Here on Indoor Plants For Beginners, I’ve aspired to help answer your most burning questions about snake plant care. For instance, most recently I addressed what to do if your snake plant has no roots & why your snake plant has brown spots. Yet what if your snake plant just doesn’t want to stand up and keeps falling over? Why is that and what’s causing it?
Why is my snake plant falling over? Your snake plant is falling over for these reasons:
- Too little water
- Too much water
- It’s rootbound
- Lack of fertilizer
- Fungal diseases
Yes, those are a lot of serious offenses that could be causing your snake plant to lean or sag. Pinpointing exactly which mistake you’re making isn’t always easy, so I recommend you keep reading. I’ll offer tips for correcting all of these potential snake plant care errors!
Why Is Your Snake Plant Falling Over? It Could Be Any of These 5 Reasons
Some indoor gardeners say a saggy or tilted snake plant is perfectly normal, but I’d disagree. The Sansevieria trifasciata should have tall, erect leaves.
It’s okay if those leaves droop a little from time to time, but if the leaves are falling over to the point where your whole plant is tipping over, that’s not normal. If that’s the case with your snake plant then something is amiss.
To find out what’s wrong with your Sansevieria trifasciata, let’s go through the five most likely causes of snake plant tipping that I mentioned in the intro.
Underwatering a Snake Plant
If you happen to be guilty of underwatering your snake plant, it may be because you’ve gotten some bad advice or misinterpreted some good advice.
You see, snake plants regularly top lists of houseplants that are hardest to kill because it’s true, they don’t die easily. They can go surprisingly long periods without water, rivaling most of other succulents since snake plants are in fact also in the succulent family.
Just how long can you go without watering your snake plant? Under optimal conditions, as long as six weeks.
Yet I can’t stress enough that the snake plant cannot live without water completely. No plant can, not even succulents. Once the soil evaporates any remaining moisture, your snake plant needs more water ASAP.
Drooping or falling over is kind of a last-ditch effort from the snake plant to get your attention. By this point, it’s screaming out for water.
Before it gets to that, the snake plant will illustrate signs of distress that you can easily miss if you don’t know what to look for.
- Do the leaves feel weak,
- Do the leaves feel brittle on the occasions in which you handle them?
- Have you seen some discoloration throughout the leaves, such as browning or yellowing?
- Have the snake plant’s leaves have curled or feel crispy at the edges.
Those are all indications that your snake plant is being underwatered. So too is stunted growth, but good luck noticing that.
While Snake plants are known for being fast growers, a change in how fast they’re growing, over a long period of time, can slip right under the noses of even experienced indoor gardeners.
Overwatering a Snake Plant
I know it can seem neglectful to your indoor garden to sometimes not water it as frequently as you’d like, but that’s exactly what certain houseplants need.
By tipping your watering habits too far in the other direction, overwatering instead of underwatering, you’re going to cause your snake plant to fall over, but you’ll also do so much more damage than that.
If you’re watering your snake plant every other day or–goodness forbid–even daily, then you’re killing it more and more by the day.
Overwatering Your Snake Plant Can Cause Root Rot
If you’ve read even a few other articles here on indoor Plants For Beginners, you’ve probably heard of a plant condition called root rot.
I talk about it regularly because it’s one of the top reasons people end up killing their beloved houseplants. If not, allow me to explain.
When you water a healthy houseplant, the water hits the surface of the soil then moves through air pockets within the soil to reach the roots. The roots thirstily drink up the water, supporting continued plant growth.
Yet when you douse a plant in water, the soil gets saturated. Those air pockets that provide oxygen to the plant’s roots get filled with water.
The roots are sitting in a pool of water, unable to breathe. The water will absorb, but not quickly enough for the plant. So the roots begin to rot, turning from thick, firm, and white to slimy, mushy, and black.
Root rot isn’t an overnight process. At first, the ends of the roots may be the only parts affected. The more you continue overwatering your plant, the further you push root death along.
