sunlight will be suitable for your sansevieria. Of course, being a tropical plant, they will prefer a sunny spot.
Keeping them in a sturdy pot with plenty of stability away from draughts will reap rewards but as they are so very robust and low maintenance, they tend to outgrow their containers if they don’t have a wide enough base.
Varieties of Rare Sansevieria Plants
One of the most wonderful things about Sansevieria is their ability to survive with minimal care so if you don’t have time to tend to your botanical’s every need, this hardy perennial may be just what you’re looking for.
They grow extremely well, and last a long time to top it all off, most household or garden pests don’t find them very inviting so you won’t have to spend time with pesticides and anti-fungal protocol.
Not only are they beautiful and self-sufficient, but the University of Maine has documented how their sturdy nature has historically been utilized for practical purposes as well as aesthetics.
If you are interested in punctuating your home or garden with some truly stunning and easy-to-care-for plants, you will more than likely find a variety to suit your tastes among the following list. Read on to find your perfect match.
1. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ (Dracaena trifasciata)
- Toxic to people and pets if ingested
- Perfect for forgetful waterers
- Requires minimal sunlight
Also known as Saint George’s Sword and Mother-in-Law’s tongue, this variety of sansevieria only requires moderate to bright sunlight and is even robust enough to tolerate the occasional drought.
Native to tropical West Africa, its stiff leaves grow vertically and are dark green with a pale green-grey cross-banding.
Frequently kept as a house plant, it is extremely low-maintenance. The University of Arkansas recommends it as a great starter plant for children.
Despite this easy-going nature, if you want it to bloom, you will need to switch up the heat a little and mimic its natural habitat as best you can.
Great results are seen when growing outdoors in USDA Zones 10a, 10b, and 11.
Relatively safe, it is only mildly toxic to humans but is best kept away from children and animals as it can cause mild gastronomical problems if ingested.
2. Sansevieria aubrytiana (Sansevieria Carriére)
- Grows in full sun or partial shade
- Resilient and self-sufficient
- Low toxicity
This tender, mottled variety of sansevieria is native to tropical Africa and can grow in both full sunlight and partial shade. It is commonly known as the Snake Plant and will thrive in USDA Zones 9 to 11.
With long, light green speckled leaves, this plant also has air-purifying benefits helping to filter toxins from the atmosphere.
This rare sansevieria should not be placed anywhere too humid but if the tips begin to brown, try a light misting.
Not considered toxic, it will grow slowly but can reach heights from 75 cm to 1m. It is also easy to propagate in water or soil by simply snipping off a leaf.
3. Sansevieria ballyi (Dracaena trifasciata)
- Grows well in any soil type
- Beginner-friendly. Needs minimal water
- Mildly toxic if consumed
A perfect addition to your succulent collection. This variety of sansevieria is native to Kenya and Tanzania and has dark green cylindrical leaves connecting spiky symmetrical rosettes.
Hardy in USDA Zones 10b through 11, they can survive in pretty much any level of light. This tough little succulent is the smallest and some say sweetest of all the species!
Fast growing and simple to take care of and a great and easy-hanging plant, the sansevieria bally is an exquisitely tropical addition to your home, even if it only gets a few hours of sunlight a day.
Keep away from children and pets as it can be toxic if consumed.
4. Sansevieria parva
- Grow best in moderate or low humidity
- No frequent watering is required – once every 2 weeks is sufficient
- Toxic if ingested – keep away from children and pets
The Sansevieria parva is native to the tropical regions of Africa, particularly Kenya (in fact, its nickname is Kenya Hyacinth).
In its natural environment, it is a shrub that can reach heights of up to 2 feet tall. It grows leaves in groups of 6-12 which then form runners. In essence, it is forming its very own colonies. Its USDA hardiness zones are 10b to 11b and it is capable of producing delicate pinkish-white flowers which appear just above the foliage.
It enjoys full sun and can thrive for many years without the need for pruning. If you have a bright spot and can ensure that your soil has good drainage, this makes a perfect house plant with minimal commitment!
Like all sansevieria, the Parva has low toxicity but can still cause irritations or stomach upsets if handled improperly or ingested.
5. Sansevieria ehrenbergii
- Moderate light – avoid temperatures above 50F
- Thrives in any soil mix – even rocky soil
- Toxic if ingested
Gardeners in USDA zones 9, 10, and 11 can grow this flowering shrub outdoors. It is native to northeastern and eastern tropical Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and is known as the samurai dwarf (it only grows 4-6 inches tall and about as wide as.
This plant has a very unique shape because each layer of leaves is stacked upon the next creating a fan-like effect.
The Sansevieria ehrenbergii is low maintenance in terms of fertilizer and only requires watering after the soil has become dry. It can also adapt to different light conditions.
