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How Much Light Does a Snake Plant Need? (Solved!)

Snake plants can tolerate most indoor light conditions compared to other succulent species.

However, the amount of light it receives can make a huge difference to how well your snake plant will thrive. 

Snake plants prefer at least 8-10 hours of bright, indirect light daily, but can tolerate up to 5-6 hours of direct sunlight. Park them near east-facing windows or use grow lights for best results. Leggy growth, small leaves, and abnormal leaf color indicate light shortage.

In this article, I’ll show you exactly how much light it needs, and how to spot and fix common light issues.

Do Snake Plants Need Sunlight?

Although snake plants are extremely hardy, they still need light to spur growth and bear more healthy leaves.

More importantly, they need sunlight for photosynthesis. This is a vital process in which plants convert oxygen, water, and light into energy in the form of carbohydrates.

While snake plants can tolerate low indoor light, they’ll become floppy, leggy, and sickly. In some prolonged cases, they may appear washed out, wilt, and die off.

It’s important to note that grow lights can be effectively used to grow snake plants in support of or in place of sunlight.

How to Check How Much Light My Snake Plant Is Getting

[1] The Hand Shadow Test

If you want to check the intensity of light your spider plant is receiving, the hand shadow test is a cost-free yet effective method. In this test, you can also use any object like a stick instead of your hand.

  1. Lay a large white sheet of paper on the spot where your plant is parked
  2. Hold your hand roughly 12 inches (30 cm) directly above the spot where your plant will stand. Perform this test around noon for the most accurate results.
  3. Ensure your fingers are spread evenly and wide
  4. Check the shadow cast on the paper by your hand. What can you see?

The clearer or more defined the shadow cast by your hand, the more intense (or brighter) the light hitting the spot. Here’s how to read the hand shadow test:

  • Low light – if you see a barely recognizable shadow or none at all, the spot receives low light. You don’t want your snake plant sitting in this dim area.
  • Medium-light – An area that gets medium light produces a hand shadow that’s blurred, hazy, or fuzzy. And yet it’s still recognizable.
  • Bright light – A spot that receives bright light casts a clear, well-defined shadow. You can easily and clearly make out your digits. If the said light is filtered or indirect, your snake plant will feel right at home here.

In general, south windows let in the brightest light, followed by west and east-facing windows in that order.

North exposure is usually the dimmest. You must remember that light brightness or intensity reduces drastically as you walk away from the window or source of light.

[2] Using a Lux Meter

There are two significant parameters that tell you how much light your snake plant is getting. One is the light amount, and the other is the light intensity

A lux meter is an instrument that measures light intensity, which is essentially how strong or intense the light is. Lux is a unit equivalent to 1 lumen per square meter. 

Because snake plants thrive in brightly lit areas, a meter reading between Lux 10,000 and 20,000 would be ideal. But they can do okay in medium-light in the Lux 2,500 -10,000 range.

Pro tip: investing in a mid-range Lux meter is a wise investment, all the more so if you have a bunch of houseplants.

However, it pays to buy a multi-function model that can also read other parameters like relative humidity, temperature, etc. 

How Many Hours of Light Do Snake Plants Need?

Plant parents do love the mother-in-law’s tongue because these plants are quite forgiving. They’re tolerant to a range of light conditions, including part sun, part shade, and low light.

However, the recommended number of exposure hours will vary depending on the intensity of the light. Ideally, your snake plants should get a daily dose of at least 8-10 hours of bright, indirect sunlight (source: University of Florida).

Note that snake plants can tolerate up to 5-6 hours of direct sunlight. But if it’s too hot, the sun will scorch the leaves, resulting in wilting and brown leaf tips and edges.

Signs That Your Snake Plant Isn’t Getting Enough Light

[1] Leggy Growth

When it doesn’t get enough light, your snake plant will naturally respond to remain healthy and stay alive. It’ll try to grow as if it’s “reaching” towards wherever there’s light.

You might notice a dramatic increase in the spacing between the foliage, making your plant look unsightly.

These spaces between leaves are known as internodes. If they’re longer than normal, this is a telltale sign that your plant isn’t receiving enough light.

Thin, floppy and leggy growth is another indication of lack of light. This is generally seen in taller varieties of snake plants.

[2] Leaning Towards Light Sources

Snake plants use red & blue light for optimal photosynthesis. As such, it will gravitate towards light sources or conduits like windows when it isn’t getting enough of these rays.