The snake plant will attempt to tell you that something’s wrong before root rot gets severe. It will fall over, wilt, or droop.
The leaves of the snake plant may turn brown or yellow with a soft texture, not a crispy one like with underwatering.
Snake plants are especially sensitive to root rot, so you have to use an even lighter hand when watering them.
Your Snake Plant Has Become Rootbound
Even if you get into a good rhythm with your snake plant’s watering, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. You also have to beware of your snake plant becoming rootbound.
When a plant is rootbound, growth has occurred at too extreme of a rate. Besides the likely bushy, leggy appearance of the plant’s foliage, behind the scenes, the roots are growing crazily.
Yet they have no space to accommodate their growth, so they begin encircling the inside of their pot over and over again. The roots can also wrap around themselves, getting entangled.
You can see how this can be a problem, surely. The roots can choke themselves off. It’s also much harder for water to reach the plant’s roots when those roots are a dense maze.
A severely rootbound plant can grow to such a point that the roots take over the soil, leaving very little. Any water you pour into the pot reaches only a portion of the roots, so it’s like you’re underwatering your plant even though you’re not.
Snake Plant Has A Lack of Fertilizer or Nutrients
Plants are amazing. They take the water and sun we give them and use it to photosynthesize. Yet houseplants–just like us humans–need nutrients as well for a healthy life.
In particular, your houseplants are going to require three nutrients:
- and potassium
The best way for a snake plant to get these nutrients is through fertilizer, but a compost pile may deliver them too. Snake plants don’t demand you fertilize them all too often.
You might try accelerating the snake plant’s growth by fertilizing it at the start of spring, which is the plant’s active growing season. Some indoor gardeners then fertilize their Sansevieria a second time in the summer, but this is optional.
What’s not optional is skipping the fertilizer altogether. What would happen to you if you stopped eating food or taking supplements with certain nutrients, minerals, or vitamins?
That’s right, you’d develop a deficiency. So too will your indoor plants. In a weakened state like this, your snake plant could certainly fall over.
Snake Plant Has A Fungal Diseases
The hardy reputation of the snake plant may precede it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few chinks in its armor. Namely, the snake plant is very susceptible to fungal diseases, which can be a quick plant killer if not addressed right away.
Which fungal diseases affect snake plants? I talked about this in my post on snake plant leaf browning.
There are three such diseases we commonly see when it comes to fungal diseases and snake plants:
- southern blight
- red leaf spot
No, rust isn’t like what happens to corroded metal, at least not in this case. The Phragmidium bacteria often affects plants that have reached maturity but can damage younger ones as well.
Look below the snake plant’s leaves and around its stems for the bacteria. If you see any white spots that look raised, that’s the first sign of plant rust.
The spots only start out white. Without being treated, rust spots become brownish-orange for a while, then black as your snake plant is about to die.
Southern blight is caused by the Sclerotium rolfsii, which is bacteria that live in plant soil. While rust doesn’t necessarily make your snake plant fall over, southern blight will. You’ll also see leaf discoloration (typically yellowing but also browning). Since the Sclerotium rolfsii can reach the roots, once that happens, it’s game over for the snake plant.
You should also be on the lookout for red leaf spot, a complex of fungal diseases that like warm, wet areas like your snake plant after it’s been watered. Helminthosporium pathogens infect the leaves, leading to spots that are brown or red.
How to Save Your Snake Plant from Droopy Leaves
You understand more than ever why your snake plant might have fallen over. Now it’s time to fix your plant so you can hopefully save its life. Here’s what I recommend you do.
Dry out Your Overwatered Snake Plant
Let’s say you’ve overwatered your snake plant nearly to death, but it’s still holding on. Great! It’s probably not too late to save it.
At this point, reducing how often you water it will not be enough. You have to take the plant out of its wet conditions too.
