Complete Guide to Snake Plant Outdoors (incl. Winter Care Tips)
It is little wonder why snake plants are popular indoor plants. They acclimate very well into our homely environments and can add a particular sophistication to the room it occupies. But what about transitioning an indoor snake plant to the garden? Can snake plants live outside?
QUESTION: Can Snake Plants Live Outside?
ANSWER: Yes – snake plants can live outside, but with some forewarnings. Snake plants naturally grow outdoors in their native habitats in tropical Africa. So it stands to reason that they can endure climates similar to the African continent. However, if you live in a climate that experiences freezing temperatures with frost and snow, you may need to consider bringing your snake plants inside for the winter. More on snake plant winter care tips later.
Welcome to today’s feature article at the Garden Bench Top. We’ll be exploring the topic of snake plant outdoor care, including maintenance through the changes in seasons. We’ll particularly focus on caring for your snake plant during winter when the temperature drops. As well as other considerations, like sun exposure, watering, and moving indoor snake plants outside.
So grab a hot cup of tea and a biscuit, because we’re about to dive in.
Snake Plant Outdoors – Care & Maintenance
The care requirements for snake plants significantly change between outdoor and indoor plants.
When a snake plant lives indoors, it depends entirely on you for its water and food requirements. However, outdoor snake plants have the natural elements to supply these nutrients, with your role being more of a supportive and supervisory function.
However, before you kick your shoes off and put your feet up, don’t be fooled into thinking you have absolved all your responsibilities to mother nature.
Your role has now shifted to concentrate more on the location of your snake plants in your garden, like sunlight and competition with neighboring plants.
Lighting Requirements – Can snake plants tolerate direct sunlight?
As indoor plant enthusiasts, one of the most important rules we are taught is that direct sunlight is a big no-no. And it is only reserved for a small selection of plants that are drought tolerant.
Even though snake plants are classified as succulents, we are cautioned to only ever expose them to brief periods of early morning or late evening sunlight. So how can they live outside under the intensity of direct sunlight?
The fact of the matter is that indoor snake plants have adapted to the indoor conditions of indirect light. They are not hardened for outdoor conditions, which leaves them vulnerable when exposed to the intensity of direct sunlight.
The good news is that indoor snake plants can adapt back to outdoor conditions – it just takes some time to reacclimate them to the elements.
Actually, snake plants living outdoors can thrive under direct sunlight all day long. After all, this is how they live on the African plains.
Once a snake plant has been hardened to tolerate the outdoor elements, it will enjoy a position that has full sun exposure and can adapt to most lighting conditions.
Temperatures – What Range Can Snake Plants Endure Outside?
Another key concern for growing snake plants outdoors is the extreme temperature changes. When snake plants are outdoors, they are at the mercy of any changes in temperature. This can range from cold temperatures at night to high peaks of the midday sun.
But what are the temperature limits for an outdoor snake plant?
Snake plants will happily grow in temperatures between 50-85° Fahrenheit (10-29° Celsius).
But, the largest threat to snake plants is the cooler temperatures – particularly during winter. Anything close to or below 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius) is life-threatening for your snake plant
Watering Outdoor Snake Plants
As you can appreciate, there is no hard and fast rule for watering outdoor snake plants.
Depending on the season and the weather, you could go weeks without watering your snake plants.
One rule we can recommend for outdoor snake plants is to allow the soil to dry before giving them another drink.
Snake plants are drought tolerant, so short dry periods will not upset them. We suggest testing the moisture levels using the trusty soil finger moisture test. This will prevent you from overwatering your snake plant, which could lead to issues with disease (like root rot) and pests.
Do I Need to Fertilizer Snake Plants Outdoors?
Most plants will benefit from the occasional feed to provide them with the necessary minerals and nutrients to grow. And snake plants are no exception.
When it comes to the type of fertilizer, snake plants aren’t fussy about requiring particular minerals.
A good all-purpose fertilizer will provide everything a snake plant requires. As long as it has the core ingredients of N-P-K (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)), your snake plant will love you for the additional nutrients.
Snake Plant Pests
Besides being exposed to the weather elements, outdoor snake plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Generally speaking, outdoor plants are harder to monitor for pests, when compared to indoor plants that you can scrutinize more regularly. This also means your outdoor snake plants will likely develop more pest infestations since the pests can multiply quickly and unchecked.
Snake plants usually attract sap-sucking insects that love to feed on their meaty leaves. They suck the sap from the leaves, depriving the snake plant of nutrients, leading to health issues.
To treat a pest infestation, you will need to manually remove as many as possible. Then apply an insecticide to complete the process for any unseen pests. Here is a comprehensive process for treating snake plants with pest infestations.
