Sansevieria Desertii (Rhino Grass) Care Guide for Beginners

In our opinion, the Sansevieria Desertii is one of the more underappreciated members of the snake plant family. Rather than the iconic sword-shaped leaves, the Desertii has thinner succulent leaves that curl inwards, looking like rosettes of grass.

The Sansevieria Desertii still retains all the positive characteristics of a snake plant:

  • low maintenance,
  • easy-to-care-for, and
  • fantastic looking foliage.

What the Sansevieria Desertii does differently from other snake plants is the colorations, sporting reddish hues that accentuate the long slender leaves.

Sansevieria Desertii Care Summary

Here is a quick summary of the care instructions for the Sansevieria Desertii.

WateringOnly water when soil is dry
LightingA position that receives plenty of bright indirect light
Temperature50-95° Fahrenheit (10-35° Celsius)
Humidity30-50% Relative Humidity
FeedingAll-purpose houseplant fertilizer at the beginning of Spring
SoilLoamy well-draining soil

Getting to Know Sansevieria Desertii

Sansevieria desertii

The Sansevieria Desertii is an exciting snake plant that likes to push the boundaries of traditional features. This section will explore their origins and the natural environments where they thrive. The idea is to try to mimic this in our homes.


Scientific Name: Sansevieria desertii cultivar

Common Name(s): Sansevieria Desertii, Sansevieria Cylindrica Handshake Fan, Father in Law’s Tongue, Elephant’s Toothpick, Rhino Grass



Like most other snake plants, the Sansevieria Desertii originates from the African continent. They can be found in various parts of Africa, such as Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Natal, to name a few.

Sansevieria Desertii thrives in dry conditions and is drought tolerant due to the water reserves they store in their leaves.

A difference between Desertii and other snake plants is that they can be found in areas of Africa with higher rainfall concentrations. Meaning they can tolerate a bit more water.


The Sansevieria Desertii is an interesting-looking snake plant with some notable differences from other snake plants.

Firstly, their colors are not seen often in snake plants. They have a red tint to their green foliage accentuating their tubular leaves.

They also grow in a two-dimensional rosette pattern, creating a beautiful fan shape (hence the handshake fan).

While most iconic snake plants have broad leaves, the Sansevieria Desertii maintains leaves that curl inwards that look like an elephant’s toothpick (another one of their names)! Each leaf is long and narrow that can grow up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) in length. They look similar to the Sansevieria Cylindrica foliage.

Sansevieria Desertii Care Instructions

As we mentioned at the beginning, caring for the Sansevieria Desertii is easy. The key is getting things right initially; the rest will fall into place.

Water Requirements

Allow the soil to dry completely before topping up your Sansevieria Desertii. Coming from Africa, they can tolerate dry periods and will draw on their water reserves in their leaves if required.

In general, we prefer to keep the soil on the drier side. However, the Desertii can tolerate more moisture than other snake plants. That said, don’t overdo it. We’d err on the side of caution and treat them like any other sansevieria.

For guidance on seasonal water frequency, check out our article HERE.

Light Requirements

If grown outdoors, the Desertii can tolerate a good amount of sunlight.

However, if you intend to keep Sansevieria Desertii indoors, we recommend positioning them in a position that receives plenty of indirect bright light. Their tolerance to direct sun decreases indoors, and you may find they experience leaf burn or water stress due to the accelerated evaporation of water by the intensely bright light.

They will tolerate brief periods of direct sunlight in the early morning and late evening. For more tips on snake plants and lighting conditions, check out our article HERE.

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

Sansevieria Desertii thrives in warmer environments. We suggest keeping them between 50-90° Fahrenheit (10-32° Celsius).

Temperatures below 50° Fahrenheit can be detrimental to your Desertii. When temperatures approach freezing, water expands. This can affect the water reserves in the leaves. Resulting in irreparable damage to the leaf cells and weakening your snake plant.

If your area is susceptible to frost or freezing temperatures in winter, we recommend bringing any snake plants inside the house where the temperatures will remain above 50° Fahrenheit.

