Snake Plant Problems: With Solutions That Work!


snake plant with mu;tiple issues that needd to be treated as soon as possible

If your snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) has problems, you’re going to want to address them with solutions that work. This article will tell you exactly what to do. 

What are the most common problems snake plants have? The top snake plant problems include sagging leaves, leaf spots or discoloration, mushy roots, curling leaves, and slowed or stopped growth. By providing adequate lighting, temperature, and water for the snake plant, it should recover.

In today’s article, we’ll examine the above snake plant problems as well as a handful of other issues that most people experience when growing the Sansevieria trifasciata. By the time you’re done reading, you should be able to confidently diagnose what’s wrong with your snake plant and get it on the road to recovery. 

8 Snake Plant Issues + Fixes

The Problem: Saggy Leaves

The snake plant also referred to as mother-in-law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp, and Saint George’s Sword is many things, but one thing it most certainly is not is saggy. 

This indoor plant species (Dracaena trifasciata) is supposed to have healthy firm leaves that stand proud and tall.

So what happens when your snake plant’s leaves are neither proud nor tall

The leaves could bend sharply at an angle, making it seem like the blade is going to snap off.

 Sometimes, the blades can fall dramatically, drooping as they lose their rigidity. 

What to Do About It: Reduce Watering Frequency 

What causes such a heartbreaking issue? More than likely, it’s overwatering.

The snake plant is a succulent, which is something that most people forget about. 

Succulents have the tremendous ability to store water within their leaves. The plant then drinks that water for a week to several at a time.

You’ll thus water a succulent far more seldom than the other plants in your indoor garden. 

How Often to Water Your Succulent Snake Plant?

The snake plant needs water when its soil is dry between two and three inches deep.

That can take several days or several weeks. It will depend on the conditions in which you’re growing the snake plant.

For example, in a very hot region, the snake plant will greedily drink water, whereas, in a cold region or in the Winter months, it will consume the water it has more slowly. 

Overwatering is dangerous for more than the risk of saggy, soggy leaves. Root rot can also result. 

This common fungal disease referred to as root rot begins to kill the root system of your snake plant. When more roots beneath the soil die than are surviving, it’s common for a snake plant to end up not having enough roots left to hold itself upright any longer.

The Problem: Leaf Discoloration or Spots

Maybe it’s not so much an issue with the rigidity of your snake plant’s leaves, but the color instead.

Your snake plant’s normally green-colored leaves might have streaks of yellow across some of the blades.

Perhaps you even notice spots on the leaves of your snake plant. 

In some cases, these spots are dark brown to black. The affected area looks papery, thin, and dry. Most of this browning is around the leaf margins or tips.

Other types of spots you could see will seem to develop more randomly. These spots are brown too but may be yellow. They’re large and look quite serious. 

What to Do About It: Check for Diseases, Maintain Good Watering Schedule, Set Proper Temperature, and Provide Adequate Lighting 

Okay, so a whole host of issues could be causing snake plant leaf discoloration and/or spots. 

First, let’s talk about leaf yellowing. If your snake plant’s leaves are yellow, this is your plant’s way of telling you that you’re overwatering it. 

Should you notice leaf yellowing in conjunction with sagging leaves, that’s especially clear that you’re feeding your plant too much water.

You should ensure the drainage of your snake plant’s soil is adequate. Soil can become compacted over time, especially if it’s been years since you’ve upgraded the snake plant’s pot. 

Compacted soil traps in water, which is just as bad as overwatering your plant.

Leaf yellowing in the snake plant is also sometimes attributed to low temperatures. 

The optimal temperature range for the Sansevieria trifasciata is between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now let’s move on to those pesky leaf spots and what could be causing them.

At the very least, those spots are sunburn. If the temps in your home or office regularly exceed 85 degrees, the snake plant’s foliage can burn. That explains the papery brown areas.

You might also be burning your snake plant if you’re keeping it in bright sunlight. This indoor plant can tolerate almost any lighting condition, and that does include periods of full sun, but those periods must be kept short.

If you can rule out the above causes, then it’s time to check for diseases. 

The snake plant is susceptible to developing red leaf spot. This disease is attributed to the fungus Drechslera erythrospila

If you keep your plant in damp conditions, it’s likelier to develop red leaf spot. The trademark red spots are tough to miss.

Southern blight is a fungal infection that leaves white spots in its wake. The spots can become brown with time, and your snake plant will often sag and wilt too. 

The Problem: Mushy Roots

The root system of your plant is its lifeblood, so if something is wrong with it, the death of your snake plant could soon follow.

Mushy roots are not always something that you can confirm until you take the plant out of its pot. 

Then again, if the issue is severe enough, you will be able to smell a rotting odor emanating from your snake plant. 

What to Do About It: Scale Back on Watering, Treat Diseases 

By the time your snake plant has mushy roots, root rot has taken serious hold. 

There’s not too much you can do for this particular snake plant except try to save it. You and another person will have to remove the plant from its pot together.

The first person holds the base of the snake plant, not its leaves. They could tear out in their compromised state. 

Then the other person holds the pot. Both of you pull until the snake plant is free. 

Lay the plant down on a paper towel or old dishtowels. Remove the soil around the roots so you can see them.

Using clean pruning shears, trim the soggy, blackened roots one at a time. Disinfect your pruning shears by soaking them in isopropyl alcohol or bleach for at least 30 minutes. 

