Snake Plants are great beginner houseplants. They’re tough as nails and will forgive lots of mistakes by their owners. But there is one aspect of their care that you’ve got to get right: watering. Improper hydration is a fast track to a sick or dying Sansevieria. Fortunately, there are some simple rules you can follow to make sure your Snake Plant gets the right amount of moisture.
Overwatering is the most critical problem to watch out for. Make sure to allow enough time between waterings to let the soil dry out, or your Snake Plant can easily develop root rot. Check the potting mix every 5-7 days during the growing season, watering only when the top 2-3 inches are completely dry. During the winter, your plant can go even longer without a drink.
Though you don’t want to water your Snake Plant too often, you should give it a big drink when it’s thirsty. Soak the soil all the way through until water is draining from the bottom of the pot. It’s also important to use the right kind of pot and soil, and to know the signs of an underwatered or overwatered Snake Plant. We’ll address all these topics in detail below!
How Often Should You Water a Snake Plant?
How often should you water your Snake Plant? Answer: whenever it needs water.
Okay, okay, we know that’s not a real answer. The thing is, there’s no simple schedule like “every two weeks” or “every 9 days” that will work for every Snake Plant. All kinds of different factors affect how quickly a plant absorbs water. Here are just a few examples:
- Sunlight levels
- Local humidity
- Container volume
- Soil quality
- The size and age of your plant
The only way to be sure whether your Snake Plant needs water is to test the soil. The simple method is to poke a finger 2 or 3 inches deep and see whether it feels dry. If so, it’s time to give your plant more water. If you feel any hint of moisture, you should wait and check again in a day or two.
The finger test isn’t completely foolproof, though. Depending on the composition of the potting mix, there could still be quite a bit of moisture in the bottom of the pot when the upper layers have dried out. You can get a clearer picture of conditions around the roots by inserting some kind of long, thin probe that can reach the bottom of the pot.
A soil moisture meter is purpose-built for this task, giving you a dampness rating on a ten-point scale ranging from “wet” to “moist” to“dry”. For Snake Plants, it’s best to water when the soil near the bottom of the pot is right on the edge between “moist” and “dry”.
If you prefer a low-tech approach, you can use a plain wooden chopstick or barbecue skewer for the same purpose. Poke it into the soil, wait a few minutes, then take it out. The best time to water is when it comes back with the lower end slightly damp, but not soaking wet.
Watering a Snake Plant in the Summer and Winter
Good news for those who like orderly schedules: although we can’t tell you how often to water your Sansevieria, we can give you a pretty good idea of how often you should test its soil. Here’s our rule of thumb: check whether your Snake Plant needs water every 5-7 days during the growing season.
The “growing season” will vary depending on your climate, but in northern regions, it usually falls between April and mid-October. During this period, your Snake Plant is receiving enough sun to put out new growth, so it will use more water. As its growth slows and stops during the fall or winter, it will get much less thirsty; you only need to check your Snake Plant’s pot every 2-3 weeks during the colder months.
These schedules are just rough guidelines. You’ll get better at knowing when to check on your plant if you pay attention to how quickly its potting mix dries out. We’ll talk more about soil quality further down, but for now, just remember you should test your Snake Plant’s potting mix more frequently if it’s coarse and fast-draining.
How to Water Your Snake Plant
Once you’ve poked or probed the soil and confirmed that your Snake Plant needs water, you should give it plenty to drink. Pour slowly and gently around the outside of the foliage until the soil is drenched and a healthy trickle of water is coming out from the pot’s drainage holes. Try not to get much water in the center of the leaf cluster; it could pool there and lead to rot.
What about water quality? The most important thing is to use cool or lukewarm water. Anything too hot or too cold could stress the plant. Yes, that means we advise against the “ice cube watering” fad that’s all over the internet!
Your Snake Plant will appreciate rainwater or distilled water if you can provide it. Tap water sometimes contains a high concentration of minerals. Those dissolved salts can cause problems if they build up in the soil. That’s one reason we recommend watering in big gulps instead of small sips: the excess fluid helps wash away excess minerals.
