The snake plant is one of the most resilient plants I’ve encountered, but it’s also highly vulnerable to being overwatered or having too much moisture in the soil.
If you don’t notice the signs of overwatering in time, your plants risk developing root rot and other fungal diseases. It happened to me, and I could keep my sweet snake plant from dying.
So I’ll tell you what I did to save a snake plant that had been overwatered and what early warning signs I saw so you can figure out if the plant has been overwatered and save it.
Here are the steps to save an overwatered snake plant:
- Hold back watering and place the snake plant pot in a sunny area.
- Remove the dirt after pulling out the plant from the pot.
- Look for the symptoms of root rot.
- Cut off infected parts with a clean scissor.
- Apply fungicide to treat the healthy roots after trimming.
- Use fresh new soil mix for repotting.
- The last step is to place it in bright, indirect light.
Signs of Overwatered Snake Plant
In order to tell if you overwatered your plant or not, there is no single indicator. Your plant will show few symptoms of overwatering.
Soggy or Mushy leaves
This is the most common sign of an overwatered snake plant. Your snake plant is a kind of succulent. So, it can store water within its leaves for future usage.
But if you are supplying water more than it can handle, the snake leaves will look soggy or mushy. You may also find mold on the leaves or wrinkling leaves.
It is very similar to rotting when the leaves of a plant turn yellow or black due to excess moisture. The leaves are soft to the touch.
Keep in mind that the leaves may bend or fall off if the watering temperature is too high or the light is too low.
Despite this, the plant will not show any signs of rot. If you want to make sure there isn’t too much moisture around, look at the soil in the pot. It will be very wet and not take in water well.
As a result, there is a lack of air in the soil, and ammonia builds up in the plant’s tissues. A portion of the branch dies after it dries out.
Having your snake plant overwatered may cause its leaves to become soggy and darker than they usually would. As a precaution, you can loosen the soil and wait until you see an improvement before watering.
If the snake plant is in a bad way, take it out of the pot and look at the roots. Repotting may be necessary if there are several dead or diseased shoots.
Mold on Snake Plant
If you notice mold on your snake plant, you should first get rid of it! To begin, move the pot outside, away from other plants.
After that, use a wet paper towel to wipe down the affected flowers. If mold remains on the plant after cleaning, it indicates that it is active, and it is best to remove the damaged parts carefully.
Now, spray the plant with a fungicide and put it back in the house as the soil dries out, water the plant.
Lack of heat, light, or air can all contribute to mildew growth, so it’s critical to maintain a comfortable temperature as soon as possible.
Rotten and Loose Roots
Take the snake plant out of the pot and inspect the roots to ensure it isn’t suffering from overwatering. In soggy conditions, the plant’s roots cannot perform to their full potential because of oxygen deprivation.
If you check the roots and appear healthy and have retained their natural shade, you can dry the soil. However, you must replant if they have turned brown and rotten as soon as possible.
Because of the decay of the root system, root rot odors are unmistakable. Your plant will begin to decompose and stink as the rotting progress!
Examining a plant with root rot can be difficult due to the fact that it occurs below the soil.
However, if you notice any discoloration in the leaves or foliage, then root rot may be the problem that arises from overwatering.
It’s important to remember that fungal disease can also affect the roots. If this happens, the soil will feel relatively dry, but the roots will become black and easy to pull out.
Follow the steps in this article to save your snake plant if it has root rot. It goes over everything you need to know.
Soil with White Patches
The white crust on the soil’s surface is made up of soluble salt crystals. They occur when the water has been over-watered from above or has become stagnant deep within the soil.
Remove all the deposits and loosen the soil before changing the plant’s watering schedule. Ensure the drainage holes are not clogged, as this could also cause moisture buildup.
Seeing salt crystals can also mean that you have planted it in a pot that’s too big. Soil becomes moldy because the roots are unable to access the moisture that has settled deep in the ground.
