Snake plant also called mother-in-law's tongue has multiple leaves that are turning yellow

Snake Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? Here’s Why and How to Fix It

A yellowed snake plant is most unappealing, so you’d like to get to the bottom of why this is happening. I’ll tell you exactly that in this article as well as how to fix snake plant yellowing.

Why are my snake plant leaves turning yellow? Your snake plant leaves may be turning yellow due to temperature fluctuations, overwatering, underwatering, nutrient imbalances, over-fertilization, and poor-draining soil. To fix the issues, maintain a good watering schedule, fertilize only when necessary, and set a consistent temperature.

If you’re looking for more details on the causes of snake plant yellowing, I’ll explain the above reasons for discoloration in much more detail ahead. I’ll also share remedies so you can get your snake plant on the mend.

Why Are My Snake Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? 6 Causes

You can’t fix the problem until you know what the problem is. Per the intro, here are the 6 main causes of snake plant yellowing. 

Temperature Fluctuations

Temperature extremes are almost assuredly going to result in duress in your snake plant. That’s the case for many plants in your indoor garden, actually. 

So what is a temperature extreme to an indoor plant? Well, it varies from species to species. Usually, though, it’s when temperatures rise or drop past a certain degree outside of a plant’s comfort zone.

Let’s talk about what cold stress can do to an indoor plant such as the snake plant. Chlorosis is a telltale symptom; the term refers to leaf yellowing.

If the conditions for your snake plant are too cold, you may notice other symptoms to confirm your hypothesis. Its tall, stately leaves will wilt, and leaf expansion will shrink. 

Further, germination all but stops. 

In a worst-case scenario, such as prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures, necrosis can occur. Necrosis is cell death and usually transpires after a plant’s cell walls freeze and then rupture.

What if the temperatures begin creeping up and then keep creeping and creeping? Now your snake plant is at risk of heat stress. 

Heat stress will cause different symptoms from cold stress, but there are some overlaps. For example, your snake plant will turn yellow. 

It could also appear brown. After all, if it’s hot enough in the snake plant’s environment, then it can suffer the symptoms of sunscald as though it was exposed to very bright light. 

The leaf edges will also dry out, and you may notice that the snake plant’s blade-like leaves will somewhat cup or roll. The leaves are trying to preserve whatever moisture is left. 


The next two causes of snake plant yellowing have to do with how often you water the Sansevieria

Some indoor gardeners might assume the snake plant needs frequent hydration (which, FYI, it doesn’t). Watering too much overwhelms the plant. 

All that standing water has nowhere to go, so it remains trapped within the snake plant’s pot.

If that sounds like a bad thing, it is. It’s tremendously bad, as prolonged overwatering can lead to a fungal disease called root rot.

I won’t talk too much about root rot here, as I’ve done so a lot on the blog lately, but root rot can be deadly. The roots of your snake plant die, and without roots, your plant can’t survive.

How will you know you’re overwatering your snake plant? It tells you in a multitude of ways.

Look at the leaves primarily. The lower leaves will look yellow. When new leaves emerge, they’ll be brown rather than green.

The leaves will remain droopy no matter how well you’re caring for your snake plant otherwise. Growth will stop.

In some cases, algae can even develop on the surface of the soil, tinging it green. That’s how you know you’ve severely overwatered your snake plant. 


Some indoor gardeners are forgetful about watering their plants (it happens), and others are so afraid of overwatering that they play it safe and water their plants too seldom. 

Whatever the reason behind it, an underwatered snake plant is not a healthy plant. It’s starving for hydration. 

Plants need water for photosynthesis so they have the energy to grow. More so than that, when you water your plant, that allows nutrients to travel in the soil for uptake. 

When a snake plant goes too long without adequate water, its leaves will turn yellow. You’re likely to see brown, crispy spots as well, especially around the leaf tips. These parts of the plant can die. 

Nutrient Imbalances

Three macronutrients as well as a variety of micronutrients support the growth of indoor plants. The macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 

Some plants need more nitrogen than potassium and phosphorus while others need an even balance of the three. 

Either way, when you deprive a plant like the Sansevieria of the nutrients it requires, it can develop deficiencies.

How can you be sure that your snake plant has a nutrient deficiency? Well, leaf yellowing is one sign. 

The leaves may turn yellow entirely or you may notice it more especially around the leaf edges or around any leaf veins. If the leaf edges aren’t yellow, then they may be brown while the rest of the leaves are yellow.

That’s not the only degree of leaf discoloration that can occur. The leaves can take on a red or purple tone that’s quite unusual and thus very noticeable. 

The snake plant’s pointed leaves can have a scorched appearance like they’ve spent too long wilting in the sun.

