Snake plants are hardy, but even hardy survivors have weak spots. These striking plants are best suited to lower light areas of your home or office, as they will suffer from sunburn if left in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.
To treat snake plant sunburn, begin by relocating the snake plant out of direct sunlight. Give it a thorough watering and, if desired, clip away any burned leaves. Consider fertilizing young, small, or severely damaged snake plants to encourage new growth.
But don’t worry! Your snake plant is a survivor, and with a little tender loving care, it will be back to its former glory in no time.
Signs your Snake Plant is Sunburned
Burn Spots on The Leaves
Browning of the leaves is the first sign to look for. Sun damage to your snake plant’s leaves appears as thin, brown areas that are crisp and dry to the touch, usually on the side that receives the most light.
These damages usually start out small, about the size of a sequin, but if ignored, they can grow quite large. In some cases, the dead matter will fall away from the leaf, leaving holes.
Brown or White Foliage
The harsh light of the sun causes your snake plant’s leaves to lose their color, just like patio furniture left outside over the summer.
Discolored leaves, like spot damage, will be more common on the side of the plant that receives the most light.
To avoid being destroyed in harsh conditions, your plant consumes valuable resources, particularly the green pigment chlorophyll.
Brown Leaf Tips
If the elegant spears of your snake plant begin to show crisp edges, especially at the tips of the leaves, your plant is in trouble.
Its leaves are unable to stay hydrated, baking slowly in the sun’s powerful light. If left untreated, it will spread and gradually dry out the leaf from the tip down.
Snake plant Bleached Leaves
Excessive exposure to the sun has permanently bleached out the leaves, leaving them a dull, lifeless color. The pigments in the leaves have been broken down by intense ultraviolet light.
Furthermore, the plant is no longer able to produce food after exposure to this bleach. The leaf will eventually die off, turning from gray or yellow to brown and crisp in appearance.
Total Soil Dryness
Snake plants have proven to be extremely hardy. They can survive in virtually any environment if provided with sufficient resources.
However, those resources are critical. If you don’t have them, your plant will begin to wilt and ultimately die.
If you place a potted snake plant in direct sunlight, it will quickly deplete its water supply. In an effort to keep their leaves cool, they’ll drink every last drop from the pot.
Moisture is also lost during transpiration as the heat of the sun dries them out.
Keep an eye out for dry, loose soil. If your snake plant is always dry, no matter how much you water it, the light levels are probably too high.
Droopy and wilting leaves
Sunburn can also be mistaken for dehydration, as your snake plant tries desperately to compensate for the sun’s damage.
Snake plants rely on water to keep their showy leaves in place when they’re growing in the wild.
Water swells its cells to rigidity, allowing each sharp leaf to soar. They’re like a deflated balloon without the water.
Aside from that, every spear has its own set of roots to support it.
Those roots lose their stability when the soil is too dry or too loose, and the plant begins to sway and eventually falls over, much like a structure with an unstable foundation.
Larger varieties like Sansevieria trifasciata and its close cousin Sansevieria zeylanica are more prone to this, but even smaller ones can become wobbly and unstable if their roots have nothing to hold onto.
If your leaves have lost their luster and are drooping or wilted, it’s likely that your snake plant has depleted its water reserves simply to avoid sun damage.
Snake plants are slow but steady growers. Your indoor snake plant should produce reliable, undramatic growth, with new shoots emerging from time to time.
If your plant’s growth has stalled altogether, it may be that your plant is receiving too much light. In stressful conditions, it will focus on survival rather than growth.
How to Revive a Sunburned Snake Plant
Fortunately, snake plants recover quickly from almost any mistreatment. I’ve always found their stoic refusal to die in the face of almost any bad treatment to be quite inspiring.
It’s surprisingly simple to resurrect a sunburned snake plant.
- Move the pot away from direct sunlight
Pick up that pot and move it right away. Snake plants thrive in light conditions ranging from moderate to low.
However, if you must keep them in a well-lit area, make sure they are kept out of direct sunlight and have extended periods of shade.
- Water the snake plant
Give your hot plant some water. Even when it’s out of the sun, your snake plant is at risk of dehydration, so give it a good soaking.
If you’re watering from above, slowly pour filtered or rainwater into the pot until the growing medium is completely saturated.
Allow your pot to drain on its saucer or tray before returning it to its new home. Take your time when watering sunburned plants from below.
Allow your plant to soak in its water basin for at least 30 minutes before removing it and allowing it to drain.
Not only will this rehydrate the soil and roots, but it will also allow your snake plant to replenish its leaves.
