Keep Your Snake Plant Safe From Cold Damage This Winter

snake plant cold damage

Snake plants, also known as sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tongue, are popular and easy to care for houseplants. With their upright, sword-shaped leaves and minimal care requirements, it’s no wonder snake plants remain a favorite for many indoor gardeners. However, while snake plants are relatively hardy plants, they are susceptible to cold damage. Read on to learn how to prevent cold damage to your snake plant and revive it if exposed to freezing temperatures.

Snake plants originate from tropical and subtropical regions, where winters remain warm. While they can tolerate average room temperatures, snake plants do not like cold drafts or drops below 50°F. If your snake plant is exposed to prolonged cold, you may notice the telltale signs of cold damage – shriveled, curled, or mushy leaves that turn brown or black. The good news is that with proper care, a damaged snake plant can make a full recovery. Follow these tips to keep your snake plant healthy through the winter and prevent cold damage.

How Cold Temperatures Affect Snake Plants

Snake plants are durable indoor plants that can tolerate a wide range of normal indoor temperatures. However, as tropical plants, snake plants prefer warm conditions between 60-80°F. Prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50°F can injure your plant. Freezing temperatures can be fatal. Here’s what happens when a snake plant gets too cold:

  • The leaves shrivel up and turn brown or black. This is a sign of frostbite damage.
  • The roots may rot from excess moisture if the soil stays cold and wet for too long.
  • Cold drafts can shock the plant, causing leaf tips to turn brown and dry out.
  • Severe and prolonged cold will eventually kill the plant as the leaves and roots die.

While snake plants don’t tolerate cold well, they can recover from minor damage if warmed up promptly. Act quickly at the first signs of cold injury to get your plant back to health.

Can Snake Plants Go Outside in Winter?

Snake plants are popular indoor plants, but some varieties can also thrive outdoors in warm climates. However, it’s best to keep your snake plants inside once outdoor temperatures start dropping in fall through winter. Here’s what to know about growing snake plants outside in winter:

  • Snake plants are not cold hardy. While they can tolerate average indoor temperatures, most snake plant varieties cannot survive freezing winter temperatures outdoors.
  • Temperatures below 50°F can injure snake plants. Once nighttime temperatures fall below 50°F, it’s best to bring indoor snake plants back inside.
  • Some varieties are more cold tolerant. Certain sturdier snake plant varieties, like Moonshine, can better tolerate cooler temperatures above 40°F. But they still need winter protection.
  • Outdoor plants need winter protection. If you do keep snake plants outside year-round in a mild climate, provide winter protection by covering or moving pots close to the house.
  • A sudden cold snap can damage plants. Even hardy plants can suffer if temperatures quickly plunge well below freezing. Have a plan to bring plants inside or provide insulation.

While it’s possible for some snake plants to live outside in warm climates, they typically do best as indoor plants. When in doubt, you’re better off keeping your snake plant safe from the cold indoors.

Signs Your Snake Plant Suffered Cold Damage

If your snake plant has been left out in cold temperatures, promptly check it for any signs of damage:

  • Leaves are shriveled, curled under, or lying flat
  • Leaf tips turn brown and crispy
  • Sections of leaves appear watersoaked, translucent, or mushy
  • Leaves take on a dried out, wrinkled texture
  • Entire leaves turn black or brown
  • White, brown, or black spots appear on leaves
  • New leaf growth is stunted
  • Roots are dark and mushy or shriveled when you remove the plant from the pot

The severity of damage depends on how cold it got and how long your plant was exposed. If you catch it early, your snake plant may bounce back with proper care. But if the damage is too extensive, the plant likely cannot be saved.

How to Revive a Cold-Damaged Snake Plant

Has your snake plant suffered from some frosty or freezing temperatures? Don’t give up on it yet! Here are some tips for reviving a mildly damaged snake plant:

  • Bring the plant to a warm location indoors. Get your plant out of the cold and into a room around 70°F. Avoid placing it near cold drafts from doors or windows.
  • Inspect and prune any dead leaves or sections. Remove any fully shriveled, dried out, or mushy leaves. Also trim off dead leaf tips or sections. This helps the plant direct energy into new growth.
  • Water sparingly. The remaining healthy leaves and roots don’t need much moisture. Wait until the soil dries out, then water just enough to moisten the soil without saturating it. Avoid overwatering damaged plants.
  • Place in bright, indirect light. Give your damaged snake plant medium to bright light to energize growth. But avoid direct sun, which could scorch tender leaves.
  • Mist leaves occasionally. Misting with water can help rehydrate any shriveled leaves. Just don’t overdo it.
  • Fertilize very lightly. You can apply diluted houseplant fertilizer once new growth emerges to support recovery. But go easy on fertilizing stressed plants.
  • Be patient. It can take weeks or months for a cold-affected snake plant to fully regain its strength and start new growth. But with proper care, it’s possible.

