Rocks on Top of Snake Plant Soil: Good or Bad?


Starfish snake plant with rocks on top of the soil.

Are you wondering about putting rocks on top of your snake plant soil? 

Snake plants, also known as Sansevieria, are popular houseplants. They’re low maintenance and help purify the air. While they’re easy to care for, there is some debate about adding rocks (also known as topdressing) on top of their soil. 

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of this practice, so you can make an informed decision about your snake plant.

But first, what is topdressing?

In a nutshell, topdressing is putting decorative rocks or material on top of your plant’s soil. So, when you put rocks on your snake plant soil, what you’re doing is topdressing the soil. 

There are different options with topdressing.  Some of the more popular ones include;

  • Decorative rocks & pebbles
  • Crushed seashells
  • Aquarium gravel
  • Decorative pea gravel
  • Moss
  • Bark
  • Sand
  • Crushed glass
  • Crushed charcoal

These are just a few options. Within each category, there are even more choices.

Understanding Snake Plants

Before we dive into putting rocks on snake plant soil, it’s important to understand the needs of your snake plant. 

Snake plants are very forgiving when it comes to care. It’s one of the reasons for their popularity. They can tolerate low light, infrequent watering, and neglect. 

They’re native to arid regions of Africa. So, they’ve adapted to survive with minimal water. Snake plants prefer well-draining soil that is on the dry side. Overwatering can lead to problems. 

Image of a snake plant, boncel variety.

This leads us to topdressing their soil – which can affect soil moisture.

When it comes to adding rocks on top of the soil, there are differing opinions. Some people believe adding rocks helps with drainage and aeration. While others believe it actually traps moisture in the soil, leading to overwatering.

Now that you know a little about snake plants and topdressing, let’s look at the pros and cons of this practice. 

Rocks on Snake Plant Soil: The Pros & Cons

If you’re a plant enthusiast, you may have heard of the practice of putting rocks on top of soil. 

There are differing opinions about topdressing soil, especially with succulents and cacti. Some believe it’s beneficial, others not so much.

Let’s take a look at the good and bad of putting rocks on snake plant soil, and what’s the best practice with topdressing.

Why Put Rocks on Snake Plant Soil?

There are some benefits to considering topdressing. The most common ones are as follows.

1. Aesthetics

Aesthetics is one of the main reasons people use topdressing, or put rocks on soil. They don’t like the look of plain soil, so they’ll use a decorative rock that compliments the color of the pot. 

You’ll often find this type of aesthetic with succulent arrangements, which can include snake plants.

2. Prevents Erosion

If you’re like me, you’ve noticed little piles of soil that seem to gather around your plant’s pot. This can be a consequence of watering from above, which often disturbs the soil.  

Topdressing soil can help keep your soil in place and prevent water and air from disturbing it.

3. Pest Prevention

Another reason to consider putting rocks on top of snake plant soil is to prevent pests from infesting your plant. 

Pests such as fungus gnats thrive in moist soil. By creating a barrier of rocks on top of the soil, you can prevent them from laying eggs and breeding in the soil.  

Additionally, the rocks can make it more difficult for pests to climb up to the leaves of the plant, further reducing the risk of infestation.

I’ve written an article on snake plants and fungus gnats. You can find it here.

4. Limits Evaporation 

Rocks on top of soil can help limit water from evaporating from the soil.  This, in turn, can potentially mean less watering. If you’re using terra cotta pots, this can be helpful.  Terra cotta absorbs water, drying out the soil quicker.  This article explains more about pots and which is right for your plant.

But, although less evaporation can mean better water retention, this, as you’ll see below, can be a double-edged sword for snake plants.

Overhead view of a snake plant topdressed with rocks.
Image by Sunudda Lovanichaphat from Pixabay

Potential Risks of Rocks on Snake Plant Soil

If you’re considering putting rocks on top of your snake plant soil, it is important to be aware of the potential risks involved. 

While rocks may seem like a simple and easy way to improve the appearance of your plant, they can actually cause harm if not used properly.

1. Water Retention Issues

The biggest potential risk of using rocks on snake plant soil is water retention. Rocks can trap water and prevent it from evaporating. Although this can help hold moisture for a plant, if too much moisture is trapped in the soil this can lead to overwatering problems. Which is especially problematic for arid plants, like snake plants.

I’ve written an article on overwatered snake plants. You’ll find it helpful if this is a concern.

2. Root Damage

Rocks can create a barrier between the soil and the air, which can prevent oxygen from reaching the roots. This, coupled with too much water, can cause the roots to suffocate and eventually die.

Additionally, if the rocks are too heavy or large, they can push down on the soil and compact it, making it difficult for the roots to grow and spread. 

3. Heat Stress

Rocks, especially dark-colored ones, absorb and retain heat. In hot climates, or in very sunny spots, those rocks can expose your snake plant to periods of prolonged heat. This can burn the leaves and stress the plant.

Even though your snake plant likes warm, dry temperatures, it doesn’t want to be cooked. 

How to Put Rocks on Snake Plant Soil

Overhead image of decorative rocks inside a pot.
Image by Rochas Brasil Pedras Decorativas from Pixabay

Choosing the Right Rocks

When it comes to choosing the right rocks to put on top of your snake plant soil, there are a few things to consider. 

1. First, you want to make sure the rocks are clean and free of any debris or dirt. This will prevent any unwanted pests or bacteria from entering your plant’s soil.

2. Pick the right-sized rocks. In general, ¼” or slightly larger is better.  This size provides good coverage and allows water to evaporate well. 

3. Choose rocks that complement the aesthetics of your plant and its container. This can be a great opportunity to add some visual interest to your plant display.

4. Consider the light situation. Darker stones will absorb more sunlight and retain more heat.  Whereas lighter stones reflect heat.  In other words, use light stones in high-light areas, and dark stones for shadier spots.

5. And lastly, if you’re using something other than rocks, such as mulch or bark, these materials can retain even more moisture. Keep this in mind when it comes to choosing your topdressing.

Applying the Rocks

Once you’ve chosen your topdressing, it’s time to apply them to your snake plant soil. 

First, make sure the soil is moist but not overly wet. This will help the rocks adhere to the soil surface.

Next, sprinkle the rocks over the soil surface, making sure to cover the entire area. You can use your hands or a small scoop to evenly distribute the rocks.

Finally, gently press the rocks into the soil surface to help them stay in place. Be careful not to press too hard, as this can compact the soil and prevent water from reaching the roots.

You’ll see some plant owners, or plant nurseries, apply glue to the rocks to help keep them in place. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this. Not only does it make it more difficult to remove the rocks, but your plant isn’t going to appreciate having glue leaching into the soil.

Final Thoughts 

While rocks may seem like a simple and easy way to improve the appearance of your snake plant, they can actually cause harm if not used properly. 

It is important to be aware of the potential risks and choose your topdressing carefully.

Remember, snake plants like dry soil. If you decide to add rocks, be sure to choose ones that are large enough to allow for proper drainage, and won’t cause overwatering or heat stress issues.

Ultimately, whether or not you choose to add rocks on top of your snake plant soil is up to you. Just be sure to monitor the soil moisture level and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.


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Angela

Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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