If you overfeed the plant with fertilizer, the plant will push the extra up to the surface, so be careful not to do that.
When moisture in the soil becomes stagnant, the plant begins to emit an unpleasant rotten odor. You should inspect the root system. There will be a strong scent coming from the roots.
You should cover the soil with sand in order to dry it out. It will quickly wick away any excess moisture. Using paper napkins to cover the soil is a more convenient solution.
Flies are another telltale sign of an overwatered snake plant. To avoid the appearance of insects, cover your windows with mosquito netting and disinfect the soil in your plant pots.
Using a solution of potassium permanganate to get rid of flies can be done by drying the soil first and then watering it. If you use too much concentration, the plant’s roots will be burned.
Orange peels stuck in the soil can also deter flies by emitting a strong scent.
Snake Plant Leaves Turning Yellow and Soft
Sansevieria yellows and softens for the same reasons that wilts do. So, in order to help the plant, it should remove the yellow leaves and adjust the watering.
The yellowing of the snake plant’s foliage is caused by excessive watering. A leaf does not have to wilt in order to have yellowing or yellow spotting.
Root rot and overwatering are the primary causes of yellowing leaves. It’s because the roots have become infected with fungus and are decaying, and the leaves can no longer get the proper nutrients and water from the soil.
How to Save an Overwatered Snake Plant
If you are unfortunate enough to experience snake plant root rot, it does not necessarily mean that you are going to lose your precious house plant.
What it does mean is that you are going to need to take remedial action, and you are going to need to take it quickly.
Don’t think you can ignore this matter just because you are going to be late for work or the house is on fire. This matter is far more important and needs your immediate attention.
If you catch the problem early enough it will be restricted to the rooting system.
If it has been able to establish itself more thoroughly, the rot may have spread higher up the plant and started to attack some of the leaves.
We will now look at treating both of these events.
Rot Restricted to Roots
If you see any of the symptoms of root rot then the first thing you want to do is to tip the snake plant out of its pot to get a closer look at the roots themselves.
If the soil surrounding the roots is wet and soggy that will be the first confirmation that overwatering is the cause of the problems.
Now, If the roots are brown and slimy, then you are seeing snake plant root rot itself.
- Remove the wet soil from around the roots first. I go as far as rinsing off as much soil as I can because that can harbor fungal pathogens.
- Next, cut back the brown rotting parts of each root with a pair of sterile secateurs.
- What you will need to do is cut back each root until you reach healthy white flesh. There should be no traces of brown in the root material.
- Once you have removed all of the damaged material you can give the healthy roots a slight prune as this will encourage them to grow faster and thus speed the recovery of your plant.
- At this point, it is a good idea to treat the root ball with a fungicide solution which will discourage any further root infection. (I recommend using this fungicide available on amazon)
- Now, I prefer to lay the plant on a sheet of newspaper for a few hours and let the roots dry. Because snake plants are succulent this should not cause any wilting problems.
- Finally, you want to replant your snake plant into a clean pot that is just large enough to accommodate the root ball.
You should plant into a cactus mix or make up your own potting mix in the formula I have already described. Whichever version you opt for, make sure that it provides good drainage properties.
Don’t water your plant at this stage. There will probably be some moisture in the potting mix and the plant needs a little downtime before it is exposed to water again.
I suggest you let the plant stand until the soil is well and truly dry before giving it any water at all.
This may take a few days but don’t worry about that. Stand the plant in a position where it will receive bright light but not direct sunlight.
Dispose of any old potting soil as it will be harboring disease and thoroughly wash the pot that the plant was growing in.
You should also sterilize the secateurs that you used with rubbing alcohol to avoid contaminating the next plant that you prune.
Rot Spread More Widely
If you are unlucky and have not caught this problem early enough, the rot may have advanced further than just the roots.
A good way to test for this is to squeeze the leaves. If they are soft and mushy it is an indication that rot has reached that area of your snake plant. Healthy leaves will be firm.
