Why is my snake plant dying? (Sansevieria trifasciata)


Have you noticed that your snake plant has drooping leaves, or is starting to turn brown? You may even be wondering is your snake plant dying. This article looks at some of the common causes of your beloved plant taking a turn for the worse. We’ll also cover steps that you can take to nursing your snake plant back to health.

How to tell your snake plant is dying

Before you can understand why your snake plant might be dying, you have to know it’s dying. Fortunately, there are a few key signs that can clue you in to the fact that your snake plant is dying.

The most obvious sign is that the snake plant’s leaves are yellowing or browning and are starting to droop. They may also start to develop a mushy texture rather than their normal succulent firm feeling leaves.

All signs of plant death are in the condition of their leaves. Browning and yellowing leaves are often the first signs you will get. However, other signs will be curling leaves, white spots, and the leaves getting leggy. See any of those things though, and you have a dying snake plant. The question is why.

Why is your snake plant dying?

Watering

Despite its natural resilience, there are several potential culprits. The most most common reason for a snake plant dying is overwatering. These plants do not do well with too much water, and therefore, overwatering can be the cause of browning leaves, curling leaves, drooping leaves, and dying leaves.

Yellowing leaves, however, are also a sign of underwatering. While they are hardy plants that can cope with neglect, they will still suffer if you neglect them too much, and they are suffering a drought. If your snake plant is suffering with yellowing leaves, give it some water and watch the plant return to life.

Pests

Pests are not commonly seen on snake plants, but can cause problems if they become established.. Pests can cause browning leaves, curling leaves, dying leaves, and yellowing leaves. So, if you are certain that watering is not the issue, the next thing to check for is pests.

Your snake plant has large fleshy leaves which are very attractive to sap sucking bugs. Both mealybugs and spider mites can invest snake plants and suck their juices. Although you can see the adults may be able to pick them off, getting rid of their eggs is a more difficult problem. This is where treatment with a natural insecticide containing soap or neem oil can be very effective. You may need to apply the treatment more than once.

Fungal infection

Snake plants are also susceptible to fungal infections, such as red leaf spot and southern blight. As its name suggests, the former results in red or brown spots on the snake plants leaves. On the other hand, southern blight causes the leaves to droop and eventually turn yellow and then brown.

Fungal infections are generally associated with overwatering.

How to revive a dying snake plant

Stop Overwatering

Since the biggest issue with snake plants is overwatering, we want to look at this first. The best thing to do with a snake plant is to water it when the top inch of soil is totally dry, since snake plants are succulents they do not demand much water. You should also ensure that these plants have a sufficient draining system, a snake plant should be kept in a pot with holes in it and a draining tray.

If the plant is made to sit in water, it will start to suffer, and it may develop root rot. Ensure that the soil is dry before you water it.

If you notice any signs of overwatering in your plant, then you need to first let the plant dry out. If the soil is saturated, you may need to tackle this quickly. Remove the plant from the saturated soil, and check for root rot. If this is present then remove the rotted parts of the roots and replant your snake plant in a fresh pot with fresh dry soil, and give it time to recover before watering again.

Overwatering can easily kill off a snake plant, so be very cautious of this. 

Pest control

These plants are generally pest resistant, however, pests can be transferred from other infected plants. If your plant is weak from over watering or root rot, then soon after they will develop a pest infestation. These pests may be spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids, and they will feed on your plant’s youngest leaves. They will turn the leaves yellow and then brown.

If you think your plant has a pest infestation, then the best thing you can do is make it healthy. The healthier the plant, the more it will be able to fight off pests. If this does not work you can get a pesticide, but be sure to get non-toxic ones, as you want to avoid any further damage. Soapy water can also deter some pests, so that is a good choice if the infestation is severe and pesticides aren’t really your thing.

Fungal infections

Before you think about tackling an infection that has caused red or white spots, you need to isolate the plant from any others to prevent a spread. If left untreated these spots will spread across the whole plant, killing it.

You can try to fix this by spraying the plant with a mixture made to tackle mildew, molds, and fungi. You could use a fungicide, but if you do, make sure to use a light dosage of this to avoid affecting the health of the plant.

Be careful to isolate the plant and do not touch other plants after touching an infected one as you could cause cross contamination.

If the fungal infection is extensive, it may be best to dispose of your plant. Whilst this may seem a drastic measure, it will mean that you’re not risking infecting other plants in your collection.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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