Phototropism is the natural response that causes your plant to lean towards the light.

Despite being tough, the thick streaked leaves will lean as far as possible in the direction of the light.

This is a telling indication of inadequate light reaching those leaves.

You may correct this temporarily by rotating your plant. This will allow foliage on the ‘other side’ to catch the needed light rays.

Otherwise, you’ll want to relocate your snake plant to an indirect, brightly lit spot.

[3] Producing Small Leaves

Thin and underwhelmingly small leaves on your snake plants can also signal light shortage. Light plays a key role in your plant’s growth and health via photosynthesis.

Without enough energy and food, your snake plant can’t nurture its roots, leaves, and new shoots.

Small leaves usually go hand in hand with other symptoms like extended internodes. In fact, these underwhelming leaves are typically washed out and a bit floppy.

New leaves located away from the available light source are the hardest hit. They’re not only small but also look pale, sickly, and sometimes lifeless.

[4] No New Growth

As mentioned earlier, photosynthesis is the key to growth. So critical unavailability of light puts the brakes on the growth of new foliage, roots, and even flowers.

You’ll see no growth if your snake plant isn’t getting enough light for weeks or even months.

You must recognize that snake plants experience slow growth or dormancy during the winter months.

However, if your plant remains inactive in spring and summer, that’s a big red flag. You must move it to a good spot where it will get plenty of bright light.

[5] Abnormal Leaf Color

When the conditions are right, the snake plant boasts healthy, thick, and upright leaves with greyish silver streaks, hence the ‘snake’ name.

The leaves showcase beautiful shades of green, which tells you they’re packed with chlorophyll.

That said, loss of color or abnormal leaf color signals a low light issue. Some leaves may become washed out; others start paling.

In some cases, snake plants lose their beautiful streaking or creamed edges.

Yellowed or browned leaves are another obvious symptom of a critical shortage of light.

If the situation prolongs, the whole leaves may turn yellow, droop, and collapse.

[6] Browning Leaves & Tips

A snake plant will fare much better when basking in bright light. Although it’ll adapt to low light, the growth will slow down.

If the spot is light too little, your plant will dedicate most of its resources to staying alive, so extremes like leaf tips and edge take a hit.

The oldest and lower leaves will be the first to yellow and develop brown leaf margins. Don’t forget that your snake plant will develop brown leaves and tips if exposed to too much light, as well.

Try relocating your snake plant closer to a west-facing window. Use a lux meter to take the guesswork out of the process.

[7] Leaves Dropping/Collapsing

Like you, your snake plant doesn’t like change. Despite being drought-resistant, they often shed leaves when they’re faced with stresses like low light.

This is a natural way for the plant of reducing its “burden’ so that there are few leaves to maintain

The lower and oldest leaves are usually the first to go. They’ll turn yellow, wilt, and drop off.

Leaf drooping may occur before falling off if the soil doesn’t dry out quick enough, leading to overwatering and then root rot.

Be sure to pay attention to other ills that may cause snake plants to shed leaves. You must first rule out overwatering, cold drafts, diseases, and humidity.

[8] Soil Not Drying Out for Weeks

Light helps speed up the evaporation of moisture from the soil. If your snake plant is in a dim area, the soil will not dry out for weeks on end. If not rectified, this will suffocate the roots and cause root rot.

Stick your finger into the soil. If the topsoil is soggy or wet, your snake plant may be in trouble.

If it has been standing in wet soil for weeks, you may find black or rusty brown, mushy roots affected by root rot.

How to Provide More Light

[1] Best Location for Snake Plants

If your snake plant is sulking due to light shortage, it’s important to move it closer to the light source. Your plant will prefer a warm, brightly lit spot with temperatures hovering above 50°F (10°C).

The perfect spot is an area that receives plenty of bright, indirect light. In most regions, this would be near an east-facing window, door, or skylight.

Your snake plant will take advantage of the mild yet bright morning sun, and avoid harsher rays later in the day.

North-facing windows aren’t too shabby, either. But you must ensure that your plant is as close as possible to the window to take full advantage of the sunshine.

The same is true of filtered light from west-facing and south-facing windows. You may use drapes or curtains that will filter the scorching sunlight. 

When all’s said and done, you should use a lux meter. This will help take away the guesswork and ensure your plant is parked in a spot that receives ideal light conditions.

[2] Get a Grow Light & Put Plants Wherever You Like!