You can enhance this effect by giving your Snake Plant a full-on soil flush every so often. This is a more intense version of an ordinary watering, using around 4 or 5 times the total volume of the pot. Pour slowly and steadily, letting the water soak through the soil and drain away. If you give your Snake Plant tap water (or synthetic fertilizer), it’s a good idea to perform a soil flush every 2 months or so.
Some guides recommend bottom watering for Snake Plants. This method involves placing your Sansevieria’s pot inside a shallow tray with an inch or so of water inside and allowing the soil to wick it upward to the roots. We’re not fans of this method because it doesn’t provide the mineral-flushing benefits described above.
If you decide to try bottom watering, you should follow the same guidelines about waiting until the soil is mostly dry first. And make sure not to let your Snake Plant sit in the water tray too long – take it out as soon as the moisture has permeated close to the top of the pot. Around 10 minutes is usually plenty.
Are Snake Plants Drought Tolerant?
You may find it a little odd that we’re advising you to water your Snake Plant as soon as the soil dries out. Aren’t these supposed to be desert-dwelling succulents that can withstand long dry periods?
You’re right: Snake Plants can survive for quite a while without being watered. Their thick leaves and waxy outer layer help to trap and store moisture to keep them alive through droughts. Even if your Sansevieria starts wrinkling and wilting from lack of water, it’s probably a long way from dying of thirst. It’s likely to recover quickly once you give it a drink.
However, don’t mistake drought tolerance for drought love. Repeated underwatering can slow and stunt your Sansevieria’s development. If you want to see the big, beautiful foliage that your Snake Plant can produce, don’t let it go without water longer than you have to.
Bottom line: if you’re ever uncertain whether your Snake Plant needs hydration, it’s safer to wait. It’s a lot more likely to die from too little water than from too much. But don’t deliberately deprive it of hydration when the soil is clearly dry.
How to Tell if Your Snake Plant is Underwatered
We’ve already touched on one potential sign that a Snake Plant is getting too little water: slow or nonexistent growth. Sansevierias typically add 1-3 inches of height per month during the growing season and produce 2-4 new leaves in a year. That’s not exactly lightning-fast, but if the plant hardly seems to be growing at all, you might not be watering it enough.
As your Snake Plant’s thirst gets more urgent, its foliage will develop a rumpled appearance. Its fleshy leaves can only stay taut and smooth when their cells are filled with water. The more moisture the plant loses, the more saggy and wrinkled it will look.
The leaves may start to droop toward the ground as their tissues go slack. The foliage might also curl or fold up as a defense mechanism against dehydration. This response reduces the amount of leaf surface in contact with the air, slowing down evaporation.
Portions of your Snake Plant may begin to die of dehydration, usually starting at the tips and edges of the leaves. The affected foliage will fade to yellow, white, or brown and develop a dry and crispy texture.
Be aware that many of the symptoms above could also result from things like sunburn, temperature stress, or damage to the roots. Anything that interferes with your Snake Plant’s ability to take up or retain water can cause dehydration.
That’s why you should always check the soil before you conclude that your plant is underwatered. By the time a Snake Plant is so thirsty that it’s wilting and turning brown, the soil will usually be crusting over and peeling away from the edges of its container because it’s completely dry. Give your plant a drink and see if it revives; if not, you probably have a different problem on your hands.
How to Tell if Your Snake Plant is Overwatered
Depriving a Snake Plant of water will hurt it, but giving it too much water is far more dangerous. So how can you spot an overwatered Sansevieria?
The soil is your first clue. If you’re checking on it regularly as we recommended above, you probably have a pretty good idea of how quickly or slowly it’s drying out. When the soil remains noticeably damp 5 or 6 days after you’ve watered it, there’s something wrong – usually a problem with the drainage of the soil or the pot (more on that later).
Other early signs of overwatering are more or less identical to signs of underwatering. Too much water in the soil stifles the roots by denying them oxygen, so the rest of the plant can’t get enough water. This causes the kind of sagging, wrinkling, discolored foliage you’d see in a thirsty Sansevieria. Yellowing is particularly common in overwatered Snake Plants, usually beginning near the soil and spreading upward.
Those signs are bad enough, but you should be especially alert for symptoms of root rot. This condition is common in overwatered Snake Plants because opportunistic microorganisms can reproduce at a rapid rate in sludgy soil. It’s crucial to recognize root rot early. It can kill your plant if it has enough time to spread throughout the root system.
