Snake plants are among the easiest plants to grow. If you have tried to grow houseplants before with minimal success, try snake plants as they are low maintenance. But what if you want to grow them in your backyard?
You can plant snake plants in the ground if your soil has good drainage. This is because too much water could cause them to rot and die. Snake plants prefer dry soil and thrive in arid conditions since their thick cuticles prevent them from drying out.
In this article, we will get into more details on how to plant your snake plants, how to care for them, and how to ensure they thrive.
What Are Snake Plants?
Snake plants are also hardy succulents and can live for decades under suitable conditions. They survive both heat and drought through a photosynthesis process known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM). As such, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night.
In the daytime, they save water by closing their stomata and open up at night to store CO2 – as an organic acid. The plants then use the stored acid for their photosynthetic needs the following day.
About 70 different species of snake plants exist. The most common snake plants have tall, upright, green leaves. They can reach up to 3 – 4 feet (0.9 – 1.2 meters) in height. Mother-in-law’s tongue typically features gold-bordered leaves.
While snake plants produce tiny flowers, they are mostly grown for their foliage. The flowers produce berries when in their native environment. However, when you plant them indoors, this doesn’t happen as the flowers need moths for pollination.
Snake plants are tropical plants, so they are sensitive to cold temperatures. They prefer warm temperatures and dislike snow or frost. Their ideal temperatures range from 70 – 90⁰F (21.1 – 32.2⁰C)
Are Snake Plants Beneficial?
Snake plants offer many benefits. Some of these are:
- They improve air quality by removing toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene
- Source of fiber for making rope and other products
- Make ideal bedroom plants since they release oxygen at night
How to Plant Your Snake Plants in the Ground
While all snake plants have similar basic needs — such as the right soil — every growing environment is different. This means that you might need to tweak things a little. That said, snake plants are quite resilient, and you will find they do well when neglected – perfect if you travel often.
Unfortunately, if your soil type is clay, your plants won’t grow. This is because, for snake plants, well-drained soils (like sandy soils) provide the best growing conditions. A way around this is to plant them in a raised bed.
When planted outdoors, they require more sunlight than indoors but can also grow in light shade. Still, if you are planting mother-in-law’s tongue, ensure that you plant it in a sunny spot to allow it to sport its gold borders. In general, too little light can lead to dull, weak, and spindly plants.
Growing Snake Plants From Divisions
Though snake plants can grow from seeds, they often reproduce and spread through rhizomes. These root-like organs form a large mass underneath the soil, from where the leaves emerge. Spring is the best time to perform this activity.
Follow these steps:
- Divide the rhizomes using sharp scissors. Ensure that the section you remove has a healthy leaf growing from it.
- Let it dry for a day after which you replant it in well-drained soil.
- Do not water it until some days after planting.
Alternatively, use leaf cuttings to propagate your snake plants. Cut 2 – 3-inch (5 – 7.6 cm) leaf pieces and place them 1 inch deep (2.54 cm) in well draining soil. Ensure the cuttings are bottoms down. Over time they will develop roots and can be transplanted to their own pot or spot in your garden.
Note that snake plants can spread out of control due to their aggressive roots. They also grow fast with ample sunshine; hence, they require dividing annually.
Growing Snake Plants From Seeds
Snake plant seeds are not easy to find and typically only snake plants that are grown outdoors will go to seed. You might also be hard-pressed to obtain your desired leaf shape or color when propagating by seed.
Nevertheless, you can use fresh seeds from their fruit. Plant them in moist, well-drained soil. After 3 – 6 weeks, seedlings will appear. Another way to germinate your seeds is to place them in a damp paper towel, then keep them in a Ziploc bag. Maintain warmth at 65 – 75⁰F (18 – 23.8⁰C). The seeds should sprout within a day or two. Gently transplant the seeds to the soil.
When planting, space your plants 6 – 36 inches (15.2 cm) apart, depending on the effect you want to achieve. The smaller varieties make excellent ground cover plants, but typical snake plants tend to invade large parts of your garden.
Also, upright growing snake plants may suffer from weeds. This is because their skinny leaves allow weeds to grow since they don’t shade the soil adequately. Pull out weeds the moment they appear or use mulch to keep them down.
Why Your Snake Plants Are Not Growing
Snake plants are not among the fastest-growing plants, so don’t worry if they seem to be taking longer than you expected.
Still, growth could be hampered by several factors. For example:
- If the roots are mushy and dark-brown rather than tan, they could either be waterlogged or drowning
- Spotty or rotting leaves are due to overwatering or fungi
- Slugs cause unsightly holes on the leaves
- If the leaves are dull instead of bright and green, you need to allow for more water
- Pests like mealybugs and spider mites result in leaves shedding and small wounds in the plants
In general, most of these problems can be resolved by providing your snake plants with the right amount of water. In the case of fungal issues, try and avoid them as they can lead to wilting and finally death of your snake plants.
So, for best results, always keep the leaves dry and check your watering.
How to Care for Your Snake Plants
Again, if you don’t have a green thumb, there’s no cause to worry because snake plants are quite easy to care for. Here are some tips to follow:
Avoid overwatering your plants to prevent root rot and fungus. You only need enough water to keep the soil around the plant base moist. Again, it’s best to allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.
A plus side to growing snake plants is that they do not need any pruning. However, you can use the small new growths from the base to form new plants.
Place them in the soil and ensure to keep them moist until roots develop. Allow the roots to grow to 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) in length before planting the cuttings. In 4 – 6 weeks, you will have new thriving plants.
Keep children and pets away from your snake plants because they can be toxic if ingested. Some people might also suffer an allergic reaction though this is rare.
Snake plants grown outdoors require lots of sunlight – about 6 to 8 hours every day. This allows their colors to get more vivid. Still, they are quite forgiving and adapt well to full sun conditions and also survive in shady corners.
You can feed your snake plants with a mild cactus fertilizer or all-purpose plant food though this is strictly not necessary. Avoid adding fertilizer during winter as the plants aren’t actively growing during this time.
Now that you know all you need to know about planting snake plants, go ahead and plant some in your garden.