The snake plant is a low-maintenance indoor plant that can tolerate less-than-ideal conditions. However, sometimes the plant does get affected by diseases or pests. Understanding the causes and recognizing the symptoms is essential to save time.
In our article, I’ll discuss the diseases and pests that can harm your snake plant, how to combat them, and how to care for the plant properly.
- Troubleshooting Snake Plant Problems with Photos: Why do the leaves have problems?
- 1- Snake plant Gets Limp, Drooping Leaves
- 2- Snake Plant Gets Mushy Leaves
- 3- Snake Plant Gets Yellow Leaves
- 4- Snake Plant Gets Brown Leaves
- 5- Sunburned Snake Plant Leaves
- 6- Snake plant Leaves Become Thin and Fold Over
- 7- The Snake Plant Has Black, Mushy Roots
- 8- Curling:
- 9- Shriveled
- 10- Struggling to Grow or Not Growing at All
- 11- Fungal Issues
- 12- Pests
- General Care Tips
Troubleshooting Snake Plant Problems with Photos: Why do the leaves have problems?
When your snake plant faces various diseases, you’ll often notice changes in the leaves first.
1- Snake plant Gets Limp, Drooping Leaves
There could be several reasons why your Snake plant has limp, drooping leaves. The best way to find the cause is through a process of elimination. Let’s go through each possible reason:
If you water your Snake plant too often without letting the soil dry in between, the roots will be constantly soaked.
As you can imagine, this isn’t good. Waterlogging can lead to rotting roots, which can’t absorb fresh water or nutrients from the soil.
You can try letting the soil dry out for now. However, if you don’t notice any difference after one to two weeks—meaning the soil still feels as wet as before—you must repot your Snake plant.
In any case, you should start watering more conservatively. Use the finger test to check the moisture of the soil. It’s important to let this desert plant’s soil dry out properly. Here is how often you should water your snake plant to avoid overwatering.
Lack of Light
While the Snake plant is generally tolerant of shady spots, it still needs some light—after all, it’s a desert plant at heart.
Signs of insufficient light will appear gradually in this slow-growing plant. On the one hand, the leaves will become limp and start to droop; on the other, new leaves will be thin, weak, and paler.
In this case, find a brighter spot for your plant. However, don’t place it directly in the sun, as it could get sunburned from sudden exposure.
Caution: With too little light, your soil may take longer to dry, increasing the risk of waterlogging.
Although less common than waterlogging, your Snake plant may suffer from water shortage. This isn’t impossible.
If you don’t water your plant enough, it won’t have enough hydration to keep its cells plump and firm.
Use the finger test to check the soil’s moisture. Then, water the plant when the soil is dry and monitor the moisture more frequently.
2- Snake Plant Gets Mushy Leaves
Mushy leaves on your Snake plant are mainly due to cold temperatures or waterlogging:
Your desert plant is used to warm or even hot temperatures and doesn’t handle the cold well.
Bring your plant indoors when the temperature drops outside (if you’ve had it out during the summer).
Additionally, avoid placing the Snake plant directly by the window you open for ventilation during the winter. In my other post, learn about the signs of temperature stress in your snake plant.
If you water your Snake plant too often, the soil won’t have a chance to dry out properly, leaving your plant in constantly damp conditions.
Over time, its roots may begin to rot, and the plant won’t be able to absorb nutrients and water.
You should repot your plant and trim away any rotten, black roots.
From now on, it’s best to water your plant using the finger test to check soil moisture. This article goes into more detail on how you can recognize the signs of overwatering and provides easy-to-follow steps on how to save your snake plant.
3- Snake Plant Gets Yellow Leaves
Yellow leaves on your Snake plant usually indicate waterlogging or over-fertilization.
Waterlogging occurs when you water your Snake plant so often that the soil doesn’t have time to dry out properly between waterings.
As a result, the plant’s roots begin to rot and can’t absorb nutrients or water.
This can cause the yellowing of your Snake plant’s leaves, making them mushy and limp.
First, let the soil dry out by not watering it at all. Then, if there’s any water in the saucer, pour it out.
Check your Snake plant’s soil regularly with your finger. If it’s still very damp after one or two weeks, you’ll need to repot the plant in fresh soil and trim away any black, rotten roots.
From now on, be more conservative with watering: only water when the soil feels dry – feel free to stick your finger in to check. Then, pour out any excess water that remains in the saucer.
Your Snake plant is used to nutrient-poor soil. Therefore, if you apply too much fertilizer and too frequently, it may react by turning its leaves yellow.
If your Snake plant has been in its soil for a while, you can use liquid fertilizer once every 1-2 months from April to September. However, remember that less is more.
Alternatively, you can insert a few slow-release fertilizer pellets into the soil once in the spring and once in the summer.
4- Snake Plant Gets Brown Leaves
Brown leaves on your Snake plant can result from water shortage or sunburn. Often, though, they’re just minor imperfections.
Snake plants grow very slowly, and it’s impossible to prevent small scratches or injuries, especially on older plants. These injuries become visible as brown spots. Usually, Snake plants also have one or two brown leaf tips.
This is completely normal and not a cause for concern. Every snake plant has these imperfections, giving it more character, right?
A water shortage will initially cause your Snake plant’s leaves to become limp and drooping, and later, they’ll turn brown and withered.
If you rarely water your plant and the soil feels bone-dry, go ahead and give it some water. Be sure to pour out any excess water.
Stick to the finger test and check more frequently when your plant is thirsty. Then, as soon as the soil is dry again, you can water it.
5- Sunburned Snake Plant Leaves
Typical signs of sunburn are beige, bleached spots on your Snake plant’s leaves.
