Snake Plants are a popular beginner houseplant known for being easy to take care of. This succulent thrives with very little maintenance, minimal watering, and can handle indirect or direct sunlight. But like any living thing, Snake Plants are still susceptible to the elements.
Snake Plants are notable for their striking pointy green leaves. If you notice those leaves aren’t as pointy or green as when you first bought them, there might be a problem. Soft or discolored leaves are usually one of the first signs that a plant is dying.
You’ve given your plant water, sunlight, a good pot–all the things a plant needs to live. So, why is my Snake Plant dying?
A dying Snake Plant is usually caused by two issues: overwatering or extreme temperature fluctuations.
What Does an Overwatered Snake Plant Look Like?
Snake Plants are native to West Africa, which makes them suited to dry, hot conditions. As a succulent, Snake Plants naturally store water in their leaves. This means that a Snake Plant can usually go 1-2 weeks without watering.
A Snake Plant doesn’t look like your typical succulent, so they’re commonly overwatered. Sometimes you might not realize you’ve overwatered your Snake Plant until it’s too late.
Read on for some tell-tale signs of overwatering.
Brown Rotting Roots
When a plant doesn’t have proper drainage and receives too much water, an ailment called root rot can occur. This is when the roots sit in water for so long they start to turn brown and mushy.
When the soil stays overly wet for long periods, fungi such as pythium, fusarium, and phytophthora begin to grow. This fungus spreads to the roots which causes them to rot.
Eventually, these rotted roots will prevent nutrients from traveling up to the plant. What comes next is the leaves begin to turn soft and mushy. This is due to excess water in the leaves which starts to break down the leaf’s cellular structure.
The natural result of mushy leaves is that your Snake Plant will actually start to droop or tip. Oftentimes the base of the leaves will start to crinkle and fold first due to the excess water. This will be pretty easy to notice since the Snake Plant’s leaves should be growing straight up.
Can a Snake Plant Recover From Overwatering?
If your Snake Plant has gotten to the point where it’s drooping, the overwatering problem is pretty serious. You’ll need to act quickly to save your Snake Plant from dying.
Here’s what to do:
- Move your Snake Plant to a sunny area of your home. Direct sunlight will help this excess moisture evaporate naturally. Do not use methods such as a hair dryer to dry out your soil, as this can damage the plant even more!
- Remove the plant from the soil and assess its roots. When the roots are dry, it’ll be easier to determine the extent of the root rot.
- Prune any slimy brown roots to try and tame the root rot.
- Repot the Snake Plant with fresh soil.
The extent of the root rot will determine if the Snake Plant will recover. If the root system is completely rotten, the plant is unlikely to bounce back.
How Do You Tell If a Snake Plant is Overwatered or Underwatered?
Overwatering is certainly a more common issue, but underwatering will also harm your Snake Plant. What makes things tricky is that both conditions have overlapping symptoms.
If you forget to water your Snake Plant for longer than 2 weeks, you may notice:
- Wrinkled leaves
- Brown dry tips
- Dry soil
While wrinkled leaves are a symptom of both overwatering and underwatering, the differences are easy to spot. With overwatering, wrinkled leaves appear soft and mushy. With underwatering, wrinkled leaves appear dehydrated and dry.
If you’re unsure if the problem is underwatering or overwatering, the easiest solution is to actually remove your plant from its pot. Then, check the soil below the surface and feel if it is too dry or too wet.
How Do Temperature Fluctuations Harm Snake Plants?
We know that Snake Plants are best suited for warm, dry environments. That’s why we keep Snake Plants as indoor plants—in a warm house where we can control the elements. In places like the Southern U.S., Snake Plants can thrive outdoors because the environment closely resembles their natural habitat.
Since the Snake Plant is grown to live in warm environments, it can react poorly to cold conditions. A Snake Plant should be housed in temperatures from 50°F to 75°F (or 10°C to 23°C). An environment colder than 50°F (10°C) can make your Snake Plant go into shock, go dormant, and possibly die.
Can My Snake Plant Get Too Cold?
It’s possible for a Snake Plant to get cold enough to die. When your plant is exposed to extended periods of cold, it can damage the cell structure of the leaf. This prevents water and nutrients from flowing to all parts of the plant. This is possible if you leave your Snake Plant outside, or if it’s placed by a cold window for too long.
Your plant can suffer from the cold even by watering it with cold water. When the roots sense cold water, your plant may go dormant, thinking that winter has arrived. At this point, your plant may not suffer damage, but it will stop growing and may become stunted.
Symptoms of Cold Damage in a Snake Plant
It can take up to 4 weeks for the symptoms of cold damage to show, but when they do the first sign is usually curling leaves. This curling happens because the leaf’s cell structure has been damaged by the cold. The Snake Plant can no longer stand firm and will droop or curl.
White or light colored spots are a common result of leaves that have suffered frost damage. This is caused when the water inside the leaves freezes and expands. The cell bursts and the results are an unsightly white spot on your leaf. Sometimes, the entire leaf turns white as a result. This is unlikely to happen to an indoor Snake Plant but very possible for a plant left outside.
Is My Snake Plant Getting Too Much Sun?
While the cold is certainly a concern, on the opposite end of the spectrum Snake Plants can also suffer from too much sun.
Snake Plants can adapt to a wide variety of lighting situations, from indirect sunlight, to shade, to full-on direct sunlight. But just because they are succulents, doesn’t mean that they are immune to the sun’s heat.
A common symptom of too much sun is leaf burn. This is just like a sunburn for humans, and will show up in plants as a dark brown dry spot. If you notice leaf burn on your Snake Plant, move it to a shadier area of the house, or diffuse the sunlight with a sheer curtain.
How Do You Fix Brown Tips on Snake Plants?
If you’ve underwatered your Snake Plant, it’s common for the tips of the leaves to turn brown. Even if you return to a more regular watering schedule, those brown tips will not reverse themselves. They will stay there until the leaf itself dies and is replaced by a new one.
Brown tips can ruin the look of your plant, and make it seem unhealthy even when it isn’t. If you want, you can cut these brown tips off to get rid of them. This won’t hurt the plant, but it can affect the shape of the leaf.
When you trim the leaf, try to follow its natural shape. Avoid cutting too much into the healthy leaf tissue. To prevent the transfer of any plant diseases, you should always sterilize plant scissors with alcohol before and after using them.
Should I Cut Off Dying Snake Plant Leaves?
Pruning a Snake Plant is common practice to keep the leaves a uniform height. So, it’s certainly ok to cut off any dead leaves.
To do this, cut your leaf at the base, right at the soil line. It’s best to cut with a knife rather than scissors, so you can be precise. Avoid cutting any healthy neighboring leaves.
While cutting off leaves may cause your plant to look patchy, don’t fret! New growth will fill up this space in no time.
While Snake Plants are an easy beginner plant, they are not invincible. These succulents are native to dry and hot environments, which makes them susceptible to overwatering and temperature fluctuations. So if your Snake Plant is dying, these are the first two issues you should investigate.
The signs of an overwatered Snake Plant are brown, rotting roots and mushy or drooping leaves. If your Snake Plant has been exposed to cold temperatures below 50°F (10°C), it may show signs of stress like leaves with white spots or curling leaves.
If you can find the right balance of watering, and provide a warm environment, your Snake Plant is bound to be happy and healthy!