- If the leaf is carrying rot then cut it off. If you then look at the base of the leaves you have removed, you will probably be able to clearly see the brown or black marks that are a tell-tale sign of rot.
- Cut off another inch of that same leaves and examine it again. Hopefully, the base of the leaves is now showing no signs of damage. If not, cut back again until you finally get to healthy plant material that the rot has not been able to reach.
- Don’t forget that you have been cutting with secateurs that are now infected. Disinfect them and cut off another quarter inch of plant material.
Saving Snake Plant by Propagation (When Damage is Severe)
If the damage is severe, then it is impossible to revive the plant to its normal state. At this point, you have to propagate to save your snake plant. Here’s how:
Cut off some healthy leaves that will propagate to start a new plant. It is safe to assume that if the roots have root rot and it has already made its way up into the leaves, the main plant is not retrievable.
You can repeat this procedure with other leaves so that you can save as much healthy plant material as possible.
What you are trying to do is take your cuttings from higher up the plant than the rot has been able to reach.
Lay your cuttings aside in indirect light until the base cuts heal. You will see when this has happened because they will develop corky scabs on them.
It normally takes several days for this to happen. Some gardeners like to dip the cuttings into powdered sulfur to speed the drying process but I don’t find this to be necessary.
When your cuttings are dry you can plant them into the same free-draining potting mix you have been using when potting on. The size of the cuttings should vary between 3-4 inches.
If you want multiple baby plants, you can plant several cuttings into one pot. If you prefer a tree-like structure then you will plant just one stem.
Whichever option you choose, plant the cuttings one to two inches deep into the potting mix keeping the base inside.
Get off to a good start by choosing a container that is not too large and which has sufficient drainage capacity.
Next, water very lightly on the top of the soil and place in a position that offers indirect light.
These cuttings root very easily and now that you are aware of the plant’s requirements you should have no trouble nursing them into healthy mature plants.
If you need a step-by-step guide to propagating a snake plant, read my other article here.
How To Prevent Overwatering Snake Plant
Watering consistently is important for maintaining the health of your Snake plant.
Snake plants do not need a lot of water but that may create doubt of proper plant care in the mind of the plant caretaker.
Let’s face it, watering is difficult to get the hang of, even for the most experienced plant keeper watering a plant that needs a lot of water, nonetheless a plant that needs very little amounts.
You may find yourself watering your plant once, then being unsure of when to water it again because you don’t want to give it too much water.
Then when you give it to water the next time, you see how dry the soil appears and really pour it up to try and “save” your Snake plant.
Don’t worry, it’ll be fine from letting the soil get a bit dry. It would be better off this way in all honesty.
If you have underwatered your snake plant, this article covers all you need to know.
I’ll explain watering much more thoroughly in a later “how-to” section that will give you the rundown on watering.
Just in case you don’t reach that far, know that you must create a watering schedule and give it a consistent amount of water.
Don’t just pour a random amount until you feel like it’s a winner. That’s exactly how you overwater and kill your plant baby. Avoid that at all costs!
Create a Solid Drainage System
There’s no easy way to say this… but if you don’t have a solid draining system down for your Snake plant, then you are doing something wrong and have a lot of learning to do.
The easiest draining method for a plant is with the pot you plant it in. You can head over to your local hardware store or plant shop and find plant pots with holes in the bottom that are meant to aid with draining the water from the soil.
The better the drainage, the less water that your plant has to sit in. Remember that the Snake plant is susceptible to root rot.
You want to avoid creating a damp environment for fungus to flourish and root rot to take place.
As the water falls through the potholes, you should have a plate below it to catch the runoff water. Be very sure to empty off this excess water regularly…like all the time.
Even if your plant is draining off the excess water, if any part of the soil has access to the water that ran off it, it will surely soak it right back up. Soil can be like a dirty sponge in that it absorbs everything.
