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How Much Light Does A Snake Plant Need – Indoor vs Outdoor Requirements

Snake plants are a favorite among indoor gardeners. For many, this is because they are low maintenance, aid in air purification, and are unique in appearance. Snake plants are nicknamed “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.” Some may say this is due to their leaves growing up and pointed like the blade of a knife. Some snake plant variety’s leaves may twist, and their color can vary with layers of dark green, light green, and yellow stripes. Snake plants are native to Africa and are succulents that can survive outdoors in warmer climates. Snake plants do not require extensive care the way other houseplants may; however, what many houseplant enthusiasts want to know is how much light does a snake plant need?  

Snake plants require 5 hours of indirect sunlight per day. Snake plants can survive direct, indirect, and low light conditions. Artificial lighting may slow the growth of the plant and require longer hours.

Read on to learn more about snake plant lighting and care needs.

Effects Of Indirect Light On Snake Plants

Placing a snake plant in a room that is brightly lit for a chunk of the day but outside of direct light will ensure that this plant grows healthily and happily. If the indoor gardener’s goal is new growth, it’s essential to ensure the snake plant is exposed to 5 or more hours of bright, indirect light per day.

If the intention is to maintain the plant’s current size and health, then it will be okay with fewer hours of indirect light per day. Placing a snake plant about 10 – 15 feet from a south or west-facing window will usually ensure the appropriate amount of indirect light for ideal plant growth.  

Effects Of Direct Light On Snake Plants

Although snake plants can survive most lighting conditions, extended direct sunlight can result in sunburn of the plant’s leaves. At the same time, this sunburn is most common when plants are grown outdoors, and in warm climates, it is also possible indoors. Sunburn is most likely to occur indoors if the snake plant is exposed to extended periods of direct light through close proximity to a south-facing window.  

Sunburn of a snake plant can easily be identified through yellowing or browning of the leaves that start around the edges. If the scorching is less severe, the overall plant may turn paler in color. This paleness in leaf color can also be a sign of overextended light exposure.

If either of these conditions become apparent in your snake plant, it’s imperative to move the plant away from the direct light source, either by moving it from outdoors to indoors or a few feet away from the direct light source.  

Effects Of Low Or No Light On Snake Plants

While snake plants are hardy enough to survive in a room with low light, their leaves may lack the vibrancy of those growing in a brighter space. Extended low light conditions for snake plants can result in the leaves of the plant becoming long and thin or leggy as they stretch towards whatever light source may be available.

This type of growth can affect the plant’s overall health over time. If this leggy leaf growth is noticed, it’s recommended to relocate the plant to a room with a brighter, indirect light source.  

Snake plants growing in zero light may survive longer than many other indoor plants; however, this will not last for an extensive period. All plants need some light to produce food and will not be able to produce the energy from photosynthesis necessary for life and growth. If attempting to grow snake plants in a dark environment, you should consider the use of indoor, artificial grow lights for optimum plant health.  

Effects Of Artificial Lighting On Snake Plants

If attempting to grow a snake plant in a room with no natural light source, indoor lights can help support the plant’s health and survival. Standard indoor lighting sources such as LED, fluorescent or incandescent bulbs distributed through a lamp or ceiling light may help maintain the life of a snake plant for a short period but not long term.  

Indoor grow lights are often composed of the same types of bulbs as standard indoor lighting but are designed to provide light to plants at a more intensified level than typical indoor lights.

There are several affordable indoor grow light options available on the market with various installation options to suit your snake plant’s lighting needs and indoor garden setup. When choosing an indoor grow light, it’s important to consider the size of your snake plant, where it sits, and previously discussed effects of over and under lighting.  

Additional Care Needs For Snake Plants

As mentioned previously, snake plants are succulents. This means their leaves store water like a cactus; if you live in a warm climate, these plants may be grown outdoors.

If attempting to grow a snake plant outdoors, it’s helpful to note that these plants can be quite invasive, similar to bamboo, so it is still recommended to grow them in pots versus planting in the earth. In addition, snake plants will not survive in extended temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Read on to learn about additional care needs for snake plants.  

