Though they are known for being very resilient and low-maintenance houseplants, snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata, previously Sansevieria trifasciata) aren’t invincible. If you think your snake plant is dying, it's important to identify the cause to see if the plant can be revived.
What Does A Dying Snake Plant Look Like?
There are several signs that your snake plant is dying and, luckily, if you catch them in time, you may be able to save them. Snake plant leaves will often fold in or begin to wrinkle, and they may begin to brown along the edges and get crunchy. Though signs that your plant is struggling, these can usually be reversed.
However, when the leaves of your snake plant begin to get mushy and soft, this is a more serious sign of root rot. Immediate action should be taken to try and save the plant by repotting it.
What Causes Snake Plants To Die?
One of the most common reasons for snake plant death is excess water, which can lead to root rot. Snake plants prefer dry soil, so if their soil is constantly moist, it leads to the snake plant’s roots dying due to lack of oxygen or an overgrowth of fungus in the soil.
A typical sign of overwatering is yellow leaves and wilting. After this, the leaves may become soft and mushy and you may notice a must smell coming from the soil, indicating that your plant is dying.
Remember that snake plants are succulents. They store water in their leaves and rhizomes, so giving them too much water can damage the plant.
If you catch the problem soon enough, you can fix it. However, if your plant is already to the point of having mushy leaves, it may be too far gone.
The best way to rectify this situation is by repotting your plant. If the soil is infected, add fresh potting soil and treat the root with a root treatment containing beneficial mycorrhizal species to prevent reinfection.
You should also reduce your watering schedule. Allow the top 2-3 inches of soil to dry out before watering again, which is the best way to prevent root rot. Also, use a well-draining pot with fresh soil that drains well. You may want to add perlite to your potting mix to help with drainage.
Though they can survive for long periods of time without much water, it is an important part of plant care to water your plants.
If you are underwatering your snake plant, the leaves will begin to dry up and wilt. They may begin to develop brown spots or you may notice folding or wrinkling of the leaves. These are good indications that your plant is thirsty and needs water.
Simply water your plant more! Allow the top 2-3 inches of soil to dry out and then water your plant. A general rule of thumb is to water your snake plant every two weeks, especially in the summer months.
Not Enough Sun
If your snake plant is in a spot in your home where it receives little to no sunlight, it will eventually begin to lose its patterns and variegation. Their bright green leaves will become less vibrant and though it will happen slowly, your plant will eventually die.
Though you want to avoid too much direct sunlight as it can cause sunburn, it is best to place your plant in a space that receives plenty of indirect light during the day. Your plant will thrive in a north-facing window that receives natural light.
Mealybugs and spider mites are common pests that infest otherwise healthy plants. Mealybugs may cause stunted or deformed growth, especially in new plants, as they inject a toxin into the leaves as they feed. They also secrete a sugary liquid that encourages the growth of sooty mold.
Spider mites also feed on the sap inside the snake plant leaves, causing discolored and drooping leaves as the nutrients are sucked out of the plant. If left untreated, both pests will eventually kill your snake plant.
The best way to treat your plant for mealybugs is by manually wiping the adult pests and the egg masses off with a damp cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Treat spider mites is by misting your plant with insecticidal soap. If the infestation is severe enough, you will need to prune the affected leaves.
You may consider using a mild pesticide to prevent future infestations.
Snake plants are susceptible to certain fungal diseases such as red leaf spot and southern blight. Typically, fungal infections occur in damp conditions. If fungal disease is present, the snake plant’s leaves will develop brown spots which will eventually spread and begin to soften the leaves.
Fungicides can be used to treat affected plants. Prune affected leaves, reduce the frequency of watering, and ensure your plant is in a well-draining soil.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the lifespan of a snake plant?
On average, a healthy snake plant will live between 5 and 10 years. Sometimes they can live up to 25 years under the right conditions.
What does an overwatered snake plant look like?
An overwatered snake plant will begin looking brown or yellow toward the roots and may turn brown and mushy. If there are already visible signs of overwatering on the leaves, then the roots are unhealthy.
Repot the plant, trim away any damaged roots, and choose a well-draining potting soil and a pot with drainage holes. Reduce your watering schedule and only water when the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry.
Should I cut off dying snake plant leaves?
Yes. Cut brown, yellow, or drooping leaves off as close to the base as possible to redirect energy to new growth.
What can I do to make my snake plant grow again?
Rule out one potential issue at a time until your plant perks back up. For example, if your plant is drooping and it’s in a shady spot, move it to a different spot in your house where it will receive the proper amount of sunlight. If that doesn’t help, adjust your watering schedule. If it’s still droopy, it may have a nutrient deficiency.
If your snake plant is old, it may simply be at the end of it’s life cycle. Use leaf cuttings or divide the rhizomes to propagate it for new plants.
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