Complete Guide to Snake Plant Care: Growing Snake Plants Indoors


How to care for a snake plant

To care for indoor snake plants, locate them in partial sun and water once every 2 weeks in Summer and once every 3 or 4 weeks in Winter, ensuring the soil has dried out completely between bouts of watering.

Snake plants are, in my opinion (aka mother-in-law’s tongue), amongst the easiest houseplants to grow as long as you understand how to replicate their natural growing conditions. How to achieve this? My article outlines all the essential steps!

Here is a table summarizing how to grow and care for snake plants indoors:

Growing Conditions:How to Care for Snake Plants:
Size:Can grow (very slowly) to 1 meter (39 inches) tall.
Light:It can grow in shade but prefers some direct sunlight.
Temperature:Grows well at room temperature with an optimal range of between 65°F and 90°F (18°C and 32°C). It can suffer in temperatures lower than 55°F (13°C).
Humidity:Can tolerate a range of humidity but prefers dryer conditions.
Watering:Water every 2 weeks in the Summer, and every 3 or 4 weeks in Winter, ensuring the soil dries out between bouts of watering.
Repotting:Re-pot once every 3 or 4 years.
Potting Soil:Use a special ‘succulent and cacti potting mix’.
Pots:Clay pots are best, but they can grow in other pot types as long as they have drainage holes in the base.
Fertilizer:Fertilizer is not necessary, but you can increase the rate of growth with succulent and cacti fertilizers.
Winter Care:Reduce watering and keep temperatures above 55°F (13°C).

About Snake Plants

Snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) are succulents native to West Africa, growing in dry tropical biomes, and thrive in rocky, dry areas with well-draining soil and infrequent rainfall.

Like most succulents, snake plants are well adapted to tolerate long periods of drought as they are capable of storing moisture reserves in their leaves and rhizomes.

Snake plants are very easy to care for as they can go for weeks without watering, grow in full sun or part shade, and tolerate fluctuations of humidity and temperature from indoor heating without suffering any adverse effects.

Snake plants are relatively slow-growing, but you can expect your plant to grow to a height of around 39 inches (1 meter) indoors in optimal conditions.

Snake plants flower in Summer in their native environment but rarely flower when they are grown indoors as a houseplant.

Did you know that, according to a NASA study, snake plants can help remove harmful indoor pollutants and purify the air?

How Much Light Do Snake Plants Need?

Snake plants prefer to grow in full sun but can tolerate partial sun and still grow. Snake plants can still grow in bright, indirect light, but the rate of growth slows significantly, and they are far less likely to flower.

Pro tip: From experience, I find that snake plants grown in a northern latitude with less intense sunlight can grow on a window sill in full sun throughout the year, whereas if you live in a much hotter Southern climate with more intense sunshine, then the snake plant can slightly scorch brown due to a combination of sun and heat stress.

So, if you live in an area such as Southern California, I would recommend moving your snake plant preemptively to an area of your home with morning sun with shade in midday and afternoon to prevent scorching the snake plant.

Best Temperature and Humidity for Growing Snake Plants Indoors

As snake plants are natively to hot and dry tropical climates, they can easily tolerate indoor room temperatures with a preferred range of between 65°F and 90°F (18°C and 32°C). Snake plants are tolerant of indoor heating but cannot endure temperatures lower than 55 degrees.

I personally move my snake plant from my window sill in the Winter as the glass is significantly colder than the ambient temperature of the room, which creates a cold microclimate at night that can harm the snake plant.

Snake plants are my personal houseplant of choice for air-conditioned rooms as they can tolerate the fluctuation in temperature and humidity far better than other popular houseplants!

You do not have to make any special provisions for snake plants when it comes to humidity as it is well adapted to living in dry air when indoors.

How Often to Water Snake Plants?

Water snake plants once every 2 weeks in the Summer and once every 4 weeks in the Winter. Snake plants are drought-resistant succulents specifically adapted to storing moisture, so they do not need to be watered as often as most houseplants.

I must emphasize it is important to let the soil dry out completely between each bout of watering to prevent root rot.

