(image credits, IG:leaveslove_)
Sansevieria Whale Fin is the common name for Sansevieria masoniana belonging to the Agavaceae family.
This species is native to the Congo region in central Africa, an equatorial zone that barely sees any seasonal changes in weather conditions.
As the name suggests, the plant is shaped curiously like a whale fin, stiff, erect and large. The plant has very unique variegation on the leaves.
It is dark green with silver-grey grainy markings all over, much like the texture of whale skin too! In fact, upon touch, you may find it to be rather stiff and cardboard-like or leathery, rather than fleshy.
In the plant world, Whale Fin is known to be a semi-succulent, although for all practical purposes it is safe to treat it like a proper succulent.
Under the right Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care conditions, this species can grow to quite dramatic proportions reaching between 2 to 4 feet in height.
Compared to other species in the genus, the size of this plant is what appeals to houseplant collectors. And not to mention, its quality of being neglect-proof is also a big advantage for many busy gardeners.
- 1 Sansevieria “Whale Fin” Detailed Care Guide
- 2 Sansevieria “Whale Fin” Propagation Step-by-step Guide
- 3 Common Problems With Sansevieria “Whale Fin”
- 4 Tips to Grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” Problem-free
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions about Whale Fin Sansevieria
- 6 Conclusion
Sansevieria “Whale Fin” Detailed Care Guide
Whale Fin Sansevieria are best suited for a room temperature range between 65° – 75ºF (18° – 24°C) although they easily tolerate higher temperatures.
They are frequently marketed as “shade-loving” which is not true. They need bright light and don’t even mind a bit of direct sun. They need absolutely rapid draining soil and “drench and dry” style watering. They are drought-tolerant and very slow-growing.
The ideal soil type for Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care is one that drains 100% the minute it is watered. There are different ways to make a well-draining soil mix. The easiest option is, of course, to buy a bag of succulent mix from your local store.
You can put together your own succulent soil mix at home as well. Crushed bricks, fish tank gravel, sand, pumice, and perlite are all perfect for succulents.
Clayey garden soil is a big no-no for Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care. In fact, I won’t bother to use any soil in the mix at all.
Another thing to avoid is any form of organic content. Garden compost, mulch, manure, etc. are all organic materials that retain water. So, using those in the mix is not advisable.
If you want to grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” to its full glory with all its leaf markings shining through, you’ll need to give it sufficient light.
That is why placing this plant in the right location is critical. Many articles on the internet will tell you that this plant is shade-loving.
True, it can tolerate shade. But prolonged shade will not only slow down growth, the leaves lose the sheen.
Contrary to its status as a shade plant, I’d go so far as to maintain that Sansevieria “Whale Fin” won’t mind a bit of direct sun even. It’s a hardy equatorial plant and quite used to some sun in its natural habitat.
I learned everything I know today about watering succulents by making mistakes, losing several plants, and learning from my mistakes. Watering is the most critical part of Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care.
So, if you want to grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” like a pro you need to nail the watering. You need to remember that your succulent garden will have the most prolonged watering cycle of all plants in your house.
The “drench and dry” method is the most reliable watering cue. You should completely drench the soil. And then you should wait for the mix to go bone dry. In the peak of summer, that’s about 5 days where I live. In winters it’s no less than 3 weeks.
When most home gardening enthusiasts receive their Sansevieria “Whale Fin” it comes with a single leaf. So, they water zealously thinking that will help the plant grow fast. Whale Fin is a slow grower and overwatering is only going to stress the plant.
Important Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care tips that you mustn’t ignore: don’t water the plant in frequent sips.
Remember to drench the root ball thoroughly and dry out the mix. Don’t water the plant with a spray can or a misting device.
However, you’re allowed to neglect to water sometimes, when you grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin”. That’s just fine as long as you drench when you remember.
If you grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” indoors then it’s actually quite low maintenance and grows well in ambient room temperatures all year long. Give it something in the range of 65 – 75°F (18 – 24°C) and it’ll be well.
Whale Fin plants are not frost tolerant. If you’re growing them outside make sure you bring them indoors before the night temperature goes below 55°F (13°C).
Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care is perfect for home gardeners who don’t want high maintenance plants. They are completely non-fussy when it comes to humidity and can survive in any condition.
The Whale Fin plant prefers your dry air-conditioned room over tropical humidity. It’s the one thing that northern zone dwellers can do right for this plant during the dry winter months.
Average room humidity of around 40-50% is great to grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” throughout the year.
Fun fact: While we’re on the topic of humidity, it may be worth mentioning that this plant is known to be an air purifier that absorbs harmful chemicals from the air, as per a NASA study.
You can grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” quite successfully without the use of fertilizers. They are light feeders and react poorly to over-fertilization. However, if you want some action in the growing months you can give it good succulent fertilizers.
I prefer water-soluble fertilizers. No more than once a month application during the growing season i.e. 5 to 6 months in a year is all. Look at the instructions of the packaging and dilute the concentration to a fourth of what is recommended.
I would strongly advise that you fertilize it only if the plant is at least a year old or even two. You want the plant to be stable in its pot before you give it a growth spurt.
Sansevieria “Whale Fin” plants are simple to propagate but slow to grow. Like I mentioned before, when the plant arrives home, it’s often just one single leaf. If your aim is to have several pots of it quickly you’re in for a disappointment.
The plant normally puts out basal plantlets after it’s mature which you can then separate.
