How to Water Snake Plants

How to water snake plants

Snake plants are adapted to tolerate drought, so water snake plants with a generous soak then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Always give snake plants a good soak, rather than a light watering to ensure the water has infiltrated the soil properly to reach the roots.

Snake plants are succulents that are native to Africa and require the soil to dry out between bouts of watering and well-draining soils to stay healthy and avoid root rot.

Keep reading to learn how to establish how often and how much to water your snake plant according to your climate and conditions…

How Often to Water Snake Plants

Snake plants are a type of succulent that has special adaptations to growing in hot arid climates with infrequent rainfall and well-draining soils.

Snake plants store water in their thick fleshy leaves and only open their stomata at night to prevent water loss from the leaves during hot sunny days.

Snake plant’s adaptations to drought mean that it prefers dryer soil conditions and less frequent watering than most house plants and can be susceptible to root rot.

If the soil is consistently damp then the snake plant leaves turn yellow or brown and have a soft texture as a sign of stress.

To grow snake plants in your home successfully it is important to, replicate the watering conditions of its native environment.

Snake plants require the soil around the roots to dry out somewhat between bouts of watering so only water when the soil is dry. Typically this means watering your snake plant once every 2 or 3 weeks.

It is important to note that the rate at which the soil around your snake plant dries out can vary due to several different factors and at certain times of year…

  • The humidity and average temperature of the climate.
  • The size of the pot (smaller pots dry out quickly).
  • Whether the snake plant is in the direct current of air-con or forced air (which can sap moisture from the leaves and dry the soil quickly).
  • The capacity of the soil to retain moisture.
  • Fluctuating indoor temperatures due to heating.
  • The time of year (snake plants have a reduced demand for moisture in Winter).

To effectively establish how often to water snake plants according to your conditions, feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole.

If the soil feels moist then do not water just yet, but if the soil feels somewhat dry, this is the perfect time for watering.

Once you know how long it takes for the soil to dry out for your potted snake plant then you can establish a watering schedule that emulates the drought, followed by a rainfall cycle of watering to which snake plants are adapted in their native habitat in Africa.

How to Tell if You Are Watering Snake Plants Too Often or Not Often Enough

If you are watering snake plants more often the once per week then you are likely overwatering as this does not allow for the soil to dry out between watering.

The symptoms of an overwatered snake plant are leaves turning yellow or brown or perhaps black with a soft, mushy feel to them rather than firm and green.

If this is happening then scale back the watering of your snake plant and let the soil dry out properly to give the snake plant a chance to recover.

(If your snake plant has black leaves then read my article, why is my snake plant turning black for the solution).

On the other end of the scale if you are under watering (not watering frequently enough or watering too lightly) then the snake plant leaves tend to shrivel and can curl or droop and potentially turn brown.

In which case give your snake plant a generous soak and if possible submerge the root ball in a basin of water for 10 minutes to allow moisture to effectively infiltrate the soil and reach the roots to absorb much required moisture.

After two or three watering cycles with a generous soak each time the snake plant leaves should return to a more plump appearance.

Note that it is much easier to revive an underwatered snake plant than an overwatered plant because of the snake plant’s drought tolerance so always try to keep snake plants on the dry side.

(For more information on the symptoms of overwatering and underwatering snake plants and how to save it, read my article how to revive a dying snake plant).

How Often to Water Snake Plants in Winter

Snake plant’s demand for moisture fluctuates throughout the year.

In Winter snake plants require watering less frequently because:

  • There are fewer hours of daylight.
  • The sun is less intense.
  • Water evaporates from the soil at a slower rate than Summer.
  • Snake plants lose less water through their leaves in Winter.

All these factors can cause a state of dormancy for the snake plant in the Winter and it practically stops growing.

(Snake plants can stop growing for several reasons, read my article on why snake plant is not growing for the solutions).

To reevaluate how often to water your snake plant in Winter check the soil’s moisture with your finger at the drainage in the base of the pot.

Often the soil can stay moist for longer which means you should delay watering your snake plant for longer than you would in the Spring and Summer.