Root rot symptoms include:
- Sour or musty odors from the soil
- Leaves turning soft at the base
- Infestations of fungus gnats
- Brown, slimy spots on the leaves
- Foliage dropping off the plant
The only sure-fire diagnosis of root rot requires pulling your Snake Plant out of its pot and checking for roots that have turned brown, gray, black, squishy, or smelly. And the only cure is to trim off every infected root.
Wipe down your blades between snips with a disinfectant like 10% bleach or 3% hydrogen peroxide, or you’ll be giving the pathogens a free ride to healthy spots. After you’re finished, repot the plant in fresh soil and a clean container. You can find step-by-step instructions on treating root rot in Snake Plants here.
Soil and Water
By now, you may have gathered that overwatering has less to do with how wet the soil gets and more to do with how long it stays wet. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right kind of potting mix for your Snake Plant.
Your Sansevieria will do best with a rocky mix that includes lots of air pockets and allows water to drain through quickly. Soils intended for succulents are your best bet if you’re going with something off the shelf.
DIY houseplant owners may prefer to whip up their own blend. We recommend the following recipe:
- 40% coarse-grade perlite
- 30% orchid bark chunks
- 20% coconut coir
- 10% vermicompost
If you’re especially absent-minded and have a tendency to underwater your plants, you could add in a bit of African Violet potting mix to make the soil a bit more water-retentive. Don’t include too much or it will get soggy; a combination of 25% African Violet mix and 75% succulent mix should work well. Read more about ideal soil for Snake Plants in this article.
Your choice of pot matters too. The most important thing it needs is a drainage hole in the base – even the fluffiest, most well-aerated soil will get waterlogged if the water doesn’t have an outlet once it reaches the bottom!
A terra cotta pot will also reduce your odds of overwatering. This porous, unglazed clay soaks up moisture from the soil and releases it into the air, helping the potting mix dry out faster.
As long as you’re careful to test the soil before watering and keep watch for signs of overwatering and dehydration, you should have no trouble keeping your Sansevieria properly hydrated. You can also give yourself a major leg up by providing a coarse, fast-draining potting mix. We hope our advice helps you quench your Snake Plant’s thirst and help it grow strong.
Want to read more? Click here to read Four Signs Your Snake Plant Needs a Drink of Water. Or check out Step By Step Instructions to Save your Snake Plant from Root Rot.
Snake Plant Watering 101: When, How, and How Much to Water Your Plant - The Healthy Houseplant? ›
Generally, the best practice for watering a Snake plant is to wait until the soil has completely dried out before providing more water. During the spring and summer months, that could mean once a week. During the cooler months, that could mean every 14-21 days.How much water should I use to water my snake plant? ›
Water. Your Snake Plant only needs to be watered fortnightly, allowing its soil to completely dry out between waterings to prevent overwatering and root rot. During the winter months feel free to only water your snake plant once a month if the soil is still moist after 2 weeks.How do you know when to water a snake plant? ›
To keep the plant looking its best, water when the soil dries out. The best way to tell when your plant needs watering is to touch the soil every week. When the first inch of the soil feels dry, it's time to water. Water: Fill a watering can with room temperature water and give your plant a drink.How many days can a snake plant go without water? ›
While some plants are fairly high-maintenance and borderline dramatic (cough, cough: the fiddle-leaf fig) sansevierias, known also as snake plants or mother-in-law's tongues, are the quite the opposite. In fact, these trusty greens are so resilient they can go up to two weeks without water.Should you water snake plant from top or bottom? ›
Water from the bottom of the pot, if possible. This encourages the roots to grow downward and deep, helping to stabilize the thick, tall leaves. During the winter, while the plant isn't actively growing, water less often than you would in spring and summer.How do you tell if snake plant is overwatered or underwatered? ›
If your Snake Plant goes too long without water, its leaves will start to wrinkle, curl, and droop. With prolonged or repeated underwatering, you may see them fade to yellow or turn crispy and brown.Do snake plants like their leaves wet? ›
"We hear that we should mist our plants," she adds, "but snake plants do not like to have wet leaves. They live in very drought-heavy areas where overhead rain doesn't happen often—which is why they're so resilient." To avoid this, Santiago recommends staying away from spritzing and only watering the soil itself.Should I spray water on snake plant? ›
Don't Overwater Your Plant!
