Snake plants are succulents, so they require soil that has good drainage and aeration. Cactus soil is a good choice for snake plants because it will keep the roots from sitting in wet soil (leading to root rot) while at the same time providing adequate nutrition for the plant.
Snake plants may be some of the easiest houseplants to grow. They only require infrequent watering and will tolerate being forgotten about for long periods of time.
Additionally, they thrive in low light conditions, so they are an excellent choice for those tricky dim places in your home–hallways, offices, even bathrooms. They don’t like the bright sun and can actually get sunburned.
However, just because they are easy to grow doesn’t mean they don’t have some needs to be met. As a succulent, snake plants need to grow in soil that drains adequately in-between waterings. If you use appropriate soil, your snake plant will be even easier to grow.
Read on for info on what kind of soil snake plants like.
What is the Best Soil for Snake Plants?
Snake plants are watered very infrequently–only when the top two to three inches of soil are dry. They will tolerate very long periods without any water at all. During summer, you probably won’t water it more than once every other week. In the winter, you may water it around once a month.
For this reason, snake plants require soil that allows water to drain out and not drown the roots but that has enough organic matter to allow the roots to suck up whatever water they need.
Cactus, succulent, palm, or citrus soils are good choices for snake plants since they contain a small amount of organic matter and a larger percentage of coarse mineral material like gravel and coarse sand.
Do Snake Plants Like Cactus Soil?
Cactus soil is an excellent choice for your snake plant. Snake plants are actually members of the Agave family, native to the extreme climates of Africa and India, so they thrive best in gritty, sandy soil.
Cactus soil is typically made with a combination of regular potting soil combined with inorganic materials such as gravel, aquarium pebbles, lava rock, pumice, or perlite.
Often the organic materials in cactus soil are chunky as well, with large amounts of bark, peat moss, or coconut coir. The result is a type of soil that retains some water but allows for excess water to drain off.
Snake plants also like cactus fertilizer, which will not burn its roots.
Desert-like plants such as snake plants were not designed to tolerate excess water. If the roots sit in water for long periods, they will develop brown or black mushy patches, which may even smell of rot. This condition is called root rot, and it may be one of the few ways you can actually kill the hearty snake plant.
Cactus soil has the benefit of being able to absorb and retain enough water that the plant gets what it needs during its infrequent waterings without drowning the plant in sitting water.
Just like soil needs to provide the right amount of water for a plant, it also needs to give the roots room to breathe. Cactus soil does a good job of giving the roots room not only to grow and stay out of water, but to have adequate air flow.
Cactus soil avoids compaction due to its gritty texture. Compaction occurs when soil compacts around the root ball–reducing the roots’ access to water and air. In plants that are watered infrequently (like all succulents) compaction can be a big problem if plants are grown in regular potting soil.
If you water your plant and the water just sits on top of the soil, or just runs down the sides of the root ball and out the drainage holes, then your soil is compacted. You will need to repot your plant in soil that has a higher percentage of coarse material.
Snake plants (like cactus) can’t live in inorganic (mineral) material alone. They do need to have access to some nutrition, which comes from organic material in the soil such as leaves, wood, bark, and compost. Cactus soil has a good mix of organic and inorganic material.
Remember that snake plants are desert plants, so they are accustomed to growing in soil that is not nutrient-dense. If you plant your snake plant in regular potting soil, its root system may not thrive.
Soil pH Level
One of the nice things about snake plants is that they are not picky about the pH level of the soil. Typically they prefer a soil that is slightly acidic (as with many potted plants), which covers most premixed cactus or succulent soil.
Make Cactus Soil at Home!
Many gardeners like to mix their own succulent soils so that they can customize based on climate and growing conditions. If you live in a very dry climate, for instance, you may need less mineral matter in your soil.
If you are prone to overwatering, you may want to mix in a little more gritty stuff to help any excess water drain off.