Holes can even appear across the leaves, which is an obvious indicator of a nutrient imbalance. 


Your indoor plants also don’t like too many minerals and nutrients at once. It can quickly cause a build-up of nutrients the plant is unable to process.

For instance, your snake plant’s leaves will begin to yellow due to too much fertilizer, which will be especially prevalent across the lower leaves. This part of the Sansevieria’s leaves will also wilt.

Further, leaf margins and tips will turn brown. Any new seedlings will die, and the rest of the plant’s growth will stop as well. 

In severe cases of over-fertilization, the roots can become limp and even die. Fertilizer crust can appear on the snake plant’s soil as well.   

Poor-Draining Soil 

A basic care requirement of nearly every indoor plant is well-draining soil

Well-draining soil is aerated. In other words, it has air pockets that allow water to travel through and out of the pot through the drainage holes. 

Oh yes, a pot for an indoor plant should always have drainage holes, and the holes must be large enough for water to exit. 

When soil becomes compacted or you use the wrong type of soil for a plant, then the water can’t move upon being poured into the soil. 

The water won’t reach the roots, depriving your snake plant of hydration. 

Plus, the slow-moving or non-moving water can contribute to your plant’s standing water problem. Root rot will likely follow.

To learn more about how to deal with compacted soil I suggest reading: Easy Ways to Loosen Compacted Soil in Potted Plants.

How to Save a Yellowing Snake Plant

When a snake plant turns yellow, it’s crying out for help. 

Based on the information in the last section, you should have been able to pinpoint which care mistake might have led to your Sansevieria’s discoloration. Now it’s all about fixing the issue. 

Here’s how. 

Maintain Proper Temperatures

The snake plant is native to tropical West Africa between the Congo and Nigeria. This indoor plant is attuned to some very warm conditions then.

Thus, its lower temperature preference is still pretty warm at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Hotter temperatures up to 90 degrees are much more suitable for this plant. 

However, in temps over 90 degrees, the signs of heat stress can take hold, so watch your thermostat. 

How cold can the snake plant handle? The lowest temperature this plant can withstand is 55 degrees. 

Water When the Soil Is Dry

Overwatering is a lot more detrimental to a snake plant than underwatering, although ideally, you should do neither. 

To keep soil conditions optimal for the snake plant, water the plant when its soil is completely dry. 

It will usually take several days for the soil to dry out to this degree, but that depends on the temperature and humidity in your region.

I recommend the fingertip test as a gauge for the dryness of your snake plant’s soil. Insert a clean finger or two in the soil and feel for any remaining moisture.

Even if the soil feels a touch moist, it’s still not time to water the snake plant yet. 

Fertilize Sparingly with a Balanced Fertilizer

Most all-purpose fertilizers are appropriate for the snake plant but double-check that yours has a balanced ratio of macronutrients.  The recommended ratio is 10-10-10. 

How often should you fertilize the snake plant? This is an area where many indoor gardeners are tripped up because the Sansevieria requires fertilizer so seldomly.

You only have to fertilize a snake plant once, maybe two times a year. As for when to fertilize your snake plant, schedule the feeding in the spring at the start of the snake plant’s active growing season. 

Use Well-Draining Soil 

The snake plant is rather picky about its soil.

This plant species prefers loamy, well-draining soil. Loam includes small portions of clay, silt, and sand in the soil. 

The pH of a snake plant’s soil should always read somewhere from 5.5 to 7.0, so the soil should never be basic, only acidic or neutral.

Sand and silt should allow for good soil aeration and water drainage. 

Should I Remove Yellow Leaves from a Snake Plant?

You’re quite upset to see a smattering of yellow leaves across your snake plant. After reading this guide, you figured out what you were doing wrong and have since fixed the issue.

While your snake plant will be in much better shape going forward, the leaves that have turned yellow will stay that way.

Here’s why. Chlorophyll, which is a compound that provides a plant its green color, indicates as well how healthful a plant part like a leaf is. 

When a leaf loses chlorophyll, such as if it turns yellow or brown, the rest of the plant will stop tending to that leaf. The plant begins to absorb the leaf’s nutrients and it’s abandoned from there.

The yellow leaves of your snake plant will eventually die. For now, they’re sticking around, forcing your plant to use energy to keep the leaves attached but not dedicating energy towards the leaf’s growth.

So yes, the best course of action is to remove yellow leaves when you see them. 

Keep in mind that some causes of foliar yellowing don’t cause the entire leaf to turn yellow, only the margins or insides. Even still, you should remove the entire leaf.

Always disinfect your gardening shears or cutting tools using isopropyl alcohol or bleach when you’re done pruning your snake plant. Your plant might not be diseased, but you can never be too careful! 

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