My Best Method for Watering Snake Plants

If you are unsure about watering, the best method that I use to determine whether the soil is dry around the roots is to feel the soil at the bottom through the drainage hole in the base of the pot. If the soil is still moist, then delay watering until it feels completely dry, then give it a good soak.

I find this method is far more accurate than using moisture meters which I find are not reliable enough.

I prefer watering snake pants from the bottom by filling the saucer underneath the pot with water and letting it stand for half an hour. Watering at the bottom ensures the potting soil is evenly moist around the rootball.

Whilst snake plants can be watered from the top, sometimes the potting mix can become hydrophobic when it dries out, causing it to repel off the surface and down the side of the pot without infiltrating the soil properly and reaching the roots where it is required.

How Do You Know if a Snake Plant is Over or Under Watered?

Snake plants have adapted to harsh, arid environments by storing moisture in their leaves, so they are unlikely to suffer from underwatering.

However, the symptoms of underwatering are:

  • The leaves look significantly thinner as the snake plant has depleted its water reserves.
  • The leaves start to droop.

Whereas the symptoms of overwatering are:

  • The leaves turn yellow or brown.
  • The leaves feel mushy and soft.
  • Drooping leaves.
snake plant
This is my photo of my friend’s snake plant’s leaf that initially turned yellow before brown with a mushy, rotten texture due to overwatering.

I can tell you from personal experience it is far easier to revive an underwatered snake plant rather than an overwatered plant, so if in doubt, always delay watering.

How Often to Repot Snake Plants?

Snake plants are relatively slow-growing, so you can re-pot them once every 3 or 4 years. I find the roots do not mind being pot-bound for a year or two; however, if the roots are visible above the soil surface, then this is a good time to repot your snake plant.

Always re-pot snake plants in the Spring, as this is when they are most resilient to the stress of repotting.

When repotting, it is crucial to use a pot that is only one pot size bigger (2 inches larger in diameter) to avoid ‘over potting,’ which can cause the soil to dry out too slowly for snake plants to tolerate.

What are The Best Pots for Snake Plants?

My personal favorite pots for growing snake plants are clay pots as they are porous which allows the potting medium to dry more evenly between bouts of watering and helps to prevent root rot. Plastic pots are impermeable, which can retain too much moisture around the snake plant’s roots.

However, it is possible to grow snake plants in any pot as long as there are drainage holes in the base. Still, if you have problems growing succulents (like a lot of people do!), then I would always recommend that you plant your snake plant in a breathable terracotta or clay pot.

What is the Best Potting Soil for Indoor Snake Plants?

Always use a well-draining potting medium when repotting snake plants, such as a specialized ‘succulent and cacti potting soil’ which contains grit and perlite to create a porous texture and well-draining structure that replicates the snake plant’s native soil in its natural habitat.

I would caution you against using unamended potting soil, as this dries out too slowly and increases the risk of root rot. In my years of working in a garden center, the number 1 cause of dying succulents is always damp soil (due to overwatering or poor drainage), so always amend your potting soil for healthy snake plants!

Best Fertilizer for Snake Plants?

It is not strictly necessary to use any fertilizer when growing snake plants as they have specifically adapted to growing in nutrient-poor rocky soils, and the use of normal houseplant fertilizer can actually be harmful.

However, when I used to work at a commercial garden nursery, we used to use ‘succulent and cacti fertilizer’ which has all the nutrients the snake plant needs at the right concentration to boost growth.

Fertilizer for succulents
The fertilizer that I use for snake plants.

The fertilizer, along with bright light with some direct sunlight, significantly increased the rate of growth of all the snake plants.

How to Care for Snake Plants Care in Winter?

The rate at which snake plants grow significantly decreases in Winter, which means there is less demand for water and nutrients.

My top tips for caring for indoor snake plants in Winter:

  • Water once every 4 weeks. Snake plants are more likely to suffer from root rot due to overwatering during Winter, as the roots draw up water much more slowly due to the lower rate of growth. Always check to see if the soil has dried before watering.
  • Keep the temperature above 55°F (13°C). Snake plants do not tolerate cold temperatures for long periods, so move your snake plant to a warmer spot in Winter.
  • Ensure the snake plant has enough light. If you live in a northern latitude, I recommend moving your snake plant to a south-facing window, creating the right conditions for your plant to thrive.

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