Snake plants are among the more popular houseplants out there due to their forgiving nature. But did you know that there are actually three different plants, all going by the common name of snake plant?
Nassauvia serpens and Turbina corymbosa aren’t as well known as the Sansevierias (by the way Sansevierias are now classified as Dracaenas), so we’ll be focusing on the latter here.
However, the other two plants have similar needs, so you can follow these tips as long as you keep an eye on them for signs of over or under-fertilizing and adjust accordingly.
What Kind Of Fertilizer Is Best For Snake Plant?
Snake plants fare best with a balanced fertilizer containing additional macro and micronutrients.
However, it doesn’t need a lot to thrive.
Do Snake Plants Even Need Fertilizer?
There’s a bit of debate on whether or not snake plants even need fertilizing.
The argument is that you provide fresh soil for snake plants whenever you’re repotting.
As snake plants are adapted for poor soil, the nutrients in the fresh soil can take a while to be absorbed.
According to this argument, adding fertilizer just gives the plant more nutrients than it can process.
However, the other side of the argument is that there are indeed benefits to adding fertilizer.
Benefits Of Fertilizing
The most obvious fertilizer benefit is that the extra nutrients can encourage fuller growth.
Additionally, fertilizer provides several vital nutrients that can easily be lost over time, such as:
Deficiency in these nutrients can result in stunted growth, a higher risk of pests and disease, and leaf drop.
Drawbacks Of Fertilizing
The only real drawback to fertilizing is the risk of using too much.
However, as long as you pay attention to the amount you’re giving your plant, the frequency, and whether you’re paying attention to any signs of distress from your plant, this risk is pretty much nonexistent.
The Best NPK Ratio
Now that we’ve mentioned nutrients, we should probably discuss the Big Three, better known as the NPK ratio.
While these vital nutrients can have multiple benefits, each has a key benefit and drawback.
Nitrogen is essential for healthy foliage growth, although too much can result in nitrogen toxicity and leggy growth.
Phosphorus is most commonly associated with full, healthy blooms but can also benefit foliage.
Too much phosphorus will actually leech away potassium.
Potassium’s key function is to bolster a plant’s immune system, but it’s the most fragile of the Big Three and tends to be broken down the fastest.
So just what ratio should you use for your snake plant?
A balanced mix is best; you can adjust the numbers as needed to match your soil’s health.
For example, 10-10-10 is a very safe ratio for snake plants when using a slow-release fertilizer.
However, you may prefer to use 20-20-20 in nutrient-poor soil or 5-5-5- in brand new, organically enriched soil.
When in doubt, do a soil test and feed your plant according to the results.
Liquid-soluble fertilizers are another matter, as these break down more quickly and evenly.
In this case, you’ll want to use something much less intense, such as a 1-1-1 or 2-2-2, or dilute a 10-10-10 liquid-soluble mix to ¼ strength.
The best fertilizer type to use is one formulated for cacti and succulents, but a general fertilizer will also work.
How Often To Feed?
Again, this can depend a lot on the type of fertilizer and the strength of the NPK ratio.
Most slow-release fertilizers can be given once in early spring and once in early summer.
Liquid houseplant fertilizers are usually given every 4 to 6 weeks throughout spring and summer and should be diluted.
Always follow the instructions on the packaging, as every brand is different, and what ratio and frequency works for one brand may not work for another.
If your plant shows signs of malnutrition, adjust the dosages accordingly.
Natural Or Chemical?
Chemical options tend to work pretty well, but they have a higher risk of causing burns to your plant if applied incorrectly.
As a result, we always recommend choosing an organic fertilizer when possible, although there’s nothing inherently wrong with using the chemical option.
You can purchase organic fertilizers at any garden store or make your own.
Possible options for homemade fertilizer include compost, dirty aquarium water, and nutrient-specific supplements such as coffee grounds or eggshells.
Slow-Release Or Liquid Soluble?
Slow-release formulas such as granules can be convenient but have a major drawback.
Nutrients tend to dissolve at different rates, meaning your plant will get a burst of one nutrient and a deficiency in another.
For this reason, liquid-soluble fertilizers are almost always best, as they break down evenly and are easily absorbed by the soil and roots.
The only real drawbacks are that you’ll feed the plant more often and have to be sure not to get it on the plant itself.
However, as liquid soluble fertilizers get their name from the fact that you’re diluting them in water, these extra feedings will be happening in place of watering the plant during feeding time, so you won’t actually notice the extra work.
How To Apply The Fertilizer?
During the spring and summer (NEVER fertilize when the plant is dormant), the fertilization process is very simple – especially if you already use the soak-and-dry method.
You merely sprinkle these evenly around the plant for granules, careful not to get them too close to the plant itself.
For liquid fertilizer, you want to water the same way you would for the soak and dry method.
Pour slowly and evenly, working your way around the plant while not getting the leaves wet.
You don’t want any part of the soil to get more than any other point, as this can damage the roots.
If the soil is still absorbing as fast as you pour and you do not see any seepage from the drainage holes, you can top things off with some distilled rainwater or natural rainwater.