The snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) is native to West African and South Asian tropics. The plant is also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, and by its former genus, Sansevieria. Snake plants are popular indoor plants because they grow perennially, are easy to care for, and according to feng shui philosophy, protect the good energy of a place.
Snake plants are easy to care for because they grow well at room temperature and don’t need regular watering.
How Often Should You Water a Snake Plant
You should water a snake plant once every 10 to 14 days or when the top 2 to 3 inches of potting soil are dry. With good care, snake plants produce active growth. However, the plant prefers neglect over too much water.
Plants like Sansevieria survive occasional waterings with long periods of drought by producing antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols prevent oxidation in stressed plants by neutralizing molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Plants produce lots of ROS as a stress response to low levels of water. Drought-resistant plants survive drought because polyphenols stop cell-damaging oxidation.
Conditions That Affect Snake Plant Watering Frequency
Despite the snake plant’s ease of care, the plant still reacts to environmental conditions. Conditions that affect the watering schedule include temperature, humidity, soil, the size of Sansevieria, and the size of the pot. When the temperature is high and humidity is low, snake plants dry out faster and need watering more frequently. During cold, humid months, the plants conserve water and hibernate, needing less-frequent watering.
Snake plants need free draining soil and should be planted in places that don’t have standing water, or in pots that have drain holes.
Snake plants thrive at temperatures between 55 and 85°F. Heat and cold affect how fast the plant’s soil dries out and how frequently the snake plant needs water. The soil dries faster and needs more water in higher temperatures.
Water the snake plant more often in the summer, up to about four times per week. Water once every one to two months in the winter.
The best humidity level for snake plants is between 50% and 70%. Moisture in the air affects how fast a plant dries out and how often it needs water. High humidity helps the snake plant retain water without drying out.
Snake plants require more-frequent watering during dry months than during rainy seasons. Water the snake plant once every one to two months during rainy, humid months like springtime, and increase watering to as frequent as four times per week during dry spells.
Drainage affects how fast the snake plant runs out of water and requires watering. Snake plants thrive in free draining soil. Use coarse soil, like cactus mix, that contains pumice, gravel, sand, or perlite.
Add a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the snake plant’s pot or plant the snake plant in bottomless flowerbeds, in areas without standing water, and away from frequently run sprinklers. Avoid clay soil, which holds water and can cause root rot and leaf rot.
Size of Sansevieria
Sansevieria size affects how often the plant should be watered. Small snake plants tend to need less water than older, larger ones. Water snake plants more often as they age and grow larger.
Size of Pot
The snake plant’s pot size and type affect how fast the soil dries out and what the snake plant’s watering needs are. These plants prefer small, slightly root-confining pots that drain well.
Choose a porous, terracotta or clay pot with several holes drilled in the bottom for high drainage that’s good for hot and humid climates. Choose a pot with draining holes and made of less-porous material, like ceramic, glazed, or concrete, for growing snake plants in cool, dry climates.
How Much Water Do Snake Plants Need?
Snake plants need about 2 to 3 inches of water each time they’re watered. Stick your finger in the top 2 to 3 inches of the plant’s soil every couple of days, and water when the topsoil feels dry. Avoid watering the snake plant’s leaves and ensure the snake plant isn’t sitting in stagnant water, to avoid root rot and leaf rot. There are two ways to water snake plants.
The best way to water a snake plant is to pour water around the inner edges of the pot, avoiding watering the leaves. If the pot has a drain dish or plant saucer, leave the pot to drain thoroughly in the sink for a few hours before replacing it in the dish, or empty the drain dish a few hours after watering the snake plant.
These plants can also be bottom watered. Bottom water by putting the snake plant in a bathtub or shallow dish filled with 1 inch of water.
How to Tell if Your Mother-In-Law Tongue Plant Is Over or Underwatered
A mother-in-law tongue plant’s watering schedule is inadequate if the snake plant shows signs of poor health, like droopy, dry, and yellow or brown leaves. Yellow leaves can be a symptom of either overwatering or underwatering. Distinguish an overwatered snake plant from an underwatered one by examining the leaf texture.
