Perhaps as a trade-off for being given such an indelicate name, the mother-in-law's tongue plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) is unlikely to reward you with its fragrant flowers. When the flowers do appear, they will likely take you by surprise. Although the blooming habit of this plant is -- at best -- infrequent, with diligent care and a lot of patience, you may be able to coax this plant into giving you a floral show in spring.
Typically, mother-in-law's tongue -- also called snake plant -- is grown as a houseplant. If you live in its perennial range, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, you can also grow it in your garden. Its forgiving nature and tolerance of harsh growing conditions is a two-edged sword: Although it can survive drought, poor soil and a range of lighting conditions, it may not thrive to the point of bearing flowers under these circumstances.
Optimal Flowering Conditions
Mother-in-law's tongue likes a tight fit in its container -- a condition called being pot bound. Although you can grow it in a large pot, you may never see it bloom, because its roots may not ever grow to the limits of the pot.
Because snake plant is not fussy about soil, you can use a soil-based medium or a soilless potting mix, particularly one that is blended for cactuses and succulents.
During mother-in-law's tongue growing season -- typically spring through fall -- water it thoroughly until the water drains from the bottom of the pot. Wait until the soil is dry to the touch before watering again. Water infrequently during the fall and winter, just enough to moisten the soil.
Bright light is best. Although mother-in-law's tongue can tolerate some direct sun, protect them from full sun, particularly in the afternoon.
An old plant is the best candidate for flowering, but only if all the optimal growing conditions are met.
When mother-in-law's tongue does flower, it's in spring. It produces small, fragrant, greenish-white flowers borne in sprays. Orange berries follow the flowers.