Caring for a new plant or doing better with a familiar one can mean returning to basics like picking a pot. Snake plants have a specific preference thanks to their sensitivity to moisture and size variation.
Knowing the best pot material will get you started. But you’ll also benefit from understanding why, what sizes for which situations, and how to work with alternatives.
The best pot for a snake plant is a 5–10 inch in diameter terracotta, depending on the size of the plant. Terracotta allows water to drain out the bottom like other pots. The material also absorbs temperature changes and moisture. Snake plants rot when too wet, so drainage matters.
Why Terracotta Pots Are Best For Growing Snake Plants
Terracotta pots offer several advantages to newer carers of snake plants. You may have a young plant that has lots of growing to do.
Also, you may appreciate terracotta’s ability to absorb if you overwater a plant as sensitive as snake plants. It’s easy when caring for a new type of plant not to have a feel for how much or how little the plant needs. Terracotta gives you a learning curve and helps you to avoid root rot.
The rule of thumb for snake plants is to place your finger or a stick a few inches into the soil, which should be a sandy or cactus pre-mix soil. If you feel moist soil or soil clings to the stick, wait on watering.
But let’s say that your plant gets root rot anyway. You will want to postpone watering and let the soil dry. If that’s not enough, then after that, pull out the snake plant, and cut away the rotted roots. Repot in new soil, and you can start over.
Terracotta’s absorption ability means that the soil will dry earlier, so you can rescue your plant sooner.
How Big Should a Snake Plant Pot Be?
Snake plants love crowded pots, but they need new ones as they grow.
Pots 5 inches in diameter are serviceable for younger and smaller varieties of snake plants. Mature and larger varieties may need up to 10-inch pots.
These plants also have surface-level roots that grow first. The deeper roots grow later. Compared to many plants, snake plants don’t need larger pots for depth. For instance, many suitable 5-inch diameter pots are also 5 inches deep.
Too large of a pot will mean that some water will stagnate on the bottom and prevent drainage. Too small, the plant will need more frequent watering, or the roots will get stunted.
Young and Small Snake Plants or Those in Bright Areas
Although snake plants can tolerate dim rooms, young plants will grow best in bright areas.
Individuals living in a brightly lit part of a room or a covered porch will grow fast and may need a size larger after one year. Fast growers like these may need 2–4 inches more in each new pot until they mature.
Mature and Big Snake Plants or Those in Darker Areas
Mature snake plants have fewer resource demands than young individuals. You can treat their potting needs the same as plants living in dark areas.
Plants living in darker rooms may go for three years before they need a new pot. These slower-growing individuals will need 1–2 inches more in each repotting until they mature.
How to Know When Your Snake Plant Needs a New Pot
Snake plants like to be snug but still have ⅓ of their space available for growth. They will stunt, wilt, or have roots pushed out of pots when they need a new, larger pot.
When stunted, the plant will drink less, thus causing the wilt, a lack of growth, or allowing more water to pass through to the drainage.
You may see the roots coming out of the bottom drainage holes or over the rim. Terracotta pots may crack. If you happen to be using a softer pot material, it will bulge from pressure from the roots.
When your snake plant is ready to be repotted, you can repot it to a larger pot.
You can also divide the plant. Because snake plants like to grow dense, they give you enough to divide and use for two pots. Keep one half in the first pot, and repot the other half in another terracotta.
Try to limit dividing and repotting to winter or early spring when the plant is less active and more tolerant of changes.
Alternatives to Terracotta Pots
Terracotta pots are ideal for snake plants, but you may have other reasons for wanting a different pot material.
If you keep your plant inside, you may look around your home and want a pot that matches your decor. As long as you keep in mind why terracotta works best, you can choose another material and know in what ways you will have to compensate.
Porcelain and ceramic pots look great indoors and come in many designs. Ceramic, in particular, is often clay, so would it have the same benefits as terracotta?
Both of these materials have had extensive heat treatments. During this process, they harden. But also lose the pores that let terracotta absorb water. You will have to be more careful with overwatering and have a pot model and soil mix that allows excellent drainage.
If you want your plant outside but are fed up with terracotta plants breaking, you may prefer to go with another material. Wood, concrete, plastic, and fiberglass withstand temperature changes and collisions better than terracotta.
These materials will give you the same problems and need similar adjustments to your plant care routine as porcelain and ceramic.
For indoors and out, if you have the space, you can always pick a pot that the plant will like and place it in a larger one that fits the look you want. Think of it as using a saucer plate.
Or you can take something like a plastic pot that you can drill extra holes in and place that in a beautiful ceramic or folksy wood. Just leave space between for drainage.
Terracotta pots work best for growing snake plants and new caretakers because of the material’s ability to moderate water. But every pot is about a give and take, and caring for snake plants is about good drainage and a snug fit. As long as you keep this in mind, you can get creative with pots.