Watering your Snake Plant is probably the most crucial element to master if you are going to keep the plant in good health.
I know, because I had to learn this the hard way. With such a tough plant, it is easy to assume that you can use a ‘by the seat of your pants’ method when it comes to watering.
Watering a snake plant correctly really isn’t very difficult if you follow a few simple rules that we will look at in more depth during the course of this article.
How Much And How Often to Water Snake Plant?
Water the snake plant when the soil dries out to maintain the plants’ best appearance. Touching the soil once a week is the best method to know whether your plant needs watering. It’s time to water when the top 1-2 inches of soil feels dry.
Avoid Excess watering in winter. Overwatering may cause damage to the leaves. They will begin to turn yellow and rot at the base.
Determining Watering Frequency
You may be surprised to know that incorrect watering is one of the main reasons for the diseases of your snake plants.
So, it is very important to determine the frequency of watering for your snake plant. Here are the incorrect watering scenarios:
- Overwatering: Snake plants suffer due to incorrectly selected irrigation frequencies and the amount of water used for single irrigation. Overwatering can lead to snake plant root rot.
- Drying out: Lack of moisture causes the snake plant container soil to dry out. Without water, plants struggle to continue normal growth. Read this article to know the signs of an underwatered snake plant and ways to revive it.
At this point, you should be able to figure out the watering problem. Now, you need to figure out the watering schedule. Let’s talk about that.
When to Water Snake Plant
In an ideal world, there would be one simple rule for when and how to water your Snake Plant and life would be sweet and simple.
Oh, if only that were the case. There are a number of different factors that will determine when your plant does and doesn’t need to be watered and we will look at those now.
Don’t let this put you off. Later on, I will show you some simple tests that will tell you conclusively whether or not to water.
The easiest way to determine when to water your snake plant is to checking the potting soil. You can do it by digging your finger into the soil up to two knuckles.
If you do not your finger to get dirty then use a pencil or any kind of stick. If soil is dry below two inches from the top layer then it’s time to water your snake plant.
Snake plants can go without water for more than a month but you can not overwater at a time. This will cause rotting of the roots and your snake plant can die as a result.
First, let’s look at the main factors affecting when the Snake Plant needs water.
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Factors That Impact Watering Snake Plant Frequency
You need to consider certain environmental parameters. This will help you determine the right water frequency for your snake plant.
It may seem counterintuitive that a plant that is living indoors responds to the weather and season, but that is definitely the case.
In the spring your plant will start to awake from its dormant period and begin to really put on some growth.
At this stage, it will need more water than it would during the rest of the year, and the gardener will need to react accordingly.
By summer, the plant will start to slow down that sudden burst of energy but will still need a regular supply of water.
This will slow down even further as the autumn arrives and then, come the winter, there will be no growth and watering will be virtually unnecessary.
These plants are grown for their sword-like foliage, but they will occasionally flower.
In the spring they will occasionally send up a long stem which will produce sweet-smelling, cream-colored flowers at the top.
When the flowering has ended, you can cut the stem away at its base with a pair of secateurs.
To produce a flower requires energy from the plant and you may need to water more frequently at this time.
This one is a biggy. Ideally, your Snake Plant will be happiest in the 55° – 85° F (13 – 30°C) range.
This is quite a broad spectrum of tolerance and that goes to demonstrate just how tough these plants are.
They will start to become unhappy if you allow the temperature to drop below 50° F (10°C).
What you will find is that at higher temperatures, your plant will require watering more frequently. This comes from a combination of factors.
- Firstly, the leaves will be releasing more moisture into the air,
- Secondly, the soil will dry out faster due to increased evaporation.
Humidity and temperature often go hand in hand. If the air surrounding your Snake Plant becomes too dry, the plant will begin to suffer.
At the same time, these are desert plants and they will become susceptible to diseases such as mold if the air is too humid. This should not become an issue under normal circumstances, because the plant is so robust.
Where it can be a problem, is when you are using central heating or air conditioning devices. Both of these tend to dry the air and exaggerate humidity issues.
If your plant is being watered correctly, it will be in a far better position to cope should the humidity levels not match those that it would normally require.
If you place your Snake Plant among a group of other plants, they tend to create their own mini microclimate.
And humidity is maintained at a tolerable level for all of the plants in the cluster.
The main thing to understand when it comes to humidity is that the more humid the conditions are, the less you should be watering.
You will learn to monitor the moisture levels of the soil later in this article. It is much easier than you imagine.
Location of Your Plant
Choosing an ideal position for any house plant is always an important consideration. You need to think about what sort of lighting the plant requires as well as drafts and the position of central heating appliances.
