It is said that a snake plant is low maintenance. That may be true to an extent, but if it’s your first time caring for it, you might want to pay special attention to its sunlight requirements.
Even though they can survive dimly lit environments, they do not prefer them. For starters, you should place them somewhere they can get bright and indirect light for 8-10 hours. Secondly, they can tolerate direct sun, but more than 4 hours of it can damage them.
But understanding a snake plant’s sunlight requirements is more nuanced than that. For example, how would you determine whether your snake plant needs more or less sunlight? Or how can you measure the exact amount of sunlight it is getting?
Therefore, in this post, you will find answers to all such questions related to a snake plant’s light requirements.
You’ll learn the type of light it needs, for how long, how intense it should be, and the alternatives if your home doesn’t get enough natural sunlight.
You’ll also learn to spot the symptoms of overexposure and underexposure to sunlight, and how to address those issues.
Let’s get learning!
Snake Plant Light Requirements
Direct vs. Indirect Light
To understand how much light a snake plant needs, you must first learn about different types of sunlight.
Direct sunlight falls directly on the plant without interference, like cloud cover, window shade, tree shade, etc. Conversely, indirect light doesn’t reach the plant directly due to some type of interference.
Direct light is warmer, more focused, and more intense, while indirect light is cooler, dispersed, and more tolerable by the plants.
So the question is, what does a snake plant prefer?
I have found that snake plants are the happiest when they get bright indirect sunlight for long hours. You can accomplish this by placing your plants a few feet away from the south or west-facing windows.
You can also give them direct sunlight, but be careful. Overexposure to direct sunlight can cause tissue damage in your plant’s leaves. Snake plants also use water to dissipate heat, but direct sunlight can dry it out too quickly.
Therefore, when placing your plant in direct sunlight, you must be extra careful about the duration. This brings me to the second point.
Light Duration and Intensity
Bright and indirect sunlight for 8-10 hours is ideal for your snake plant. If you’re placing it in direct sunlight, do not leave it there for more than 4 hours daily.
Direct sunlight can also be quite intense from midday till about 4 pm, depending on your region. Placing the plant in direct sunlight during this time can be harmful.
As for intensity, you don’t need to worry about it if there’s plenty of sun throughout the day and you’re following the instructions above. But if you live in a region where bright sunlight is scarce, you may want to measure its intensity. The light intensity for optimal growth is about 2000-4000 LUX value(more on that later).
Without sufficient natural sunlight, you may also turn to artificial light while keeping a few things in mind.
Natural vs. Artificial Light
Ideally, natural light is the best option for the healthy growth of your snake plants. It covers the entire light spectrum your plant needs for photosynthesis, essential for its natural growth process.
However, you may turn to artificial grow lights if you get limited sunlight throughout the day. Artificial lights may not emit a full spectrum of colors, but it is still useful when you have limited options.
You can also place your plant in artificial light if it has been damaged from excessive sunlight and needs some time to recover.
Measuring the Light Your Snake Plant is Getting
When I first started growing snake plants, I was quite fussy. I wanted everything to be perfect, so I looked for a way to measure the exact amount of light my plant was getting.
If you feel the same way or live where it is hard to determine if your plant is getting enough sunlight, here’s what you can do.
Use a LUX Meter
This device captures the light falling onto its photocells and converts it into an electrical current. This current is converted into a reading that tells you how much light your snake plant is getting.
How to Read a LUX Meter?
Simply place the LUX meter in the area where your plant is, turn it on, and wait for about 3 minutes. Shortly afterward, it will give you a reading. Here’s what the reading means:
- LUX value of 1-2500: Your plant is getting insufficient light.
- LUX value of 2500-10000: Your plant is getting sufficient light.
- LUX value of 10000-20000: Your plant is overexposed to light.
Choose a spot where your plant gets anywhere between 2500-4000 illuminance to ensure optimal growth.
Do a Hand Shadow Test
If you want to measure the light your plant is getting while your LUX meter gets delivered, here’s an old gardener’s trick (I’m not old yet!)
Place a white sheet of paper where you intend to keep your plant. Extend your hand outwards with fingers stretched so it hovers over the sheet of paper at about the same height as your plant.
The clarity and sharpness of your hand’s shadow on the paper will give you an idea about the luminance in that location.
- If the shadow is so blurry that it’s just a blob without any clear lines, your plant is not getting enough sunlight.
- If you can see the silhouette of your hand but it’s still slightly hazy or blurry, the light is adequate for your snake plant.
- If the shadow is sharp and the silhouette is clearly visible, the spot is getting high sunlight.
Symptoms of Insufficient Sunlight
Knowing the light requirements of your snake plant is useful, but what if the damage has already begun? Here are some ways your snake plant will tell you when it’s not getting enough light.
Thin and Leggy Leaves
Leggy or etiolated growth means that the leaves of your snake plant are abnormally skinny or long. When the plant does not get enough sunlight, it “rushes” to grow as long as possible, trying to reach better sunlight.
In addition to being long and thin, the leaves are also farther apart than in a normally healthy plant. Leggy growth may also be accompanied by another symptom of low sunlight, i.e., leaning towards sunlight.
Leaves Leaning to Light Sources
A snake plant starved for sunlight will tend to lean towards light sources such as windows. It becomes apparent when the leaves of your plant are curving to a side.
