For many plant keepers, coffee is the only way to start the day. It gives you that extra boost of energy to wake up and engage, but it isn’t just good for you.
The leftover grounds can also be great for your snake plants. In this article, we will go over why coffee grounds can be good, how to use them, and the risks associated with their use.
Can You Give Coffee Grounds to Snake Plants?
For many Americans, coffee grounds are a common kitchen byproduct. While I personally don’t drink coffee, my significant other is addicted, so we have mountains of coffee grounds every week. There are several ways you can use coffee grounds on your plants.
2. Liquid fertilizer
3. Soil topper/Mulch
We have two compost piles at our house. One that we toss coffee grounds in and one that is coffee free. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen and can lower the pH of the soil, so not all plants are a fan. Even for coffee-loving plants, more than 20-30% coffee grounds in your compost can lead to root burning, so try not to overdo it.
The other 70-80% of our compost pile is generally a mixture of hay, aspen shavings, rodent droppings, fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, and grass clippings. You never want to place meat or dairy products into your compost pile.
Since we raise hamsters and keep guinea pigs as pets, we likely compost more than the average household, so if you don’t have enough waste to merit two compost piles, don’t feel bad. That’s pretty normal.
To use coffee ground compost on your snake plant you will want to mix it into your soil when you repot. When I use coffee compost in my snake plant soil mixture, it is generally about 10% of the mix, the rest is 30% perlite (you can also use sand), 20% coco coir, 10% orchid bark, and 10% organic potting soil.
2. Liquid fertilizer
In my opinion, the best use of coffee grounds is to make liquid fertilizer. To do this, you will place coffee grounds and boiling water into a glass jar or pitcher. Then leave the mixture to sit for a few days. Then pour the coffee water out over a strainer to remove any remaining grounds and voila, you have nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer for your plants.
Try not to overdo it when it comes to using this liquid fertilizer. While it is great in moderation, it can actually cause your soil to become too acidic and even burn the roots of your plant if used too often.
I personally use this method about once every other month in place of my balanced liquid fertilizer on my pothos, philodendrons, snake plants, jade, and African violets.
3. Soil topper/ mulch
Another way you can use coffee grounds is as mulch. While I think this method is OK for outdoor snake plants that are planted in the ground, it isn’t my favorite for potted snake plants.
In theory, using coffee grounds as a mulch can result in nutrients being rinsed into your soil when you water, but more often than not it causes fungus gnats, keeps your soil too moist for snake plants, and if too much is used, it can lead to root rot and nutrient deficiencies as coffee is only rich in nitrogen and doesn’t contain other needed nutrients. Use this method with caution if at all.
Risks of using coffee grounds on snake plants
While coffee grounds can be great for potted snake plants, improper use can lead to quite a few issues. When in doubt about the amount to use on your snake plant, it’s always best to use too little rather than too much. Some common issues that can arise from overuse are:
1. Root Rot
2. Nutrient deficiencies
1. Root Rot
Overuse of coffee grounds can lead to root rot in a few ways. If you overuse it as a liquid fertilizer it can lead to burnt roots which will begin to rot if not flushed. If you are overusing it as compost or mulch it can lead to overly moist soil. Snake plants prefer to be kept fairly dry, so overly moist soil can lead to issues with root rot and limp leaves.
If you believe your snake plant could be suffering from root rot, you will want to remove it from its pot as soon as possible. Check the roots. Healthy snake plant roots will be orange and firm while rotten roots will be dark brown or black and mushy. Remove any rotten roots with sanitized shears and replant your snake plant in fresh soil.
2. Nutrient Deficiencies
Another common result of overusing coffee grounds as fertilizer is nutrient deficiencies. Symptoms of nutrient deficiencies are splitting leaves, limp leaves, stunted growth, and yellow leaves.
While coffee grounds are good in moderation, they don’t contain all the nutrients plants need, just a heavy dose of nitrogen. To ensure your snake plant is getting all the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive, you will want to use a balanced fertilizer once a month and only use coffee ground fertilizer in place of balanced fertilizer every few months.
If you think you may have used to much coffee fertilizer and your plant is lacking nutrients you can do a soil flush. To do this slowly pour water over your plant’s soil until water is running out of the drainage hole. Wait about 5-10 minutes and then repeat the process.
Do this until you have gone through about 4x the amount of water your pot would hold if it was empty. This will flush any remaining coffee fertilizer from the pot. Allow the soil to dry out like normal and then use a balanced fertilizer at the next watering.
If you aren’t patient enough to wait for this, you can also simply repot your plant in fresh soil, but this can be more stressful for your snake plant.
Snake plants aren’t the only ones that like coffee grounds. Fungus is also attracted to the nitrogen-rich substance. If you are using coffee grounds as mulch on your snake plant, you are especially at risk of fungus showing up on your soil. While some fungi are harmless to plants, most are not so try to avoid attracting them to your soil.
If you did your best to prevent fungus by using coffee grounds in moderation but are still having issues, it may be best to simply repot your plant and discontinue using coffee grounds for the time being.
Like many humans, some insects are also attracted to coffee grounds. If your plant is outside, it could attract beneficial insects like earthworms or isopods, but inside it is most likely to attract fungus gnats. Once you have fungus gnats, they can be very hard to eradicate and very annoying, though they usually don’t cause harm to your snake plants.
If your plant has fungus gnats, it is a sign that your snake plant soil is likely too wet and you have overused coffee in your soil.
To rid yourself of fungus gnats, you can place sticky traps around your plant and on top of the soil and let your soil dry out more than you normally would. The combination of these should eradicate the problem, but if you want to go the extra mile, you can also cover your soil with a thin layer of sand. Fungus gnats need moisture to thrive, so if you take away their moisture they will die or move on to wetter pastures.
Should I use Coffee To Fertilize My Snake Plant?
There are many risks and benefits to using coffee as a snake plant fertilizer. If you are an experienced plant keeper that has mastered using liquid fertilizer and has thriving plants, adding coffee to your plant care routine could up your plant keeping game.
However, if you are relatively new to plant keeping and aren’t really comfortable with liquid fertilizer, I would hold off on experimenting with coffee. While there are benefits to its use, I always suggest people master the basics before starting to experiment.
It’s hard to know what you are doing wrong if your plant starts to show symptoms of unhappiness if you aren’t sure what your plant likes.
Even at my house, I will usually wait until a plant has acclimated to my home and my space before I use fertilizer. This is so that if the leaves start turning yellow I will know to adjust my lighting or my watering schedule. While most snake plants have similarities, every plant is unique.
I have two snake plants from the same grower in my home that like completely different lighting levels. One does best further from the window and one thrives in direct light. This is likely due to where they were grown in the greenhouse, but it is a reminder that we should always get to know our individual plants.