- Adjust the watering frequency with the seasons
If you provide enough water for your indoor snake plant, it will thrive in bright light.
It’s ready to withstand whatever the weather has in store for it, thanks to a good ballast of water.
The more heat and light your snake plant is exposed to, the more water it requires. It’s a good general rule to remember as the seasons’ change.
Water more frequently during the warmer months. Despite the fact that snake plants benefit from drying out between waterings, a plant in full sun should be kept moist.
You may need to water your snake plant on a weekly basis, depending on its size and location.
Large specimens in small pots may require watering twice or even three times per week.
Finally, the best way to be certain is to check the moisture content of your pot before watering.
When the top two inches of soil are dry, I simply poke a finger into the soil and top it up.
I also regularly lift my pots to check their weight. With practice, you’ll be able to detect when your pot is too light and requires a good hearty drink.
Of course, for scientifically minded growers a moisture meter is a handy tool that will give you a more precise idea of how much your plant needs. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)
- Cut off the sunburned leaves
Sunburned leaves do not pose a threat to your snake plant in general. They simply dry out and do not cause secondary damage such as disease or pest infestations.
However, if you find them unsightly, you can simply snip them off with clean shears. Simply trim just below the damaged area with care.
It’s important to note that cut leaves will stop growing. They won’t die, but they won’t grow any taller.
It may be worth snipping off badly burned leaves right at the soil line, allowing brand new unblemished spears to emerge.
If you’ve removed a lot of damaged leaves, or if your plant is small or young, it’s a good idea to add some fertilizer as a final step on the road to recovery.
Snake plants aren’t heavy feeders and don’t require a lot of fertilizer.
However, it is a good idea to assist your damaged plant in renewing its damaged or lost leaves.
While any liquid indoor plant fertilizer will suffice, succulent liquid fertilizer is ideal. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)
Preventing Sunburn in Snake Plants
Now that your snake plant is back to its elegant best, let’s look at some ways to keep it from getting sunburned again.
Acclimatize Your Snake Plant
Personally, I’ve seen them thrive in full sun, in planters, and in garden beds. They do well with the right support.
Acclimatization is essential for growing a snake plant in bright light.
We don’t like being thrown from a cool dark room into blinding sunlight without warning, and your snake plant is no exception. You must give it time to prepare.
The simplest way to do this with an indoor plant is to relocate it during the cooler months of the year.
The plant’s behavior changes as the seasons’ change and the environment becomes warmer and brighter.
It consumes more water, prepares new growth, and utilizes nutrients in novel ways. Obviously, this necessitates some forethought, which we don’t always have.
A process is known as “hardening off” can be used to simulate the slow change of seasons for a new purchase.
It stimulates the changing of the seasons by gradually moving your plant from a dark winter-like location to its new, brighter summer home.
To harden off your snake plant for the brighter parts of your indoor growing environment, place it in an area with similar light levels to its previous home.
Move your plant to its new location in stages over the course of about a week. Choose an area with increasing levels of light available to your plant each time you move it.
Fertilize During Early Plant Growth
Plants that are younger are always more delicate. They’re still finding their way in the world and are easily overwhelmed by the sun’s scorching heat.
Their leaves are younger and more delicate, and they have fewer resources to fall back on if they become stressed.
It’s a good idea to fertilize them on a regular basis during their first months of life to give them the best start possible. As I previously stated, snake plants are not demanding.
A dose of all-purpose indoor plant food added while watering once or twice a month is perfectly fine, but for best results, use a specialist succulent fertilizer, as mentioned above.
Provide Alternate Shade
A ray of sunlight is not a death sentence. In fact, a little early morning sun will do wonders for your snake plant. The key is to balance it with time in the shade.
Place your snake plant in a location that receives little direct sunlight. I group my snake plants together, with other more sun-loving plants between the window and my snake plants.
I also use other decorative elements, such as statuary, to create small shifting pools of shade for my plants.
This gives you the best of both worlds: plenty of light for growing but also plenty of shade for recovery.
Keep an eye out for changing conditions.
The light levels in your growing environment will change as the seasons’ change. During the stately march of the seasons, the angle of the sunlight shining through windows shifts subtly.
This means that for an indoor gardener, a room with gentle indirect spring sunlight may fill with bright hot summer sunbeams, or a cool dark winter hall may transform into a glowing haven of indirect light in the fall.
Keep in mind that a good position in one part of the year can quickly turn dangerous as summer approaches. Keep an eye out for stray direct light beams.
However, with a keen eye and a little care, your snake plant will continue to produce its eye-catching foliage for many years to come.