Starfish Sansevieria is a wonderful, beginner-friendly houseplant with a unique style.
Having said that, it’s well worth knowing a few of its quirks to ensure yours thrives!
In this guide, our experts explain all you need to know about caring for Starfish Sansevieria.
What Is Starfish Sansevieria?
Starfish Sansevieria (Sansevieria Cylindrica ‘Boncel’) is a snake plant variant with thick, succulent leaves that fan out in a star-like shape. In botanical circles, it is usually listed under the scientific name of Dracaena angolensis, after its native country, Angola.
The plant produces fleshy, cylindrical leaves that have a light green, almost silvery color, striped with dark green patterns. The leaves are thicker at the bottom, and taper to soft points towards the end, giving the plant the shape of a starfish.
Mature Starfish Sansevieria can produce clusters of 10 or more upward growing leaves, usually surrounded by smaller plants that grow through rhizomes.
Starfish Sansevieria has a contained growth, usually to a maximum height of 2 feet (60 cm). If you’re looking for something a bit smaller, the cultivar Sansevieria ‘Boncellensis’ (Compact Starfish Sansevieria) is an excellent choice, growing no more than 3 inches (7.5 cm) tall.
– Starfish Sansevieria vs Cylindrical Snake Plant – What’s the Difference?
Starfish Sansevieria is the ‘Boncel’ cultivar of the Cylindrical Snake Plant. The main difference between these two plants is the shape and size of the leaves.
The Cylindrical Snake Plant has long, tubular leaves that are slightly malleable. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see the leaves of this plant in a braided arrangement. The leaves often grow to a length of almost 7 feet (2.1 meters).
Meanwhile, Starfish Sansevieria has tubular, fleshy leaves that are very thick and stiff, with a more distinctive fan-shaped display. Even when they’re young, the leaves have a dark green, striped pattern, which is only found in mature Cylindrical Snake Plants. The Starfish plant is also smaller, and typically reaches a height of 2 feet (60 cm).
– Is Starfish Sansevieria Toxic?
Starfish Sansevieria is mildly toxic to cats and dogs. If ingested in large amounts, it can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Keep this plant in a separate room, away from pets and children.
Starfish Sansevieria Care Guide
Let’s get started with the basics.
– Light Requirements
Starfish Sansevieria is not too pretentious when it comes to light. It can tolerate full sun, as well as partial shade. For optimal growth, it’s best to keep it in a room where it receives bright, indirect light. Some direct morning sun is fine, but avoid exposing it to the hot afternoon sun. This plant prefers natural light, but you can also use grow lights during the darker winter months.
The ideal spot for your Starfish Sansevieria is a windowsill in a room with eastern exposure. You can also keep it in a room that’s facing south or southwest, but use sheer curtains to protect the leaves from the direct sunlight.
Rotate the plant pot once a week to ensure that all sides of the plant get enough light. Starfish Sansevieria can become quite top-heavy as it matures. As the leaves turn to face the light, the plant can lean too much on one side, and its weight can cause it to snap at the bottom.
Starfish plants are often recommended for rooms with very little light, but remember that no plant can grow in the dark. Succulents are desert plants that get at least 10 hours of direct sun per day in their native habitat. Although Starfish Sansevieria can tolerate some shade, keeping it in full shade for long periods will cause leaf discoloration, stunted or leggy growth, and other problems.
– Temperature Requirements
As a desert plant, Starfish Sansevieria enjoys growing in a hot, dry environment, but it will also tolerate the average temperature in most homes. Make sure that the temperature remains within the 60 °F to 80 °F (15 °C — 26 °C) range, and your plant will be happy.
Avoid exposing your Sansevieria houseplant to extreme temperatures. If the thermometer reaches figures above 85 °F (29 °C), the plant will start to struggle. Also, temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C) can kill the roots, and the plant might not make a recovery.
Starfish Sansevieria can be grown as an outdoor plant in USDA zones 10 and 11. It makes a great addition to succulent gardens, and it can also be used in a xeriscape garden design. If you live in an area where temperatures are likely to drop below 50 °F (10 °C) during the night, keep your Starfish plant in a container, and bring it indoors when it gets too cold.
