Also known as Mason’s Snake Plant, Whale Fin Plant, and Congo Plant, the Whale fin sansevieria or Sansevieria masoniana is a species of the Dracaena. These semi-succulent plants have vivid, dark green leaves with dappled light green spots and a shadowy purple-banded sheath.
For centuries, the succulent nature of their leaves and the slippery sap that excretes when cut compelled people to call them snake plants. Reminiscent of a whale fin, these species grow massive leaves with leathery texture and concentrated mottling.
|Botanical Name||Dracaena masoniana (synonym Sansevieria masoniana)|
|Common Name||Whale Fin, Whale Fin Snake Plant, Whale Fin Sansevieria, Mason’s Snake Plant, Congo Plant|
|Size||8 inches up to 7 feet tall (slow growing)|
|Pet Friendly||Toxic to pets|
Whale Fin Sansevieria Origin
These plants come from Central Africa, particularly Congo. Within their natural surroundings, the upright leaves of these plants grow tall. Researchers documented wild specimens with leaves four feet tall and about a foot wide. Here, these plants flourish in dappled shade underneath trees occasioned by bright, direct sun.
Most growers purchase the Whale fin sansevieria from a local nursery or online. They are usually medium size with one to two leaves. Once in their new home under the right conditions, they’re easy to grow and thrive following these plant care tips.
How to Care for Whale fin Sansevieria
Whale fin sansevieria doesn’t need a great deal of care. Not to mention, the indoor plants appreciate being neglected. First, they require the right conditions in order to survive. After these plants become established in their new home, very few problems should arise, keeping them thriving. Even forgetting to water them, they’ll remain alive.
These plants are slow growers. Trying to get the Whale fins to grow fast is futile and only makes things worse for them. Forcing them to grow fast may even kill the plant. They just want to sit in their place and grow without being bothered.
Light and Temperature
Even though these Whale fin sansevierias are shade dwellers, it doesn’t mean they love living in the shade. They tolerate shade compared to other indoor plants, but they won’t grow in low light conditions. Proper type and amount of lighting will motivate stable growth.
Any window that allows good sunlight to come through will work. South-facing windows in the sunlight are too much, but east and west are optimal. Place these plants as close to the window as possible without touching the glass. Windows magnify the heat from the sun and burn the leaves if they touch the glass.
Close to the window, the Whale fin sansevierias will absorb as much light as possible. They need bright indirect light and tolerate the direct sun better than most houseplants.
As tropical plants, these Whale fins cannot endure significant temperature changes. But encouraging them to grow outdoors in the warm months is suitable for these houseplants. Bright, warm, and indirect light inspire them to grow more prominent from the roots on up.
However, the Whale fins cannot tolerate cool temperatures. When the temperatures go below 55° F, move these plants indoors to avoid unnecessary damage. Frost is the worst, and these plants will die if left outside in cool temperatures.
Whale fin sansevierias dislike sitting in water or damp soil for any amount of time. Classic mistake growers new to these tropical plants give their Whale fins too much water, hoping their roots grow faster. Excessive watering only causes root rot and death.
The correct and healthy way to water the Whale fin sansevierias is to wait between waterings. The potting soil should become completely dry or nearly dry before watering. Inserting a finger to feel the soil as deep as possible is best to determine if the houseplant needs water. The soil feels damp, then wait is a must. If the soil feels dry, then water. Proper watering is vital. These sansevierias will not survive if overwatered.
Watch the surface of the leaves. These plants need water when their texture puckers a little — perfect sign they need water. In fact, succulent plants keep water in their leaves instead of absorbing water through the root system.
When the time comes to water, drizzle water on the entire surface of the soil in the container. Once the water flows from the drainage holes, stop pouring the water. Avoid standing water and leaving the container in water. Too much water will kill these houseplants.
The best advice is don’t fertilize Whale fin sansevierias. Fertilizing these plants encourages the leaves to grow but not the root system. Soon, the top part of these plants gets super heavy and droops because the root system is too weak to hold the leaves erect. As a result, the plants are in dire straits, and very little can help them.
If growers think fertilizing is necessary, use one that’s for succulents. Dilute its strength by one-quarter and fertilizer only when watering. Allowing the fertilizer to sit on the roots is a serious no-no.
Whale fins are slow growers, so their roots won’t take up the fertilizer fast enough to prevent burning the root system. Ideally, with enough light and water, these plants are happy.
Like the tortoise, slow and steady. Don’t force the plant to grow with fertilizer.
Growing Whale fin sansevierias in bright light helps the plants form a stalk of white flower clusters that rise straight up in the center. Flowers bloom about once a year, and they occur any time of year, but primarily between summer and winter.
Growers need patience with blooming these plants and become super excited when they appear. Blooming Whale fin sansevierias means healthy plants growing in ideal conditions.
Whale fin sansevierias are lovely house guests because they require very little maintenance. A bit of dusting here and there is all they need. The dusting can coincide with watering to help manage time.
Growers who want to keep their plants the same size trim the Whale fin every two to three years. The process requires disposing of old-looking and mature leaves. Use sharp and sterilized pruning shears to prevent any infection. Cut off the leaves from the baseline, even with the soil, leaving no stumps behind.
