Snake plant: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Mother-In-Law’s Tongue

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Would you care to wake up today’?

The clarion call from behind the trembling curtains was enough to jolt me out of my morning siesta – the last leg of your goodnight sleep. The extra five minutes of sweet nothings that you whisper in the ears of your comfy pillow. The time when you leisurely bid farewell to your slumber. You love to roll over, stretch, and squeeze. In the end, you find solace only through unconditional surrender.

Hello… Mr. Shameless Sleeper!’

The shout was more alarming than my timid clock. Reluctantly, I scraped myself out of the bed. It felt like slipping out of a date, the bed staring at me with sheer disgust.

Good morning’.

Hey, thanks for getting up!’

The voice had still some venom in it. But the tone was less painful.

It was a bright Monday morning. A week after the lockdown had set in. I was gradually getting familiar with my new role – from ‘working from home’ to ‘working at home’. My ‘Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs)’ were slowly getting redefined. I was enjoying every bit of the transition. And as the saying goes, I was happy to share the load.

Indoor plants
(Image Source: Good Housekeeping)

Watering our indoor plants was one of my newfound responsibilities. This was my first day at work, and as usual, I was expected to deliver. For those who don’t know, early morning is the best time to water plants. Yet, I was late because of my laziness. Negligent bastard.

I ventured into my workstation with the confidence of a newcomer, fresh out of college. As soon as I stepped into the balcony, I started dreaming of turning this humble nook into a lush garden, all decked up with vibrant orchids, fragrant flowers, carpeted grass, and robust vines. I picked up my machine – the watering can, in this case – and started filling it. And then, it struck me!

Every plant is different. And so is their appetite for water. So, before I feed them, I need to study them, understand them. I have been a student of science all along. And hence, this task of watering the plants (however elementary it might be) cannot be performed in an unscientific way. I must know how to water plants before I actually water them.

I quickly googled for popular indoor plants and picked up a few names. There were a couple of Syngoniums, spider plants, Areca Palm, and the ubiquitous Devil’s Ivy, or simply, money plant. I could recognise the Hibiscus shrub without much effort, thanks to my Bengali roots (the conspicuous, deep red flowers are essential to Kali Puja).

Syngonium podophyllum - Arrowhead vines
(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Syngonium podophyllum, or Arrowhead vines, are low-light tolerant houseplants, native to tropical rain forests of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico. The plant thrives on lightly moist soil and high humidity.

Spider plant
(Image Source:

The spider plant (or Chlorophytum comosum, as the geeks call it) is pretty much easy-going when it comes to watering. The only thing it needs is well-drained soil and bright, indirect sunlight. Sometimes, it’s better to let the spider plant dry out partially between watering, as a soggy soil could lead to root rot.

Areca palm
(Image Source: Crocus)

The Areca Palm, or Dypsis Lutescens, seemed to be the most delicate one. The plant is native to the land of King Julien, of Madagascar fame, and embodies every eccentricity of the royal bloodline. The plant flaunts feathery, arching fronds resembling a frilly plush gown. It is expensive and demands just the right amount of sunlight (from the south or west-facing window). Oh, and a full-grown healthy Areca Palm always holds the spotlight in the room.

Like any other highborn, this plant won’t tolerate neglect. The soil needs to be slightly moist in spring and summer (Ahh.. tantrums). Areca Palms love a tight container (a close-knitted exclusive circle of kingsmen) and need to be repotted every 2-3 years (frequent mood swings).

Money plant
(Image Source: My Garden Forest)

The most convivial of them all is the money plant or the Devil’s Ivy. The no-fuss plant is the common man’s vine. And that’s why you can find it in offices, cafes, salons, temples, bus shelters and where not. Basically, anywhere and everywhere. It’s large, glossy heart-shaped leaves always make people happy. More so, because money plants don’t require any care at all. It will still thrive – no matter you water it adequately or underwater it. The Devil’s Ivy has long lost its hope on mankind, it seems!

After I fertilised my mind with so much botanical information, I poked my index finger in each of the pots to gauge the moisture content of the soil. I watered those who felt dry instantly. Those who felt moist, I planned to water them on the next day. This way, I thought, I could create a repeat cycle; an aquatic sine curve.

The experiment continued well for a week. I was pretty happy with my performance and even started sharing a couple of horticultural jokes at the dinner table.

Until, I hit upon a squatter in the balcony.

Behind the ostentatious blades of the Areca Palm, the trumpet-shaped flowers of Hibiscus and the devoted vines of the Devil’s Ivy, stood hidden a suspicious stranger. A pot with stiff, upright, strappy, sword-liked foliage.

The discovery came as a huge blow to my gardening expedition. I have been watering these plants for over 2 weeks, yet how could I miss this yellow-bordered hardy houseplant? And then I realised, it is Saturday, and all the curtains have been removed for cleaning, and this 12-inch plant might be hiding behind those heavy curtains all this time! OMG! Such art of disguise could give Bong Joon-Ho’s parasites run for their money!

But what impressed me the most was this plant’s survival instincts. It was parched for over 15 days. It was enduring direct sunlight. I was sure its grit and resilience had been put to test like a Spartan! And yet, it emerged victorious like the legendary King Leonidas.

I googled to know more about this God’s miracle.

snake plant - mother in laws tongue
(Image Source: Gum Tree)

If you ever have to put your money on the most tolerant plant, the snake plant is definitely your best bet. Also known as the Mother-in-Law’s tongue and Bow-string hemp, the plant is native to tropical West Africa. It’s nearly indestructible, can thrive either in bright light or dark corners of the house. These plants are drought resistant and are completely fine with your lack of attention. What’s more, snake plants have been proven to help purify indoor air and remove toxins including formaldehyde and benzene (as per research conducted by NASA)!

Hands down, the Mother-in-Law’s tongue is THE PERFECT HOUSEPLANT.

It looks more appealing than the Syngonium. It throws fewer tantrums than Areca Palms. It’s definitely more exotic than the omnipresent money plants.

It’s the ideal family member one can have around.

It understands you. It condones your forgetfulness.

And most importantly, it doesn’t make you ditch your darling bed in the morning.

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3 years ago

Excellent writing Devraj, great humour and what a brilliant build up!!! I kept laughing the whole time!! Loved the way you slipped in facts throughout your story!! Keep it up!! Looking forward to read more!! 🙂

3 years ago

Very different style of writing. Putting facts and knowledge but ensuring the story flows differently!

Shikari Shambu
Shikari Shambu
3 years ago

Actually a tutorial of indoor plants, nicely placed around a funny story. Both educational and fun to read. Of course the last plant was classic with its traits and name.

A footnote with the plant names will help to relate the pictures.

3 years ago

Loved this piece , the style of writing with little doses of laughs , intertwined with information regarding the care of indoor plants . Eagerly waiting for more write ups from you .

3 years ago

Loved this piece , the style of writing with little doses of laughs , intertwined with info regarding the plants . Have been there , so totally getting this write up

Kajal Bhattacharya
Kajal Bhattacharya
3 years ago

Lock down has definitely improved your writing skill. Very interesting write. I sincerely hope you will continue to become a professional writer.

Kajal Bhattacharya
Kajal Bhattacharya
3 years ago

Bravo. You start sending your writing s to various magazines. Now you are fit for that. For just write for trip to Germany from Prague. Send to some travel magazine.
Fast improvement.

3 years ago

Knowledge of plants in a fun way. Wow! Well done.

3 years ago

Woah…an amazing combination of story,fun and plethora of info on greens!! So captivating !

3 years ago

Nicely written! Look forward to more!