Another thing to bear in mind with your Snake Plant is that they will eventually become quite tall and their center of gravity may not be ideal.
Don’t choose a position that is likely to see a lot of passing traffic which may knock the plant over. Snake Plants are tolerant of a wide range of light conditions but you should avoid them anywhere that exposes them to direct sun.
This will put them at risk of being sun-scorched and will also make watering more complicated. Ideally, these plants will be happiest on an east or west-facing windowsill, but not on a south-facing one.
If the plant receives more sunlight, there will be a corresponding increase in the evaporation rate. This will obviously mean that you need to water more frequently.
Likewise, in a shadier position, evaporation and transpiration will be slower. Neither of these situations mean that the plant won’t be happy.
As a gardener, you will just need to be aware that you need to monitor the moisture level more carefully until you know at what speed the soil is losing moisture.
Type of Potting Mix
There are many different varieties of potting mix on the market. The majority of them are intended to increase water retention for as long as possible and to do this, manufacturers incorporate either peat or coconut husk.
These two products act as a sort of blotting paper in that they suck up water and release it slowly.
In the case of the Snake Plant, water-retentive soil is not ideal. Instead, you want a potting mix that retains nutrients but which releases moisture quite quickly.
I like to use a standard cactus mix which is usually freely available at most decent garden centers.
On the odd occasion when I have wanted to pot a Snake Plant and have been unable to get hold of a cactus mix, I have simply made up my own. This is really easy and here is my recipe.
Two-thirds of regular potting soil combined with one-third free draining material such as pumice, gravel, or perlite.
The potting soil will provide nutrients but the other products will speed drainage.
Don’t get too hung up on the exact quantities for this recipe, and use whatever draining material is most easily available.
Every gardener has his own recipe, but the essential takeaway from this is that there is easy drainage.
You simply need to understand that take away is that a more moisture-retentive soil will hold more water and therefore you need to apply water accordingly.
Size of the Plant
The larger the plant is, the more water it will require. Those bigger leaves are going to transpire more and as a result, watering will need to be slightly more frequent than it would have when the plant was small.
Type of Pot
The type of pot your Snake Plant is planted into can have a bearing on the amount of water the plant will need.
For example, a glazed pot, or a plastic one, will not allow water to evaporate through the sides.
A terracotta pot is porous and therefore some of the water that you supply will be lost through evaporation through the walls of the pot itself.
Using a porous pot is not out of the question. Many of my favorite house plants are thriving in their terracotta homes.
All it means is that I need to be aware of the possibility of increased moisture loss, test the soil regularly, and water accordingly.
Size of The Pot
If the pot is considerably larger than the root ball, there will be more space for soil and this will then hold more moisture when wet.
When the container is very large then a significant part of the potting soil is not covered with roots. So there might be a risk of overwatering.
In this case, your tendency will be to water your snake plant according to the size of the container.
This might sound like quite a handy way to reduce the amount of watering you need to do. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case.
Snake Plants hate to have wet feet as this can lead to root rot and all sorts of other potential overwatering problems. Many of these can prove fatal if not corrected quickly enough.
Ideally, Snake Plants like to be kept in tight pots and should not be repotted until it is really necessary.
In fact, the flowers that we mentioned earlier, will only be produced if the plant is root-bound.
When repotting, use the next pot size up from the one that your plant has just outgrown.
You can tell when a Snake Plant has become too large for its pot when the water that you supply, simply runs straight through the pot without being absorbed in any way.
It is the potting mix that retains moisture and not the roots themselves. When the pot is completely filled by the root ball you may see symptoms that correspond with underwatering even though you are watering regularly.
Other signs to look out for include roots poking through the drainage holes or trying to sneak out over the brim of the pot.
Snake Plant Needs Less Water When Sick
Because any kind of disease slows down the physiological processes in the plant and so it tends to use less water.
At this point, I tried to describe all the important aspects of determining the watering frequency for your snake plant as well as for other indoor plants.
Now, I want to share some information that will help you determine if your plant is suffering from a lack of water or over water.
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The Golden Rules of Watering
When it comes to actually apply the water to your Snake Plant, there are a few rules that you will want to adhere to.
If you break one or two of them every now and then, it will not necessarily spell disaster for your Snake Plant, but if you can stick to them you will see the benefits.
Keep the Soil Evenly Moist
What you are trying to do is avoid a situation where your plant’s roots are sopping wet for a few days. Moist for a few days after that, and then dry for a few days.
You achieve this by learning to read the soil and water at the appropriate time.
Allow the Soil to Dry Between Waterings
Some plants simply cannot stand to dry out. The moment that soil becomes dry, their leaves begin to wilt and the plant becomes weak and floppy.
