Unhealthy snake plant in pink pot

How to Revive a Dying Snake Plant

These suggestions on how to revive a dying snake plant come from my first-hand experience with Dracaena trifasciata, commonly known as snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, among many other names. I’ve grown snake plants and used these remedies to save many of my own snake plants over the years. Knowing what signs to look for when you believe your snake plant is dying, will tell you how to revive a dying snake plant.

To revive a dying snake plant, you need to assess its care in specific areas. Temperature, lighting, watering, fertilization, pests and diseases. If issues are caught and reversed early, enough, saving a dying snake plant is likely. Below are the symptoms, treatments and additional resources when neccesary.

Are you not quite sure if your snake plant is dying? First, I’ll share the symptoms that your plant is on the decline. Then I’ll give you actionable tips for reviving your snake plant, so check it out! 

How To Tell If A Snake Plant Is Dying?

The Sansevieria has a reputation of being impossible to kill, but if that were true, then no snake plant would ever die. We all know that hasn’t happened. 

A lot of things can go wrong with your snake plant at once if you’re not providing the proper care. Thus, the symptoms you’ll see that indicate the plant is dying will vary.

That said, if you notice one or more of these symptoms in your snake plant, you need to revise its care routine, as it’s lacking somewhere.

The Soil Smells Bad

A foul-smelling odor emanating from your plant’s soil is quite a sign to pay attention to indeed.

That musty, earthy aroma you’re breathing in whenever you get near your snake plant? I hate to break it to you, but it’s probably mold.

How in the world does mold form on indoor plants, you ask? When a plant’s conditions are consistently wet, mold will follow. The fungus loves dark, moist, warm areas. 

Perhaps your snake plant’s soil is too compacted, so water is getting trapped in there. Its pot may lack drainage holes, or the pot material retains water for too long.

You might also be watering your plant too frequently. 

If not mold, then what you’re smelling is the fungal infection root rot. 

Root rot can be caused by all the above. The accompanying stench is the smell of the roots dying. 

The Soil Has White Areas

You know what soil is supposed to look like, and it’s not supposed to be white. Yet your snake plant’s soil has white patches here and there throughout.

What can this be?

Once again, mold is a pretty good culprit. 

Sometimes, mold grows on the surface level of the soil, and in other cases, it’s buried deeper. Both are also possible.

You could also be looking at fertilizer crust. 

When fertilizer accumulates in such large quantities on the surface of the soil, it develops a trademark bright white crust. 

The Snake Plant Is Leaning

Do the leaves of your snake plant lean to one side? There are plenty of reasons for this as well.

If the plant has been afflicted with root rot, it might not be structurally stable enough to hold itself up anymore. 

Your snake plant can also be starving for sunlight, so it’s leaning towards the nearest light.

If this is the case with your snake plant then you’re in luck. I’ve written an entire article, Snake Plant Falling Over? (Solved) on this common snake plant issue

The Snake Plant Is Sagging and/or Losing Leaves

What if your snake plant is mostly upright but it’s limp and lifeless?

Overwatering is one such cause of this. An underwatered plant is too dehydrated to look healthy, so it too will droop.

Lighting issues can also make a snake plant sag. 

Too much light can burn the foliage and leave your plant a sad shell of itself while too little light prevents the snake plant from photosynthesizing.

It will lack the energy it needs to properly support itself. 

Temperature extremes will also do it. 

If your snake plant is additionally losing leaves, then it’s likely quite stressed out.

Perhaps the plant is experiencing transplant shock, or it’s cold stress, heat stress, or any of the aforementioned issues. 

The Leaves Are Discolored

Unless your snake plant is variegated, then its leaves should be mostly green. 

When you see any other color besides that–be it white, yellow, brown, black, or a combination–consider it abnormal. 

Foliar discoloration is one of a plant’s more overt ways of telling you that something is wrong. 

Everything from underwatering to overwatering, lack of sunlight, too much sunlight, plant diseases, and lack of humidity can contribute to the colors of the leaves.

For more information on snake plant leaves, I suggest reading my article titled: Snake Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? Here’s Why and How to Fix It.

Growth Has Slowed or Stopped

The snake plant is not known for its speedy growth. That said, growth should be consistent throughout the year even if not plentiful. 

When your plant has slowed growth, or when snake plant growth stops altogether, something far deeper is wrong than a surface-level issue.

Your plant can no longer sustain itself, and that means it’s missing something in its life.

Perhaps that’s sunlight, or oxygen (from overwatering). Improper temperatures can also cease a snake plant’s growth progress. 

The Leaves Look Burnt

What if the leaves have this burnt, crispy texture like your skin does after you spend too long lying in the sun?

Therein is your answer. Your snake plant is burning, and there are usually only a few culprits.

Exposing the plant to very bright conditions can cause these sunburn-like symptoms, as can high heat. 

Your snake plant might feel brittle and dry if it’s not receiving enough water either. 

How to Revive a Dying Snake Plant

Now that you have a better idea of what may be wrong with your snake plant, it’s time to get underway in providing better care so your plant can live to see another day! 

Provide Optimal Temperatures, No Extremes

The snake plant isn’t too picky temperature-wise. 

If you keep your home or office thermostat set between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, that will suffice for this plant. 

