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Are Snake Plants Succulents? How to Know The Difference

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Succulents are adapted to live in deserts and arid areas. Due to the harsh climatic conditions where these plants grow, they have certain similar qualities. These plants’ features enable them to absorb, store and retain as much water as possible. Collectively, there are thousands of succulent plants. But is a snake plant a succulent?

Snake plants are succulents that natively live in dry areas. They have all the qualities of succulent plants, including fleshy leaves, adapted to store water, and their stomata are also adapted to prevent water loss.

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Snake plants are some of the most popular house plants due to their beauty and ease of care. If you have sansevieria, you need to know as much information about them as possible, as it helps care for the pant. It is also essential as it lets you determine your plants’ dos and don’ts. Generally, all succulents have the exact needs.

In this post, I will explain whether snake plants are succulents and why. Read on and find out.

What makes snake plants succulents?

When answering what makes snake plants succulents, we need to compare the features of succulents and those of snake plants.

Drought resistant

Succulents are drought-resistant or xerophytes and have an adaptive feature enabling them to go for long periods without water. Drought-resistant plants natively live in deserts or arid areas where they do not receive adequate rainfall.

Snake plants fit this drought-resistant quality because they natively grow in hot and dry regions of Africa and Asia, where they hardly receive rainfall.

As such, if you have a snake plant, you will notice that your plants can thrive for long periods without water. It would still thrive even if you went without watering the plant for a month.

Overwatering is one of the gardeners’ biggest mistakes when caring for these plants.

You only need to water them when the soil is completely dried up, which can be fortnightly, depending on the environmental conditions. Snake plants easily suffer from root suffocation whenever the growth medium is saturated, causing root rot that kills the plant.

Also, read this informative post on Why snake plant is called mother-in-law’s tongue.

Fleshy leaves

The term succulent means very cellular and juicy. Succulent plants generally have fleshy leaves and stems, one of their significant adaptive features. Snake plants have thick fleshy leaves containing thick and fleshy tissue, mainly many water-holding cells.

Since the plants grow in dry areas where it hardly rains, they can store enough water on their leaves until the next rain season.

Rhizome root system

Snake plants have a rhizome root system, standard in some succulents. Their roots are modified stems that grow continuously horizontally just below the ground and perform a vegetative propagation function whereby new plants develop along the rhizome.

This advanced stem is also an adaptive feature for the plant as it acts as a food reservoir, and it can store a large amount of food to take the plant through dry seasons and feed new plants. Consequently, snake plants are not heavy feeders like other succulents, and you don’t need to fertilize them to thrive.

Slow growers

Succulents such as snake plants are slow growers, and a snake plant only grows a few inches per growing season. The slow growth rate seen in these plants is also an adaptive property to their natural home.

The reason behind this is the harsh environment where the plant grows, whereby it preserves as much food and water among other resources for survival rather than growth.

If you have a snake plant, you will notice that t grows only a few inches during a growing season. Also, these plants develop two to four new leaves per season and about ten new leaves annually, entering a dormant stage during winter whereby they don’t grow at all.

During this dormant phase, the plant uses the food and water stored in the stem and leaves for survival. For this reason, you don’t need to water or feed your plants during winter.

Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis

A snake plant has a unique feature that entails carbon fixation, and this is an adaptive feature in these plants and shared in other succulents found in arid areas.

Plants utilizing this photosynthesis mechanism have fewer stomata that remain closed during the day and open at night. Stomata are cellular structures on leaf surfaces that exchange water and carbon dioxide/oxygen between plants and the environment.

By having their stomata closed during the day, the plant can limit the process of evapotranspiration. At night, when the stomata open, carbon dioxide collects and diffuses into the plant’s mesophyll cells. Once taken in, this CO2 is stored in vacuoles as four-carbon acid malate.

During the day, the stomata close, then the malate is transported to the chloroplasts, then converted back to CO2, which is used for photosynthesis.

It is important to note that this CO2 is usually concentrated around photosynthesis enzymes (RuBPCase), making it most efficient.

Therefore, you will find these plants taking up carbon dioxide during the night and releasing pure oxygen, whereby oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis. Due to this unique feature, succulents such as snake plants and cactus are air purifiers. Studies show that these plants also take up certain harmful substances from the atmosphere, making them the ideal indoor plants.

Studies by NASA suggest that they can remove 87 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from the atmosphere. For effectiveness, NASA suggests you have two or three snake plants for every 100 square feet.

These plants, therefore, act as a defense against specific airborne allergies and diseases such as cancer which originate from toxins (benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene)

Also, read, Are snake plants toxic to people?

FAQ’s about Snake Plants


As we saw above, snake plants have all the features of succulents. They have adaptive features that make the plants resistant to hot and dry climatic conditions. Also, their leaves are fleshy, enabling the plant to store sufficient amounts of water they could use between rainy or watering periods.

The rhizome root/stem system acts as a food reservoir, which helps the plant survive in harsh conditions. Like other plants with this feature, the advanced stem also helps vegetative propagation.

Snake plants are also slow growers, familiar among other succulents. The Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis process takes place, where their stomata open at night—enabling the plant to take up carbon dioxide and release oxygen. As a result, all succulents are air purifiers and excellent bedroom plants.

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