If this is the case, move the plant to a slightly more shaded spot and gradually acclimate it to a brighter location.
Since the discolored leaves won’t recover, you can cut them off at the base with a clean, sharp knife.
6- Snake plant Leaves Become Thin and Fold Over
If your Snake plant is in a too-dark spot, the new leaves will become lighter, longer, and much narrower than the old ones.
Move your plant to a brighter location, but don’t place it directly in the sun, as that can quickly lead to sunburn.
Instead, gradually acclimate it to the brighter spot.
In general, colorful and light Snake plant varieties need more light than the (dark) green ones.
7- The Snake Plant Has Black, Mushy Roots
Rotten roots on your snake plant will appear black and mushy, and the main culprit is waterlogging.
Waterlogging occurs when you water your plant frequently and the soil can’t dry out between waterings.
Lack of drainage holes in the inner pot can also be problematic, as excess water accumulates.
This constant exposure to water will eventually cause the roots to rot.
Repot your Snake plant in fresh, well-draining soil, and cut off the black, mushy roots.
- Don’t water too often. Stick to the finger test and water only when the soil is dry again.
- Always use an inner pot with drainage holes and pour out any excess water after watering.
If your Snake plant’s leaves are slightly twisted, don’t worry. It’s normal for the leaves to twist a little as they grow. However, they’re rarely completely straight and flat.
Tightly curled, severely twisted, or deformed leaves can result from a prolonged water shortage.
First, give your Snake plant a good soaking.
Then, you’ll need to check your plant’s soil and water whenever it is completely dry.
You can find this out by sticking your finger into the soil’s top 1-2 inches.
Leaving your snake plant without enough light and water for a long time can result in shriveled leaves.
To fix this, carefully adjust the light exposure by gradually moving the pot from a partially shaded area to a southern windowsill, and regulate your watering schedule.
10- Struggling to Grow or Not Growing at All
Your snake plant will only start growing when its roots fill the entire pot. That’s why it’s not recommended to plant a young snake plant in a spacious container.
Growth might also stop due to over-watering. If your snake plant refuses to grow, transplant it into a smaller pot and water it no more than once every two to three weeks.
11- Fungal Issues
Snake plants can be susceptible to several fungal diseases, including Fusarium leaf spot and rhizome rot.
Fusarium Leaf Spot:
This disease appears as small, watery spots that typically show up on young leaves. As the disease progresses, the spots grow larger, take on an elliptical shape, and turn reddish.
Eventually, a yellow border forms around the spots. If the damage is extensive, the spots can merge and lead to the plant’s death.
The development of this disease is triggered by the following:
- Excessive air and soil moisture
- High nitrogen levels in the soil
- High temperatures with insufficient ventilation
You can prevent infection by maintaining proper growing conditions. Then, if needed, treat the plant by applying fungicides multiple times. Check out the causes of brown spots on snake plants and how to treat the problem.
This disease is caused by a fungus that rots roots and the base of leaves. Infections usually occur through damage and wounds on the plant, especially during transportation or when the substrate is overwatered.
Curing this ailment is nearly impossible, so focusing on prevention is crucial. Avoid over-watering the soil to keep your plant healthy and rot-free.
Pathogenic fungi cause this disease. First, small, sunken, brown spots with round or elliptical shapes appear on the leaves.
Gradually, these spots grow larger, and their centers become lighter than the edges. A yellow or light green border forms, and the leaves eventually dry out.
The common causes of this ailment include:
- Excessive soil moisture
- High humidity
- High temperatures
To avoid infection, prevent over-watering the substrate and only plant new snake plants in soil with sufficient sand.
In addition, you can combat this disease by removing affected leaves and treating the plant with fungicides.
If you find any fine web on your plant, it’s a spider mite. These insects reveal their presence by creating whitish spots on the leaves. Likewise, if you find any delicate web on your plant, it’s a spider mite.
Spider mites feed on the plant’s sap, causing it to wither gradually and eventually die.
If the infestation is in its early stages, you can save your snake plant by wiping its leaves with a cloth soaked in citrus peel infusion. If the plant is heavily damaged, use insecticides to combat the pests.
Thrips larvae colonies are mostly found on the lower parts of the leaves, making them easier to spot there. At the same time, light spots can be seen on the upper side of the leaves.
As a result, the leaves take on a characteristic grayish-brown hue and a silvery shine. To treat the infestation, apply insecticides to the plant multiple times.
These pests settle at the base of the leaf rosette and feed on the plant’s sap. Signs of infestation include cotton-like clumps—the insects’ waste product—left on the leaves.
Infected areas may also change shape and color. Remove mealybugs by hand and wash the leaves with a sponge soaked in soapy water to save your snake plant. If the infestation is severe, use insecticides.
These parasites feed on young plants and their shoots. You can find their eggs on the underside of the leaves.
Remove the parasites using a cotton swab soaked in soapy water, then treat the plant with an insecticide.
Insect attacks are common in snake plants. I have written about the common bugs that attack snake plants and how to get rid of them naturally.
General Care Tips
- Optimal temperatures for summer are between 68 and 81°F, while winter temperatures should be between 50 and 64°F.
- Snake plants prefer diffused light and tolerate partial shade well.
- Water the snake plant moderately from spring to fall, and limit watering to once every two to three weeks in winter. Regularly wipe the leaves with a slightly damp cloth to remove dust.
- Humidity isn’t a critical factor for snake plants, but avoid overly humid air, especially when combined with high temperatures, as it can trigger rotting.
- During active growth, apply fertilizer once a month.
- Preventing plant diseases is easier than taking emergency measures to treat and save them. Recognizing the symptoms of various ailments and the methods used to restore a plant’s health is valuable information for every houseplant enthusiast.