– Water Requirements
Starfish Sansevieria is a drought-tolerant plant, and it only needs to be watered when the top inch of the soil is completely dry. The thick, succulent leaves retain a lot of moisture and can be very sensitive to overwatering. Like all succulents, the Starfish plant is susceptible to root rot and other fungal problems caused by too much water.
The best way to water Starfish Sansevieria is using the ‘soak and dry method. Water the plant slowly and evenly, so that the water can reach all the roots. Do this until water starts pouring through the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. Allow the pot to drain in a sink, then put it back on the tray. Make sure that no water is left standing in the container dish.
Your watering schedule for Starfish Sansevieria will depend on the time of the year. During summer, you can water this succulent once every 2 weeks. If temperatures are very high, you can water it once a week, but always check that the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. In winter, reduce your watering schedule right down, and only water the plant once a month.
– Humidity Requirements
Starfish Sansevieria is a desert plant that doesn’t need humidity to grow. Most homes have an average humidity level between 30% and 40%, which is perfect for this plant. Also, the thick leaves do an excellent job at retaining the moisture this plant needs.
Misting is not recommended for Starfish Sansevieria. In fact, spraying water on the leaves can cause them to become soft and spotty.
– Fertilizer Requirements
Succulents are very light feeders, and Starfish Sansevieria is no exception. In its native habitat, this plant is used to growing in sandy soils that are poor in nutrients. It is also a slow grower, which means that its fertilizer requirements are much lower than other houseplants. Overfeeding can be a real problem for the Starfish Snake Plant, causing root burn and wilting.
To promote healthy growth, you can feed the Starfish Sansevieria with a succulent fertilizer once a month from spring until the end of autumn. Dilute the fertilizer solution to half the strength, to prevent burning the roots. Organic fertilizers are ideal, as synthetic ones can cause fertilizer salts to build up in the soil.
As with all succulents, it’s always better to underfeed Starfish Sansevieria rather than give it too much fertilizer. In winter, the plant’s growth will slow right down, so avoid fertilizer applications until the beginning of spring.
– Best Soil for Starfish Sansevieria
The ideal soil mix for Starfish Sansevieria should be light, porous, and well-draining. All succulents have a shallow root system and are deathly sensitive to soils that stay wet for too long. The wrong type of potting mix and overwatering problems are closely linked.
If the soil is too compacted and heavy, it retains more water than the plant needs and restricts airflow, essentially suffocating the roots and leading to rot.
You can use cactus soil mix for Starfish Sansevieria, amended with perlite or pumice to improve drainage. African violets soil also works as a substitute, although you will need to cut it in half with perlite or coarse sand.
To make your own potting mix for Starfish Sansevieria, combine 2 parts garden soil with 1 part perlite or coarse sand. An alternative mix is combining 2 parts garden loam, 2 parts peat, 2 parts sand, and 1 part perlite.
– Repotting Starfish Sansevieria
Starfish Sansevieria has a slow growth rate, and will only need to be repotted once every 2 years. This plant enjoys being a bit rootbound, so it’s best to keep it in the same container for as long as possible. If you see roots coming out through the drainage hole, it’s time to repot your Starfish plant.
– Choosing the Right Pot
Pick a pot that’s 1 size larger than the older one, or 2 inches (5 cm) wider. The best material for containers for Starfish Sansevieria is clay or terracotta. This allows better air circulation around the roots, and it also allows the soil to dry out quicker. Plastic pots retain more moisture than this plant needs, so they are not a suitable choice.
– When to Repot Starfish Sansevieria
Repot your Starfish Sansevieria plant in spring or summer, during the plant’s growing season. Hold the plant from the base of the stem, and gently lift it from the container.
Inspect the roots for any signs of root rot, such as roots that have turned black or brown, or feel mushy to the touch. Repot the plant in a fresh, well-draining soil mix.
It’s recommended that you don’t water Starfish Sansevieria immediately after repotting it. Wait a couple of days or so, and check the soil with your finger. If the top inch feels dry to the touch, you can then water your repotted plant.
