How Often Should You Water a Snake Plant?

The answer may not be as simple as you think!

Watering a small snake plant in a terracotta pot with three other potted snake plants around it.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) are considered to be nearly indestructible houseplants that thrive on neglect and can grow in a variety of different conditions. Unlike some plants such as Calatheas and peace lilies that are known for being ‘dramatic’ when their care needs aren’t met, snake plants are generally unchanging and it can take a while before they show signs of stress. Since watering is such a critical aspect of any plant’s care, it’s important to understand how to water snake plants correctly before it’s too late to save them from chronic overwatering or underwatering.

However, when it comes to the question of how often snake plants should be watered, unfortunately, there’s no easy, straightforward answer. There are several different factors that influence a snake plant’s ideal watering schedule. Here’s what you need to know about keeping these tropical plants hydrated indoors.

How Snake Plants Hold Water

First things first, it’s important to understand how snake plants use and store water. Snake plants are considered succulents because they store water in their thick, fleshy leaves. They are native to areas across Africa and southern Asia where they are accustomed to intense weather. To withstand these conditions, snake plants also utilize a unique type of photosynthesis called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) to prevent water loss during extreme daytime temperatures. Plants that utilize CAM photosynthesize regularly during the day, but only open their stomata to exchange gasses at night in an effort to prevent evapotranspiration.

Needless to say, thanks to their water-storing capabilities, snake plants are hardy plants that are designed to withstand periods of drought. They are also more susceptible to root rot than some other tropical plants and can be easily overwatered. Ultimately though, the frequency with which snake plants should be watered depends heavily on their growing conditions.

Three potted snake plants next to a bright window. Two smaller snake plants are in terracotta pots, the larger snake plant in the back is in a black plastic pot.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Water Needs Depend on Growing Conditions

While snake plants are generally drought-tolerant plants, the amount of water that each individual plant needs will vary depending on its growing conditions. Light, temperature and humidity, soil type, and the type of potting container it's planted in can all affect a snake plant’s water requirements.

Light

The amount of light a snake plant gets is the most important factor influencing how often it will need to be watered. Snake plants can grow in a variety of lighting conditions, from bright light to low light, but their watering will need to be adjusted based on how much light they are receiving. Plants grown with lots of light will need to be watered more often, while plants growing in low light won’t need as much water. This means that if you have more than one snake plant that is growing in different locations in your home, you may need to water one more often than the other - and that’s completely normal!

Temperature and Humidity

Snake plants grow well in a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions, but growers should be aware of the impact different temperatures and humidity levels will have on their plants watering needs. Generally, a plant grown in warmer temperatures will require more water than a plant grown in colder temperatures, while a plant grown in high humidity will require less water than a plant grown in dry conditions. This means a snake plant growing in hot, dry conditions will need significantly more water than a plant grown in cold, humid conditions - and vice versa. 

Soil Type

Ideally, snake plants should be planted in sandy, well-draining soil. This helps to keep excess moisture away from their roots after each watering. However, if they are planted in soil that is not as well-draining they will not need to be watered as often as if they were planted in a more well-draining medium.

Potting Container

Believe it or not, even the type of pot that a snake plant grows in can affect how often it needs to be watered. For example, terracotta pots absorb moisture from the soil which dries out the soil faster than a plastic pot. Similarly, if the pot has drainage holes (which it always should!) excess water will drain from the drainage holes during each watering resulting in drier soil whereas pots without drainage holes will hold that excess water in the soil for longer. Ensure that you are familiar with the type of pot your snake plant is planted in and how it may affect its growing conditions!

When to Water Snake Plants

As a rule of thumb, snake plants should be watered once their soil has completely dried out. During the spring and summer, you can expect to be watering your snake plant more often than in the fall and winter due to increased light, warmer temperatures, and more vigorous growth. For example, you may need to water your snake plant once a week during the spring and summer and only once every two to three weeks during the fall and winter. If you are unsure about whether it is time to water your plant, remember that it is generally better to underwater a snake plant than to overwater it. You can also purchase a moisture meter to test the soil and ensure that it is fully dry before watering.

A blue moisture meter reading "dry" in the soil of a snake plant with two other snake plants next to it.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Signs Your Snake Plant is Underwatered

If you aren’t watering your snake plant often enough it will start to show signs of drying out. This may include brown, crispy tips; dying leaves; or hard, compacted soil that is pulling away from the edge of the pot. If you notice any of these signs give your plant a good watering and keep an eye on it. If the soil is compacted you may need to repot your plant and provide it with fresh soil, but usually, a few regular waterings should bring the plant back to life.

Signs Your Snake Plant is Overwatered

Since snake plants are fairly drought-tolerant, overwatering them is a real risk. Watch out for signs of overwatering such as yellow leaves, mushy stems, or waterlogged soil. If you notice any signs of overwatering it’s a good idea to unpot the plant and check its roots for root rot which can kill your plant if it's not caught early enough.

Article Sources
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  1. Heather Kropp, Angela Halasey. "CAM Plants". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 02 Aug 2014. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 7 Jul 2022. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/cam-plants