Also known as the tolerant plant for being low maintenance, the Snake plant is a precious houseplant. However, this hardy succulent can also go through some rough times in its lifespan. A snake plant often exhibits distressing signs, including droopy yellowish leaves and holes in leaves, which can soon become the reason for the plant’s premature death. All these signs often compel the owners to frown and wonder what’s wrong.
Mainly, the inappropriate surrounding atmosphere or any fault in their care regimen is to blame! In such a situation, evaluating the root cause of the plant’s dying symptoms and discovering a suitable treatment for it is crucial. Through today’s post, we are going to give a brief insight into all the possible reasons that affect the health of your indoor plant with some effective remedies.
Long-term exposure to scorching heat and high humidity can burn your plant. On the other hand, over-watering or over-misting can drown it, leading to root rot and pest infestation. In fact, too much fluctuation in the daily lifestyle and a root-bound condition can also affect the plant’s health. The plant is very much susceptible to shock, so arrange its repotting program very slowly and carefully. To keep your snake plant healthy and fit, you need to keep an eye on its surrounding environment and the signs it shows about its health. Bright yet refined light, average humidity, required water, and routine use of neem oils to deter pests can help your snake plant thrive amazingly!
Most Common Problems Found In A Snake Plant That Lead To Their Death
Snake plants are undeniably easy to grow and require very little maintenance, which makes them a favorite choice of most plant lovers. But despite being tough, snake plants can sometimes become unwell. No matter how good your gardening skills are, the following conditions can put your plant’s life at risk.
Root rot occurs when you feed your snake plant with excessive water, especially during wintry days. Soggy and overwatered soil welcomes multiple fungi, including Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Phytophthora, etc., which starts dispersing into the roots, infecting the plant. Within a short time span, the healthy roots of your plant become mushy and browny, losing the ability to absorb nutrients from the soil.
Since root rot takes place beneath the soil, most of the time it goes unnoticed. If you water your plant normally, but it is still showing signs of root rot, probably, the problem lies with the drainage system.
When the pot does not have a smooth drainage system, it would take only 10 days for a root rot condition to kill the entire plant. In case the soil feels damp all the time, there are signs of mold or slime growth on the soil surface, and the soil smells swampy, the problem has to be the poor drainage holes.
Symptoms of Root Rot
- Brown mushy roots
- Yellow, wilted, and droopy leaves
- Spider mites mealybugs, and other insect infestation
The only treatment that can rescue your snake plant in a root rot condition is repotting. While replacing the pot, make sure to toss out the infected soil as much as possible, adding some fresh soil mix. For faster recovery, you can choose to add some root treatment solutions made with salutary mycorrhizal species. Or, dusting the roots with sulphur powder can also assist in treating infection and preventing further complications.
The mycorrhizal species combat the fungi and bacteria creating a hostile environment for them. Sulfur makes the soil acidic, leaving the pathogens deprived of nutrients. In case of severe root rot conditions, you may need to dissect your snake plant and keep only the healthy and fresh parts. When the entire base is infected, the best way you can save the plant from dying is to plant healthy foliage for propagating a new snake plant.
Overwatering and soggy soil are the main culprits behind root rot in your snake plant. So, avoid watering the plant frequently. Your plant can go without water for around 4 weeks, even in warm weather! Water your plant only if its soil mix is dry. Do a quick test by digging your finger 2-4 inches deep into the soil, if it feels dry, if not skip watering. During the winter season, water your plant once a month or once in two months. Also, you must keep a constant eye on the pot’s drainage system. While repotting your snake plant, use a well-draining soil mix. You can make your own by adding regular soil and perlite or frit in a 3:2 ratio.
Exposure To Intense Cold Temperatures
Having its origin in West Africa, Snake plants enjoy the warmth and thrive well in warmer temperatures. So, overexposure to cold weather can interrupt its growth, damaging the cells of the plant’s leaves. This, in turn, obstructs the succulent’s nutrient and water absorbance ability, depriving your snake plant of sufficient moisture. The problem occurs when snake plant owners forget to put their plants back indoors during the frosty weather. A temperature below 12 degrees Celsius can make your indoor plant severely unhappy.
