Snake Plants are one of the most beloved indoor houseplants. In the warmer climate, you can easily grow them outdoors as well. Their vertical sword-shaped, patterned foliage really makes them stand out from other houseplants. These lucky plants also act as natural air purifiers. Most importantly, you can ignore them for weeks or even months and they’ll still be thriving. Today I want to share with you which type of soil works best for snake plants. Whether you are a new gardener or an experienced plant grower, I hope this article will help answer any questions you have.
Check out these recommendations to buy soil mixes and potting soil ingredients for your snake plants.
Why is choosing the right kind of soil important?
The name snake plant generally refers to Dracaena trifasciata. This evergreen plant is also known as Sansevieria or Mother in Law’s tongue. All varieties of Sansevieria are tropical plants and come from Africa or South Asia. That means snake plants can handle dry air and less water conditions really well. They also grow well in low sunlight.
Compared to other houseplants, it is quite easy to care for snake plants. However, one of the most common problems I’ve heard about this plant is that “it’s rotting”. The major reason behind this is, over-watering. If the roots of Sansevieria keep being soaked in water for too long, they start to rot.
That’s why it is important to have a soil that can drain out enough water. The ideal soil mix for Sansevieria should become damp after watering, so that roots can take in water. But, it shouldn’t hold a lot of water over a long time. An optimal soil mix for your snake plant is loose soil that drains easily.
Apart from choosing the right soil mix, remember these two things that are essential to keep your plant alive:
- Don’t water the plants frequently. Once a week is enough in most cases.
- Choose a pot with drainage holes. Or you can drill holes in the pot you already have.
What can be used in a soil mix for snake plants?
Garden soil or topsoil
A regular topsoil is good to have in the soil mix. You can also use a garden soil or a mixture of both. Garden soil is high quality and enriched with nutrients. It also contains naturally occurring microorganisms that are beneficial for plants. However garden soil tends to be a little denser than potting soil. And it may not drain well or need additional aeration.
For snake plants it is not recommended to use 100% soil. In fact, a completely soil-less potting mixture will also work. But if you want to make your own mix, you can add up to 60% of soil. If you are using garden soil, I’d recommend to use no more than 50%.
Peat moss comes from swamps that are filled with decomposed moss. It is a fluffy and lightweight material that looks like soil. It really improves the texture and consistency of soil. Snake plants grow better in slightly acidic pH. And peat moss is ideal for acid-loving plants.
A good alternative for peat moss is coir. It is also called coconut fiber or coco peat. It’s an all-natural soil conditioner made from coconut husks. It is also an excellent ingredient for composting. Coir usually comes in the form of brick or pallet. To separate the brick before using, you can soak it in water.
Both peat moss and coco coir have useful nutrients and encourage microbial growth in soil. For the soil mixture, you can use 20 – 30% of peat moss or coir.
Sand is very helpful to create tiny air pockets in the soil mixture. The air pockets provide passage for the water and oxygen to flow through and reach the roots. Sand makes it easier for the water to drain. However, don’t use it in large amounts as it has a tendency to compact. Coarse sand up to 10 – 15% can be added to the soil mix for snake plants.
Alternatively, gravel also works fine. If you have gravel, lay it at the base of the pot instead of mixing it in.
Perlite is basically a volcanic rock. It looks like porous, lightweight, white popcorn or Styrofoam balls. Perlite is great for water drainage by letting the water easily pass through. It also provides good soil aeration and increases pore space.
Perlite can be substituted with pumice, aquatic plant soil, rice hulls or even chicken grit. Recycled glass is also used as a sustainable alternative. Up to 40% perlite in the soil mix can help water drainage and prevent plant roots from rotting.
Pumice is also a volcanic rock like perlite. It is pitted with many cavities on its surface and inside. And the sizes of these pores differ a lot from few microns to 2-3 mm. This porous property of pumice is helpful to improve the transportation of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the soil. Another great benefit is that fungi and insects are not attracted to this inorganic rock.
For snake plants, pumice is an ideal soil additive because it reduces the soil density but still retains necessary moisture and nutrients inside the tiny pores. Just like perlite, pumice can be added up to 40% of the total soil mix.
Compost or Manure
Compost is made from biodegradable waste and it is highly rich in nutrients. Worm compost, cow-dung or any kind of manure are great for enriching the soil. Compost can encourage the production of good bacteria and other microorganisms that decompose organic matter to create humus.
Snake plants can do well without any compost or chemical fertilizer. However, adding it can help suppress plant diseases or pests. If available, thrown in a handful of compost to the soil mixture. Avoid adding too much, a little goes a long way.
Potting mix for cactus and succulents
A ready-made potting mix made for succulents and cacti goes well for snake plants. Because a snake plant is in fact a type of succulent. However, it is too coarse and can give extra water drainage. It is usually a soil-less grainy mixture of sand, peat, pumice etc. So instead of using it directly, mix it in with some regular soil. I recommend using a maximum 30 % potting mix for the snake plants soil mixture.
Making the planting mix
Here are some good combinations I’ve personally used and have seen others use. These work great by providing sufficient drainage as well as valuable nutrients from soil. But you can of course mix and match as per your personal judgement. Be sure to check that the mixture is not too dense.
- 50% soil + 30% potting mix + 20% perlite
- 50% soil + 40% coir + 10% sand
- 45% soil + 45% perlite + 10% sand
- 30% soil + 30% peat + 40% pumice
Soil pH depends on a combination of various positively and negatively charged ions in the soil. Elements like Sodium, Calcium, Aluminium. Iron, Potassium are positively charged. On the other hand, Chloride, Sulfate, Carbonates and Bicarbonates are negatively charged. Acidic soil has pH below 7 and alkaline soil possess a pH higher than 7.
A preferred pH range of the soil mix for snake plants is 5.5 to 7.5, i.e. neutral to slightly acidic. However, a soil pH ranging between 4.5 to 8.5 suits well for most Sansevieria plants.
Natural pH of soil ranges from 3.5 to 10. That’s a wide range because many factors like weather conditions, temperature, geological history, use of fertilizers, presence of industries affect the soil pH. Alkaline components such as limerock soils usually maintain a pH range of 7.5 to 8.5. Peat moss has a pH of around 4.4, while garden soil maintains a pH of 6.5. An acidic soil mixture can be adjusted to a range of 6.0 to 6.8 by supplementing with dolomitic limestone. Dolomitic limestone (Calcium carbonate + Magnesium carbonate) also adds adequate levels of calcium and magnesium in the soil.
If you are growing many Sansevieria plants in your nursery or garden, and desire to have an optimal soil, the following table will be helpful to understand the nutrient requirements. These suggested ranges of 5 important elements are specifically for potting Sansevieria.
|Nitrate – Nitrogen|
(NO3 – N)
|0 – 29||30 – 79||80 – 159||160 – 239||240+|
|Phosphorous (P)||0 – 3||4 – 7||8 – 13||14 – 19||20+|
|Potassium (K)||0 – 49||50 – 119||120 – 199||200 – 279||280+|
|Calcium (Ca)||0 – 79||80 – 199||200 – 349||350 – 499||500+|
|Magnesium (Mg)||0 – 29||30 – 69||70 – 124||125 – 174||175+|
Frankly, snake plants are extremely tolerant and don’t need a special soil. You can easily make up your own mix at home with few available resources.
- Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1990. Light and fertilizer recommendations for production of acclimatized potted foliage plants. CFREC-A Research Report RH-90-1. 13 pp.
- R.W. Henley, A.R. Chase and L.S. Osborne. Sansevieria Production Guide. CFREC-A Foliage Plant Note RH-91-30