Snake plants are hardy and resilient. Even though they thrive on neglect, some situations put them under extreme duress. It is natural for your snake plant to turn white under some conditions.
Snake plant leaves turn white when overexposed to the sun or are in environmentally volatile spaces. Pest infestations, fungal diseases, watering techniques, water quality, leaf injuries, and scaling are some of the ways it can affect the plant.
Through this article, we will explore and understand what causes it. You will also learn several techniques that you can use to prevent your plant from turning white.
Causes of Snake Plant Leaves Turning White
- LIGHTING AND TEMPERATURE
Overexposure to Sun
The snake plant grows well in dark and bright settings. But it can not withstand direct sunlight for long periods, and it makes the leaves turn white.
It’s almost like bleaching or scorching and if it goes on for too long, might even kill your plant.
The moment you notice the bleaching, bring it indoors. The whitening will not disappear.
But you can salvage your plant by keeping it in the environment it is most likely to thrive in.
Your snake plant needs very little sunlight to thrive. Keep it indoors, where it can receive dappled or diffused sunlight.
This article goes into greater detail about the symptoms and remedies for sunburned snake plants.
How to Prevent it:
- Make sure you position your plant appropriately. A west or south window would not be good for your plant. A north or north-east window is the best as it receives indirect sunlight.
- Don’t place the plant in very direct light or heat. If there’s too much sun, your plant will burn, and the leaves will turn white.
Snake plants are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations and environmental shifts. They grow well in specific temperatures that range between 55°F and 85°F (13°C to 30°C).
A temperature above or below the ideal will push the plant into trauma mode.
Sometimes there are white patches with brown halos or rings around them. It is also hard to discern what the actual cause is.
If you see these white spots, you can cut off the affected part and let the rest of the plant grow normally.
How to Prevent it:
- If your plant has been indoors and you suddenly move it to a terrace or balcony where the sun is blazing in full and the temperature is warmer than normal, it might shock your plant
- Adhere to its temperature requirements
- Let it slowly adjust to the lighting conditions in your home.
- PEST ATTACKS
Mealybugs are tiny pests covered with a cottony cover. This makes them look white. They hang around the leaves and ingest all the nutrients.
They cluster in a single spot or spread across the leaves, making it seem white in some areas.
Strangely enough, some people mistake this pest infestation for mold since they are microscopic and look woolly and white from afar.
The mites themselves are reddish-brown. They are extremely tiny and build fine strands of webs across the leaves.
Similar to the mealybugs, spider mites drink the sap from the fleshy leaves and cause stippling (white spots).
Their white silk-like or fuzzy webbing affects the photosynthetic abilities of the plant.
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How to Fix Infestations:
Things to Know
- The pests like to hang around the leaves’ undersides and mostly hide.
- You can use insecticidal soaps, miticides, and oils over the leaves.
- You can also use 50% vinegar and 50% water and rub it over the plant with a wet cloth.
- If the infestations are severe, treating them repeatedly with insecticides may not be the best idea. In those cases, you have to bid goodbye to your infested plant.
Treatment Methods for Pest Infestations
|Visibility||They are easily visible to the naked eye|
Since the mealybugs are easy to notice, you can physically pick them out or prune them.
|They are microscopic. Only their fine webbing is visible|
You cannot physically pick out the spider mites.
|Movement||Mealybugs cannot crawl rapidly. Hence they also don’t spread around very fast.||To know if your plant has mites, place a paper underneath your plant and shake the leaves. If they are present, they will move around rapidly indicating their presence.|
|Treatment||For mealybugs, you can use spot treatment with isopropyl alcohol. Spray or use a q-tip to treat the area and repeat until you remove them all. You can even use neem oil or spray an insect eliminating soap on its undersides.||You can use miticides for the spider mites, but if they have laid eggs, miticides may not work very effectively on them. Thus, you would need to apply them at five-day intervals during the summer and weekly intervals during the winter.|
Note: if you use miticides, you have to spray them on the plant immediately and not store them.
Draining them into the soil or through the drain is illegal in many places in the U.S.
How to Prevent Infestations:
Spotting pests early and treating them efficiently is the only way to prevent future pest infestations.
- Keep an eye out for damage symptoms so that you can spot them and prevent future infestations.
- Inspect new plants thoroughly before bringing them into your home.
- Make sure you monitor gardening tools like scissors and rakes, and other materials like pots for the presence of mealybugs and their egg sacs. Clean them with an alcohol wipe.
- Maintain hygiene around the snake plant; remove dust regularly as that is a breeding ground for pests like spider mites
- Ensure that there is no overcrowding. Sufficient airflow and light help avoid pests.
- FUNGAL DISEASES
Parasitic fungus like the southern blight (Sclerotium Rolfsii) can damage the plant.
The snake plant’s leaves develop white patches and spots which may seem dry and rough initially.
This is a fungal disease. They soon turn tan and brown. They harden and spread to the other parts of the plant, such as the root system.
- Avoid making the leaves wet. A wet leaf is a breeding ground for fungus and eventual demise for the plant.
- When you water the plant, make sure you pour the water only into the soil.
How to Prevent it:
- Make sure that the water drains out fully.
- Water only at the base of the plant and avoid water from falling on the leaves.
- Keep the plant away from moisture as that can aggravate and spread the fungus on the leaf.
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A white fuzzy mold — the powdery mildew is a layer of fungus made up of many spores on the leaves.
In short, they look like flour dust. These powdery particles then travel through the air and affect other plants in the vicinity.
The initial spots may be in one area, but if ignored, may cover the entire surface of the plant in white — including the undersides.
