Snake Plant Light Requirements: How Much Sunlight They Need

Snake plants produce long, cylindrical leaves that stretch up to three feet tall. In addition to their attractive, sword-like foliage, snake plants retain houseplant popularity because they will survive in low-light conditions. 

How low can you go? Before you dim the lights, pay attention to snake plant light requirements. 

The Short Answer: Snake Plant Light Requirements

Snake plants (Sansevieria) excel in low to high light levels. Keep them near east or north-facing windows, or 10 feet from west or south windows for filtered light. Avoid direct sunlight to prevent leaf burn. Rotate occasionally for even exposure and balanced growth.

Best Type of Sunlight For Indoor Snake Plants

Snake plants grow best in bright, indirect light. 

This plant can live up to 25 years in the right conditions. (Most will survive five years to a decade, but that’s still pretty good going for houseplants!) Providing the correct light conditions for your snake plant is a crucial step to extending its lifespan. 

Good news! Part of the reason behind the snake plant’s houseplant popularity is that it will grow well in a wide range of light conditions. 

Bright light will encourage the fastest growth. But this plant will also do well in low-light conditions. 

The Low Down on Low Light

snake plant lighting by window

Plants require sunlight to perform photosynthesis. 

Light availability can present a seemingly immovable obstacle for plant lovers. You can make adjustments to soil quality, moisture levels, pruning, and more. But no matter how much you care for your plant, you can’t do much to increase the availability of sunlight. 

Yes, you can purchase a grow light. However, these sunlight replicators can be both expensive and tricky to use.

Instead, you might consider selecting your houseplants based on the amount of natural light available in your house. 

If your living space doesn’t receive much light, this is where snake plants shine. 

Most plants will not survive in low-light positions. So snake plants are perfect for populating sad, dim corners with a bit of greenery. 

That said, there are a few downsides to situating snake plants in low-light conditions. Some varieties of snake plants will lose their variegation if they don’t receive enough sun. And snake plants will not flower without exposure to bright indirect sunlight.  

Understanding Light Conditions for Houseplants 

snake plant lighting

When we talk about houseplant light preferences, we’re usually talking about one of three main types of light: bright, indirect, or low. 

If you want to get technical, gardeners will often describe plant light preferences using the foot-candle measurement. This unit refers to the amount of light that reaches a surface area, as opposed to the amount of light a light source puts out.

As a reference point, direct summer sunlight typically measures 10,000 foot-candles. Snake plants need as little as 25 foot-candles of light, and can tolerate over 500 foot-candles. 

Confused? Let’s look at determining light levels without a fancy foot-candle reader. 

Bright Direct Light

Bright direct light is arguably the easiest type of light to recognize. Hold up your hand. If the sunlight casts a distinct, sharp shadow, you can consider it bright light. 

Essentially, it occurs when sunlight travels unobstructed to the plant’s foliage. 

Unobstructed is the keyword here. The light that travels through a glass window does not count as direct sunlight. This glass-diffused, refracted light can be half as intense as direct sunlight outdoor plants receive. 

That said, placing a plant next to a window that receives sunlight will be the most direct light you can give your houseplant. If you want to approximate direct sunlight, place your plant in a south-facing window. 

Snake plants can survive in bright light. But too much sun can burn the leaves, causing the tips to become dry and brown. 

Houseplants That Love Bright Light: aloes, succulents (Did you know snake plants are succulents?), and most herbs

Indirect Light 

Also known as medium light, indirect light is the sweet spot for many popular houseplants. However, recognizing indirect light is a bit more difficult. 

Again, hold up your hand. In bright indirect light, your hand will cast a shadow with a clear shape but fuzzy edges. 

East, south, and west-facing windows all tend to provide bright indirect light at some point throughout the day. (North-facing windows, not so much. Place your shade lovers here!)

You might find this category divided into high indirect and medium indirect. But most houseplants, including snake plants, aren’t super fussy about the distinction. 

If your living space receives bright light, you can easily make a few adjustments to transform that light into the “bright indirect light” coveted by so many houseplants. (More on that in the next section.) 

Houseplants That Love Indirect Light: snake plant, pothos, air plants, monstera, peace lily, spider plant, and more!

Low Light

In low light conditions, you might be able to see a faint shadow of your hand. 

Want an easier way to determine this light level? Try to read a book in this light. If you can’t easily read the text without turning on a lamp, you can probably assume the room receives low light. 

It isn’t quite accurate to say that any houseplants love low light. But a few stalwarts will continue to grow, albeit more slowly, in low-light conditions.

Houseplants That Tolerate Low Light: snake plant, pothos, philodendron, monstera, peace lily 

How to Find Bright, Indirect Light The Fit Snake Plant Light Needs

Many popular houseplants grow best in bright, indirect light. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to create these light conditions. 

The first option is to use a barrier – anything that helps filter the sunlight. Depending on your home decor preferences, this barrier could be a gauzy curtain or certain blinds. Certain pieces of furniture will also shield the plant from too bright light without robbing it of all the sunny goodness. 

You can also use sun-loving plants to shield their more light-sensitive counterparts. Think of what happens in the natural world. Taller plants stretch their branches to the sun. Below them, smaller plants enjoy the sunlight dappled by the leaves. 

