Deep in the deciduous thickets of South-West Africa, the Sansevieria Samurai flourishes.
With very little rainfall, this sub-tropical succulent has adapted its beautiful features to accommodate nicely. Making them captivating and surprisingly functional houseplants that are easy to care for.
Position indirect or low-light
Watering Water when top 1 inch of soil is dry
Size 6 inches tall by 6 inch spread
Climate 60°F to 85°F) with 50% humidity
Propagate Leaf cutting or plant division
Seasonality Winter dormant
Toxicity Poisonous to people, cats, and dogs
As a cultivar of a much larger Sansevieria, Sansevieria Samurai or Dwarf Samurai is considered a herbaceous perennial displaying curved, sword-like arms growing directly from the plant’s main stem. When the plant matures, these arms collectively form an elegant, spiral rosette and can eventually produce off-shoot plants.
In the late 1700s, this striking plant was dubbed Sansevieria by the Swedish naturalist Karl Peter von Thunberg in honor of two prominent, Italian noblemen of the time. Scientist Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero and Pietro Antonio Sanseverino, Count of Chiaromonte in whose garden Thunberg first saw this new specimen.
“Samurai” was added to describe its characteristic, sword-like arms. Over time, a cultivar of the original Sword Sansevieria was developed which is now documented as Sansevieria Ehrenbergii. More commonly known as a “dwarf” or Blue Sansevieria and named after a noted micropaleontologist of that time, Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg.
Sansevieria Samurai Care
Okay, so this plant is never going to grow to gigantic proportions and even though it will flourish in lower light conditions, it may not grow to it’s full potential or just 6 inches in height. That being said, it’s a compact, dinky gem of a houseplant that does best with little water and poorly nourished soil so it is definitely not a high maintenance plant.
In the wild, the Dwarf Samurai thrives in partially shaded areas. This low-light preference makes it very easy to grow in most rooms that receive partial, indirect sunlight. I have mine sitting on a ledge above the staircase leading down to my basement. With just a few small windows letting in light, my dwarfs seem quite happy. You’ll want to keep them away from direct sunlight, though. The prolonged, intense heat may result in leaf burn.
When considering where to place your Blue Samurai, keep in mind that these are often used as effective air purifiers. While not as high-powered as electronic ones, over time these succulents can trap harmful elements, often found in homes. Storing them deep in their roots away from the plant’s metabolic processes and us. While at the same time, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.
In addition to being beautiful houseplants, they’re also stunning features in shaded, outdoor patio settings. And since they can live for decades, they’re economical, too.
Height & Spread
As a “dwarf” cultivar, the Sansevieria Ehrenbergii only grows to about 6” all around. Developing hues of cream and burgundy along the edges of each cupped leaf, as it matures. The compact size is perfect for adding greenery and architectural interest to a small space.
As previously mentioned, this pretty, blue dwarf feels right at home in just about any lighting situation. Just be aware that the growth of this plant is fueled by light absorption. So, you may see much slower growth in your happy plant with less light.
Watering Sansevieria Samurai
Typical of a succulent, the dwarf sansevieria has adapted to store water in its leaves in the event of drought. When water is poured directly into the leaves (mimicking rainfall), the cupped shape funnels water directly to the roots. This ingenious design means you won’t need to water your blue as much as your other houseplants. Doing so may actually lead to plant failure.
The best way to know if this rosy succulent needs water, is to test the top 1” of soil. If it’s dry, water until you see a significant amount drain out the bottom. Once it does, that’s all the water it needs. Simply repeat this with every watering.
Some also get into the habit of misting this plant along with their other houseplants. As a desert dweller, it doesn’t really require any. If not necessary, misting may lead to fungal attacks and pest infestation. If its environment gets overly dry though, say if your heating system is running at full tilt in winter, then, it may appreciate a little light misting.
Unlike other common houseplants, this desert succulent thrives in soil with a proportionate amount of large-grain sand (like decomposed granite) that promotes healthy drainage.
A store-bought succulent potting mix should provide this. I’m personally a fan of Espoma Organic Cactus and Succulent Mix. It contains Espoma’s patented myco-tone formula that will aerate the soil to help roots stand a better chance of being kept dry.
It does contain perlite but even so, I like to add more minerals such as granite, perlite, or grit to help further with drainage.
It is also possible to use a general potting soil that can be amended by adding 25% pumice (or perlite), 25% compost, and 25% large-grain sand to 25% general potting soil. This gravelly combination makes for quick drainage of excess water while still being durable enough to support the roots and plant.
This blend also provides your houseplant with the appropriate soil pH of between 5.0 and 7.5. If you plan to plant your blue dwarf outside, you may want to perform a soil test to make sure that it carries the right pH balance for this rare and hard-to-replace plant.
While the Sansevieria Ehrenbergii is considered a perennial, oddly, its flowering habits are more like an annual. It doesn’t die away after flowering, it simply stops developing new leaves, once the flower has bloomed and fallen away.
