Why Is My Snake Plant Dying?

Snake plants have a reputation for being some of the hardiest houseplants out there. They are generally very forgiving of people who are still getting the hang of caring for plants. But no plant is immortal, and there definitely are things that can kill a snake plant.

Most often, snake plants die from root rot due to overwatering. Underwatering and exposure to temperatures below 50°F can kill snake plants. They can also die from severe infestations of mealybugs, scale, or spider mites or from fungal diseases like red leaf spot or southern blight.

If your snake plant has yellow or brown drooping leaves, or it is losing its leaves altogether, worry not! You have come to the right place. Read on to learn how to diagnose what is killing your snake plant and what you can do to revive it.

Overwatering Kills Snake Plants

Watering Snake Plant

Snake plants are native to the African tropics. They are adapted to survive in arid conditions with very little rainfall or humidity. Naturally, they grow in gritty soil.

Snake plants are susceptible to overwatering. If the soil does not drain properly or the container you are growing your snake plant in has no drainage holes, the plant’s roots will rot.

The telltale symptoms of overwatering are:

  • Droopy, yellow, or brown leaves.
  • Leaves feel mushy rather than firm.
  • Soil is damp and has a mild stinky smell.

Also Check: Snake Plant Turning Yellow

Help An Over-Watered Snake Plant

The best way to help an over-watered snake plant is to re-pot them into a pot with enough drainage holes in a gritty, free-draining potting mixture.

Cactus potting soil is ideal for snake plants. You can also mix up your own substrate by combining 1-part potting soil, 1-part coco peat and 2-parts perlite or coarse sand. Never use garden soil for potting your snake plant

Before you re-pot the plant, remove rotten parts of the root system to prevent spreading the infection to the new pot.

After re-potting, you should make sure not to water your snake plant too often. Depending on the climate, snake plants should be watered every 2 to 3 weeks in spring and summer. During winter, they go dormant, so they only need to be watered every 1 to 2 months.

To ensure that your snake plant does not get overwatered, check that the soil has dried before you water it. Stick your finger through one of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to check the soil moisture.

Allowing the soil to dry out will mimic the conditions it is adapted to – rainfall followed by drought.

Always put a saucer underneath your potted snake plant. After watering, drain any water in the saucer. This is a good way to prevent root rot.

Snake Plants Can Die From Underwatering

Snake plant Dying

While snake plants are drought resistant by nature and can easily survive 3 weeks without water, even in the summer, they can die from prolonged periods of underwatering.

Chronic underwatering is often due to the misinterpretation of the phrase “snake plants do not need much water”. It does not mean that they require small quantities of water at each watering. Rather, it means they do not need watering as frequently.

You should give your snake plant a generous soak on a regular basis and allow the soil to dry out between watering. If you give your snake plant a small amount of water every week or 2 weeks, they may suffer.

If the soil gets too dry between watering, it can get hard and become hydrophobic. This means that when you water the plant, the water runs off the soil surface and down the side of the pot. If water does not infiltrate into the soil properly, it makes the drought symptoms worse.

Signs that your snake plant is dying due to underwatering are:

  • Leaves have a wrinkled appearance and curl inward.
  • Sometimes the leaves can even split.
  • Soil is hydrophobic when watered.

How To Save Your Dehydrated Snake Plant

Bottom watering is the best strategy to help a snake plant that is showing signs of stress from underwatering. Prune away leaves that have split or turned dry and brown.

Fill a basin of water and place the pot in the basin for 10 to 15 minutes. The water will draw up into the soil through the drainage holes in the pot. After a while, you will see the soil surface is moist.

Sometimes when the soil has become too dry and baked hard, bottom watering will not work. In this case, you will need to re-pot your snake plant to refresh its soil.

Avoid your snake plant dying of thirst by giving them plenty of water every 2 to 3 weeks. Water them less frequently in winter – every 1 to 2 months.

Snake Plants Hate The Cold

Because snake plants are adapted to warm tropical conditions, they can take a serious knock if they are exposed to temperatures below 50°F (10°C). The ideal temperature range for snake plants is between 55°F and 75°F (12°C to 23°C).

Revive A Frost-Bitten Snake Plant

An immediate sign that snake plants are suffering from cold are curling leaves. To rescue it, place it in a warmer room that has a more constant temperature. The leaves will slowly uncurl.

Severe cold and frost will cause the leaves to turn lighter in color and turn mushy in patches. Snake plants are not likely to recover from serious frost damage. The best you can do is take cuttings from healthy parts of the plant.

Pests That Can Kill Snake Plants

The most common insect pests that affect snake plants are:

  • Mealybugs.
  • Spider mites.


Mealybug infestation growth on a plant

Mealybugs are easy to identify by the white fluff that covers their soft, pink bodies. They usually build their colonies at the base of the snake plant. They lay masses of tiny eggs, so their population can boom in a week.

Mealybugs are sapsuckers, and while they feed on snake plants, they secrete a toxin into the leaves. This stunts leaf growth causes fungal infections, leaves to turn yellow and drop, and if left untreated, can kill a snake plant.

To get rid of them, wipe the mealybugs away with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are also little sap-sucking insects. You can identify them by the silky webs that form at the base of a spider plant. In severe cases, the entire plant can be covered in webs, and the leaves turn yellow.

To get rid of spider mites, prune away severely affected leaves and spray your plant with insecticidal soap. Clean off any webs and remaining spider mites by wiping down the leaves with a soft, clean cloth.

Related: Sansevieria Cleopatra

Fungal Issues In Snake Plants

Snake plants also succumb to strains of parasitic fungus, like southern blight (Sclerotium rolfsii) and red leaf spot (Drechslera erythrospila). In hot, humid conditions, these fungal infections can kill snake plants.

Southern Blight

Southern blight causes white patches on the leaves of snake plants. After a few days, the patches turn brown, and you will see the leaves wilt as the plant tissue dies.

To treat southern blight, you must cut away all infected parts of the plant and put them in the trash in a sealed plastic bag to prevent spreading the spores. Do not compost the infected plant tissue!

Red Leaf Spot

Red leaf spot is most common on snake plants in spring and summer. The fungal spores are attracted to damp surfaces on the leaves. This is how they infect plants.

It causes a snake plant to develop small brick-red spots on the leaves. The spots have a lighter-colored center. They grow over time and eventually form oozing lesions.

Copper-based fungicide and sulfur spray are effective treatments against red leaf spot. First, cut away all the affected leaves and then apply the treatment.

Prevent your plants from getting red leaf spot by watering only the soil surface, ensuring there is good airflow around the plant, and avoid overwatering.


Although snake plants are very forgiving to those of us with not-so-green fingers, they can die from a number of things. The most common reason snake plants die is from overwatering. Plants develop root rot when the soil remains saturated. They are more susceptible to fungal issues and pests.

Underwatering is another common reason snake plants die. They also suffer from exposure to extreme cold and frost. Luckily it is possible to save a dying snake plant. If you intervene in time, you can generally revive them.


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