– Pruning and Maintenance
Starfish Sansevieria does not need pruning. Trimming the thick leaves will not encourage more growth, and will only leave callused gaps on the plant. Also, the plant will take a long time to heal, and will produce less new growth in the meantime.
You can trim some of the older leaves from the bottom, but only if they are turning yellow or brown. In spring, you can also trim some of the side growth if you want to propagate your Starfish Sansevieria.
In the right growing conditions, a mature Starfish Sansevieria can also develop flowers. The tubular, star-shaped blooms are displayed around a long stem, which can reach almost 3 feet (90 cm) in height. They are typically white or light pink and add to the plant’s ornamental value.
Starfish Sansevieria Propagation
They can be separated from the mother plant and potted separately to create a new plant.
– How To Propagate Starfish Sansevieria Through Rhizome Division
- Lift the plant from the container and remove some of the soil to expose the roots;
- Find the place where the rhizomes of the smaller plants attach to the mother plant;
- Gently separate the roots of the two plants. You can use a pair of scissors if the roots are tangled, but be careful not to trim too much off;
- Plant the smaller Starfish Sansevieria in a container with a well-draining potting mix, and keep it in bright indirect light.
– How To Propagate Starfish Sansevieria Through Leaf Cuttings
- Using a sharp, sterilized blade, cut the leaf as close as you can to the main stem. Always cut the leaves from the bottom of the plant, not the ones growing in the center;
- Leave the cut leaf in an airy room for a couple of days, until it forms a callus where it was cut;
- Dip the callused end in rooting hormone, and place it 2 inches (5 cm) deep in well-draining potting mix;
- Keep the pot with the cutting in bright indirect light, and gently water the soil when needed;
- The cutting will start developing roots in 10 to 14 days.
Common Pests and Problems
Starfish Sansevieria has very few pests and diseases. Having said that, it can be susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites, the two most common pests for any houseplant.
Here’s how you can get rid of them.
These insects live on the surface of the leaves, sucking the sap from the plant. They have soft bodies that look like small pieces of cotton and can cause leaf yellowing and wilting. To remove them, mix a solution of 2 tbsp neem oil and 1 tsp dish soap in a liter of water.
Spray the solution on the leaves once a week, and keep an eye on the plant until all signs of infestation are gone.
2. Spider Mites
Spider mites live on the underside of the leaves, hidden under a white webbing that protects them from the sun. They can be difficult to detect but can cause serious damage to your plant, producing yellow specks and gray spots on the leaves. To remove them, spray the plant with a solution of 1 part isopropyl alcohol and 4 parts water.
The most common problems for Starfish Sansevieria are caused by overwatering. This can cause the leaves to become yellow, soft to the touch, and, in some cases even droopy. In severe cases, overwatering will lead to root rot, which is fatal for succulents.
If your plant is showing signs that it’s overwatered, take it out of the soil immediately and inspect the roots. If they are brown, black, soft to the touch, and with an unpleasant, musty smell, that’s a symptom of rot. Trim off as much of the damaged roots as you can, and repot the plant in well-draining soil. If the roots are badly damaged, you can try to save the plant by cutting off all the leaves and propagating them instead.
4. Insufficient Light
Insufficient light can also damage your Starfish Sansevieria, causing leggy growth. If you notice that the leaves are becoming long and thin, with an unhealthy faded color, try moving the plant to a sunnier location. The Starfish plant will not grow well in shade, so make sure that it receives plenty of bright indirect light.
Starfish Sansevieria is an easy-going houseplant with fantastic decorative value.
Growing it at home is easy, just remember the essentials:
- Starfish Sansevieria is a desert plant, so try to replicate its natural conditions;
- Well-draining soil is perfect for Starfish Sansevieria, paired with a restrained watering schedule;
- Most problems with Starfish Sansevieria are caused by overwatering, so only do it when the top of the soil feels dry!
So, if you’re looking for a unique, low-maintenance plant for your home, pick up a Starfish Sansevieria today!
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