Not every dwarf produces flowers, it does depend on its growing conditions and age. And you can always pinch the flower back if you happen to get one. But, they are lovely. Dainty, little blossoms just under 1” in diameter in a greyish-green tone with just a hint of lavender.
Since your Sansevieria thrives in 5.0 to 7.5 pH, a fertilizer with a balanced NPK (like a 20-20-20 for houseplants) will support that, but only at half strength. You can accomplish this by diluting a water-soluble feed.
Sansevierias are not heavy feeders, so a little goes a long way. Too much and the plant will respond with droopy or sagging leaves, a sign of potential root burn. If it seems that your plant is not really benefiting from this type of feed, you can always switch to a fertilizer specifically formulated for succulents.
Fertilizing your snake plant will increase the growth rate of your plant and these rare beauties will benefit from just one feeding per month during the warmer months (spring and summer) and every 6-8 weeks in autumn, as this is their active growing season. A good practice is to fertilize in the first week of the month and water regularly each remaining week. That way you won’t forget to water or feed. No fertilizer is required during their winter dormancy period.
How to Prune Sansevieria Samurai
Due to the growing habits and maximum size of this plant, it very seldom needs pruning, if at all. Pruning is generally saved for when unhealthy or damaged leaves need removal or to remove flower stems.
If removing a flowering stem, cut as close to the inner base of the plant as possible to prevent infection at the cutting site. If removing yellow or damaged leaves, two rules should be followed, otherwise risk of the plant deteriorating could result.
- Always use a cutting tool that has been sterilized prior to use. Microscopic bacteria on the cutting tool may be accidentally transferred to the plant.
- Never cut through the yellowing part of the leaf as this exposes the plant to pests and disease at the cutting point. Remove the leaf with a clean-cut as close to the base of the plant as possible.
Given that this blue-hued gem is a slow grower, the need for repotting is also quite rare. There are only two instances when it would be necessary:
- If it has become root bound, which could take several years
- If your plant has grown more on one side and not the other, causing it to lean and become unbalanced.
If you do see roots growing out the bottom of the pot, you’ll want to choose a slightly bigger succulent pot (1-2 inches larger in diameter than the previous one). Terracotta is a good option because it is sturdy and stone-like, and actually quite porous. This will allow for adequate drainage as well as letting the soil dry out enough in between waterings.
Always re-pot in the spring, at the beginning of the plant’s active growing season, and use fresh soil to avoid the transfer of any unwanted bacteria.
How To Propagate Sansevieria Samurai
Lucky for us Sansevieria lovers, there are two different ways to turn our pretty plant into several. One is by taking leaf cuttings and the second is by separating any offshoots from the mother plant and potting them individually. Let’s take a look at the steps for each.
The blue dwarf doesn’t have stems that we can root in water. But, we can potentially make several new plants by dividing just one cut leaf. Like repotting, both of these methods should be done in the spring.
- Find a healthy, mature leaf.
- Cut the leaf across the width, with a sterile cutting tool, into two smaller pieces, approx 4” in height.
- The cut edge of these pieces will need time to “scab up” before replanting. Set them aside for a day or two, until you see that the edges have completely sealed.
- Place each piece into its own pot, long end down about 1”, filled with quality succulent potting mix.
- For cuttings, you will want to spritz them daily to keep them barely moist until you see new growth appear.
Once your blue dwarf has grown healthy offshoots, these can be separated from the main plant and re-potted. They have rhizomatous roots which are really quite simple to divide.
- Remove the whole plant from its pot.
- Carefully remove any excess soil caught in the roots.
- If you’ve allowed each offshoot to grow its own healthy root system, you can simply separate that smaller root system from its primary with a clean cut.
- Carefully, place the new offshoot into its own pot filled with healthy, succulent potting mix.
- Water it normally as you would your more mature plants.
Common Problems With Sansevieria Samurai
While this miniature Sansevieria is a hardy and structurally sound plant, it doesn’t come without issues.
Root rot is the most commonly occurring issue growers experience. It results from over-watering or the roots sitting in soggy soil too long. Thus, the need for soil and pots that provide proper drainage.
Curled Leaves and Browned Edges result from prolonged exposure to intense sunlight and heat. The blue dwarf grows well in several hours of indirect sunlight per day but can thrive just as well in low-light conditions with slower growth.
Pests and Disease are rare but possible with this plant as it contains saponins which act as a natural insecticide and fungicide.
While these saponins are clearly beneficial for the plant, they make the Sansevieria highly toxic to dogs and cats and could prove fatal, if ingested.
They are toxic to humans as well, potentially causing diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The sap within the plant can also cause skin irritation and rashes, so be sure to wear gloves or other protective garments when repotting, pruning, or propagating. And always keep them away from small children.
If any of these occur, seek medical attention immediately.