Unlike many fungal diseases, this disease flourishes in warm and dry climates (60-80 °F or 15-27°C); in crowded plantings and shade.
The moment you catch sight of mildew:
- Use fungicides that contain sulfur, neem oil, and potassium bicarbonate. They are very effective as preventative care or when you catch the infection early on.
- If the disease is too severe and you decide to cut it, don’t put it into your compost as the mildew can still travel in the wind and infect other plants.
How to Prevent It:
Prevention is better than cure, so here are some things you can do to safeguard your plant against fungal infections:
- Make sure the plant is not overly moist as that will augment the growth and spread of powdery mildew.
- Keep the humidity low.
- Check the plant regularly for any sign of distress.
- Use fungicides if you think your plant is susceptible to mildew attacks.
- WATER ISSUES
Sometimes your snake plant might develop white spots that seem like salt crystals or white dots on the body of its leaves.
This is because of tap water, which contains hard chemicals like calcium and magnesium. This leads to a salt build up in the roots and eventually shows up in the leaves.
- Repot: If the situation is severe, then you could repot it. Use a potting mix that drains freely and is a combination of a succulent and cactus mix.
If not, you could simply cut off the affected leaves from the base of the plant and nurture your plant.
- Modify watering techniques: Use filtered water or previously collected rainwater to water your plants.
If these options are unavailable, you could simply fill tap water in a jug the previous night so that the chemicals settle at the bottom, and some of them evaporate.
You could then water the plant. But ensure that you discard the last couple of inches of the water from the jug.
How to Prevent it:
Since house plants do not have a large space to disperse nutrients, it gets harder for any plant to thrive without salt build-ups or deposits. Snake plants are no different.
- For repotting, sure the pot you choose is not too big but just right.
- The drainage holes must be adequate.
- Ensure the soil is free draining.
- Confirm that the water you use does not contain any harmful salts.
- Use bottled or filtered water and observe how your plant does.
Snake plants like water, but do not love them. In fact, they thrive when you water them less. Overwatering turns them floppy, pale and discolored.
In worse cases, watering too much can create fungus in the roots, which can impact or show up on the leaves.
- Create an excellent drainage system for your plant. Make sure you place it on a sink where the excess water can runoff. You can also keep a plate underneath to collect the additional water. Don’t forget to empty the plate!
- Sometimes using the wrong soil may impact your plant. Snake plants need well-aerated media to grow and flourish. Clay-based soils tend to hold more water. For good drainage, use peat moss, or tree barks.
- Use a pot that has big drainage holes and does not hold too much water.
- Be consistent in your watering methods. If you keep watering the plant every day, the roots will turn soggy, and eventually, the plant will die.
- Take a look at the soil. If it has a fungus, it is best to change the soil. An unclean, fungal, or smelly soil will kill your plant.
How to Prevent it:
- Ensure that the soil is always sterile, and the water drains fast
- Water sparingly; don’t overwater.
- Ensure that the soil is dry before watering.
- In summer water the plant once a week. In winters, water once in three weeks.
- Create a calendar reminder on your phone or laptop and water them only when the soil is completely dry.
Cold Water Spots
Some house plants tend to develop white spots in places where the cold-water splashes.
This is not a disease per se, and it is good to be aware of it as your snake plant may very well have those patches due to water splashing.
- You can easily remove cold water spots with a wet rag or napkin.
- Follow it up by wiping it down using a dry cloth to ensure the leaves are completely dry.
- Move the plant to a warmer area inside the house and leave it there for a while.
- If you ignore these white blotches, they can turn into fungus in the future.
How to Prevent it:
- Use a watering can with a thin spout that lets you pour water directly into the soil
- Make sure that the water is at room temperature
- Keep the plant away from cold draughts.
- OTHER CAUSES
Sometimes your thick snake plant’s leaves might have white blunt edges or broken leaves when you get it from a plant store.
This happens if your plant is incorrectly propagated. It is a result of scars and injuries and is not a disease. There’s nothing much you can do but keenly observe the growth of newer leaves.
If you need a step-by-step guide to propagating a snake plant, read my other article here.
- Monitor the growth of your plant
- You don’t have to worry as long as the newer leaves look healthy.
How to Prevent it:
- Be aware of it and refrain from buying plants that you think might confuse how you work with them.
- If you do get the plant, understand that the leaves are not diseased, but simply injured.
Many people complain that their snake plant leaves have white scales that are easy to scrape off. Fret not! This is simply caused by the wear and tear of the plant.
If the plant is too old, or if it was accidentally damaged by stabbing or bending, it is normal. They are scars. The older your plant is, the more scars it has.
Accept that this is a regular process of your plant’s life cycle.
How to Prevent it:
- Place your plant in an area where it cannot get injured easily.
- Keep it out of reach of children and pets since they tend to play the most with plants.
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Tips to Prevent Snake Plant Leaves from Turning White
- The leaves turn white when you expose your plant to scorching heat.
- Try to clear pest infestations as soon as you spot them
- Keep your gardening tools and items clean always
- Wet leaves promote fungus
- Use a jug with a thin spout to pour water directly into the soil.
- Avoid salt build-ups by using clean, filtered water.
- Understand and work with your plant’s life cycle.
- If your plant is old, it will also have scars or injuries.
- Sometimes it’s the plant’s variegation.
If your plant has white stripes, it does not always mean there is a problem. The White Striped Sansevieria (White Striped snake plant) has striking white variegations.
There are about 70 or more snake plant varieties. This is natural and not a cause for concern. If your plant has variegations, enjoy!
All you have to do is nurture your plants well. The rest is up to nature.