How Much Light Does a Snake Plant Need?

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Brock Ingham
Brock Ingham

All plants including the snake plant require some amount of sun exposure to convert oxygen and water into carbohydrates (energy). This is how a plant grows. That said, the amount of light plays a key role in determining how healthy and supple your plant is. 

Even though snake plants are low maintenance, too much sun exposure can cause the leaves to dry out. Too little sun exposure on the other hand, can cause the leaves to wither and turn limp. 

Snake plants can thrive in both bright and dimly lit conditions. Ideally, you should place them under indirect sunlight for at least 8-10 hours a day or about 5-6 hours of direct sunlight. To maximize light exposure, place your snake plant in the South-east or East part of your house for optimal growth to get the 5 hour minimum required for strong growth. 

Snake plant in direct sunlight
Snake plant in direct sunlight

How to Tell if Your Snake Plant Needs More Light?

When it comes to plants, they all need some light to grow, but differ in the intensity and amount of light needed to prosper. This is highly crucial for photosynthesis to take place, without which, your plant’s growth will become slow or non-existent. Here are three easy ways through which you can check if your snake plant needs more light or not: 

LUX Meter

A LUX meter is a device which measures illuminance. You can easily get one online for your snake plant. This device has various photo cells which capture light and then convert it into electrical current. Based on this, you will get a reading which tells you whether or not your snake plant is getting enough sun exposure. 

To use a LUX meter, simply place it in the same area where your plant is kept and wait for 3 minutes. After this, not the reading on its screen. 

  • A LUX value of 1-2500 means that your plant is getting less light than needed. 
  • A LUX value of 2500-10000 means that your plant is getting medium light
  • A LUX value of 10000-20000 means that your plant is overexposed to sunlight. 

Ideally, you should look for a reading between 2000-4000 LUX which is considered bright light. 

Hand Shadow Test

This is one of the easiest ways to check if your snake plant is getting the right amount of sunlight. Take a white sheet of paper and place it on the spot where your plant’s pot was previously kept. 

The next step is to stretch your fingers as far as they will go and place your palm above the paper at about the same height as your snake plant. Notice whether the white paper is receiving enough light or not by observing the shadow your hand casts. 

If the case shadow is barely perceptible, your plant is getting low sunlight, medium light if the shadow is hazy and blurry, and high sunlight if the shadow is clearly defined. 

Monitoring the Plant

Plant’ appearance can tell you a lot about its nutrition, growth cycles and sun exposure levels. Here are some indicators that will help you determine the same.

Signs of Excessive Sunlight

  • Brown Patches: Brown patches can be formed by overwatering, fungal infections and excessive sun exposure. Harsh sunlight can damage certain tissues in plant leaves, rendering them incapable of absorbing any food. Dark burns never disappear and can only be removed if that leaf falls off and a new one takes its place. 
  • Yellowing: Harsh sunlight causes chlorophyll breakdown. After this, plant leaves will appear yellow and bleached. Your snake plant might also start producing thicker leaves to reduce the chances of its tissues getting burnt under sunlight. 
  • Curling/Wilting of Leaves: Snake plant leaves should ideally be straight and without any folds. Snake plants store most of their moisture in their thick leaves. Constant bright sunlight dries them out, causing the moisture to go away. 

Signs of Low Sunlight 

  • Sluggish Growth Rate: Snake plants grow about 4-12 inches per year depending on how well you keep it. In optimal conditions, your plant should be about 4 feet tall after one year. Light plays an essential role in photosynthesis, without which your plant will not be able to bloom. 
  • Shrinking Leaves: Another telltale sign is if you notice no new leaves or plant pups forming for a while. If your plant is not given enough light for a while, it will cease its growth so that it can focus on supplying energy to the existing branches. 
  • Alteration in Leaf Color: If a plant is not getting enough light, it stops its food-making process. As chlorophyll breaks down, the green color begins to fade and turns from yellow to orange/brown overtime. 
  • Falling and Drooping Foliage: Once the leaves of your snake plant become yellow, they will start to collapse and wither due to lack of energy. The bottom portion of the plant starts to wither first due to getting least sun exposure. Dropping leaves is a survival strategy in plants as well. 
  • Slanting in Direction of Light: Owing to low photosynthesis rates, snake plants are naturally drawn to the brightest point in their immediate vicinity. This phenomenon is called phototropism where a plant will lean towards any light source such as a window to get red & blue ight. 
Snake plant receiving indirect sun exposure
Snake plant receiving indirect sun exposure

Can Snake Plants Survive in Low Light?

Snake plants fall under the Dracaena genus of plants which are native to Africa. It is worth noting that certain varieties might even belong to East African deserts where the temperatures are relatively higher. 

Owing to this, these plants have a good degree of tolerance against light. Constant evolution and adaptations have caused these plants to become somewhat vulnerable to direct sunlight for long hours. They may seem like they’ll do well in bright light, but in reality, they can thrive in a wide range of environments including low light. 