Snake Plant Diseases
As hardy as snake plants are, when they are exposed to soggy and wet soil or too much humidity, they can become weak. This opens the door to fungal diseases infecting your snake plants, such as powdery mildew, southern blight, red leaf spot, and rust.
Each disease can have its own unique detrimental impact on a snake plant and should be treated promptly when identified.
For a full treatment plan, refer to our guide on common snake plant diseases.
Can You Move an Indoor Snake Plant Outdoors?
You will be happy to hear it is possible to move an indoor snake plant outside to your garden.
However, there are a few precautions we recommend taking to prevent your snake plant from becoming shocked and dying.
We mentioned earlier that snake plants have become popular indoor plants due to their low maintenance and ease of care. As a result, they have adapted their leaves to the limited light available. It is also the reason why only indirect light is recommended for snake plants growing indoors.
So, when an indoor snake plant is taken outdoors, its leaves are not prepared for the intense sunlight and can suffer shock and leaf burn.
How to Convert an Indoor Snake Plant to An Outdoor Plant
In order to transition a snake plant outdoors, you need to have patience. Here is the process we recommend for transitioning your snake plant to your garden.
- Begin by placing your indoor plant in a shaded position outside. This will effectively harden your snake plant to the outdoor elements, like wind and varying temperatures throughout the day.
- After about a week in a shaded position outdoors, we then recommend moving your snake plant into a location that receives partial sun during the day. Again, we are allowing the snake plant to acclimate to the new environment.
- Once your snake plant has adjusted to the partial direct sunlight position, you can now move it to its final position.
- Before you plant your snake plant in the ground, we recommend turning over the soil and mixing in some processed compost to give the soil a boost in organic matter.
- Once your snake plant is in the ground, give it a healthy watering to give it the best opportunity to settle into its new home.
Snake Plant Winter Care Tips
Winter is the riskiest season of the year for snake plants.
Snake plants may handle periods of dryness and heat extremely well. However, when it comes to freezing temperatures and frost, they are extremely vulnerable and can be extensively damaged in a single freezing night.
Sub-zero temperatures, in particular, can be extremely detrimental to your snake plant. When the water in the plant’s cells freezes, it expands, causing damage to the leaf.
Unfortunately, this means if you live in an area that regularly experiences snow or freezing temperatures we do not recommend planting snake plants outside in your garden. They simply will not survive the winter.
Move Your Snake Plant Indoors for Winter
If you are adamant about planting snake plants outside, you can use planters for your snake plants. This allows you to move them inside during the colder seasons, and then back outdoors during the spring and summer. Plus, snake plants like to have tight root systems, which a planter will encourage.
Can Snake Plants Live Outside – Other Considerations
We’ve covered most of the major decision points you should be aware of when contemplating moving an indoor snake plant outdoors.
There are a few other considerations you may need to factor in when planting a snake plant outdoors.
Are Snake Plants Invasive?
It is without a doubt that snake plants are hardy, tough plants. This is part of the reason for their rise in popularity among indoor plant crowds.
However, this hardened quality can also cause some issues when they grow outdoors. If the snake plant growth and the population are not kept in check, they can quickly take over a garden bed or an area of your garden.
Like bamboo, sansevieria trifasciata grow from rhizomes which are part of their intricate root systems. This allows them to quickly shoot off pups (baby snake plants), and quickly multiply.
Therefore, before you plant your snake plant in the ground, consider the neighboring plants and decide if it may be better to keep your snake plant confined to a pot.
Snake Plant Flowers
Even though they don’t bloom very often, snake plants are more likely to send out flowers if they are planted outside.
You may or may not have been lucky enough to witness a snake plant flowering. But when you do, you won’t miss it.
These beautiful rare flowers develop on tall, thin green stalks that shoot out from the base of the plant.
The flowers themselves look like explosions of thin petals with multiple stamens protruding from the center of the flower. Very much like a flurry of little fireworks frozen in time. The coloration of the flowers can vary from off-white to light green. Although it is important to note, the flowers will vary slightly depending on the species of snake plant.
Depending on the maturity of the plant, the flower stalks can grow to as high as 3 ¼ feet tall (around 100 centimeters).
You will often see sticky nectar droplets collecting at the base of the flower stem that is connected to the stalk.
You can read more about mother-in-law’s tongue flowers HERE.
Can Snake Plants Live Outside – Closing Comments
Snake plants are stunning succulents that shine indoors and out. If you want to begin growing snake plants outside, you may have to adapt your care regime to balance the weather elements. Transitioning a snake plant from an indoor plant to an outside environment requires patience and care. Make the transition in stages to allow your snake plant to acclimate and prevent it from going into shock.
Send us pictures of your snake plant forest in your garden.