Learn everything you need to know about whale fin sansevieria care, aka sansevieria masoniana, including how to propagate it using a single leaf. The whale fin snake plant is a gorgeous variety.
Whale fin sansevieria care
Whale fin sansevieria is a gorgeous variety of snake plant that I had been dying to get my hands on years before I finally did. Its actual name is sansevieria masoniana. Or dracaena masoniana, if we’re being totally accurate…but I have a hard time associating snake plants with anything other than sansevieria. The change from sansevieria to dracaena occurred only in 2017. Give me some time to adjust.
I love pretty much all varieties of snake plants because of their striking foliage. That, combined with their ease of care and drought tolerance, make them a perfect houseplant. I have a whole post on general snake plant care, but I thought the whale fin deserved its own post.
Where does the sansevieria masoniana come from?
Like I mentioned above, whale fin snake plants are technically part of the dracaena genus as of 2017, but they had been associated with the sansevieria genus until then. So most people know snake plants as sansevierias. These plants come from west Africa, and the whale fin (or masoniana variety) was originally obtained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Unlike other snake plants, the whale fin variety is typically grown as a single leaf. It grows just like any other snake plant variety, with rhizomes that tunnel under the soil ad sprout new growth. The growth can also sprout multiple leaves, but the aesthetic appeal of whale fins is a large, thick single leaf in a pot.
As a whole, whale fin snake plant leaves are a bit thicker than other varieties. And the leaves are much wider. They sprout from rhizomes that have a slight white-purpleish tone to them. That’s one of the ways you can tell the whale fin from other larger sansevieria varieties.
Masoniana vs. Grandis Sansevieria
I once purchased a snake plant from a local nursery that looked like it could be a whale fin. It had three wider-than-normal leaves and a very thick rhizome that I could see sprouting out of the soil. The nursery said they weren’t sure what variety it was, but that it was a variety that “gets very big.” It was only about $25, so I bought it.
I joined a sansevieria ID group on Facebook, and they were able to help me ID it as NOT a whale fin, sadly. Instead, it’s a sansevieria grandis, aka a “Somali good luck plant.” It’s closely related to the whale fin, but it doesn’t get as massive as the masoniana. They are often confused for one another. I’m happy to have both! Now back to the whale fin…
Whale fin sansevieria markings and light
The whale fin sansevieria has some gorgeous markings on it. Almost like a muted version of the zig-zag markings on the regular sansevieria trifasciata variety. Bright indirect light serves this sansevieria variety well. Snake plants do tolerate lower light, but since the whale fin variety is not as fast-growing as other snake varieties, you don’t want to hold back too much light.
If given the right amount of care, the whale fin snake plant can reach over 4 feet high, and the leaves can reach almost an entire foot wide! My two plants are definitely not that tall or wide, but I’m hoping they’ll get at least a bit larger one day!
Since this plant comes from West Africa, it does well in even some direct light. But if you’re moving your plant outdoors for the summer, for example, you’ll want to work your way up with increasing amounts of direct light every day to ensure the foliage doesn’t burn.
The whale fin sansevieria is a succulent plant, just like other succulents. Succulents in general are very drought tolerant, meaning that they don’t need a lot of water. In fact, all of my snake plants—including the whale fin snake plant—do best with a bit of neglect. I often forget to water them for weeks as a time. In the spring and summer they need a bit more water, but the rest of the year? Back off.
I generally water my snake plants once every 10 days or so in the summer when it’s really hot and they are getting more light from longer days. When the temperature drops below 70 degrees pretty consistently, I back off to watering them every 2–3 weeks.
Overwatering them will lead to root rot and pest infestations. Just make sure the top few inches of soil has dried out before watering the plant again and you’ll be fine. When you water them—if the soil is caked and shrinking away from the edges of the pot, aerate it a bit using a fork or chopstick to break it up. Then water.
Soil for a whale fin sansevieria
I plant my snake plants in succulent soil. Any succulent soil mixture will work just fine. If you’d like to make your own, you can mix regular houseplant soil with perlite and sand. Check out my DIY succulent soil recipe here. The extra sand and perlite is essential to ensuring good drainage. You can also add a but if diluted houseplant fertilizer as well, but I generally don’t fertilize my snakes that often.
I do plant some of my snake plants in pots without drainage holes. This is a somewhat controversial topic. but you can check out my post on how to plant succulents on pots without drainage holes for more. Basically I just put a layer of perlite or small pebbles in the bottom of the pot. Snake plants need less water, so I often feel comfortable doing this with them.
Whale fin sansevieria care: Temperature & humidity
Whale fin snake plants do well in a variety of household temperatures and humidity levels. They actually enjoy dry air, which is great for houseplants. Considering it’s often difficult to keep humidity levels up for certain houseplants, a plant that does well with normal temperatures and dry air is great!
Whale fin sansevieria leaf propagation
I have a whole post on four ways to propagate snake plants in general, but I want to discuss my experience propagating a whale fin snake plant by a leaf cutting. The first thing to know is the different between a single leaf and a rhizome. A rhizome with roots can have multiple leaves on it, while a pot of whale fin could have multiple rhizomes and leaves.
Propagating a whale fin snake plant by division/rhizome
To be honest, this is probably not something you’ll be able to do with a new whale fin snake plant you’ve purchased. That’s because they usually come with a single leaf and rhizome (the chunky white thing under the soil). But after some time, the rhizome will begin to grow and will sprout whale fin pups. You can cut those off and plant them in soil alone; they will begin to root.
I’m hoping to have my whale fin produce a pup or two in the future, but I think that’s a long way off. Reminder, these are relatively slow growers compared to some other snake plant varieties. So the propagation method you’ll likely use is propagating your whale fin from a leaf.
Propagating a whale fin snake plant by a single leaf
This is the method I want to outline in this post. When I got my whale fin sansevieria, it had two leaves. One was that gorgeous straight whale fin leaf that you are probably picturing. The other leaf was a bit curlier, but still pretty. So I decided to chop that leaf off and keep the straight leaf attached to the rooted rhizome.
My first course of action was to put the cut leaf in water. I first let it callus over for a day or so before putting it in water; this helps to prevent rot. Then I put a few rocks in a vase and added the cutting and some water. I let it ride for a few weeks and eventually I noticed a few teeny tiny roots emerging. Yay!
But then I decided I didn’t want solely water roots. So I wanted to transfer the cutting to LECA. (See more on how to root plants in LECA here.) This way I could hopefully ensure that the roots would grow suitably for planting in soil in the future. Here are a few shots of my leaf rooting in LECA.
This leaf has been in LECA for weeks now, and it has made a ton of progress. Like I said, this is a very slow grower, so I’ve been really shocked at the growth rate. I will update in the future when I change the LECA and get a roots pic!