“A ‘low-light plant’ doesn’t mean it will grow best in low light, it’s just a plant that is adaptable enough to tolerate low light”- says Danae Horst, owner of Folia Collective in Eagle Rock. 

The key to helping plants thrive in low light is to reduce the amount of water you give them. This is because water evaporates slower in low light and can cause the plant leaves to rot/turn yellow. It is also worth noting that your plant will grow faster if kept under brighter lights. 

If you keep your plant in constant low light, the leaves will turn from dark green to yellow and then begin falling off. 

What If My Room Has No Windows? 

Are you worried that you made a mistake getting a snake plant if your room has no windows? Worry not, I have a solution for you. 

The key to ensuring proper plant growth is photosynthesis, and this can be done using grow lights. These lights convert electrical energy into photos which are then thrown on the plants to stimulate photosynthesis, thereby aiding growth. 

Smaller plants need a daily respiration period of about 6 hours whereas you can use a grow light for 8-12 hours on mature plants. 

How Many Hours of Light Does a Snake Plant Need?

Snake plants need 8-10 hours of bright light every day. This number is not set in stone and may vary depending upon the size and placement of your pot. These plants can also be put under direct sunlight, but not for more than 5-6 hours as overexposure will cause the leaves to become crispy and curl afterwards. 

When switching up the amount of light you give to your snake plant, you should also factor in how many times you water it. A plant that is getting more sun exposure will require more water as the leaves will dry out relatively quicker. 

Type of Light 

Your best bet for optimal growth of your snake plant is to place it under indirect sunlight. This lets them enjoy direct sunlight with a safety filter, thus eliminating all the risks caused due to harsh light. You can place your snake plant near a window facing east for the best results. 

Indirect sunlight also helps the plant reduce moisture loss and retain water for longer, meaning that you will have to water it less often. Snake plants kept under indirect sunlight have beautiful leaves facing upward with a hint of greyish shade. 

Another alternative is to use artificial light sources, some of which are: 

Fluorescent Lights These lights have blue wavelengths which promote healthy growth and can be placed quite close to plants. Place them 1-3 feet away for the best results. 
LED Lights This is the best option as you can customize the color based on your plant’s needs and catalyze its growth. 
Halogen Lights Halogen lights provide full-spectrum access but generate lots of heat which can damage your plant.  
Incandescent Lights Incandescent lights supply red wavelengths and often generate heat. Avoid placing them too close to the plant. 

Light Duration 

As mentioned above, the ideal duration is between 8-10 hours for indirect sunlight and 5-6 hours for direct sunlight. If you do not have any windows at all, you can take help of artificial grow lights to stimulate growth. Snake plants are very resilient to varying light conditions, which means you can even keep moving them around if you feel the lighting is not enough. 

East-facing exposure for morning light
East-facing exposure for morning light

Light Intensity 

This could vary by region and time of the day. Light intensity is measured in LUX and should range between 2000-4000 for optimal growth of your plant. If your plant is getting anything more than this, consider moving it to a shadier area or place it slightly away from the windows to reduce exposure. 

Natural Vs. Artificial Light

Natural light is more ideal for healthy growth of plants since it is more nutrient rich. Artificial light should only be considered as a supplement if your room has no sunlight. 

Sunlight covers all colors of the spectrum, providing a full range of all the lights necessary for photosynthesis in plants. Most artificial lights, on the other hand, do not emit a full spectrum of colors. 

However, you can adjust the level of artificial sunlight based on your plant’s needs, unlike natural sunlight. This comes in really handy if your plant has started to show signs of sun damage and you want to fix it. 

You can supplement your snake plant with artificial lights during the winter months when the sunlight hours are limited. 

Direct Vs. Indirect Light

Indirect sunlight is used to refer to any shaded areas in gardening. Direct sunlight is unfitted and comes straight from the sun into the atmosphere without any interference. The latter can be emitted when something like a cloud cover comes in between light’s path when reaching the surface. 

Direct sunlight is usually warmer and covers less surface area, often causing tissue damage in plants. Indirect light covers a broader surface area and is relatively colder. This does not cause any tissue damage even if your plant is exposed to it for longer periods of time. 

How to Measure the Amount of Light in a Room

The amount of light in a room can be measured with the light meter. Lumes (lm) is the unit which is used to quantify the amount of light entering a room. LUX on the other hand, tells you how many lumens of light is falling on one square foot of a surface. You can measure the amount of light in a room using a LUX meter. 

  • Bright day: 100,000 LUX
  • Indoor Daylight: 10,000 LUX
  • Overcast day: 1,000 LUX
  • Twilight: 10 LUX
  • Full Moon: <1 LUX

Final Thoughts

Snake plants need about 8-10 hours of indirect or 5-6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. This is essential for photosynthesis to occur which then helps the plant to grow and supply nutrients throughout its body. Watch out for signs of low/high sun exposure mentioned above before moving your pot from one place to another. 

If you do not have the time to keep changing the location of your pot, you can even use an automated grow light to stimulate growth. Thanks for reading! 

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