The Snake Plant, also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snakeskin Plant, is easily one of the hardiest, most forgiving, and easiest to grow houseplants.
However, like other plants, it can eventually succumb to neglect. So, if you’re wondering, “Why is my snake plant dying,” this article can provide you with the answers you need.
Let’s explore why a snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) might slowly die and what you can do to revive it!
Why Is My Snake Plant Dying?
Wondering why your snake plant is slowly dying? Overwatering or underwatering a snake plant can cause it to die due to root rot.
Other reasons include pest infestations, fungal problems, and improper growing conditions. The variance in temperature, poor drainage, and incorrect soil pH can also cause your snake plant to wither.
However, all these problems have manageable solutions. If you follow proper treatment and take appropriate care, you can revive your dying snake plant.
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Signs Your Snake Plant Is Dying
Before you think about why your snake plant is dying, you must determine if it’s withering away. The best way to do that is to spot the following signs:
Yellowing or Browning Leaves
If the lower leaves of your snake plant are yellowing, it means you’re not watering your plant correctly. Excessive direct sunlight or over-fertilization can also cause the leaves to turn yellow.
Lack of proper watering and continued harsh sunlight exposure can lead your leaves to turn brown.
White Spots on the Plant
If the underside of your plant is developing white spots, it can be due to prolonged water exposure, abrupt temperature variations, and cold drafts.
Remove the plant from drafty areas, ensure the soil has dried completely before watering, and wipe off excess water from the plant base.
Curling or Drooping Leaves
Does your snake plant have curled or wrinkly leaves? These are usually a sign of low humidity. The leaves might also curl due to direct sunlight or heat source exposure.
Similarly, droopy leaves are due to the plant being overwatered. Another reason for limp leaves is exposure to cold drafts.
Leggy growth can be due to over-fertilization. Your plant’s stems might also grow long to reach sunlight. If it has improper access to light, your plant’s stems will stretch to get exposed to the light.
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Mushy, White, or Brown Roots
If you constantly overwater the plant, its roots might turn mushy, leading to eventual decay. Ensure the soil has dried completely before re-watering your plant to avoid root problems.
Reasons Why a Snake Plant Might Die
Here are some possible reasons a snake plant might wither and eventually die:
Overwatering Leading to Root Rot
It is inarguably the most common issue seen in Snake Plants. Root rot is caused by overwatering the plant, especially during winter.
Since this plant thrives in semi-arid to arid conditions, it does not need a lot of water. If you overwater the plant, its leaves will turn yellow, the plant will turn soft and mushy, and its leaves will eventually wilt.
If you overwater your Snake Plant, its roots might die due to the overgrowth of soil fungi or lack of oxygen. First, root rot will set in. The plant roots will stop supplying nutrients to the plant.
Soggy or waterlogged soils from overwatering the plant will encourage fungi, such as Rhizoctonia and Pythium, to thrive, resulting in root infection. It causes the healthy roots to turn mushy and brown.
Root rot can go unnoticed since it occurs underneath the soil, so it remains out of your sight. If your pot does not have drainage, root rot can kill the entire Snake Plant in ten days.
Prevention & Treatment
If you wish to keep your Snake Plant thriving and avoid root rot, plant it in a well-draining pot and keep a drip tray underneath the planter. Moreover, allow the plant and soil to dry out between every watering.
Feel the potting soil and if it is damp, stop watering the plant. Leave it for several days before the next watering. When you water the plant, remove the saucer underneath the planter.
Let all the water drain out of the drainage hole in the planter before you put the saucer back in place. Before the next watering, put your finger two inches into the soil to ensure it is dry.
Only water the plant every month or two months during winters. If you suspect root rot, remove the plant from its existing planter.
Get rid of the infected soil and add fresh, clean potting soil to the new planter. Use sulfur powder to dust the healthy roots and avoid reinfection.
If the infection is severe, dissect the plant and only keep the healthy parts in your new pot. If all the roots are infected, take a cutting from the healthy stems to propagate a new Snake Plant.
Spider mites can wreak havoc on an indoor plant. They are tiny sucking pests that thrive on the underside of leaves and live on the fluids found inside Snake Plant leaves.
