Why snake plants are terrible plants for beginners

Read this royal decree—I’ve changed my mind about the world’s most indestructible houseplants.

You couldn’t kill these plants if you tried, and trust me I’ve tried.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to recommend a good plant for her. She’s a beginner, moving into her first apartment, and wanted something green to liven the place up.

But, like many beginners, she was nervous about her lack of plant knowledge and considered herself to be more of a brown thumb than a green thumb. She told me she was considering some type of Sansevieria, a family commonly known as “snake plants.”

These tough guys are some of the most indestructible plants you can own. You can find them pretty much anywhere that sells plants. I have two that I bought at Ikea and a local nursery.

They’re both happy and green, and can take a lot of abuse. One lived on my desk at my internship, where it sat under fluorescent lighting for several months without any exposure to the sun. The other lived in my bathroom, where, despite its close proximity to the faucet, it might as well have lived in the desert.

Because they’re so resilient, I tend to forget they exist and let them go months without caring for them. So, if you’re looking for an extremely low care plant, by all means, buy a snake plant.

However, I’ll be honest when I say they are some of the most boring plants I’ve ever owned. No houseplant is a ton of excitement. You can’t exactly sit and watch them grow, although my quarantine boredom has tempted me. 

Snake plants’ low energy requirement is due in part to their low growth rate. The one I’ve had in my bathroom has been there for two years and I’ve never noticed a new leaf.

Part of the fun of owning plants is watching them mature and grow over time. As a plant parent, nothing beats noticing a new leaf appear. Snake plants just don’t give that satisfying feeling.

To make matters worse, if you happen to damage the leaves (or have a pet who likes to snack on plants), any injury to the plant will take ages to heal.

For this same reason, I don’t recommend succulents or cacti to beginners. Most people think less care means easier care, but most “low care” plants require a delicate nuance that often ends in overwatering, root root and a slow, sad death for your plants.

If you’re a complete beginner, I suggest you consider pothos, monsteras and spider plants for your first venture into indoor gardening. These three plants can take lots of first-timer mishaps, but still grow quickly. You’ll be more inclined to water your plant if you’re noticing new growth all the time.

Not only does this Monstera deliciosa grow faster; it looks way cooler than any type of snake plant.

My oldest two plants are a Monstera deliciosa and a pothos. They require a bit more care than the snake plants, but it’s easy to notice when they need watering (the leaves will droop).

My snake plants will probably outlive me. They’re like cockroaches, I couldn’t kill them if I tried. But, I won’t be purchasing anymore of them any time soon. I’m happier to fill my home with plants that actually grow, not ones that leave me wondering, “Are you actually made of plastic?”

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