Are Snake Plants Succulents? (Learn how to Tell + More)
Snake plants have thick fleshy, succulent leaves that allow them to store water in their leaves, allowing them to survive prolonged periods of dryness.
- as succulents, snake plants can store water reserves in their leaves and rhizomes
- snake plants are not classified as a cactus
- with their succulent traits, snake plants are low maintenance and perfect for busy or new indoor plant enthusiasts.
With so many varieties within the sansevieria (snake plant) family, it is hard to tell whether they are succulent, cacti or a unique type of plant nature has cultivated.
In this article, we will answer all your snake plant questions and clear up any confusion.
So if you are ready to get up close and personal with the mother-in-law’s tongue, grab a coffee and let us begin.
Snake Plants: Succulent or Not?
It’s tricky knowing whether a plant is a succulent or not.
Usually, succulents have a few characteristics that will define whether they belong to the succulent family.
Let’s look closely to see if snake plants tick all the right succulent boxes.
What are the Characteristics of a Succulent?
If you ask someone to describe a succulent, they will likely represent a plant with thick fleshy leaves.
One of the most prominent features of succulents is their ability to store water in leaves, stems, rhizomes, and roots.
This allows succulents to survive in harsh conditions that are generally too hostile for other plants that cannot store water.
Succulents are also renowned for their ability to be easily propagated, often spawning new plants from fallen leaves and stems. We witnessed this first-hand when a rat attacked our jade tree (a succulent). All the broken branches and leaves started growing new plants – you can read more about it HERE.
Is a Snake Plant a Succulent?
Yes – snake plants are succulents.
If you ran down the list of characteristics that classify plants in the succulent category, snake plants would tick all the right boxes.
- snake plants have thick fleshy leaves
- snake plants can store water in their leaves and rhizomes (underground stems)
- snake plants can survive in dry, arid places with unpredictable rainfall
- snake plants can easily be propagated by cuttings or division
Does a Snake Plant belong to the Cactus Family?
Many people assume that, since a snake plant is a succulent, it is also a cactus. However, this would be incorrect.
Snake plants are not classified as a cactus. Let’s explore why.
Yes. It is true that, like succulents, cacti can store water and live in harsh conditions. They can also be easily propagated from the baby plants that develop on the mother plants.
However, cacti have areoles, which are dark-colored bumps that develop on the body of the cacti. Areoles usually have spines growing out of them, which offer protection from animals that predate the cacti for hydration and nutrients.
As snake plants do not develop areoles, we can confidently say they are not a part of the cactus family.
Interestingly, cacti are all succulents because they can store water.
Are Snake Plants Easy for Beginners?
Because succulents can store water in their leaves, they are generally low-maintenance and easy to care for.
With water reserves at call, they can afford to miss a watering now and again. This makes them perfect for a beginner learning their way around indoor plants or busy individuals who can’t be home all the time to nurture their plants.
Care Considerations for Snake Plants
For the benefit of those looking to introduce snake plants into their indoor plant collection, here are the care requirements (with links to other more extensive resources on the Garden Bench Top.
Snake plants like their soil to dry between each watering.
It is essential to understand watering frequency changes as the seasons change.
We’ve put together a guide on water frequencies in different seasons to make things easier. Check out our article HERE.
Snake plants require plenty of bright light to thrive.
Snake plants like to be bathed in plenty of indirect light when grown indoors.
They can tolerate direct sunlight, however, only in short doses. Midday and afternoon sun is too intense for indoor snake plants and will quickly dehydrate the leaves, causing leaf burn.
Read more HERE for tips on lighting conditions for snake plants.
As a succulent plants, Snake Plants thrive in warm weather.
The recommended indoor temperature for Snake Plants is between 55-90° Fahrenheit (12-32° Celsius).
We caution all snake plant owners to be careful of extreme temperatures. At freezing temperatures, water expands when frozen. This means the water reserves in the leaves can freeze, causing irreparable damage to the leaf cells.
Keep your Snake Plant in between 30 and 50% relative humidity.
Humidity isn’t discussed much when it comes to snake plants.
However, it is essential for regulating your snake plant’s internal processes, such as transpiration.
Not enough moisture in the air (low humidity) accelerates the transpiration process, quickly dehydrates your plant, and causes water stress.
At the other end of the spectrum, too much moisture in the air (high humidity) will prevent transpiration at the other extreme and suffocate.
We have written an in-depth article discussing how humidity affects snake plants.
Soil & Fertilizer Requirements
The properties of the soil you use for your Snake Plant can have profound effects on the health of your houseplant.
Choosing quality soil can significantly impact your plant parent experience. Quality soil will reduce the frequency of your watering, facilitate the uptake of nutrients by your snake plant, and reduce its susceptibility to pests and disease.
To be effective, your snake plant soil must be:
- a sandy loam consistency (light and airy), and
- contain some organic materials with water absorption properties.
We have devised a recipe for the perfect snake plant potting mix. You can also watch our video on making snake plant soil below.
Pest and Diseases
If there is one disease that you should familiarise yourself with for your Snake Plant, it is root rot.
Root rot is a fungal disease that can develop when your snake plant has been sitting in waterlogged soil from being overwatered. The process of eliminating root rot is straightforward. However, it is onerous. You can read our step-by-step guide for removing root rot in snake plants HERE.
Some leaf-borne fungal diseases, such as mildew and leaf spot, can infect your Snake Plant. We explore these diseases and (more importantly) treatments HERE.
Snake plants are most susceptible to sap-sucking insects like mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips. These pests have the equipment to penetrate the tough outer layer of the foliage and access the nutrient-rich sap.
The best way to detect any signs of pests (or disease, for that matter) is to regularly inspect your potted plants and manually remove any pests you see. The key is not letting their population get out of hand and become an infestation.
You can read more about symptoms of pest infestation HERE.
Snake plants require a tight root system to support their large leaves.
When placed in a container too large for their root system, they will refocus their energy on developing the roots rather than growing new leaves. While they are still growing (under the soil), they will appear to be experiencing stunted growth.
Your snake plant pot should also have adequate drainage with plenty of drainage holes. As we pointed out earlier, constantly wet soil rots your Snake Plant’s root system.
- Areole. (2021, October 5). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areole