Additionally, your Desertii will grow better with relative humidity between 30 and 50%.

Humidity levels above or below the recommended range will adversely impact your Desertii’s internal processes, such as transpiration. Too much moisture can prevent transpiration, effectively suffocating your Desertii. When there is not enough moisture in the air (low humidity), it accelerates transpiration, which quickly dehydrates your plant and causes water stress.

We have written an in-depth article discussing how humidity affects snake plants.

Soil & Fertilizer Requirements

Plant your Sansevieria Desertii in quality soil will profoundly impact your plant parenting journey. Good soil will reduce the frequency of your watering, facilitate the uptake of nutrients by your snake plant, and reduce its susceptibility to pests and disease. To be effective, your snake plant soil must be:

  • well-draining,
  • a loamy consistency (light and airy), and
  • contain some organic materials with water absorption properties.

We have devised a recipe for the perfect snake plant potting mix. Be sure to give it a try.

You can supplement your snake plant with a quality pot plant fertilizer to facilitate healthy growth. Snake plants only require the essential ingredients of plant growth, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. All quality fertilizers should contain these as the basic building blocks.

Pests & Diseases

Root rot is the primary disease you should concern yourself with for your Sansevieria Desertii.

Root rot is a fungal disease that can develop when your snake plant has been sitting in waterlogged soil from being overwatered. The process of eliminating root rot is straightforward. However, it is onerous. You can read our step-by-step guide for removing root rot in snake plants HERE.

Some leaf-borne fungal diseases can infect your Desertii, such as mildew and leaf spot. We explore these diseases and (more importantly) treatments HERE.

Regarding pests, snake plants are most susceptible to sap-sucking insects like mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips. These pests have the equipment to penetrate the tough outer layer of the foliage and access the nutrient-rich sap.

The best way to detect any signs of pests (or disease, for that matter) is to regularly inspect your Sansevieria Desertii and manually remove any problems you see. The key is not letting their population get out of hand, becoming an infestation.

You can read more about symptoms of pest infestation HERE.

Pot Selection

Sansevieria Desertii prefers a tight root system to support their fleshy, long leaves. For this reason, we aim for approximately one-third bigger planters than the current root ball.

When placed in a container too large for their root system, they will appear stunted as they refocus their energy on developing the roots rather than growing new leaves.

Your snake plant pot should also have adequate drainage with plenty of drainage holes. As we pointed out earlier, constantly moist soil rots your Sansevieria Desertii’s root system.

How to Propagate Sansevieria Desertii

For Desertii, we like to use the water propagation technique.

This is because the main attraction of this unique plant is its uniquely shaped leaves and growth patterns. Propagating cuttings with water will ensure rapid growth. Plus, you can propagate multiple cuttings at once.

To propagate by cutting, follow these steps:

  1. Identify and Cut Leaf – Choose a leaf that looks healthy and vibrant with no visible signs of pests or disease. Selecting the right leaf will give it the best opportunity for success. Cut the leaf towards the base with a sterilized pair of garden scissors (or a sharp knife). We like to use an upside-down V cut (or an arrowhead-shaped cut) for snake plants, as it will naturally prop the cutting up in your container, which will help to prevent rot from setting in. It also helps to prevent new roots from growing at unhelpful angles (usually with straight cuts).
  2. Air Dry Your Cutting – Allow your cutting to dry for 2-4 days in a safe place so that it doesn’t accidentally get knocked to the ground. Air drying your cutting allows the wound to form a callous, which helps to prevent any rot or disease from developing.
  3. Find a Container – find a tall and thin container to support your snake plant leaf cutting. We like to use glass containers like mason jars or small vases. The glass allows you to examine your cutting without disturbing it (such as lifting it out of the water to see if roots are growing).
  4. Begin the Rooting Process – The final step is to piece everything together. Place your cutting in the container and fill it with distilled water so the bottom third of the cutting is submerged. It is essential to ensure the calloused wound is beneath the water line to encourage root growth.

We strongly recommend using filtered or distilled water for the propagation process. Where you live, tap water may have chemicals that inhibit the propagation process.