The slow-growing Whale fin sansevierias can go without a new pot for several years. Some growers never repot these houseplants because they started with a large pot.
With that, it’s important to start with the right pot for these tropical plants. Ideally, the container is heavy, stable, and large. The width needs to match the length for ample root growth. Whale fins benefit from vertical space. Plastic pots, ceramic, and terracotta work fine as a container.
Bury these plants more so than you would with other plants. Depending on the size of their leaves, place the plants one to two inches under the potting soil surface. That way, the plants remain stabilized without getting top-heavy. Stakes help support their large leaves, but they scratch and leave scars on the surface.
Luckily, Sansevieria plants are relatively immune to pests. Their thick, succulent leaves have a lot to do with the bugs seeming to stay away. Then again, sap-sucking insects such as mealybugs and spider mites can attack the Whale fin on some occasions, but it’s rare.
When infested with pests, these plants hold up pretty well. And, most likely, will not die.
If the leaves have black spots, then thrips or aphids are the cause.
To control sap-sucking pests, thrip, or aphids, use alcohol wipes or cotton balls dipped in alcohol around the infected area.
Using diluted liquid soap with a bit of alcohol and gently removing the insects from the leaves with a clean cloth works wonders. Continue the remedy once a week until there are no signs of the bugs at all.
Root rot is the most common disease among these tropical plants. The problem happens when the Sansevieria plants sit in soggy water for too long. The roots become dark, mushy and the leaves turn yellow.
Another disease, red leaf spot, occurs in the presence of moisture on the new leaves of the Whale fin in the central whorl. It’s a fungal disease caused by overwatering. Redish brown sunken lesions with an occasional yellow bordering appear. The fungi can spread to the stem if not treated.
Keeping the Sansevieria plants dry will control the infection. Fungicide is an effective method as well. Growth should resume with new buds if leaves remain dry and fungicide treatment occurs.
How to Propagate Whale Fin Sansevieria
One of the best methods to get more Whale fin sansevierias is propagation. Knowing they are slow growers, it takes up to a year to successfully propagate these houseplants. There are two methods to achieve success: rhizome division and water method.
Rhizome division is the best, safest and fastest way to propagate Whale fin sansevierias. To begin, a mature plant is necessary. That way, the rhizomes, and roots are fully grown. When you see pups forming at the base of the plant, it’s time to propagate by removing the tiny new plants.
Remove enough soil to expose any connecting rhizome. Ideally, repot the mother and pup at this time. Use a sharp, sterilized knife to separate the pup from its mother, ensuring that most of the rhizome is with the pup.
Place each cutting in a cool and dry place for up to 24 hours because you want the severed area to dry up.
Pick a small 3-inch diameter pot and fill it with loamy or sandy potting mix with a neutral PH. Put the dry end of the plant in the dry soil.
Water just slightly, allowing the potting mixture to dry out between waterings.
After several months, roots will appear, and repotting occurs after a year or more.
The Whale fin’s sap is toxic, so try to keep it off your hands during this process.
Pick a mature plant with three leaves or more. Take a sharp, sterile knife and evenly cut the leaf off at the base of the plant.
Allow the leaf-cutting to dry in a cool and dark place until it’s dry, about 24 hours.
When the cutting is dry, try to suspend the leaf in a transparent water container. Delicate roots will grow, and the suspension keeps them from damage.
Change the water every week, being careful not to hurt the roots. They take a long time to develop.
Once the roots are visible, start planning to transplant the new sansevieria plant into a small pot.
Frequently Ask Questions
Is Whale Fin Sansevieria rare?
Some consider these houseplants rare, but collectors appreciate their impressive sizes. And they require hardly any maintenance, giving a good reason to own one. With online availability, these plants are now easier to find.
How fast does Whale Fin Sansevierias grow?
These plants can start growing at eight inches up to seven feet tall, depending on the environment. How long will it take for them to reach seven feet? A very long time because these houseplants have a very slow growth rate. It takes patience but very little care.
Is Whale Fin Sansevieria a succulent?
Yes. These indoor plants are succulent and need very little water as a drought-tolerant species.
Is Whale Fin Sansevieria toxic to pets?
Even though the tropical plants are mildly toxic to pets, they contain saponins, a natural chemical the plants produce to protect themselves against insects, fungi, and microbes. However, saponins cause gastrointestinal distress in pets. So, keep these plants away from pets.
The Whale fin sansevierias are unique and low maintenance. Their large leaves are firm, upright, and mottled green and grey. Infrequently watering these plants is the best thing anyone can do for them. Let them dry out.
These sansevierias can tolerate low lighting conditions but thrive in bright, indirect light. They cannot withstand cool temperatures, so keep them warm. Place them outside during warmer weather as a special treat.
Loamy and sandy potting mixture work best because it drains the water, preventing soggy soil, which the plants dislike. Repotting is hardly ever done since the plants are slow growers. And propagate when the plants mature.
If the plants look healthy, leave Whale fins alone and avoid watering them. Too much watering is the factor that can cause problems for the hardy plant.
Be sure to check out all of our Plant Care Guides!