African spear (Dracaena angolensis or Sansevieria cylindrica), also known as cylindrical snake plant, spear sansevieria, or Saint Barbara sword is a rhizomatous succulent plant with elongated foliage. This plant really has a lot of names.
Dracaena angolensis has striped, green, spear-shaped leaves, which can grow up to 7 feet (2.1 m) in length and one inch (3 cm) in diameter. Its foliage grows from a basal rosette in a fan-like structure. It is native to a Central African country called Angola.
The fragrant flowers of spear sansevieria are tubular, with a spike-shaped inflorescence, which would correctly be called a raceme. African spear converts carbon dioxide into oxygen using crassulacean acid metabolism, which is very rare.
African spear and other members of the Dracaena family contain the chemical saponin, which is toxic to dogs, cats, and humans.
Caring for Dracaena Angolensis
African spear is an excellent houseplant because it is very low-maintenance. It can survive in most conditions and needs to be watered rarely. As long as it is planted in the right soil and is in the right temperature it is hard to go wrong with Saint Barbara sword.
Using the right type of soil is essential for cylindrical snake plants. Plant it in extremely well-draining succulent soil that mainly consists of inorganic minerals. It will make it more difficult to overwater the plant. Also use a container with drainage holes.
Fertilizing Dracaena Angolensis is not necessary. If you want to try and improve growth, try succulent or cactus fertilizer, diluting it beforehand. Otherwise you risk burning the roots of the plant.
Dracaena Angolensis can almost live without water due to crassulacean acid metabolism. They are very drought tolerant; during winter months, you can only water them once a month.
During the growing season, you can water African spear once or twice a month. When using extremely well-draining soil, it is possible to water it more often without causing the plant major problems.
If edemas (brown, yellowish spots) appear on the leaves, it is caused by overwatering. Wait until the soil is dry throughout, before watering again.
Spear Sansevieria grows best in bright indirect light. It can survive periods of low light conditions, although it won’t grow significantly.
Direct sunlight is not for this plant, it can survive the less intense sun, during mornings and evenings when acclimated. Direct sunlight will burn its foliage.
Dracaena Angolensis thrives in day temperatures of 60-80 °F (15-26 °C) and night temperatures of 55-70 °F (12-21 °C). The right temperatures will decide how healthy the plant looks. When exposed to undesirable temperatures, it won’t look as attractive.
Propagation is possible by root division, stem cutting, or via seeds. Root division is the more effective and simple method, it should be done in summer or spring:
- Gently remove the plant from the substrate
- Remove excess soil from the rhizome
- Cut the roots into pieces
- Plant the pieces of roots in well-draining soil
- Put the containers in bright indirect light
African spear does not like to be repotted, choose a bigger container to start with and fill it with appropriate soil.
Diseases & Pests
Spider mites and mealybugs can affect the well-being of the African spear plant. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil the get rid of these pests. You can also try to wash them off the plant with water, just ensure the you don’t accidentally cause the plant root rot.
There aren’t any known diseases for this plant. Overwatering, cold temperatures, and too much sun are the main causes the plant might not be healthy.
Dracaena angolensis is an excellent houseplant. It’s low maintenance, eye-catching, and good for beginners. Follow our grow & care tips and your African spear plant will thrive.
If you’re looking for a more colorful plant, check out Tradescantia Nanouk.