With their upright, sword-like leaves and incredible durability, snake plants are popular houseplants found in homes worldwide. But can snake plants also live outdoors successfully? While they are primarily indoor plants, some snake plant varieties can adapt and thrive outside in the right climate conditions.
An In-Depth Overview of Snake Plants
Snake plants, also called mother-in-law’s tongue or Saint George’s sword, are native to the tropical regions of West Africa. There are around 70 diverse species within the Dracaena genus. Some of the most common varieties of snake plants include:
Dracaena trifasciata – This is the most popular indoor variety, known for its green banded leaves with light yellow edges. It can grow up to 4 feet tall.
Dracaena marginata – This variety features striking red edges on stiff, dark green upright leaves. It grows up to 6 feet tall.
Dracaena fragrans – Sometimes called corn plant, this variety is known for its tolerance of low light. Leaves are solid green with no banding.
Dracaena deremensis – This is a compact dwarf snake plant, perfect for containers. It reaches just 1-2 feet tall.
Dracaena compacta – A petite variety only 6-12 inches tall. It has green and white variegated leaves.
Snake plants are treasured for their natural air-purifying abilities and easy care requirements as houseplants. But how do different varieties of snake plants fare when grown outside?
Evaluating if Snake Plants Can Tolerate Outdoor Conditions
Some varieties of snake plants can tolerate outdoor growing conditions quite well, provided the environment meets their needs:
- Temperatures stay consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit – Snake plants cannot withstand frost or freezing temperatures.
- Humidity levels are moderate – Too extremely arid or too tropical of humidity may cause issues.
- Soil drains fast – Dense, soggy soil can lead to root rot.
- Sunlight is ample but mostly indirect – Too much direct hot mid-day sun will burn the leaves.
- Winds are not too strong – The sturdy, upright growth of snake plants helps them resist wind damage.
- Transitions between indoors and outdoors happen slowly – Gradual changes prevent shock.
The Best Outdoor Conditions for Thriving Snake Plants
Snake plants grow best outside year-round in warm, temperate regions that provide the following ideal conditions:
- Daytime temperatures ranging between 70-90°F.
- Evening temperatures that stay above 55°F at all times.
- Bright, indirect sunlight or light dappled afternoon shade.
- Average relative humidity around 50-60% – not too wet or dry.
- Shelter from strong winds, storms, and salt spray.
This optimal outdoor climate exists predominately in U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zones 9-11. Regions that fall into these warmer zones include Southern California, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and the Gulf Coast.
How to Successfully Grow Snake Plants Outdoors ?
For gardeners living in regions warm enough to support outdoor snake plants, follow these tips:
- Plant snake plants outdoors in spring after the last expected frost date has passed. Choose a location that receives plentiful bright, indirect sunlight.
- Prepare the garden bed with well-draining soil, amended with bark chips, perlite, or sand to improve drainage.
- Space plants 2-3 feet apart to allow for ample air circulation and uninhibited growth.
- Water thoroughly whenever the top 1-2 inches of soil become dry, taking care to avoid soggy soil.
- Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every 4-6 weeks during the active spring and summer growing season.
- Monitor plants for potential pests like mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. Treat with horticultural oils if discovered.
- Bring snake plants back inside before nighttime temperatures start dropping below 55°F in fall.
- Consider sheltering plants in a covered patio or back porch area for some added protection from wind, rain, and other weather extremes.
Avoiding Common Problems for Outdoor Snake Plants
Watch for these potential issues when cultivating snake plants outdoors:
Sunburn – Move plants to a shadier location if leaves yellow or brown.
Frost damage – Bring plants indoors before temperatures reach freezing.
Root rot from wet soil – Improve drainage by amending soil.
Wind damage – Add shelter near the plants to block strong gusts of wind.
Mealybugs, spider mites – Apply horticultural oil sprays to treat.
Insufficient sunlight indoors – Supplement with grow lights.
With the ideal conditions, many snake plant varieties can thrive planted directly in the garden or in containers outside year-round in warm climates or seasonally in cooler zones. Just provide consistent warmth, bright indirect light, moderate humidity, fast-draining soil, shelter from weather extremes, and proper seasonal care.