Remember that snake plants are succulents, even though sometimes they can have big “leafy” looking limbs. They will need minimal amounts of water – only every couple of days! Some people use a spray bottle. Another rule of thumb is to water it when the soil is dry.
You want to be careful not to overdo it because your plant will rot out. Always make sure the soil is almost completely dry before thoroughly watering again. Water your Snake Plants every 2-8 weeks.What does overwatering a snake plant look like? ›
One of the most common signs that you will notice in your overwatered snake plant is the drooping of the leaves. The leaves will begin to get soft and even mushy as they take in too much water and will start to lose their structure, also resulting in them bending over.
How do I know if my snake plant is healthy? ›
A healthy Snake Plant has rigid, fleshy leaves that stand mostly upright. Some species twist and curve more than others, but none of them should sag. The plant's coloration should be sharp, usually alternating between pale and dark green.Do snake plants like misting? ›
By maintaining those temperatures in the environment in which you're growing your snake plant, it should get relative humidity at the percentage it needs. There is never any reason to mist this houseplant; in fact, we'd recommend that as one of the last things you should do for its care.Should I let my snake plant cutting dry out? ›
Allow the leaf segments of your snake plants to dry for a couple days. This gives the cut edges time to dry and scab over, which reduces the likelihood of root rot or leaf rot. Once they appear dry, it's planting time. Prepare small pots with your cactus mix, making sure it's damp to the touch.Where should I put my snake plant? ›
Place a snake plant in a well-drained pot to avoid overwatering, as it can cause rotting. Only water the soil when it's completely dry. Indirect sunlight is best. Partial sun works best for snake plants, though it can still grow in darker corners or in brighter window areas.Can I water my snake plant with ice cubes? ›
According to Reader's Digest, all it takes is placing two large ice cubes or several small ice cubes at the base of your plant once a week to keep them happy and hydrated. This way the plant gets to suck up all that H₂O slowly, but surely.Can I water my snake plant with tap water? ›
Can snake plants be watered with tap water? Ideally it's best to use filtered water or rain water for snake plants and other house plants because they're sensitive to the chlorine that is added to tap water.What causes brown tips on snake plants? ›
Snake plants may be hardy, but there is a limit to how much sunlight and heat they can handle. Just like you, excessive heat or sun can make your plant uncomfortable or stressed. If your snake plant sits by a window, or simply in a spot that gets a lot of sun, this could be the reason your plant's tips are browning.How do you perk up a snake plant? ›
Snake plants with yellow leaves can be revived by putting them in bright indirect light and giving them more regular waterings. You should transfer the plant to a new position where it can get more light but not direct sunlight if the yellow leaves are a result of not getting enough light or too much sunlight.When should I repot my snake plant? ›
When to Repot a Snake Plant. The best time to repot your house plant is in late winter or early spring. The reason this time works best is because your plant is in dormancy for the winter and it's right before the active growing season (Spring).What does milk do for a snake plant? ›
The same properties that make milk good for a human, such as the calcium and B vitamins, are what benefits plants. The calcium helps the plants grow, as well as prevent blossom end rot, which can be caused by a calcium deficiency.
Do snake plants like coffee grounds? ›
Snake plants can benefit from being fed coffee grounds because they contain lots of nitrogen which may assist these beneficial plants throughout the growing season. Coffee grounds can also increase soil acidity but must be diluted before use.How long do snake plants live? ›
Most snake plants live up to 10 years, although some have been known to live as long as 25 years with proper care.Can you water a snake plant too much? ›
If the plant is not provided with the appropriate amount of water and sunlight, then it can damage the plant. Overwatering in snake plants has become very common. The leaves will turn yellow and mushy due to overwatering. If the situation is not handled, then gradually the plant will wilt away.Can you put a whole snake plant in water? ›
The answer to this question is– Yes! Sansevierias can survive in water. But it may sound contradictory as snake plants dislike overwatering that can cause root rot and fungal infection. However, you can grow it entirely in the water safely without any worries as long as you keep certain points in mind.