If you have a pot that does not have drainage holes, you can create your own drainage system with these household items!
|Plastic Bottles||-Perfect for using plastic and upcycling|
– Great for filling up the bottom of the planting pot to create space
-Lets the plant roots have room to breathe without sitting in wetness
|Packing Peanuts||– Last a long time|
– Small and easy to get a hold of
– Won’t disintegrate
– Hold on to excess water well
|Woodchips||– Decompose into the soil over time to compost|
– Absorb a lot of water
– Easy to purchase or find locally
|Rocks||– Easy to find|
– Can purchase at your local landscape or hardware store
– Create a filter of drainage
With all of these methods, just be sure not to pour too much water thinking that it will dissipate or become completely absorbed by the substances. Pour small and controlled amounts of water in a consistent manner
Try repotting the Snake plant into a new pot with fresh soil. Sometimes a fresh start is the best thing you can give your plant.
Any type of fungus that may have been beginning to grow in the soil will surely linger and create some predicaments.
You really can’t pick off fungus because the way it has spread may be microscopic.
Put the snake plant in a fresh environment that you know won’t be able to cause any problems.
When you transplant, prune off old leaves so you can better assess the health of your plant.
You want to get rid of old signs of issues so you can clearly tell if new ones are forming.
Also, when you transplant you will be able to assess the health of the roots and see if the issue is clear from there.
Change the soil
Every soil is different! Some soil is meant for holding water in it for a longer period of time than other types of soil.
Well-drained soil lets water move through it quickly and doesn’t get soggy the way other soils may become a mush.
If the soil holds on to water and does not quickly drain, the plants will sit in water and that is not something you want for the Snake plant.
Soils such as clay-based soil will hold the water for a very long time and create conditions that are entirely too wet for this type of plant.
More sand-like soils will let the water drain through it too quickly and the plant won’t be able to get any moisture before the water has entered and left the building.
Try adding materials to your soil to create the perfect mix for you and your Snake plant.
Shredded peat moss or tree bark can create an organic mix that is healthy for the soil while giving it a good draining balance.
Correctly Watering Snake plant
When watering your Snake plant, keep it simple! Less is more when it comes to judging how much water to give your plant.
Pour small amounts of water until you just barely see water trickling through to the bottom.
You do not want to oversaturate the plant. Mist the air no more than twice a week if the environmental conditions are not fitting. If it is winter or you live in a particularly dry climate then this is acceptable.
Water once a week maximum! Keep a tight schedule and make a calendar so it doesn’t slip your mind. A guessing game can create issues for your Snake plant.
- Don’t water with tap water! Tap water contains minerals and depending on where you live, it may have high levels of fluoride or iron. Most plants don’t get too hot with minerals in the soil because it prevents water from properly absorbing up into the roots and the plant. If the water can’t absorb properly then it will sit in the soil and create the root decay issue that we are so heavily trying to avoid!
- By using filtered or purified water, you can eliminate this problem and create better circumstances for your Snake plant. Purchase a water purifier like a Brita filter or buy purified water in jugs from your local grocery store.
- If you decide to transplant your Snake plant into the new soil, water slightly heavier than you would usually, but not enough to drown the plant. You want to allow it to establish roots into the new pot of soil, but you don’t want to damage your Snake plant. Be mindful of the amount of liquid you give it and base it off the plant size and pot size.
You May Also Enjoy: Moonshine Snake Plant Care
Common Mistakes in Watering Snake plants
|Mistake||How to Avoid!|
|Irregular watering schedule||Create an alarm reminder on your phone that reminds you to water on a certain date.|
|Watering too much at once||Find a measured amount that works for your plant and keep up with that exact amount every time.|
|Soggy soil from too much water||Get a good drainage system going.|
As you work toward giving your plant a healthy lifestyle, consider this article to be your saving grace!
I know that keeping a plant can be hard, but we all have our ups and downs as plant parents.
If you move forward with a new mindset and a better grasp on what your Snake plant needs from you, it will all be smooth sailing.