Typically snake plants require watering once every 3 or 4 weeks in the Winter with a good soak to maintain the optimal watering cycle but adjust your watering schedule to suit your specific conditions.

Also, consider that if your indoor plant is next to a source of heat in Winter then it can dry out much quicker.

Ideally, the snake plant should not be located directly next to a source of heat, however, this can influence the rate at which the soil dries out and how often you should water your snake plant.

How Much to Water Snake Plants

Knowing how much to water your snake plant is essential.

The variability of climate, humidity, and air currents can all influence how often to water your snake plant but how much water you should be watering with stays the same regardless of conditions or time of year.

Water snake plants with a really generous soak so that water visibly emerges from the base of the pot.

This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil properly so that the roots can uptake the moisture they require.

A generous soaking also promotes the roots to establish in the soil to further increase the snake plant’s resistance to drought.

Watering too lightly causes the top inch or so of the soil to be damp but the soil underneath can stay dry so that the roots cannot uptake the moisture they require resulting in drought stress causing the leaves to shrivel and turn brown as a sign of stress.

(Succulents can sometimes shrivel due to over watering so read my article Why are my succulent leaves shriveling for how to tell the difference).

Watering with a generous soak followed by allowing the soil to dry out recreates the watering cycle of snake plants in their native environment with a sudden deluge of rain followed by a period of drought and hot weather in their dry tropical environment.

Well Draining Soil is Key To Avoiding Overwatering

The correct watering frequency and quantity of water should be in conjunction with the proper well-draining soil to keep your snake plant healthy and avoid root rot.

Conventional potting soils retain too much moisture for the drought resistant snake plant and results in root rot with the leaves turning yellow, brown or black and drooping.

It is important to avoid potting mixes that contain peat as peat soil repels water when it has completely dried out (as the soil should between watering your snake plant) which causes water to run off the surface and prevents moisture from reaching the roots, causing drought stress.

Snake plants grow in gritty or sandy soils that drain quickly without holding too much moisture.

To keep your snake plant healthy and avoid root rot, its important to grow snake plants in special succulent and cactus potting soil which effectively emulates the well draining soil characteristics of the snake plants native environment.

With a potting soil mix specially formulated for succulents, it is a lot easier to achieve the optimal balance of moisture to avoid root rot and maintain a healthy snake plant.

Water Snake Plants in Pots with Drainage Holes in the Base

Snake plants do not tolerate their roots being in damp soil, so snake plants must be planted in pots with drainage holes in their base to allow excess water to escape after watering.

Watering generously so that water emerges from the base of the pot is a great way to ensure that you have watered snake plants with enough water and feeling the soil at the drainage hole is the bet way to establish how often to water your snake plant.

If your snake plant is in a pot without good drainage then water pools around the roots of your snake plant and causes root rot.

Water can still collect around the roots if:

  • The drainage hole becomes blocked with compacted soil or roots. If your soil is draining slowly check to see if the drainage hole is clear so excess water can escape properly.
  • Saucers and trays underneath the pot. if you are using a saucer or tray underneath the pot of your snake plant to prevent water from spilling in the house, then this can prevent excess water from escaping from the pot. Always empty the saucer or tray regularly so that the soil can dry out to prevent root rot.
  • Decorative outer pots. I have seen snake plants sold in stores planted in a plastic pot with drainage holes but presented in a decorative outer pot without drainage holes. Outer pots can prevent water from escaping so either empty the pot regularly or plant in a pot with drainage holes.
Snake plant decorative outer pot drainage holes in the base.
Snake plant in a decorative outer pot without drainage holes. in the base.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Snake plants require watering with a generous soaking so that excess water emerges from the drainage holes in the base of the pot. Water snake plants with a good soak and let the soil dry out between bouts of watering.
  • Plant snake plants in special succulent and cactus soil to ensure good drainage and prevent root rot.
  • Snake plants should be planted in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape.
  • The symptoms of an underwatered snake plant are shriveled leaves that curl inwards and get thinner than they should. Overwatered snake plants turn yellow brown or black with the leaves drooping.

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