Caring for Kate
Snake plant, St George’s sword, viper’s bowstring hemp – Kate goes by a lot of names, but our favourite is mother-in-law’s tongue.
Kate is happy in almost any light and barely needs watering, and she’s an expert at cleaning and purifying the air. This makes her a perfect beginner plant.
Where's my happy place?
Kate is happy almost everywhere. She is just as happy sitting in the shade as she is on a windowsill. She is great for a north, east or south facing windowsill (download a compass app if you’re unsure which direction is which), though will still do okay in a sunnier west facing window.
Watering & Feeding
Kate isn’t much of a drinker and too much water is the main killer for these (almost) indestructible plants. Only water when the soil is completely dry. This can be as little as once a month in the winter. Make sure she doesn’t sit in still water because it can rot her roots. If in doubt about whether you should water her or not, the answer is almost always to just leave her alone.
When you do water her, don’t get water on her leaves. Take her out of her decorative pot so she’s just dressed in her plastic pot. Water her with rainwater or purified water if you can (she will love you for it), though tap water will work too, and water her so thoroughly that the water runs out of the bottom of her plastic pot. Leave her in the sink for an hour if you can to make sure all the excess water drains away.
She doesn’t eat all that much either. Feed her once a month over the summer at most using general plant fertiliser. Any more than that and her leaves can start to topple over.
We recommend leaving Kate in her pot for at least a year after getting her from us. When it comes time to repot you will see her roots crowded and poking out of the bottom of the pot. Pick a pot that is around two inches larger in diameter than the pot you’re replacing. Make sure your new pot has a bottom drainage hole. Fill it about a third full with soil for tropical houseplants.
Wait until late winter and then water Kate thoroughly, it’ll help in sliding her out of her old home. If you see any roots around the outside that are very dark compared to the others or soft, cut them off with a sharp knife or scissors.
Put the plant in its new home so that the root ball is around two inches below the rim of the new pot. Fill with your tropical houseplant soil and water the plant again to settle everything. Put her in a semi shady spot for the next few weeks while she gets used to her new, bigger home.
Kate is a tough old cookie. The biggest issue she has is being overwatered, which will make her leaves heavy and droopy. The best cure is to leave her alone for a few weeks.
I’m going on holiday, how should I make sure my plant is ok?
As long as you don’t leave her in a west facing window in blazing sunlight, Kate will be fine for a few weeks.