When I started writing this post I had every intention of waxing poetic about the virtues of Snake plants. I realize that, as houseplants go, they’re about as run-of-the-mill as you can get and yet I found myself looking at them in a new light. My guy and I had offered to temporarily take care of some potted plants, including a couple of snake plants, while my stepson and his wife moved to a new home. I started Googling Snake plants (more on that farther down in this post) when I fell down the weird and wonderful rabbit hole that is Pet Plants.
As gardeners, we know how beneficial houseplants can be for getting us through a long winter. Something green and slowly growing on a windowsill offers a connection to the natural world which, for the most part, is in hibernation, particularly if you live north of the 49th Parallel. Indoor plants are proven stress-relievers and mood boosters. The ritual of caring for a plant–watering it, feeding it, checking in on it (and, yes, giving it words of encouragement on occasion)–can be a satisfying, even consoling, activity.
But I never considered a plant in the same way I considered any of the pets in my life.
Here, Ferny, Ferny, Ferny. Good boy!
But, I soon discovered, there are a lot of very committed pet plant parents out there and the whole Pet Plant thing is embraced enthusiastically by journalists, influencers, and filmakers (see below). A couple of earnest scientists even wrote a research paper about pet plants, citing isolation during the pandemic as a big reason for the increased interest in using plants for “emotional support and healing”.
Unbelievably (to me, at least), the pet plant trend inspired the editors of venerable lifestyle magazine Good Housekeeping to publish “92 Cute and Cool Names for Your Houseplants and Outdoor Blooms.” I kid you not. I had to look. Included in the article are lists of Funny/Witty names, Cute names and names for plant groups. My fave was the Celebrity Names for Plants list which included some pretty funny monikers such as Fernie Sanders, Megan Thee Plant and Morgan Treeman.
And then I fell down another rabbit hole.
When you Google “plant pet names” you get 148,000,000 results. Cosmopolitan magazine one-upped Good Housekeeping with their “Just 100 Truly Iconic Names to Bestow Upon Your Plant Child“. Seriously.
After ping-ponging around the internet, basically gob-smacked over this whole Pet Plant phenomenon, I found this utterly charming, eight minute film from Pineapple Pizza Productions. “Pet Plant” has won all kinds of awards and distinctions. I urge you to watch it so you, too, can appreciate why. It will certainly inspire smiles.
Has all this ranting about Pet Plants got you thinking about adopting one yourself? Or are you suddenly reevaluating your relationships with your existing house plants? Are you inspired, perhaps, to name them? I won’t encourage you to try walking them like in the movie. My guess is that wouldn’t go down well for either you or your plant.
But back to snake plants
The Snake plant, now Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria and forever (albeit a tad unkindly) Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, is a very large species of plant primarily grown for it’s striking foliage. Snake plants can produce flowers but the plants have to be fully mature, they have to be kept under ideal conditions, and they have to have owners with the patience of a saint.
Here’s the kicker, though. It slowly dawned on me that the Snake plant may just be one of the best plants to have as a pet plant. They’re very easy to care for and happily generate more of themselves, sending up new shoots (seen in the photo below right) which take well to repotting. And wouldn’t you know the common name for these shoots is “pups”. How adorable and pet conducive is that? For a great guide on these puppies (sorry), check out How to Remove, Repot, and Propagate Snake Plant Pups on thehealthyhouseplant.com.
I came to see Snake Plants in a whole new light while plant-sitting a few of them, shown above.
The stylish snake plant
Pet plants aren’t for everyone. I get it. But there’s another reason why you might consider adopting, erm, investing in some Snakes. Snake plants have recently undergone an impressive image makeover. Once considered fusty (and usually dusty) ho-hum houseplants, they are now showing up as chic style statements. As an example, the very discriminating interior design magazine Architectural Digest includes snake plants in its “Ultimate Indoor Plants Trend Forecast for 2023“. So there. Is it the plant’s long, twisting leaves, each uniquely patterned? Or the sheer elegance of its shape? There are no messy trailing stems or scattered leaves here. These babies are all turbo-charged sleekness.
If I haven’t got you convinced, take a gander at the planting ideas below, all courtesy of Flower Council Holland. Who knew that Snake plants would have just the right combination of simplicity and presence to take the minimalism-slash-Scandi aesthetic to a whole new level of houseplant decor.
Snake plants in a new light: These houseplant decor ideas (above) are courtesy of Flower Council of Holland.
A snake by any other name
By happy accident, I just discovered another plant of reptilian sobriquet also destined to pull heartstrings. In my recent post Trend Retorts, I had incorrectly written that the mega-company 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc. had decided the orchid was this year’s Plant Of The Year. In actual fact, they’re promoting the orchid as their 2023 Flower Of The Year. Their 2023 Plant Of The Year is “the captivating Calathea Rattlesnake“.
Not to put too fine a point on it but Rattlesnake plants are not Snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata). The Calathea Rattlesnake (Goeppertia insignis) is actually part of the Marantaceae family. It gets its reptilian name from its distinctive leaf markings which are supposed to resemble snake skin.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Rattlesnake’s nickname is Prayer Plant because it raises and lowers its leaves in response to available sunlight in a circadian rhythm known as nyctinasty. So the fact that this plant literally waves good night to you immediately gives it massive Pet Plant potential in my opinion. But there’s more: Rattlesnakes are also very easy to care for and–bonus–they are non-toxic to cats and dogs.
Which begs the question: What will you name your’s?