Depending on the setup and light availability in your living space, there might be an even simpler solution. 

Place the plant deeper into the room away from the window. 

If snake plants need more sunlight, they will display droopy leaves. You can adjust the plant’s placement, but try not to change light levels drastically. Sudden changes from low light to direct light can shock the plant. 

Don’t Have Enough Natural Light For a Snake Plant? Use Artificial Light

snake plant in a room without windows next to bed

Snake plants can be grown with artificial light. In fact, they are ideal for growing indoors under artificial light.

When growing snake plants under artificial light, it is essential to use a light source that provides the right spectrum of light and amount for an appropriate amount of time each day.

It’s crucial to position the artificial light source correctly. Snake plants will appreciate the right amount of light, neither too close nor too far from their leaves.

Keeping the light source too close to the plant might scorch its leaves, whereas placing it too far away could result in lackluster growth.

There are excellent LED grow lights that are available. We recommend Solitech Solutions. They provide large companies with indoor lighting for corporate offices and more.

5 Signs Your Snake Plant Lighting Is Not Correct

The following five signs will tell you that the light needs of snake plants are not being met:

  1. Stunted growth: If your snake plant is not getting enough light, it may grow more slowly than it would if it received adequate light.
  2. Pale or yellowing leaves: If a snake plant is not receiving enough light, its leaves may become faded or discolored. If the yellowing is extreme, the foliage may also become weak and droopy.
  3. Long and spindly stems: When a snake plant isn’t getting enough light, it may stretch toward the light source to get more light. Resulting in long, spindly stems and a leggy appearance.
  4. Poor root development: Snake plants need light for healthy root development, so if your plant is not getting enough light, it may have weak, underdeveloped roots.
  5. Slow or non-existent flowering: Snake plants may produce flowers in low light conditions, but the rate of flowering will likely be much slower, and the flowers may not be as abundant as they would be if the plant were receiving adequate light.
snake plant flowering

If you notice any of these signs, consider moving your snake plant to a location with more light or supplementing it with artificial light.

Know Before You Grow

If you’re researching snake plant care, you might find the plant listed under conflicting scientific names. Up until a few years ago, the scientific name for the common snake plant was Sansevieria trifasciata

(The second word in a scientific name refers to a plant’s species. The first word indicates genus. So the cylindrical snake plant was known as Sansevieria cylindrica.) 

But in 2017, botanists recategorized the plant based on molecular discoveries. The Sansevieria genus ¹ included about 70 species of flowering plants. These species now belong to the Dracaena genus. 

So the common snake plant is now called Dracaena trifasciata

In addition to the two scientific names, you’ll find the plant listed under a few different colloquial names such as mother-in-law’s tongue or Saint George’s sword. 

And, of course, there are many different varieties of snake plants: viper’s bowstring hemp, bantel’s sensation, starfish, and bird’s nest snake plant (golden hahnii). 

These slow-growing plants appreciate similar conditions across varieties. Appearance is the main distinction. 

The common snake plant features long, dark green leaves that point upward — a bit like leafy spears. These leaves are streaked by yellow, cream, or white vertical stripes. 

Snake plants are native to tropical Africa. In the United States, they can grow outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. 

A Few Other Snake Plant Care Tips for Growing Success

snake plant in excellent lighting

Sunlight isn’t the only factor that impacts snake plant’s growth. If you want to keep your snake plant slithering — err, growing — make sure you provide these growing conditions.

  • Water: Let the soil dry out completely before watering your snake plant. In warm months, this might be once every two weeks. In cooler months, you might only need to water the snake plant once a month. Overwatering can lead to many undesirable symptoms such as root rot and pests. 
  • Humidity: Snake plants enjoy humidity around 40-50%. You can use a hygrometer to take this measurement. But most homes naturally sit around 40% humidity. 
  • Temperature: Snake plants prefer warm temperatures in the range of 65-85 F, but they’ll also survive in a range from 60-90 F. Keep snake plants away from cold drafts (whether from air conditioning units or poorly sealed windows.) 
  • Soil: Snake plants do not do well in soggy soil. Use a well-draining potting mix. And remember to let the potting soil dry out completely before watering. 
  • Fertilizer: Snake plants do not require frequent fertilization. Apply an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer once a season, following the fertilizer’s dosage guidelines. 

When in doubt, remember that snake plants originate in tropical climates. Think dappled sunlight, warm temperatures, and decent humidity.

FAQ

Does snake plant like direct sunlight?

These plants can tolerate some direct sunlight, but bright, indirect light is recommended as too much direct light can burn the leaves. If you don’t have the ideal spot for indirect light, you can use artificial lighting in locations without natural lighting.

Can a snake plant grow in a dark room?

While snake plants are touted as one of the easiest houseplants to grow, they still need light. If no natural light is available you can use indoor grow lights.

Can snake plants tolerate full sun?

It is possible for snake plants to tolerate full sun, but they can also become scorched from too much sun. So, please keep them in bright, indirect sunlight for the best growth and the least risk of sunburn.

References

1: https://www.britannica.com/plant/Sansevieria#ref241846

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.