Indications that a snake plant is overwatered include droopy leaves, yellow leaves, and standing water in the leaf bases or around the plant. Snake plants can be overwatered when they receive too much water at once, are watered too frequently, or live in environments that are too humid.
The snake plant is underwatered if the soil is extremely dry, and if the roots are brittle and leaves are wrinkled, crisp to the touch, spotted with brown or yellow, or curled. A plant can be underwatered by not receiving enough water at a time or by going too long between waterings. Extremely underwatered snake plants might be bent over, limp, and will soon die.
Prevent further damage in underwatered and overwatered mother-in-law tongue plants by cutting off entire leaves that have been damaged, improving the soil mix, placing the pot in a suitable environment, and starting a good watering regimen.
Additional Tips on How Often to Water a Snake Plant
The snake plant is a hardy species that flourishes with the right care. Here are some more tips on keeping a snake plant healthy.
Sansevieria Like to Dry Out in Between Watering
The Sansevieria likes to dry out in between waterings. The plant is native to dry regions that receive occasional heavy rainfall, so indoors, this snake plant should be allowed to lose all its moisture before receiving more water.
Test that the plant’s soil is dry before watering the snake plant by sticking your finger in the topsoil. Develop a good watering schedule by testing the top soil dryness and observing how fast it dries out every day, for a few days.
Best Type of Water for Snake Plants
The best types of water for snake plants are rainwater, filtered water, and dechlorinated water. In place of purified water, use tap water that has sat for at least 48 hours to allow for chlorine, fluorides, and other treatment chemicals to dissipate.
Good Drainage for Indoor Snake Plants
Good drainage for indoor snake plants helps the plant avoid damage from overwatering. Plant indoor snake plants in coarse soil that doesn’t hold water. Cactus soil mix is a good option.
Additionally, add a layer of gravel or small stones to the base of the snake plant’s pot, and don’t leave the pot in a drain dish that has water in it.
Water Only Soil, not Leaves
Water only the snake plant’s soil, not leaves, to avoid leaf rot. The snake plant’s leaves form cups at their bases that may hold excess water. Drizzle water around the inner edges of the plant’s pot when watering, and don’t pour water near the plant’s base or spray the snake plant or its leaves.
Correcting the Watering Schedule by Testing the Soil of Snake Plant
Correct the snake plant’s watering schedule when the plant shows signs of overwatering or underwatering, by testing the snake plant’s soil with your finger, like a soil probe. A snake plant’s needs can be understood by reading the state of the plant’s environment.
Develop a routine for checking the snake plant’s soil dryness every day, especially with new plants and during weather changes. Place the snake plant in an environment that matches its needs and is near to a common traffic way in the home. For example, locate the plant at the base of the stairs or in a passageway between the living room and kitchen. Stick your finger in the snake plant’s soil every day.
FAQs About Snake Plants Watering Schedule
These are the answers to common questions about how to water snake plants.
How Do You Know When Your Snake Plant Needs Water?
You know when your snake plant needs water when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry to the touch. Test your snake plant’s soil frequently to learn when it needs water.
How Do You Know if Your Snake Plant Is Healthy?
You know if your snake plant is healthy if the plant sprouts new leaves and gets taller, its roots are supple, and the leaves are strong, erect, green, unspotted, and smooth. Active plant growth is the best sign that your snake plant is happy and healthy.
Can you Water Your Snake Plant With Tap Water?
Yes, you can water your snake plant with tap water that is dechlorinated or that has sat for 48 hours to allow chemicals to dissipate. If you don’t have distilled water or rainwater, let regular tap water sit in a bowl or pot on the counter for 48 hours before using it to water your snake plant.
How Can You Make Your Snake Plant Grow Faster?
You can make your snake plant grow faster by ensuring its environment is ideal, and by adding fertilizer. Ensure the plant is in a well-drained pot and free draining soil, that the snake plant receives low light, and is located away from drafts and in a gentle climate of 55 to 85°F and 50% to 70% humidity. Add 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 NPK-strength, organic liquid, granular, or slow-release fertilizer a couple of times every year during the warmer months.