- Brown spots and scarring on the leaves
- Mushy leaves
- Leaves turning blue-black
You cannot save the leaves that are already damaged due to extremely low temperatures. But you can prevent the damage from affecting the healthy portions of your snake plant, restoring its health. All you need to do is prune out the black-blue leaves and the dead ends of the plant. Afterward, keep the fresh plant away from any cold drafts.
While you cannot control the exterior temperature, you can at least create a cozy and comfortable temperature for your snake plant. Once your plant adapts itself to the exterior weather condition, there is no wrong in keeping it outside your premises. However, before winter strikes, bring your snake plant back inside your home. Make sure that your plant gets to stay at a temperature of around 60 to 80 degrees F during the day and 55 to 70 degrees F at night. Keeping your plant below 55 F can kill it within a week.
Overwatering, undoubtedly, is a primary cause responsible for your snake plant’s dying condition. You must not confuse a snake plant’s water requirements with any other plant because the former enjoys an arid or semi-arid condition. If you water your snake plant frequently, its potting mix will get soggy, welcoming a root rot state. So, before you water your snake plant, let its soil dry out completely. With soggy soil and root rot, your snake plant will fail to soak the necessary nutrients and eventually embrace decay and death.
Symptoms Of Overwatering
- Yellowing of leaves in the early stage
- The leaves become soft, mushy, and start drooping
- Gradually the plant loses its former shape and bends over
The best treatment for your overwatered plant is to give it some time to heal. During this time, make sure not to water your plant. Also, keep it in a place where it gets bright indirect light. The pot where you have kept your snake plant must have a smooth drainage system so that all the excess water could drain out.
In fact, you must remove the saucer beneath the pot to support water draining. After a few days, the soil will get dry, and your plant will start getting greener and healthier again! Well, this trick works only when your snake plant is in the early stage of damage, meaning the leaves have just started to get yellow. However, if the damage has spread severely, you need to repot your plant immediately.
Prior to repotting the water-damaged roots need some treatment, and here’s how you can do it:
First, displace the plant very carefully, ensuring that the root remains safe and untouched. Then remove the loose moist soil from the roots using your fingers.
The second step involves eliminating the damaged brown slimy root parts using scissors or scrapes.
Afterward, dry the fresh portions of the roots completely. Place it on a newspaper or cardboard and keep it near bright filtered light for a few days.
Now it’s time to repot the dried root ball. But this time, plant in a bigger pot. Also, don’t forget to add some fresh well-draining soil, like cactus or succulent mix, instead of the old one.
Since the potting mix will remain moist, skip watering. Let it adjust to its new home first and continue the water routine after a few days.
Sticking to a strict water routine can keep your plant safe and prevent the issues of waterlogging or overwatering. During the plant’s growth phase, to be more precise, in summer and spring, your plant might require frequent watering per fortnight. But doing a moisture test of the soil every time you are going to water your plant is a must!
Most plant owners water an overwatered plant, sensing dryness in the surface layer of the soil. But you need to confirm that the potting mix is completely dry, at least 2 inches deep, before adding even a drop of water. In winter, your plant would require half of the water amount it needs during the summer. That means you need to water it once every month or two, followed by the moisture test.
Snake plants neither smell sweet nor bear fruits, so pests generally do not attack them. However, there are a few particular pests, including scales, mealybugs, and spider mites, that can find your snake plant their ideal place to breed! These pesky pests extract sap from the plant leaves, which in turn becomes fatal for the plant. Mealybugs and scales appear as white dots on the leaves. They are so tiny that most inexperienced owners cannot recognize them. On the other hand, the spider mites choose to stay underside the leaves, feeding on the sap.
- Stunted growth
- Sooty blackish mold
- Discolored or yellow, wilted leaves
- Spider-like web on the base or between leaves
Immediately treatment is necessary to prevent further damage and recover the plant’s health.
To treat the mealy bugs, take a soft cloth, dab it into an alcohol-water solution (1:1), and wipe the pests off from the leaves.
Scales are not as easy to remove as mealy bugs. A gentle wipe won’t work in its case, you need to scrape it off with a blunt knife. Or you can simply just scratch it off.
Similar to mealybugs, misting the plant with a diluted insecticide and wiping it off can help eliminate spider mites.
