Snake plant is one of the most versatile succulents. You can spot it on all continents except of Antarctica, and people grow it both inside and outside. Since it has minimal requirements on soil quality and can actually thrive in an arid land, people often plant it in front of their houses, on soil that isn’t suitable for gardening, but good enough for the snake plant. The question is though whether this is just a short-term endeavor, or the snake plant can actually survive winter outside. We will try to find the answer on the following lines.
Before we dive into some details, let me give you a quick answer: Whether a snake plant can survive winter outside depends on the severity of the winter. In some countries temperatures never drop below zero in winter, or even below ten degrees. In others you can have minus ten, minus twenty, or even minus 50 degrees Celsius in winter. I believe it is safe saying that generalization makes no sense here, and one cannot say whether a snake plant will survive winter outside, without knowing the climate of the area. I hope I haven’t confused you by now :), so let’s move to the actual numbers, and my personal experiment.
Snake plant can officially tolerate temperature as low as 5 degrees Celsius
Different books and online sources claim that snake plant can tolerate outside temperature as low as five degrees Celsius. I’d say this is a good benchmark, and you can use it to tell whether or not you can keep the snake plant outside in your country. Think about a typical winter in your city. Do the temperatures drop below five degrees? Or even below zero? If they do, you rather take the plant inside or take other precautions to save it.
Having said that, we should realize that temperature on the balcony or even on the ground close to the wall of the house isn’t always the same as the outside temperature they announce in news. It is typically a bit warmer (since laws of physics cannot be broken, and heat of the house emanates into the surrounding areas). The difference can be as little as one or two degrees. In some cases, however, it is enough to pass the threshold, and the plant will survive.
My experiments with mature snake plants in winter
What I learned in long years of succulent growing is that no two plants are alike. A mature snake plant with solid root system and robust leaves will sustain much more than a young plant, a newbie to the outside world. We can compare it to the world of animals (and humans, or human animals, depending on what you believe into). A child can easily die if a parent forgets it in a heated car for half an hour (and such things sadly do happen). On the contrary, adults can go to a sauna heated to 100 degrees Celsius, and they will actually enjoy the experience.
To some extend the same is true with plants, but I wanted to to test the theory myself. Where I currently live the temperature rarely drops below zero degrees in winter. On rare days it can drop to minus one or minus two for a short period in the morning, like hour or two. In my experiment I decided to plant two snake plants outside in spring, one a mature plant of ten years plus in excellent health, and another one a half a year old plant I was just growing up from cuttings. I left them outside all year and observed what happened.
Funny enough we had the winter that was just right for the test--temperatures often dropping below five degrees Celsius, but almost never below zero, and certainly never below minus two. Both snake plants from my test seemed dormant during the winter. When spring came, however, the mature plant came back in full beauty. It didn’t seem affected by the winter at all, even though the temperatures dropped below five degrees Celsius on numerous occasions. The young plant died.
Two plants, same type, same weather, same location. A mature one survived temperatures close to 0 degrees, the young one did not. Even though this was a small-scale experiment, I believe it demonstrate my point that no two plants are alike, and you shouldn’t take any temperature limit for a plant (be it 10, 5, or 0 degrees) as a gospel. Some plants may survive even lower temperatures, and some may die even if the temperature doesn’t drop below the suggested threshold.
Frost is not good for a snake plant, and if it occurs, you should take it inside for winter
With everything I said, I want to make one thing clear: Frost is not good for your snake plant. If you keep it outside in country where temperature in winter drops below zero degrees and stays that way for an entire day for example, the chances are super slim your snake plant will survive it… It just isn’t accustomed to such conditions.
Of course, you can take some remedies. For example, you can cover it with protective foil for plants (the same you may use for your fig trees in winter). In my experience though these remedies are sort of hit-and-miss, and at the end of the day if you live in an area where winters tend to be rough, you never know how low will the temperature eventually drop. If you want to be 100% sure your snake plant will survive such a cold winter, you have to take it inside… Hope this helps, and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions (we can publish an article to answer them). Happy growing!
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