The first step to fixing leaning leaves is to rotate the plant temporarily. Once the leaves stand up straight, move the plant to a spot with sufficient indirect and bright sunlight throughout the day.
Decreased Growth Rate
A healthy snake plant grows slowly at a rate of 4-12 inches annually. However, if your snake plant experiences insufficient sunlight throughout the year, it will grow even more slowly.
If your plant has not gained a height of at least 4 feet by the end of the year, it is probably not getting sufficient sunlight. Other causes may include insufficient watering or nutrients. To rule out other causes, you should look for other symptoms of low light mentioned in this article.
Changes in Leaf Color
Chlorophyll is a compound in plants that absorbs other wavelengths and reflects green, giving the leaves their distinct color. But it needs sufficient sunlight to do that.
With a consistent lack of sunlight, the green color of leaves fades and turns yellow to orange and brown. At first, the tips and edges of the leaves take the hit. Moreover, this color change begins from older leaves and gradually takes over the plant.
Shrinking, Collapsing, and Dropping Leaves
When your snake plant is overstressed and undernourished, it will do its best to stay alive and make necessary sacrifices. It means shedding leaves to keep a few alive. The process begins with older leaves changing color, wilting, and dropping off.
But leaf dropping alone is not a symptom of low sunlight.
For example, your plant may still experience it when it gets sufficient sunlight but is overwatered. The excess water may lead to root rot, which in turn may lead to leaf drop.
Always rule out other causes like root rot, excessive humidity, diseases, cold drafts, and overwatering before treating your plant for inadequate sunlight.
Consistently Soggy Soil
Soggy soil is a natural consequence of low sunlight. The soil dries slower when your snake plant doesn’t get enough sunlight. Roots that sit in soggy soil for weeks start to rot, leading to the conditions mentioned above.
However, soggy soil may also be a consequence of overwatering. If you’re certain that you are not overwatering your plant, and the soil still doesn’t dry out in two weeks, it needs more sunlight.
Symptoms of Excessive Sunlight
Just like insufficient sunlight can stress your plant, so can an excess of it. Here are the symptoms to look out for if you think your plant is having sunburn damage.
Wilting leaves are one of the telltale signs of overexposure to sunlight.
It happens when the leaves lose moisture quicker than the roots can absorb. Wilting that occurs during the hottest hours of midday-4 pm is most assuredly because of excessive sunlight.
If you have a healthy snake plant, its leaves will be flat and point upwards. When exposed to excessive sunlight, the moisture loss will cause the leaves to curl inwards.
However, its leaves can also curl due to air drafts or heat stress. Before deciding on treating your plant for overexposure to sunlight, make sure to check for other symptoms in this list.
Changes in Leaf Color
The rapid moisture loss from excess sun results in leaf burn, which shows itself through the browning of leaf edges and tips. It can also happen when your plant is underwatered, but underwatering is usually a rare problem in snake plants.
Other causes for browning edges can be root rot, excessive fertilizer, or high temperature, so rule these out before changing the location of your snake plant.
One symptom of sunburn is brown freckles and spots on the leaves.
It usually happens when your plant is exposed to more direct sunlight than it can bear. The extreme temperature causes tissue damage, which leaves these brown spots on the foliage.
The key to remedying it is to change the location and place your plant and place it somewhere it receives cool and indirect sunlight (a few feet from south or west-facing windows). Prune the leaves that have experienced too much damage, as there is little hope of reviving them.
Thickened New Growth
Sometimes, your snake plant may respond to tissue damage caused by sunburn by thickening its foliage. It helps the plant increase its chances of survival. In addition to being thicker than usual, the leaves will also appear to be bleached or pale.
Thickened growth is also accompanied by other symptoms discussed earlier, such as browning of the edges, brown spots, and wilting.
Your plant may also experience shock due to excessive sunlight and experience stunted growth. However, snake plants only grow about 4-12 inches annually.
It means that to really see if your plant is experiencing stunted growth, you have to wait for a year. By this time, the damage caused by excessive sun may already kill your plant.
Caring for a snake plant is not that difficult. However, meeting its sunlight requirements is essential to keep it healthy and thriving.
The key is to stay in touch with your beloved plant and see how it responds to different conditions. Depending on the symptoms, consult this article to determine whether your plant needs more or less sunlight to treat it accordingly.
- Can I keep a snake plant in a room with no natural light?
If you want to place your snake plant in a room without sunlight, your best bet is to use artificial grow lights.
Even though they are not a perfect alternative to natural light, they are good enough to help your plant grow.
- How many hours of sunlight are ideal for a snake plant?
Snake plants love indirect and bright light for about 8-10 hours throughout the day. If you want to give it direct sunlight, you may do so, but ensure that it’s not more than 4 hours and not during the peak hours when the sunlight is hottest (midday to 4 pm in most regions).
Overexposure to direct sunlight can cause sunburn, moisture loss, stunted growth, wilting leaves, and gradual death.
- Where should I place my snake plant indoors?
To ensure that your snake plant gets indirect sunlight indoors without getting burned, place it a few feet away from west or south-facing windows. But the care doesn’t end there.
Keep a close look and see how your plant is growing. It needs less sunlight if it grows slowly, shows leaf burn, or has wilting leaves. If it shows leggy growth, leans towards the light source, or experiences leaf drop, it needs more sunlight.