First, it’s time to remove your snake plant from its current pot. I always suggest having a second person help out when removing a bigger plant from its pot, and the snake plant often fits that bill as many of the leaning snake plants tend to be between 2 feet and 4 feet tall.
When grabbing the snake plant for pot removal, hold the plant at its base and don’t yank it by the leaves! Your poor plant is most likely tender and mushy right now that the leaves will pull right out.
With the snake plant out of its pot, it’s time for a root inspection. If you see more white roots than black ones, your snake plant is savable.
Should the roots be mostly brown or black, then they’ve rotted pretty significantly. You could still possibly save your snake plant’s life, but how much of it or how many of its leaves, is up in the air.
Using clean gardening shears, remove any brown or black roots, cutting until you reach the white part (but don’t slice into the white roots themselves). Please disinfect your gardening shears before using them on another plant.
Plunk your snake plant in a new pot with fresh soil. You do have to water your plant right away since the new soil is bone-dry, but then please begin watering the snake plant more sparingly from now on.
Ditch a Watering Schedule and Feel the Soil Instead
How sparingly should you water your plant? That depends. In the hot months of the spring, summer, and even early autumn, your snake plant will absorb water faster.
Rather than counting out the days in your head, I always advise using the fingertip test instead. When you do the fingertip test, you plunk a clean finger an inch or several into the soil to feel how moist it is.
When you feel no moisture at all, even a few inches deep, then you need to water your snake plant today, ideally right now. When the soil is a little damp, plan to water the plant in another day or two, maybe a couple of days. Damp soil requires no further action until the soil can dry out further.
Make Sure To Use “Snake Plant-Friendly Soil” If Possible
What kind of soil should you use for your snake plant? The Sansevieria trifasciata species or snake plant prefers soilless potting mix with peat moss, coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, bark, and/or sand.
Regular potting soil isn’t a snake plant’s favorite. But I want to be clear that, It’s ok to grow your snake plant in regular ol potting soil if it’s all you have. You can always upgrade the potting soil when you have the time, money and resources to use more “species specific” potting soil.
Alternately, just so you know, some African violet soil mix works. Be sure to read the ingredients of the mix to see if it includes the above listed ingredients.
An Easy Way To Make Snake Plant Soil At Home
To make a soil mix for your snake plant:
Combine one part gardening soil, one part peat moss, and two parts perlite or builder’s sand. Soil like this provides the aeration a snake plant needs and also drains very well to reduce the risk of root rot.
Repot Your Snake Plant Every Few Years
Root rot aside, you shouldn’t have to repot your snake plant all too often. If you’re doing it annually, that’s too much. No plant really likes being moved, as it can induce stress that can make your snake plant’s leaves wither or fall.
At the very least, move your snake plant to a new pot every two years. Some snake plant owners will wait six years, but use your discretion.
Prune the Roots
When moving day comes for your snake plant, I again suggest a thorough root check. This time, you’re not looking for root rot (well, hopefully not), but signs that your snake plant is becoming rootbound.
If you can’t even pull the plant out of its pot without great difficulty, that’s indicative that the roots have begun sticking to the sides of the pot. Once you finally get your snake plant free, you’ll see the telltale root spiral or tangle.
Trim the roots back considerably using clean gardening shears. Change out your snake plant’s pot a little more often than six years to prevent another recurrence of the plant becoming rootbound.
Know the Signs of Fungal Diseases and Treat Immediately
To reiterate, fungal diseases are a major snake plant killer. Get to know the symptoms of plant rust, southern blight, and red leaf spot so you can identify these bacterial diseases in your snake plant early and keep it alive.
To treat rust, remove the affected leaves using clean gardening shears and disinfect them when you’re done. This prevents the spread of the fungal disease to your other healthy plants. A case of southern blight requires you to isolate your snake plant, dump all its soil, and replace the pot with fresh soil.
I also recommend you read my snake plant 101 guide to learn everything there is to know about the Sansevieria trifasciata!