These pests pierce the waxy exterior of the leaf and damage it from the inside out. Spider mites continue to multiply and can infest the entire plant before you notice signs of damage.
They cause the leaves to turn yellow. Another sign of a spider mite infestation is the development of delicate, spider-like webs between the base and leaves of the Snake Plant.
Prevention & Treatment
Regularly dust the leaves of your snake plant to ensure the spider mites have no place to lay their eggs. Since spider mites grow in dry conditions, keep your plant in an area with higher humidity.
If you spot spider mites growing on the plant, mist the leaves with insecticidal soap. Use a soft cloth to wipe all the leaves down and remove the spider mites.
You can also use tepid water to rinse the leaves while turning the plant upside down. You might have to prune the damaged leaves if the plant is severely infested.
Southern blight is a disease caused by a fungus called sclerotium rolfsii that impacts more than 500 plant species. It typically infects indoor plants that grow in warm, moist conditions.
When this fungus infects a plant, it penetrates its stems, and within 7 to 10 days, it damages the entire plant. You can look for the following signs of southern blight:
- A white layer appears on the leaves
- The leaves eventually turn brown
- Some leaves start wilting while others develop wet, soft parts and white, thread-like growth
- Plant leaves die, and then the entire plant follows suit
Prevention & Treatment
Do not use the same potting mix from the infected container. Always inspect new plants for possible infestation and maintain good airflow to avoid moist environments.
Use fungicides, such as methyl bromide, to treat southern blight in your plant. However, remove the affected tissue if only a single leaf or part of the plant is infected. Do not treat the plant chemically.
Mealybugs are pink-hued insects with soft bodies covered in a waxy, white, cotton-like fluff that protects them from excessive heat or moisture loss. They cause the leaves to have stunted growth.
Mealybugs typically grow on the leaves close to the soil. They lay microscopic eggs inside a white, cotton-like thready mass. Mealybugs can inject a toxin into the leaf when they feed on its fluid.
They also lead to the growth of sooty mold as they excrete honeydew while feeding. If the plant is left untreated, a mealybug infestation will cause the leaves to curl up, turn yellow, and eventually drop.
Prevention & Treatment
Inspect the plant to ensure it’s not infected when you bring it home. Quarantine your infected Snake Plant to prevent the mealybugs from spreading.
To treat the infected plant, remove the adult mealybugs manually. You can also wipe the mealybugs and egg masses with a soft cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.
However, before using rubbing alcohol on the plant, spot test it to ensure it does not get damaged.
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Exposure to Cold Weather
Snake Plants prefer warm temperatures since their leaves can get damaged in cold weather. When the cell walls in their leaves are damaged, it hinders their water uptake, causing the plant to die.
Symptoms of cold weather exposure include scarring, yellowing, or mushy leaves.
Prevention & Treatment
During the daytime, put the plant in a location where the temperature is between 60℉-80℉ and the nighttime temperature is 55℉-70℉. Prune the damaged leaves to ensure only healthy leaves remain.
Lack of Fertilizer
If your plant grows in a pot, it will eventually seep all the nutrients from the existing soil. It will result in a less healthy plant with a slower growth rate. If you ignore the problem, your plant might eventually die.
All you need to tackle this issue is to add fertilizer. However, remember that Snake Plants don’t require extra feeding. So, use a balanced houseplant fertilizer during the growing season and don’t overdo it.
Lack of Sunlight
Have you yet to find the reason why your Snake Plant is dying? Is it possible that your plant does not have enough exposure to natural light, keeping it from photosynthesizing properly?
If that’s the case, the leaves of your Snake Plant will turn yellow or brown. It will be more noticeable in variegated plants. They will fade and then turn green and yellow.
Ideally, you should put your Snake Plant where it can receive bright, indirect light. Also, keep rotating the plant to ensure all its leaves have access to the light.
The Bottom Line
I hope this article answered your question, “Why is my snake plant dying?” Even though Snake Plants are hardy, they need appropriate care. So, avoid overwatering your plant.
Put the plant in free-draining soil in a planter with a drainage spot. Keep the plant in indirect sunlight at the right temperature so that it can thrive.
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Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.