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Are Snake Plants Considered Succulents?
When we generally think of succulents, we might think of well-curated mini gardens, terrariums, or maybe some of the grander forms of leather-leaved plant companions. The snake plant does not bear the “typical” markings of a succulent, but is it good to be part of the tender-leaved plant club? Let’s discuss.
What Are Succulents
Succulents come in diverse forms with varying colors and blooms. They are remarkably adaptable to dry climates and have genetically adapted to be master water conservers.
Succulents are not a genus of plants. Instead, they are a group of plants that include any plant that has thick fleshy leaves, stems, or pads that are also accompanied by special adaptability to store water efficiently. Some succulents, like cacti, can store water only in the stem, while other succulents like agave, will store water primarily only in the thick padded spears.
Most succulents have deep and broad root systems that are built to search out water. They are typically native to deserts or regions that have a semiarid season.
Succulent plants can be found in more than 60 plant families. Many are cultivated as ornamental outdoor and indoor houseplants.
There is one common adaptation among many succulents, which is their ability to open their stomata. Stomata are small structures that are mouthlike and found on the surface of a plant's leaves and stems. For most succulent plants, these stomata will remain closed for the day and only open at night. As a result, water loss is minimized, making them suited for dry areas and relatively drought tolerant.
Common outdoor and indoor varieties of succulents are:
- Some euphorbias
- Some types of orchids
What Are Snake Plants
Snake plants, also known as Mother-In Law’s Tongue and Viper’s Bowstring Hemp, for their fibers' strength and ability to make bowstrings. It is a carefree, resilient houseplant that also happens to be a functional living air purifier. Its erect statuesque nature and vibrant green and yellow foliage make a statement in a house setting as well as in outdoor landscaping.
The snake plant is native to arid environments and can be found growing wild in arid, rocky landscapes in tropical Africa. Most varieties today come from Africa, Madagascar, and Southern Asia.
It has long been a symbol of luck and protection being used to banish evil in its native Nigeria. A Swedish naturalist, Carl Peter Thunberg, was responsible for introducing the snake plant to North America in 1794.
Snake Plants Are Air Purifiers
These plants are also functional and are often on the list of air purifying plants. They capture CO2 during the day and open their stomata at night to release oxygen through a process called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM). This means they filter the air and release extra oxygen into your household environment.
In 1989 NASA tested several species of snake plants for their air cleaning ability. They found that the Dracaena had the most powerful ability to remove toxins from the air. Under controlled conditions, this species of snake plant managed to remove 4 out of 5 volatile compounds from the environment.
Their filtering abilities are so epic that NASA suggests that snake plants have the potential to remove 87% of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air. They recommend planting two to three snake plants for every 100 feet for maximum air cleaning effect.
Because of their easy growing abilities that can boost the confidence of even the brownest thumb gardener, they are popular to give as housewarming gifts.
Can A Snake Plant Be a Succulent
One of the key descriptors of a typical succulent is tender, fleshy, swollen pads, stems, and leaves that are suited for water storage. But one look at a snake plant, and it is visually out of the succulent game. Where are the fleshy leaves?
However, a snake plant is not all that meets the eye.
Drumroll please… snake plants are in fact succulents! Officially the snake plant is a succulent in the agave family which finds their commonality with their spear like foliage.
Key clues that snake plants are in fact succulent are:
- Snake plants use CAM photosynthesis with the ability to open their stomata at night to reduce dehydration.
- They have fleshy leaves that are adapted to store water,
- They are tolerant of drought.
- They show the typical slow growth of succulents, growing just a few inches per year.
- Snake plants have a rhizome widespread root system commonly seen in succulent plants, which grow horizontally and propagate plants across the root system.
How To Care For A Snake Plant
This plant has the reputation of being extremely easy to grow, making it ideal for first-time gardeners. It is forgiving of low light locations and irregular watering schedules and will live a long healthy life with a little bit of care.
To care for a snake plant, follow these general rules:
- Snake plants do well in USDA Zones 8 and higher.
- Ideally, snake plants like medium to bright light and will grow best in these conditions. However, they are tolerant of low light situations as well.
- Plant in a free-draining, sandy soil mix.
- Try to water from the bottom of the pot to encourage root growth and prevent rot. Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering.
- During the winter, taper back watering.
- Avoid pouring water into the center of the rosette as this can lead to rot.
- The snake plant will do best inside at temperatures between 60-85F.
- If planted outside, the snake plant will do best in warmer weather in a sheltered sunny location.
- Clean the sword-like leaves regularly to allow them maximum ability to photosynthesize and purify.
- Divide and repot the snake plant in the spring to make space for additional growth.
- Occasionally snake plants will flower indoors, revealing fragrant greenish-white flower clusters on the tips of the leaf spears. Enjoy!