The unique foliage of a snake plant can bring life to any living space. These ornamental plants are also popular for their ease of maintenance and their ability to purify the air. However, not all plant lovers have enough space to accommodate these beauties indoors.
So, can snake plants live outside? Being hardy plants, yes they can – it is totally possible to grow snake plants outdoors! In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about growing snake plants outdoors and how to keep them thriving!
Snake plant care – an overview
Snake plants, also known as Sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tongue, are native to dry regions of Asia and Africa. These perennials are extremely durable, growing in hardiness zones nine to 11.
Due to their low-maintenance profile and tolerance of neglect, you can easily grow a snake plant with no fuss! This is why novice and forgetful growers find Sansevieria the ideal houseplant. If you are a plant lover living in an apartment with limited lighting, you can still have one of these beauties in your indoor landscape.
One interesting fact about snake plants is that the larger varieties tend to be invasive, which means they can spread pretty quickly and take over your growing area. For this reason, gardening experts recommend planting them in pots.
The only common problems you might encounter while growing snake plants are overwatering and injuries from freezing temperatures. Hence, snake plants are best grown as indoor plants. However, it is definitely possible to grow these sword-like evergreens outdoors, with a bit of care and attention.
Can snake plants live outside?
Snake plants are used to growing under large trees as well as in deserts and open grasslands, but if you want to move yours from indoors to outside, you will need to slowly acclimatize it to the outdoor environment. Otherwise, it can become stressed from the sudden change and may start to droop.
Before moving your snake plant outdoors, you also need to consider some external factors that can greatly affect its growth. These include the varying weather conditions, sunlight exposure, outdoor temperatures, and pests. Unfortunately, these factors are beyond your control, meaning it could be a bit challenging at times to keep your snake plant thriving.
As mentioned before, freezing temperatures are one of the worst enemies of Sansevieria. So, if you live in a region with cold temperatures, especially at night time, then growing the plant outdoors might not be a good idea.
If you live in a warmer region, then growing your snake plant outdoors year-round will not be too difficult. Plant lovers living in zone eight to nine areas can also move their snake plants outdoors during the summer, but will need to move them back indoors when the cold months arrive.
Factors to consider before planting snake plants outside
Snake plants can happily withstand outdoor conditions, provided they are gradually introduced to the new environment. But, before moving your plants outside, bear in mind that these factors can affect their growth:
1. Sunlight exposure
Sunlight is an essential ingredient for all plants to thrive. Under the right lighting conditions, plants can produce their own food and flourish through a process called photosynthesis. If your snake plant receives at least eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day, you will be rewarded with lush, green foliage and a healthy plant.
Snake plants can also grow (albeit more slowly) under poor lighting conditions. Hence, these hardy evergreens are very forgiving even when planted in shaded areas. However, you will not see them thrive to their full potential under these lighting conditions.
Sansevieria plants can also survive in full, direct sunlight. The bright light can make them grow very quickly, producing two to three new leaves during a growing season. All they need is around five hours of direct sunlight every day for optimal growth. Anything beyond this can burn their leaves, causing browned plant tissue and leaf drop.
When you move an indoor snake plant outdoors, you are putting it at risk of leaf burn due to the suddenly-extended hours of sunlight exposure to which it is not accustomed. To protect it from the scorching heat, it is best to plant it under a shade structure or a tree canopy.
2. Outdoor climate
Indoor plants are usually somewhat vulnerable to varying temperatures. And, although snake plants are hard to kill, they can also suffer due to sudden temperature changes – all the more when you move them outdoors.
Snake plants prefer temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and a little variation will not significantly affect their growth. However, as mentioned before, they cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. Also keep in mind that it will take time for your snake plant to adjust to the outdoor climate if it has previously been grown in a controlled environment indoors. Plant stress is a common consequence for plants that are suddenly moved outside.
If you want to grow your snake plant to its full potential, then placement matters a lot! You want to ensure that it will be happy in your chosen location, be that under a canopy of trees, on a covered porch or patio, or beside other taller plants.