That is not the case with the Snake Plant. This plant not only likes the soil to dry out before being rewatered – it thrives on this happening.
Water Early Morning or Water Late Evening
The two most appropriate times of day to water are early in the morning or late in the afternoon after the temperature has begun to drop.
The reason for this is that there is less evaporation taking place at these times and your plant is transpiring less.
It, therefore, has more time to absorb the water and is not competing against the heat.
Don’t Water the Leaves
If the leaves are wet, that moisture creates a springboard for plant diseases and especially fungal diseases which thrive in damp conditions.
If you use a small watering can and aim the nozzle at the top of the soil this is an easy problem to avoid.
There are times when you might want to wash your plant, either just to get it clean, or to remove some pest or other.
If you do need to do this, take the plant outside on a warm day and carefully spray it with tepid water.
Do this early in the day, and then stand it in a bright position out of direct sunlight until it has dried out. Only then should you return it to its indoor position.
Ensure Water Reaches the Roots
When you do water, do so thoroughly rather than just providing the plant with a few drops at a time. This will enable roots to take advantage of the sudden windfall.
Make sure, however, that the water that you apply can drain away freely and does not become trapped in the pot or the pot saucer.
It is also advisable to use filtered water or harvested rainwater and that the water be tepid.
Avoid Water Logging
Waterlogged soil is the most dangerous thing that a Snake Plant can be exposed to. You can prevent this by firstly ensuring that the container has sufficient drainage holes in the bottom.
If that water cannot drain away then the soil will automatically become waterlogged.
Next, water thoroughly and stand your plant in a position where that water can drain freely. Very often people allow the water to drain into the plant saucer but this is risky.
If the plant saucer becomes full, then that will dramatically slow drainage until the excess water has evaporated from the saucer.
A better method is to water your plant in a sink or basin, and then replace it in its saucer only once it has completely finished draining.
Free Draining Soil
If you have your plant in the correct size pot and it has the necessary drainage holes, waterlogging should never be an issue. The only exception to this rule is if you use water-retentive potting soil.
We have already looked at this, but it is a point that is worth reiterating. A free-draining soil is very hard to waterlog.
How do You Know if Your Plant Needs Water?
It is good to know how to provide ideal drainage conditions and where to place your plant, but all of this is irrelevant if you don’t know when your Snake Plant is in need of water.
In this section, we will break down some really easy methods to ensure that you only water when your Snake Plant needs it.
The Touch Test
There are many different ways to know when to water. For my money, this is the simplest and most accurate method and the one that I trust more than any other. I use my fingers to tell me when the soil is dry.
By pushing my finger into the soil to the depth of my second knuckle (about two inches) I am able to feel if the soil is still damp.
The soil on the surface may be dry but there could easily still be moisture lower down the pot.
By pushing my finger into the soil, I am able to feel for that cool temperature that will tell me there is still moisture. If there isn’t any, it is time to water. It’s that simple.
Of course, this method doesn’t give me any deep scientific indication as to exactly how much moisture retention there is, or the degree to which drying has taken place.
The truth is, I don’t need that degree of accuracy. I just need to know that the soil is no longer damp.
For a few people, the thought of poking their finger into the soil is something of an anathema.
Well, if you are one of those unfortunates, there is a way to do this without getting your finger all grubby.
Poking a wooden skewer into the soil will achieve a result that is almost as accurate.
Push the skewer into the soil to a depth of two or three inches and if, when it comes out, there is no soil attached, the chances are that it is time to water.
This is another obvious one. Damp soil tends to be darker in color than dry soil and so simply by looking you can get an idea of whether the soil is wet or not.
The problem with this method is that it only tells you what is happening on the soil surface rather than deeper down.
Wilting or Drooping Leaves
In this situation, the plant itself is telling you that there is something wrong. If the leaves start to wilt and become soft then do a feel test immediately.
If the soil is wet then you know that you have overwatered and will need to allow the plant to dry out more before watering again.
Brown Leaf Tips
When the leaves start to go brown at the tips and along the edges, you are probably underwatering.
Those brown patches are desiccated and this means that there is not sufficient moisture to carry the nutrients to the outer regions of the leaf.
If the leaves of your snake plant start to wrinkle this is a sure-fire sign that the plant is short of water. This symptom normally occurs earlier than the leaf damage mentioned above.
Leaves Turn from Brown to Yellow
When a Snake Plant is overwatered, its leaves will start to turn brown and then become yellow. This differs from those brown spots on the tips and margins that I have just mentioned.
Here the texture is mushy and you will need to respond quickly or root rot will set in.