Good news! Snake plants are fairly versatile when it comes to lighting, so you can easily use grow lights to say adieu to scorching sunlight.

Even better, you can use these artificial LED lights when sun exposure is minimal during the short winter days.

LED lights illuminate your snake plants with both red and blue rays from the light spectrum. They’re energy-efficient, durable, and cool-looking. But they can be prohibitively expensive.

Make sure to use LED grow lights for 12-14 hours each day for maximum foliage growth and color. If you want them to flower, crank up the exposure for 16+ hours.

Alternatively, you can use a mix of incandescent and fluorescent grow lights in the ratio of one to two. Lucky for you, your snake plants can be parked anywhere when you use grow lights.

Signs That Your Snake Plant Is Getting Too Much Light

[1] Wilting During the Hottest Hours of the Day

When in optimum conditions, the leaves of the snake plant should be perked, healthy, and upright.

However, too much light will cause the leaves to lose moisture at a higher rate than it’s being absorbed in the roots.

The leaves will start drying then wilt. The wilting is especially aggressive during the hottest hours between noon and 4 pm.

This is when the moisture loss is at the peak. Try to move your snake plant to a shaded area during these hours.

[2] Snake Plant Leaves Curling

The leaves of a properly-cared-for snake plant are fairly flat and point upwards.

However, when they are exposed to excessive light, heat will cause tissue damage, too much moisture loss, and cause the leaves to curl downwards.

Some snake plant leaves may also curl inwards in response to light or heat stress. This is particularly profound when the air is dry or drafty.

Snake plants are a species of succulents, they prefer temperatures in the range of 70-90°F (21-32°C).

Too much light will not only dehydrate your plant, but your snake plant will also respond to the temperature stress by curling or wrinkling.

[3] Brown Leaf Edges or Tips

Again, too much light speeds up moisture loss from the leaves. This causes the leaf margins (tips and edges) to scorch and turn brown.

In some cases, this is a sign that your plant needs a drink, especially when the leaves are dry and crispy to the touch.

However, don’t be too quick to rule out other potential reasons for brown leaf tips and edges.

Underwatering, fertilizer sunburn, temperature, and root rot can cause the same.

[4] Brown Spots on the Leaves

If you notice brown spots freckles on the foliage of your snake plant, that’s an indication of sunburn from too much direct sunlight. These spots can also be translucent or pale.

Snake plants do love bright, filtered, or indirect light to thrive. However, direct sunlight will cause tissue damage and can develop brown spots.

You can clearly see them on the leaves exposed to south-facing or west-facing windows.

[5] Yellowing and Thickening of New Growth

If you notice that the new foliage is yellowed and thicker than normal, your snake plant may be getting too much sunlight.

You will often see yellowing alongside brown leaf spots, drooping, and wilting. 

This happens when the light is so much that it scorches or burns the leaf tissue.

The new growth will respond by thickening to increase the chances of survival. These new leaves may also appear washed out, paled, or bleached.

[6] Excessively Compact and Stunted Growth

Both too much and too little light shocks your snake plant to the point of slowing growth.

If your plant is too compact and shows no signs of robust growth, it’s time to rethink its light conditions. 

Move it away from the spot where the light is too intense. Leaves with sunburns and brown spots may not be revived, so prune them away.

How to Ensure Optimum Light for Snake Plant

[1] Light Duration

Light duration will determine the amount of light your snake plant will receive.

As I’ve mentioned, your plant will do well when it receives 8-10 hours of bright, indirect natural light. Limit exposure to direct sunlight to 4-6 hours per day.

[2] Light Intensity

Light intensity refers to how strong it is. Snake plants are happiest in a spot that receives bright light but can do with medium-bright light.

Snake plants use water stored in their leaves to dissipate some heat. However, you must avoid exposure to direct sun, especially when it’s hot between midday and 4 pm.

To minimize water loss, ensure to expose your snake plant to bright, indirect light. You can achieve this by placing it near a west-facing window.

If you’re using grow lights, provide your plants with Lux 10,000-20,000 of light for 12-14 hours daily.

Last Words

How much light your snake plant receives will influence how well it thrives. Too much light will cause your plant to sunburn, wilt, and wash out.

Too little light will lead to floppy, leggy growth. The leaves may also turn yellow, wilt, and fall off.

The best course of care is to provide your snake plant with 8-10 hours of bright, indirect, or filtered light. You can also use growth lights for 12-14 hours, so you don’t have to worry about the location.

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