Overall, leaving your snake plant out in the open without protection from the sun’s intense rays is likely to harm it. Should you decide to move your plant outdoors for brighter light and fresh air, make sure you find it a perfect spot that will protect it from harsh weather conditions.
4. Watering frequency
Snake plants do not like their roots to sit in waterlogged soil – despite being hardy, they are also susceptible to root rot. And, because outdoor temperatures and humidity can fluctuate frequently, you might need to adjust your watering schedule, too.
During hot seasons, the soil outside can dry up really fast, necessitating more frequent watering. Conversely, during the rainy months the soil will remain moist for a long time, and adding further water in these conditions may cause root damage.
A sure-fire method to keep your snake plant hydrated outdoors without drowning it is by constantly monitoring the soil. The topsoil should be completely dry before you water again. There are two common ways to check the moisture level of the soil: the first is the finger test, whereby you insert your finger into the soil to feel how damp it is. The second way is to use a soil moisture probe that displays a more accurate reading of the soil’s moisture level.
Pests are a nuisance to any plant – they suck away the nutrients while also damaging the foliage. So, if you are growing your snake plant outdoors, you will need to keep a watchful eye on these sapsuckers.
For many growers, caring for their ornamental plants outdoors will not be as easy as keeping them indoors, and a lack of proper care can weaken the plants and leave them vulnerable to pest infestations. So, unless you can commit to giving your snake plant the basic care required to keep it healthy outdoors, it may be a better idea to continue growing it indoors.
How to move snake plants outdoors
Despite being hardy, your snake plant will still appreciate a gentle transition when you move it from an indoor to an outdoor growing area. To reduce plant stress, here are some tips that most gardening experts recommend:
- As mentioned, the trick is to gradually introduce your plant to the outdoors. Place it in a shady spot, starting with about four hours each day. Then bring it back inside in the late afternoon.
- Increase your plant’s outdoor exposure every other day, and continue this regime for a week.
- After a week, place your plant under full morning sunlight for an hour, then move it back to the shade for the rest of the day. Repeat this process for weeks until you can safely leave your plant outside the entire day.
- Check your plant from time to time. Do you see any damage or discoloration on the leaves? If not, then your snake plant should be perfectly fine outside.
- Remember not to expose your plant to full, direct sunlight for extended hours, or risk leaf burn.
- Keep your watering and fertilizer application in check.
- Check for signs of pests regularly, and apply neem oil as soon as you spot any bugs crawling on the leaves.
- Check your plant’s well-being regularly so that you can catch any problems early and apply treatment right away.
Can snake plants live outside in winter?
Being tropical plants, snake plants do best in warmer temperatures. If left outside during the winter months, they will likely suffer, so it is best to bring them back indoors as soon as the temperatures drop. This is why you should plant your snake plant in a pot, even if you decide to grow it outside. Growing it in a container makes it more convenient to move it whenever needed.
How do you care for an outdoor snake plant?
Snake plants can live outside without a problem, as long as you provide them with the same care common to most houseplants. These hardy evergreens will thank you once these basics are met:
1. Indirect sunlight
Snake plants are known to tolerate poor lighting conditions as well as full sunlight. But, if you want the best results, you should aim for indirect sunlight as their primary light source.
2. Proper watering
Try never to underwater or overwater your snake plant. As mentioned before, bad watering habits can have negative consequences, so always check the soil before giving your plant a drink.
3. Balanced fertilizer
Liquid fertilizers with a balanced nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio work great for snake plants. Follow the suggested dosage to avoid overfertilizing your plant, and do not apply fertilizer during the winter season.
4. Treat pests, diseases, and weeds
Weeds and pests compete with your plant for nutrients in the soil, thus compromising the plant’s growth. Bacterial and fungal diseases can also make your plants weak. You might encounter these problems at some point, and the best approach to save your plant is early intervention. With this in mind, remember to monitor your plant outdoors; you can apply neem oil from time to time as a preventative measure.
Snake plants can live outside provided they are well cared-for. Although these tropical plants are tough, they do require a bit of attention to flourish and stay green throughout the year. Above all, remember that the key to successfully growing a snake plant outside is to protect it from freezing temperatures.
Image: istockphoto.com / olycarpus