You should only cut the dead roots. Leave the white, healthy roots be. As I mentioned before, you need as many of those roots as possible. 

Fill a pot with fresh soil and rehome the snake plant. It could survive if its remaining roots are strong enough.

In the future, you must allow the snake plant’s soil to dry out more before you water it. 

The Problem: Curling Leaves

You know by now that the snake plant should have tall, stiff leaves. Anytime the leaves of your plant curl inward or outward should be a cause for concern. 

What to Do About Curling Leaves on your Snake Plant: Water More Often, Check for Pests, and Watch Temperatures 

Indeed, your snake plant’s leaves are curling as a means of protection. The plant is either trying to safeguard itself from pests or temperature extremes, or it’s attempting to hold onto water.

The first area to assess is whether you’re watering your snake plant often enough. Although it is a succulent, the Sansevieria trifasciata still needs water just as any indoor plant does.

If the soil is dry further than three inches deep, you’ve waited long enough to water this plant.

Temperature issues can also cause your snake plant to curl its appealing leaves. This is usually a sign of cold damage.

As you’ll recall, the snake plant prefers temperatures of at least 55 degrees. Once it gets colder than that, the snake plant could curl its leaves to retain warmth.

Additionally, you may see symptoms such as chlorosis, leaf wilting, slowed or stopped growth, and brown or black spots across the leaf margins and veins. These spots could be necrotic.

The best thing to do is move your snake plant to warmer conditions immediately so it can thaw out. 

Trim any dead or damaged leaves with clean gardening shears.

Your snake plant can curl its leaves as pests suck the juices from it. From aphids to thrips and mealybugs, these insects will drink up your plant until there’s nothing left.

Fortunately, you can usually treat most indoor pests with diluted rubbing alcohol. Neem oil is a stronger solution that should do the trick as well. 

The Problem: Wrinkled Leaves

When your snake plant looks wrinkled, that’s something to pay attention to. 

Even if wrinkling is the only symptom and you don’t notice any discoloration, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t follow. 

What to Do About It: Increase Water and Reduce Temperatures and Lighting 

Wrinkled leaves are a sure sign that your snake plant is lacking moisture. 

To revive your snake plant from its current state, put the plant in a shady spot. Deeply water the plant or soak it in a basin of water for 30 to 60 minutes.

The wrinkling should fade. However, it will come back unless you get to the bottom of what’s causing it.

Could it be that you’re not watering your snake plant frequently enough? 

If you’re overly cautious because you’ve killed a few plants by overwatering, you have to let your fear go.

Your snake plant clearly needs more water than you’re giving it. In your efforts not to hurt your plant, you’re still doing just that.

It may also be that the temperature is too high for the snake plant. This plant can withstand temps up to 90 degrees. 

If it gets hotter than that, your plant may wilt, sag, and develop wrinkled, possibly yellowed, or browned leaves. 

The lighting you’re exposing the snake plant to is also very important. 

Going back to what I said before, you should not put your snake plant in direct sunlight for very long each day. 

Bright, indirect sunlight–such as that from a curtained window–will prevent the plant from scorching in the sun. 

The Problem: Misshapen Leaves

Maybe your snake plant seems kind of okay, but you know the shape of its leaves isn’t what the species standard should be.

At first, you thought that maybe you had a bum leaf or two. Then more and more misshapen leaves began to sprout up. Now your snake plant is very much deformed.  

The plant seems healthy otherwise, but you know that the leaf shape has to be indicative of a deeper underlying problem. 

What to Do About It: Treat Pest Infestations, Maintain Temperatures

I talked earlier about how pest infestations can cause the leaves of your snake plant to curl. 

Well, prolonged infestations might take that leaf curling up a notch and cause the leaves to deform.

It’s not that most indoor gardeners purposely allow their snake plants to develop a serious pest infestation. 

Insect species like aphids and spider mites are so small that you can easily miss one or two bugs on your plant’s leaves.

Plus, pests like to camp out underneath the plant’s leaves, or behind them in the case of the snake plant. 

Now that you know how to treat pest infestations, you can get your snake plant in better health.

Misshapen leaves could also be a sign of cold stress, although the foliar deformity would also be accompanied by chlorosis and possible necrosis as well. 

Those misshapen leaves will never go back to normal, FYI, no matter what’s caused them to look this way. Future leaves will grow healthily though, and that’s what you’re aiming for. 

The Problem: Long or Narrow Leaves

Although the Sansevieria trifasciata is supposed to have long leaves, you can tell when the shape of the leaves is not quite right. 

For instance, maybe some of the bladed leaves are longer than others. These leaves usually also grow skinnier than what you’re used to seeing in a snake plant. 

The leaves aren’t quite deformed, but their shape certainly isn’t right, either. Should you be worried?

What to Do About It: Increase Lighting and Watering

Long and/or narrow snake plant leaves aren’t as serious as the other issues I’ve discussed but should not be ignored either.

More than likely, your snake plant is not receiving enough sunlight. Thus, the growth that’s developing is leggy.

The reason the new leaves are long is that they’re trying to bask in sunlight using whatever means possible.

Although snake plants can survive in many types of lighting, they do not thrive in all lighting conditions. 

You already know that too much direct sun can burn the plant. Too little light can hinder growth and cause legginess. 

It could also be that you’re not watering your snake plant often enough, but my money is on a lighting issue. 

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Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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