Snake plants (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue) are among the toughest and easiest houseplants to grow. Their low-maintenance charm and remarkable tenacity make them an attractive choice for novice indoor gardeners.
You might be puzzled by its botanical classification. Is it a succulent? Or perhaps, a cactus? Let's embark on a horticultural exploration to demystify these categories and pinpoint where the snake plant resides.
Indeed, snake plants proudly wear the succulent badge. Regardless of the variety you bring home, they fall under this umbrella.
However, they do not sit at the cacti table. While the two share some similarities, the snake plant lacks certain characteristics that define a cactus.
The fascinating interplay between snake plants and cacti can indeed weave a web of confusion for budding plant enthusiasts. As we delve deeper, we will unearth what makes a plant succulent and distinguish between succulents and cacti.
Armed with this knowledge, you'll better understand why snake plants proudly champion the succulent category. So, continue reading and deepen your botanical understanding, as we navigate the green labyrinth of the intriguing snake plant.
What Is A Succulent Plant?
The main defining characteristic of a succulent plant is its ability to store water. These plants have leaves, stems, and branches that collect water to save it for the year's dryer months.
Succulents typically have hardy leaves, and their internal water storage capability helps them to survive droughts.
This is especially important to their survival as many succulent plants are native to warm or tropical climates located in Africa, Eastern Asia, and South America.
Overall, succulents can vary greatly in their color and form, but one commonality will always be their ability to store water.
This explains why the leaves of a snake plant can stand tall and firm, as opposed to droopy or leaning—they're typically full of water.
Many succulent plants can easily be propagated by cutting their leaves. Once the leaves are clipped, they can be placed in water or topsoil to create an off-shoot of the mother plant.
This can be done for multiple plants, and they can also be grown alongside the mother plant.
If you take a clipping from the rosette of your snake plant, for example, you will find that it will begin to grow its own stems in a period of six to eight weeks.
This is another reason why home growers love succulents, as indoor plants—it's easy to grow more of them. This means that you don't have to spend money on new plants.
Leaves and Appearance
Many succulent plants are known for their ability to endure brief temperature freezes without becoming frost damaged.
One of the biggest characteristics of a succulent plant is its thick fleshy leaves (or, in some cases, pads), though there are definitely succulent varieties to have thinner leaves.
For example, the snake plant's leaves are less than average in terms of thickness for the typical succulent plant.
Another common characteristic of succulent plants is their short stature. Though there are succulent plants that can grow several feet tall (such as the snake plant), many have a wide, bush-like shape, which is likely an adaptive change to survive in their native environment.
You'll find these plants available in various colors, including green, yellow, red, and even purple hues.
The Differences Between Succulents and Cactus Plants
It's common for people to use the terms cacti and succulent interchangeably; however, they do not represent the same type of plant categorizations.
To understand the relationship between cacti and succulents, it's important to be able to distinguish them from one another. Let's look at the differences between these plants.
As mentioned earlier, succulents are known for their ability to store water in their foliage, roots, and branches.
Currently, there are over 50 known plant families that fall into the category of succulents, and cacti are one of these plants.
Because cacti can store water. Therefore, all cacti are considered succulent plants.
It's common for succulents to be mistaken for cacti, as they can have spines and thorns as well, but there is a difference between the two.
It doesn't matter the plant's shape or size, or whether or not they have branches or leaves. The distinguishing factor between succulents and cacti are what are known as areoles.
Areoles are small round cushion mounds of flesh where flowers, hair, and leaves grow from cacti. Areoles are not present on all succulents, however, they are present on all plants classified as cacti.
So there you have it, that's the main difference between a succulent plant and a cactus. Though, there are some gray areas of these categorizations.
How Do You Identify Snake Plants?
Currently, there are over 70 known snake plant (or Genus Sansevieria) varieties. So this can make it a bit challenging to distinguish snake plants from other types of plants.
However, there are a handful of commonalities that all of the varieties possess. All snake plants are considered succulents, and their varieties have long sword-shaped green leaves that are flat and stand erect.
Most snake plants will be various green hues, though some can contain yellow, red, and purple leaves.
When you purchase a snake plant, whether it's online or at a local indoor plant supplier, it should be labeled accordingly.
If you are unsure whether or not your new plant is a snake plant, you can visit a local plant nursery or contact a horticulturist online to be sure.
Are Snake Plants Tropical?
Snake plants are tropical and sub-tropical plants. They're native to various continents, including Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia.
Being tropical plants, they can thrive in areas with moderate shade as well as in areas with very bright light. This is one of the many benefits of growing an indoor snake plant—you can place it almost anywhere in your home, and it will still thrive.
Snake plants are drought-resistant, and depending on their variety, they can go anywhere from four to six weeks without being watered.
Snake plants thrive when they're placed in environments that are similar to their native lands. Let's briefly discuss the elements that will help these tropical plants grow best.
Proper watering is probably one of the most important aspects of keeping a snake plant healthy. Snake plants require very little soil to thrive and grow.
In fact, it's strongly recommended that you let the soil dry out between each watering session. On average, you won't need to water your snake plant more than once or twice every month.
Even if the plant is damaged or in a state of ill-health, over-watering will rarely be the solution. During the winter months, it's recommended to only water the plant once or whenever the soil is extremely dry.
Temperature and Humidity
Snake plants prefer temperatures similar to that of their native environments, which means 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is ideal.
The ideal temperature range for snake plants is anywhere between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Always keep your plant away from air conditioners or drafty areas of your home, as this can cause the leaves to droop.
Snake plants are known to be extremely forgiving plants. They can be placed under direct sunlight for a few hours a day without their leaves becoming scorched—which is mostly due to their high water content.
They can also be placed in areas where there is indirect sunlight and can adapt to bright conditions fairly quickly.
Best when placed in loose well-draining soil. This gives their roots free rein to grow freely and provide the plant with the nutrients that it needs to survive.
You can even use an all-purpose cactus soil for your snake plant, as they have similar maintenance and nutritional characteristics.
It's best to stay away from plant media that have a small amount of peat, as they may make it difficult for the soil to stay hydrated or drain properly.
Snake plants don't require a lot of fertilizer to thrive and grow. However, you can use a mild fertilizer if your plant needs a growth boost or if it's suffering from a health standpoint.
The best fertilizer to use for snake plants is one with an NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) ratio of 10-10-10. It's best not to fertilize the snake plant in the winter (it's the slow-growing season), as it can cause a chemical burn.
What Other Plants Can You Arrange With A Snake Plant?
A snake plant can be combined with almost any other succulent for a more interesting looking plant pot—or for convenience.
You can also pair snake plants with various annuals to add a bit of color to their consistent greenery. Annuals that are commonly paired with snake plants include fittonia, petunias, and ivy varieties.
In particular, ivies can add a bit of volume to your snake plant's pot, as they will typically spillover if you allowed them to grow fully.
Snake plant with fittonia:
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Snake plant with petunias:
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Snake plant with ivy:
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Can You Combine Snake Plants In A Pot?
Yes, you can combine multiple snake plants in one pot. It's best to combine plants that are near the same stage in life.
For example, you may want to avoid pairing a baby snake plant with a plant that is five years old, as they may have vastly different nutrient requirements.
It can also become challenging to care for both of the plants; every one of them begins to suffer from health issues.
Wrapping Things Up
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