It’s easy to mix up your own cactus soil with materials you can find at any garden center. Snake plants are excellent practice for making your own soil since they tolerate most soils that are coarse and gritty. (Just don’t go too heavy on the potting soil.)
How to Make Your Snake Plant Cactus Soil
Cactus or succulent soil is made of three elements: potting soil, coarse material such as sand or gravel, and pumice or perlite. Pumice and perlite are made from volcanic rock and glass and contain tiny air pockets. You can purchase all of these materials at most garden centers.
The basic formula you can start with is three parts potting soil, three parts coarse sand or gravel, and two parts pumice/perlite.
Some gardeners like to add additional ingredients, such as pine bark, peat moss, or coconut coir (processed coconut husk). Just make sure your soil contains a higher percentage of coarse materials than potting soil.
You can mix this up and see how it works for you. Just start with the potting soil and sand and make sure it is thoroughly mixed. After that, add half the pumice or perlite and see how it looks. If you want more drainage, continue to add the rest of the pumice/perlite.
How Much Cactus Soil Does A Snake Plant Need?
How much soil your snake plant needs depends on your plant and its growing conditions.
Snake plants that get bright, indirect light may grow roots quickly, which means they will outgrow their pots. In this case, you will need to repot in a pot that is around two inches in diameter bigger than the old pot. (You may just want to go up one size pot.)
When repotting, you can leave around an inch of space between the soil and the top of the pot. Make sure you don’t press the soil too much–it should be loosely placed in the pot so it retains its good drainage and aeration qualities.
You can also separate snake plants in order to propagate them. In this case, you would take off 2-3 leaves of the plant and their roots (they aren’t too fragile) and pot them in their own pots. You can separate the roots with a clean, sharp knife, garden shears, or scissors.
After you have planted them, water them thoroughly and then grow them like you would your other snake plants.
Keep in mind that some varieties of snake plants grow very tall. In this case, you may want to plant them in a large, wide pot in order to anchor the plant and keep it from tipping over.
How to Repot Your Snake Plant
So now that you know what kind of soil to use let’s get your snake plant in the right type of pot.
Plastic, glass, metal, and glazed pots can retain moisture, which means that even if you never overwater, your succulent may still develop root rot. If you have been successfully growing a snake plant in one of these types of pots, however, you could probably stick with that.
Terracotta pots are good for all types of cactus and succulents because they allow water to evaporate out at a good rate. However, some gardeners don’t like terracotta pots for snake plants because some large varieties develop very strong roots that can crack terracotta.
Other gardeners disagree and think terracotta is the strongest thing that can retain the roots.
You may find that a very large and top-heavy snake plant will need a heavy terracotta pot in order to stay upright.
Snake plants don’t mind being a little pot-bound, but If your roots are growing out of your pot or coiling around the bottom, you can repot or separate your plant.
One thing everyone agrees on is that your pot needs drainage. Make sure there is at least one drainage hole (more is better for a big pot), so water can flow out. Don’t leave your pot sitting on a dish. If your plant sits in water, it will damage the roots.
How to Water Your Snake Plant
If you are new to houseplants, you may want to try a snake plant. They are very forgiving if you forget to water them and thrive in most light conditions except the hot direct sun.
Water when the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry to the touch. When in doubt, wait another day or so. You will want to underwater a succulent rather than overwater it.
When you water, you want to soak the soil thoroughly until water runs out the drainage holes. If you have a small plant, you can do this in the kitchen sink or bathtub.
If plants are very dry, you can soak them more than once. Then make sure the roots have adequate drainage and wait another several weeks to a month to water again.
If the leaves look wilted, test the soil to see if it needs water.
Knowing what soil for a snake plant is a good first step to growing this unique houseplant. If you are just starting your succulent garden, a snake plant is a great introductory plant. Make sure you don’t overwater it (yes, you can love a plant to death) and give it good drainage.
If it gets the right amount of light and water, it will stay a vibrant, spiky green for years to come.