A routine dusting of the leaves and misting the plant with neem and rosemary oil can help deter pests and bugs. A pest infestation in your snake plant is a clear indication that there is something wrong with your plant. Mostly root rot, over-watered plant, and soggy potting mix are responsible for it. Keeping close observation of the plant’s care regimen and health will automatically eliminate the risk of infestation. Well, pests can crawl from one plant to another. So, if you are planning to bring a new friend for your snake plant, check well whether it has any bugs in it.
Inappropriate Soil pH
The most overlooked aspect of a snake plant’s care regimen is maintaining the right pH in the potting mix. An incorrect soil pH can create obstacles before the plant’s ability to absorb appropriate nutrients, limiting its growth. Slowly your plant will show signs of distress and enter into a dying stage. The most vital nutrient required for the plant’s survival is magnesium, and without the right soil pH, it can’t soak it.
To keep your snake plant in good shape and let it absorb all the nutrients it needs from the soil, the soil must have a pH between 5.5-7.5. In case your plant is rooted with proper potting soil, you can stay relaxed. The pH range in those soil mix naturally hovers around the mentioned range.
Adding some peat moss to the potting mix can make it a little acidic, but it also makes the soil mix nutrient-rich. Additionally, as you are looking for well-draining soil and mostly deciding to opt for a cactus-type mix, it would not really be an issue! However, testing the pH level of the soil with a testing kit is always a good idea before potting your snake plant.
Red Leaf Spot
Fungal infection is too common for a plant, and your snake plant is no exception to it! Caused by the fungi called Drechslera erythrospila, a fungal disease known as red leaf spot could attack your snake plant. Though the fungi can infect your plant all year round, it mostly stays active during the warmer months and spring. The damp leaf surface welcomes the fungi to breed on it, thrusting your plant into a dying condition.
- Tiny reddish-brown or red dots on the leaves
- With time the dots take a bigger shape
- Eventually, it turns into large, swamped watery lesions.
By pruning out the infected leaves, you can halt the infection or damage to spread any further. If the fungal infection is in its primal stage, you can easily treat it with copper or sulfur-rich fungicide sprays. Though chemical treatment could not rescue the already-damaged leaves, it can prevent further associated risk factors.
To keep your snake plant free from fungal infection, make sure to remove any standing water from the leaves. Also, check well whether your plant is getting enough airflow. Don’t forget to place it separately if any other plant near it has the infection.
FAQs About Snake Plant’s Premature Death
Why isn’t my snake plant growing well?
Snake plants are naturally slow-growing plants and generally go through a dormant phase during the chilly months. However, if you notice stunted growth in your indoor plant during summer or spring, maybe there are underlying problems. Check the amount of light it’s getting and the humidity of the area where it’s placed. Sometimes loose dirt clogs the pores of the leaves, creating trouble in absorbing the light, so check that as well.
Can I eliminate the dead ends of my snake plant?
When you’re undertaking a recovery treatment of your dying snake plant, it’s good to prune out the dead ends of the plant and care for the fresh parts. Those dead ends will anyway pass away. Use a sharp knife or blade during the process and make sure not to hurt the healthy parts of your plant.
How long do snake plants generally live?
On average, a snake plant comes with a life span of 5 to 10 years even without any strict maintenance routine. However, sometimes it can live up to around 25 years based on what resources and environment it gets.
Snake plants are the ideal pick for you if you’re into green life but do not get enough time to handle strict care and maintenance routines. It’s because the glossy green-leafed plant is very tough and sturdy and can adjust itself in any setting. However, there are a few minor aspects needed for your indoor plant’s smooth and uninterrupted growth. All you need to do is make sure your plant gets enough filtered bright light, around 40% humidity, a well-draining pot, potting mix, and a little water only when the soil is dry!
What do you do to restore your plant’s well-being when it displays dying and distressing signs? Share with us and other fellow snake plant owners the tips you follow to make your plant healthy again. We love learning new facts about snake plants, and sometimes we even feature them in our blogs!
Snake Plant By the University Of Arkansas System
From childhood, I have been extremely fascinated with plants and gardening. That has eventually led me to pursue BSc and then MSc in botany from the University of Calcutta. My deep love for plants has probably stemmed from the gorgeous terrace garden that I have seen my father nurture as long as I can remember.