Knowing how often to water snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) is important, even to these nearly indestructible plants. Though snake plants thrive on neglect and can grow in a variety of different conditions indoors and outdoors, they can show signs of stress when their needs aren't met in time. Several factors influence a snake plant’s ideal watering schedule. Here’s what you need to know about keeping these tropical plants hydrated.
When to Water Snake Plants
As a rule of thumb for both indoor and outdoor snake plants, they 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 a more vigorous growth schedule. 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 live in an area where temperatures stay above 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round and you grow snake plants outdoors, you will maintain a consistent watering schedule based on warmer temperatures.
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 for indoor and outdoor plants to test the soil and ensure that it is fully dry before watering.
Snake Plant Water Schedule: Indoors and Outdoors
While snake plants are generally drought-tolerant plants, the amount of water that each plant needs will vary depending on its growing conditions and whether they are grown indoors or outdoors in warm, dry climates. 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.
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. If you have multiple snake plants around your home, you may need to water one more often than the other based on lighting conditions.
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. A snake plant growing in hot, dry conditions will need significantly more water than a plant growing in cooler, moist conditions.
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.
The type of pot that a snake plant grows in can also 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, a pot with drainage holes can result in drier soil as it drains away excess water. However, pots without drainage holes will hold that excess water in the soil for longer, which could also cause problems if the plant is not monitored.
How Snake Plants Hold 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 to prevent evapotranspiration.
Needless to say, thanks to their water-storing capabilities, snake plants are designed to withstand periods of drought. But they are also more susceptible to root rot than some other tropical plants and can be easily overwatered.
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. If you notice any of the following signs give your plant a good watering and keep an eye on it:
- Brown, crispy leaf tips
- Dying leaves
- Hard, compacted soil that is pulling away from the edge of the pot
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
- 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.
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