Even if you like to turn the heat off at home overnight in the autumn and early winter to save some money, your home shouldn’t get so cold that your snake plant is under any duress. 

That should also give you peace of mind in case you have no control over the office thermostat. 

It’s only when temperatures drop to around 55 degrees that you have to begin worrying about your snake plant. 

It’s in that temperature range that the plant is likely to develop signs of cold stress. 

Remember, those symptoms can include wilting, smaller leaves, foliar yellowing or chlorosis, and slowed or stopped growth. 

In a worst-case scenario, plant tissue can even die.

As for the snake plant’s most tolerated temperature high? That’s up to 90 degrees. 

Unless your AC breaks during a heat wave and you do nothing to address it for days, then I don’t see any reason why your home should get that hot. 

Just in case, keep your eyes peeled for heat stress symptoms like sunscalding, leaf drop, dry leaves, wilting, and leaf cupping or rolling.

The latter is when a plant grips tightly onto whatever moisture it has left by rolling up its leaves.  

Avoid Direct Sunlight and Very Dim Light

The snake plant is tolerant of all sorts of lighting, which is part of where it gets its hard-to-kill reputation from.

You can grow this plant in dimmer light or brighter light. 

The latter will produce more growth faster and is more ideal, but snake plants will survive in dim lighting too.

The problem becomes lighting extremes. 

No plant can live in complete darkness, and very dim lighting is only a small step up from darkness. 

Look for signs like leaning and leggy growth, which is all stems and not much in the way of leaves. Those are clear-cut signs that your snake plant needs more light.

The type of light you provide does matter. 

Bright, indirect light with a curtain or another medium in front of the window is required. 

If your snake plant is exposed to bright sunlight for too long, it will begin burning.

I recommend placing the plant in front of a southerly or westerly-facing window at least 10 feet from the window. 

Allow the Soil to Dry Out Before Watering Again

Since so many of the snake plant’s most deadly symptoms can be caused by overwatering especially, that’s something you want to go out of your way not to do. 

The best rule of thumb for preventing overwatering is the fingertip test.

By inserting your hand into the soil and feeling the level of moisture, you’ll never be wrong. 

Watering on a schedule is too unpredictable. If you have a hotter-than-usual summer, your snake plant will need more water than normal, but if it’s a cooler season, then it’s less water.

That’s why I always encourage new indoor gardeners to avoid watering on a schedule.

So when is it time to water the snake plant? When its soil feels 100 percent dry as far down as you can feel with your fingers.

In the colder months, you might go as long as 30 days between watering your snake plant, and that’s okay! 

Fertilize Twice Per Growing Season

Snake plants are prone to overfertilization, which can lead to the aforementioned phenomenon of fertilizer crust developing on the surface of the soil.

You only need to fertilize your snake plant twice per growing season. Yes, that’s it!

Do it once in the spring when the plant begins actively growing again and then once in the summer. 

Use an all-purpose plant fertilizer with an equal mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A 10-10-10 ratio is ideal. 

The fertilizer formula should also be chock full of micronutrients and secondary nutrients to sustain a healthy plant. 

Use the amount of fertilizer as the product instructions indicate. 

Identify and Treat Pests

Some plants are more pest-resistant than others. The snake plant is not one of them. 

Falling behind or making mistakes in its care as discussed earlier makes the Sansevieria a hotbed for pests.

Spider mites are one such pest to be on the lookout for. 

They’re a huge problem in that they’re highly mobile and can easily jump from your snake plant to any other plant(s) in your indoor garden that might be a little under the weather.

Aphids are another common pest on the spider plant. 

These insects known as the blackfly or greenfly can spread diseases, weakening an already-sick snake plant and possibly damaging the rest of your indoor garden as well.

Yet a third type of pest to beware of is the mealybug.

Thriving in warm, moist environments such as an overwatered snake plant, mealybugs too spread diseases.

Fortunately, treating most pests on indoor plants is as simple as using some rubbing alcohol or manually removing them through physical force or a garden hose.

That said, you will have to keep a watchful eye to ensure the pests don’t come back. 

By fixing your snake plant’s care routine, that’s less likely to happen. 

Identify and Treat Diseases  

It’s not just pests that can hurt or kill a snake plant, but diseases as well. 

Root rot is one of the primary diseases that the snake plant can fall victim to. 

I touched on root rot earlier in this guide but allow me to explain it more here.

When a snake plant’s roots have more water than oxygen, the plant is at risk of root rot. This fungal disease begins killing off previously healthy roots one by one. 

They’ll turn black and slick and are unable to sustain the snake plant. 

Later, outward symptoms will manifest, but the plant is usually in deep trouble by that point.

Southern blight is another disease caused by a fungus that can affect snake plants. The leaves and lower stems will look very wet and later develop spots that appear soaked with water.

Other symptoms include wilting and foliar yellowing.

While root rot cannot spread from plant to plant, southern blight can.

If you notice signs of either fungal disease, quarantine your affected snake plant from the others. Prune back dead leaves and remove the soil. 

Replant the snake plant and monitor its care carefully moving forward. Reduce moist conditions by controlling watering frequency, temperature, and humidity. 

Given time, your plant may make it. 

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