Under the right Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care conditions this plant can actually grow to a spectacular size. In the native habitat, they get to as big as 4 feet tall and about 10 inches wide. That’s almost as big as a real whale fin.
In your home, it is likely to grow to between 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) and about 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cms) wide. This can also be quite dramatic when placed indoors.
For this kind of growth, you’ll need to grow the plant under good light conditions with optimal watering and temperature.
Sansevieria “Whale Fin” is an incredibly slow grower. If you want it to hatch a new leaf every two weeks or even a month, this is the wrong plant.
My specimen had a single leaf when I brought it and sprouted a new leaf after a whole year passed.
One Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care hack is to shift your focus away from this plant on a day-to-day basis and let it do its thing in its own sweet time.
The ideal way to grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” is in a heavy planter, either ceramic or terracotta. This is because when the plant grows vertically upward, it tends to get top-heavy and unstable. So a heavy base can prevent it from tipping over.
Under the soil surface, the plant grows thick and stiff rhizomes to support the tall and erect leaves. The rhizomes need room to spread out. Therefore lateral space is important but also depth. It’s a good idea to plant Sansevieria “Whale Fin” slightly deep in the pot for extra stability.
So a decent sized pot with good width and depth will be needed for long term growth. That said if your planter is a small size one you can still start off your plant in that one. Just repot in a year or two when you notice offsets pushing against the sides of the pot.
The pot needs to have drainage holes, but you’ll face problems with the sandy soil running out of the pot through these holes. The workaround is to use a piece of mesh to make a shield on the drain holes before putting the soil mix into it.
Oftentimes decorative ceramic pots have cache plates affixed at the bottom. Be sure to throw away any excess water that collects in them for proper Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care.
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Sansevieria “Whale Fin” Propagation Step-by-step Guide
Whale Fin propagation from rhizome cuttings
This is the most natural method of Sansevieria “Whale Fin” propagation. However, you’ll need to let nature take its course. Make sure to carry this operation out only in the growing season.
- Wait for the plant to grow little offsets above the soil level.
- Remove the plant from the pot and dust off the soil
- The offset will be attached to the parent plant with a strong rhizome
- Cut the connecting rhizome with a pair of shears or a sharp knife
- Allow the cut to dry out for a day
- Plant the offset and parent plant separately
- Continue with Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care as usual
Whale Fin propagation from leaf cuttings
This method takes a little longer than rhizome cutting but you can make more number of new plants with this method if you succeed.
- Take a healthy leaf in the mother plant. It should be mature but not old and discolored
- Cut the leaf at the base
- Let it rest for a day until the cut forms a callous
- Put the leaf in a glass of water and place it in bright shade
- Change the water every week until the leaf takes root
- Once the roots are a couple of inches pot them in soil the usual way
- Water with a little higher frequency for 2 weeks i.e. when the soil if 50% dry
- After that continue with Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care as usual
Common Problems With Sansevieria “Whale Fin”
Leaves drying at the edges
This could happen if you grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” with too little water. This is an easy problem to fix as far as Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care is concerned. Just water the plant. However, if the plant is very badly shriveled up, it’s a good idea to water in sips for a few days and then go to their recommended routine of “drench and dry”. This way you can avoid an overwatering shock.
Stems dislodged from the base
This is a typical sign of root rot where the rhizomes become brown and slushy. Either you have been watering too often or the soil mix is clearly too water retentive. Salvage the healthy leaves for propagation and change the soil mix completely.
Mealybugs: This hardy tropical is quite delightfully pest resistant. The only ever occasional problem I’ve seen is mealybugs. They appear in fuzzy white spots along with the leaf but only under circumstances of sheer neglect. They are very easy to spot on the Whale Fin leaves and you must simply get rid of the pest by wiping them clean immediately.
Tips to Grow Sansevieria “Whale Fin” Problem-free
- The first point of Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care is the soil. It needs to be extremely well-draining and gritty or sandy with nearly no water retentiveness.
- Avoid any organic components in the substrate
- They are drought-tolerant. Water only when the mix entirely dry
- Give the plant plenty of indirect sunlight to partial sunlight for the natural variegation to shine through
- Avoid misting and keep it far from sprinklers
- Low humidity is good for Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care
- They can take extreme heat but not frost
Frequently Asked Questions about Whale Fin Sansevieria
How long will it take for a second leaf to appear on my new Sansevieria “Whale Fin”?
Sansevieria “Whale Fin” is very slow-growing. That said it is difficult to estimate how long it is for the plant to start a new leaf. It depends on the maturity of the plant. But just to prepare you, it can sometimes take up to a year for a new leaf to appear.
How long can Sansevieria “Whale Fin” tolerate drought?
For quite a long period but not forever. But long periods of drought kill the root systems and distress the plant a great deal. Even if you manage to revive it the leaves would have crispy edges and look quite sad overall.
Can I keep Sansevieria “Whale Fin” in the same pot that I purchased it in?
Nurseries often grow young plants in moisture-retentive mixes that are not ideally suited as a long term solution. Repot it asap with a soil mix as described above.
Whale Fin Sansevieria succulents are quite unique-looking and make great statement pieces for indoor gardening.
If your décor is minimalistic then this is definitely the plant you should opt for. It is a big favorite for office décor as well.
If you found this Sansevieria “Whale Fin” care guide useful and would like to check out more of this plant genus, we have you covered.
You can go through Sansevieria Trifasciata Moonshine or Sansevieria Pinguicula, both truly exotic varieties. If it is cacti that float your boat then we have some great cacti recommendations for your home as well.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.