Soil & Nutrients

It has been noted that snake plants are hardy survivalists, and because of this, they do not have particular soil needs. Because of their succulent characteristics, they will grow most successfully in loose soil that is changed out every 8 to 12 months. When changing out the soil, it is also recommended to check the roots and consider transplanting them to a larger pot if the roots appear constricted or stressed.  

A snake plant with zero fertilizer will likely grow happily; however, it can benefit these plants to mix in some compost when the soil is changed out or if the plant is transplanted. This can help to provide nitrogen and promote growth and may be ideal if the goal is to grow the snake plant to a larger size. If compost is unavailable, several organic houseplant fertilizers on the market can provide similar support to your spider plant.  

Water

Because snake plants are indeed succulents, it is crucial to let soil fully dry out between watering. They store water in the leaves and will self-hydrate. Exact watering schedules may vary due to humidity and moisture in the growing environment, so the best practice is gently pressing the soil with a finger.

It is probably ready to be watered if it feels dry to the touch. If any moisture is present, it’s essential to wait to avoid overwatering. A safety measure can be to wait a couple of days beyond a dry touch of the soil to fully ensure the plant is ready to be watered.  

Overwatered snake plants will show initial signs of damage through heavy, droopy leaves that may also be squishy due to the excess water within them. This will often lead to root rot, which is when moisture levels are too high, causing bacteria and fungus to grow in the soil.

Root rot can be identified from stinky soil, and if you can smell the rot in the soil, it is probably too late to save the life of your snake plant. Root rot is the most common killer of this hardy plant variety. If overwatering occurs, root rot may be avoided if you can move the plant to a sunny location to dry out quickly or transplant it to a container with dry soil and more drainage.  

Pest Prevention

While some may not consider pests to be an indoor plant issue, these annoyances can definitely arise. Spider mites are the most common pest to affect snake plants. They will initially appear as small white dots but will quickly take over the plant if not mitigated. Spider mites and other pests can be extinguished organically using neem oil or non-toxic dish soap diluted in water.  

Benefits & Risks Of Growing Snake Plants

Snake plants are known to be one of the top air purifying house plants out there. They are known to remove harmful toxins from the air, such as carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and benzene.

Because they release oxygen and aid in purifying the air, they can also reduce the effects of dust and dander for those with allergies. While not scientifically proven, some plant lovers believe that the sap from snake plant’s leaves can be used similarly to aloe to treat burns and wounds.  

Although snake plants are considered to be non-toxic to humans, if the plant is ingested, it could cause nausea and vomiting. This can be a risk for small children if the snake plant is placed in a location that a child can access.

In addition, snake plants are even more toxic for pets, potentially causing similar symptoms as with humans and possibly death. If living in a home with small children or pets, keeping snake plants safely out of access for these sensitive creatures is recommended.  

Other Low Maintenance House Plants

Several house plants share similar low maintenance needs to snake plants. The following table shares some growing characteristics and care needs of these plants.

PlantCharacteristicsCare Needs
Spider PlantSimilar to a spider, long thin and pointy leaves arc up and over the growing container.  Leaf color tends to vary with long stripes of green and pale yellow.  Indirect light or shade. Dry out fully between watering.  
Rubber PlantA ficus with broad, leathery, shiny green leaves.  Rub leaves frequently to maintain their shine.Bright, indirect sunlight without too much heat.  Keep soil moist in summer and dry in winter.  
Pothos PlantIdeal for air purification.  Pothos grow as vines so require trimming and maintenance.  Hanging pots are ideal.  Grow most successfully in direct light but can handle lower light sources as well.  Allow to dry out between watering.  
Air PlantSpiky plants that are not grown in soil but grow easily in hangers or terrariums.  Require indirect light with spritzes of moisture a few times per week.  

Final Tips For Indoor Plants

House plants benefit humans’ mental and physical health through the broad support of caring for another life and more specific aspects such as air purification and relief of physical ailments. In Feng Shui theory, snake plants, in particular, are said to be supportive in eliminating negativity, bitterness, and jealousy.

Despite these benefits, it’s imperative always to remember that many house plants, including snake plants, may be toxic to children and animals. If there are at-risk family members, it is always recommended to find a place for these plants that are safely out of reach or select indoor plant varieties that are nontoxic.