Remove the plant from its pot and allow it a few days to dry out before repotting it into a clean potting mix. After that, wait a few more days before watering again.
The Weight of the Pot
This is another way to tell if the soil is dry. The weight will become noticeably lighter as the water dries out.
Of course, you need some experience to know what a moist plant weighs in order to be able to compare it, but that will come with time.
The Moisture Meter
Sometimes called a soil probe, this gadget can be poked into the soil and will then give you a reading as to what the moisture level is. I don’t use this tool much for three reasons.
Firstly, you need to poke it into the soil to exactly the same depth each time to get an accurate reading. Secondly, I have more faith in my ability to feel for moisture.
Finally, I am mean and don’t like to waste money on something that I can do perfectly well with just a finger.
Early Signs of Overwatering
Some of the overwatering signs are similar to underwatering. But here are some distinctive signs of the overwatered snake plant.
- Young and old leaves fall over at the same time;
- A rotten smell appears in the pot; the roots disappear due to the lack of oxygen;
- Water stagnates in the pot after watering;
- Mold appears on the surface of the substrate;
- The leaf does not grow, and brown necrotic spots appear on it;
- Healthy white roots change color to brown.
This article goes into more detail about Saving Overwatered Snake Plant and explains some of the best ways to revive the plant and avoid watering mistakes.
How to Water Snake Plant?
It is all very well knowing when to water, but you also need to know how to water. It is really very easy so don’t get too alarmed. There are basically two methods.
The first is to water from the top by pouring water onto the soil surface using a watering can or jug. Stand the pot in a sink or basin and keep pouring water until you see it starting to drain from the holes in the bottom of the pot.
Keep the water aimed at the soil surface so as to minimize water on the leaves. After that, allow excess water to drain away and you are done.
An alternative method is to stand the pot in a basin that contains water. If you leave it there long enough, the soil will absorb water through the process of osmosis.
After that, you will still need to let the excess water drain away. This method takes much longer but it can be useful if you want to be sure that the plant gets a thorough soaking.
I use every now and then but mostly water from the top.
Watering Snake Plant After Repotting
When you repot your plant, the normal procedure with house plants is to water the plant once it is happily installed in its new pot. In the case of the Snake Plant, this isn’t necessary.
Because potting soil almost always is slightly damp, and because this plant likes to dry out between each watering, you should not water as soon as you have repotted.
When I repot a Snake Plant, I normally allow three or four days before taking any further action. Only then will I do the feel test and decide if watering is appropriate or not.
If you have gardened with other more tender house plants, this might well go against everything that you have learned.
Remember that these plants are succulents and have a reserve of water in their fleshy roots and leaves.
New potting soil is highly water retentive and the risk of overwatering is far greater than the risk of underwatering with the Snake Plant.
Watering a Propagated Snake Plant
There is another time when the normal rules of watering may be abandoned with the Snake Plant. These plants are really easy to take cuttings from.
Cuttings are a reliable way to expand your collection and to produce plants that have exactly the same qualities as the parent plant.
Normally the leaf is cut into sections and these are left standing until the wounds from the cuts have had time to dry and callous over. This might take as long as a week.
After that, they can be stood in a glass of water for several weeks until a strong root system has been able to develop. New roots should be at least an inch long before potting up.
Each cutting can then be planted into a small individual pot or you can combine three or four cuttings into a slightly larger pot.
I fill these pots with moist potting soil that is damp but definitely not wet. I then stand them in a place where they are not exposed to direct light and allow them to root into their new homes.
I don’t allow the soil to dry out completely between each watering as I would with a more mature plant. Instead, I aim to keep the potting mix just slightly moist.
As soon as the plant’s root system is established, I revert to the watering method above.
Now, let’s look into some situations when and why the water requirement of your snake plant may fluctuate.
Snake Plant Consume an Increased Amount of Water:
- When there is active plant growth;
- If the leaf of the plant is thin and tender;
- when the plant is exposed to direct sunlight;
- If there is a lot of foliage;
- When the roots completely filled the pot;
- If the plant grows in a relatively small space;
- If the plant grows in dry air (Central heating);
- If the plant has grown according to its origin in a swamp or wetland;
- If the plant grows in a ceramic pot.
Water Requirement of Snake Plant Reduces if:
- The plants rest after flowering or fruiting;
- The plants are grown in a cool room;
- After transplantation;
- Growing in high humidity conditions;
- The plant stores water (cacti, succulents).
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As snake plants do not need frequent watering you need to determine the frequency of watering.
I hope this article will be very helpful for you and clear all the confusion about watering frequency.
So, Check your Snake Plant often and you should never have any problems with it.