Moderately toxic, it should be kept out of reach of children and pets as with all sansevieria, as it contains needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate which can irritate.
6. Sansevieria cylindrical
- Prefers plenty of sun but can withstand low-light conditions
- Very forgiving – thrives on neglect
- Toxic to people, dogs, and cats – keep out of reach
Also known as the African spear, sansevieria cylindrical is an evergreen native to Angola. They enjoy moderate light in low humidity. If tips begin to brown, they enjoy a light misting.
This elegant variety of sansevieria is straight-growing with stunning green-grey variegation. It grows fairly slowly but can eventually reach heights of 75cm – 1m tall.
An ideal succulent for new plant parents, it will thrive on fortnightly waterings and reward you by improving the air quality!
7. Sansevieria Kirkii
- Grows best in bright, indirect light
- Very difficult to kill – ideal for the rookie gardener
- Mildly toxic if ingested – best kept away from little hands and paws
This mottled perennial is native to Tanzania and Africa and is most at home in full sun but can also tolerate shade surprisingly well. It will grow and thrive in almost any condition just as long as it is not overwatered. You will see optimal growth in USDA Zones 9-11.
It has smooth, dark green succulent leaves which have been described as dagger-shaped. This is an unusual species with underground stems. Its flowers are green-white and delicately scented.
Propagation by division is a fast and easy method and is preferred by gardening veterans. Again, over-watering is kryptonite to the self-sufficient Sansevieria and when splitting a plant to re-grow, this advice is especially pertinent.
This is a poisonous beauty so is best kept away from cats, dogs, and children. Ingesting can cause vomiting and skin irritation.
8. Sansevieria Masoniana (Dracaena masoniana)
- Likes partial sun or shade
- One of the easiest indoor plants to grow
- Toxic if ingested – keep away from curious pets and children
This tropical plant is also known as Whale Fin or Fin Shark as it produces a single leaf that curves upward to form a perfect point like the tail of an ocean creature.
The bright green lone leaf has a mottled pattern of green patches on its rather wide surface area. It is a very rare variety of sansevieria but once you have sourced one, it is relatively easy to take care of, doing well in a wide range of household temperatures.
Originating in West Africa (Congo Republic) it is best grown in USDA Zones 10a to 11b. In cooler areas, it can still thrive. Its fleshy leaves store water reserves, perfect for the forgetful plant parent!
Toxic if ingested, keep away from animals and small children prone to investigation!
9. Sansevieria Golden Hahnii (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Adaptable, prefers bright light
- Drought-tolerant and travel friendly
- Mildly toxic – keep away from children and pets
This petite snake plant will reach an average height of around 6-8 inches tall. Native to Africa, from Nigeria east to the Congo, it is slow growing and in its natural habitat would be exposed to moderate to bright sunlight.
Its funnel-shaped glossy leaves form a rosette of green-grey variegation and this particular variety will be perfect if you don’t have space for a taller plant. Small but perfectly formed, it won’t even mind too much if you move house a few times, as long as it has some light and a sturdy pot with well-drained soil.
Ideal for USDA Zones 9 through 11, it will only survive for a short time when temperatures fall below 50c.
Toxic if ingested – best kept away from children and pets.
Rare Sansevieria Plant Care
Sansevieria are incredibly low maintenance and like their soil to dry out thoroughly before they receive a fresh bath! Watering every two weeks should suffice in most circumstances and even if in very bright sunlight, you really won’t need to water it more than every 10 days.
It favors moderate to bright indirect light but can thrive in changing light levels, partial shade as well as direct sunlight.
You can get away with placing your sansevieria in temperatures from 55-85 degrees but it will thank you for keeping it towards the higher end of the scale. There will not usually be any need to mist as it appreciates a dry atmosphere.
Your sansevieria will do well in a free-draining soil mix with a PH of between 5.5 – 7.5. Light and loamy cactus mixes will allow water to drain and ensure oxygen gets to the roots. Consider coconut coir and peat moss with sand air pockets for maximum aeration.
Sansevieria does not require much in the way of fertilizer. Once a month, a 10-10-10 mix of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus will nourish the roots nicely.
To propagate your sansevieria, snip off a mature-sized leaf from the mother plant with sharp sterilized scissors and place this cutting’s lower half in a jar of water. You can further divide them up by cutting a leaf into three sections.
Rare Varieties of Sansevieria FAQ
Why is my sansevieria drooping?
The most likely explanation for drooping leaves on a sansevieria is overwatering. Too much moisture will smother the roots causing them to rot.
Other culprits are insufficient light, stress from excessive cold or heat, pests or disease or out-growing pots.
Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.