With time and TLC, mildly damaged snake plants often bounce back. Just transition the plant gently, avoid overwatering, and provide bright warmth.

How to Prevent Cold Damage to Snake Plants

While you can revive mildly damaged plants, it’s better to take preventative measures and properly overwinter your snake plants. Here are some tips:

  • Before winter hits, inspect all your houseplants and identify any that shouldn’t stay outside when it gets cold. This includes all snake plant varieties.
  • Move snake plants and other tender plants indoors before nighttime temperatures drop below 50°F in fall.
  • Select a warm spot indoors for your overwintering plants, away from cold windows and drafts. Maintain temperatures above 60°F.
  • Water snake plants sparingly over winter, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Too much moisture can lead to root rot if the soil stays cold.
  • Consider using a portable space heater or grow lights to give overwintering plants extra warmth and brightness. Just don’t place plants right next to hot equipment.
  • If keeping plants outside in warm climates, be ready to cover or move them on short notice if an unexpected cold snap occurs. Have a cold protection plan in place.
  • Check for pest problems like mealybugs or fungus gnats, which can spread more quickly on indoor plants. Address any issues promptly.

With smart overwintering methods, you can keep your snake plant healthy through the colder months. Preventing damage is easier than trying to revive a struggling plant.

Can You Leave Snake Plants Outside in Winter?

In most cases, it’s safest to bring snake plants inside before temperatures drop in late fall through winter. But if you live in a very mild climate where winters stay above 40°F, you may wonder if you can leave plants outside. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Hardiness of the variety. Some snake plants like Moonshine and Laurentii are a bit more cold tolerant than other varieties, but all need protection below 40°F.
  • Sheltered location. A spot right up against the south side of your home may provide enough warmth for plants in zone 9 or warmer. But they’ll still need coverings if it freezes.
  • Winter protection. Use cloches, cold frames, burlap, or other covers to insulate plants left outside in cool climates. Be ready to move pots inside if needed.
  • Microclimate monitoring. Check the temperature in your specific garden’s nooks, not just the general forecast. A few degrees can make a difference in plant damage.
  • Sudden cold snaps. Have a plan to quickly move plants inside or provide emergency insulation if cold surges unexpectedly.
  • Moisture management. Avoid overwatering outdoor plants so soil doesn’t stay soggy. Water minimally in winter.

While leaving tender snake plants outside all winter is generally not recommended, those in very warm climates can try it with diligent monitoring and protection. But when in doubt, overwintering snake plants indoors is safest.

Keep Plants Protected in Winter

Growing snake plants exclusively as houseplants is your best bet if you live in an area with cold winters. While they can tolerate normal indoor environments, allow a few precautions in winter:

  • Maintain indoor temperatures above 60°F.
  • Keep plants away from drafty windows, vents, or exterior doors.
  • Water sparingly, allowing soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Avoid overfertilizing during winter when growth is slower.
  • Provide bright, indirect light from south or west windows if possible.
  • Monitor for pests that may spread more rapidly between indoor plants.

With smart care, your snake plant will stay healthy and resume vigorous growth each spring. Just be sure to keep it sheltered from cold damage during the chillier months.

Key Takeaways on Preventing Cold Damage to Snake Plants

To recap, here are the key tips on safeguarding your snake plant from winter’s cold:

  • Bring snake plants indoors before nighttime temperatures fall below 50°F in fall.
  • Select a warm spot for plants away from drafty areas and maintain indoor temperatures above 60°F.
  • Water minimally in winter, allowing soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Provide bright, indirect light from southern or western windows.
  • Inspect plants for pests like fungus gnats or mealybugs, which can spread quickly between indoor plants.
  • If growing snake plants outside year-round, provide winter protection like cold frames or plant covers when temperatures drop.
  • Be ready to move outdoor plants inside on short notice if a sudden cold snap occurs.
  • Act quickly at first signs of cold damage like shriveled or discolored leaves. Remove damaged sections and move plants to warmth.
  • Avoid overwatering or overfertilizing cold-damaged plants. Care for them gently and give them time to recover.

Taking a few simple precautions will keep your snake plant healthy through winter. With smart care indoors or out, you can prevent costly cold damage.

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