Snake plants, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is a tough house houseplant that can add a pop of vibrant green color. It can also be quite tolerant to things such as neglect of feeding, watering, and low light exposure.
Still, that doesn’t mean that the snake plant can go completely without attention. There may come a time where the snake plant will begin to droop and sag.
There are plenty of common reasons why it will begin to droop, but the good news is that there are plenty of methods to allow the snake plant to recover.
A good rule of thumb with any plant is to properly educate yourself on its requirements. Not all plants require the same things. Some may need more water, light, or nourishment than others.
Don’t go on general assumptions or you may have a plant that is lacking in something or getting too much of something else.
With snake plants, there are generally common reasons why it may begin to droop. The good thing about common issues is that there are common solutions, too.
Knowing what to look for and how to identify the issues at hand can allow you to implement the fixes that you need to bring vibrance and life back to your snake plant.
1 – Overwatering
Overwatering is one of the most common issues there is when it comes to plants of all kinds. We mean well when we do this. After all, we are just trying to make sure that the plant in question has adequate water for which to grow.
But too much water can be bad for any plant, not just snake plants. The snake plant is what is known as a succulent. This means that the leaves, which are rubbery and thick, are naturally good at holding in moisture.
Generally speaking, succulents will need to be watered less than a standard houseplant. The snake plant is no exception to this rule given that it generally thrives in dryer, hotter climates like the West African tropics it originates from.
Because they are succulents, it can be very easy to overwater your snake plant. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can be quite harmful for a plant. Thankfully, there is a way to recover from overwatering.
First, give the soil an opportunity to completely dry out. You can either poke your finger into the soil or use a popsicle stick to check moisture levels. Just because the surface is dry does not mean that it will be dry underneath.
A good rule of thumb is to allow your snake plant to completely dry between each watering. It doesn’t need to be dry from the top of the soil to the bottom, but the top three inches should be totally dry before adding any more water into the mix.
If root rot has already begun, there is a way to kill off the root fungus. For the next three months, water your snake plant with 3% hydrogen peroxide. This should clear away the rot and return your snake plant to its previous glory.
In the case of more severe root rot, you might need to repot the entire plant. This will remove any roots that are mushy or already dead, creating space for the good roots to grow.
Another thing to keep in mind is that snake plants typically only need to be watered every two to four weeks. Plants that get more heat or light will likely need to be watered a little more often, though.
In the wintertime, they need to be watered less than that, only requiring it when the leaves are starting to look wilted.
2 – Bound Roots
Another major problem when it comes to houseplants, not just snake plants, is improper potting. Without the adequate root space to grow, those roots can become bound. This means that the roots are tangled together and become restricted from growing.
Snake plants typically don’t require repotting quite as often as most other plants do. They are actually fine being a little rootbound, but there are times where it can become extensive. That is when it can become unhealthy for the snake plant and begin drooping.
Despite needing less water and nutrients than some other plant options, snake plants do require soil so that their roots can soak in the water and nutrients available. If the roots become too tightly bound, it can lead to what is known as girdling.
This is when the roots begin to strangle themselves. This is in addition to root rot and other potential disease issues that can keep the plant from being able to “breathe” properly.
A good rule of thumb is to repot your snake plant every three to five years. If, for whatever reason, you can’t put the plant into a bigger pot, you can also trim the roots.
Make certain that the snake plant roots take up three-quarters of your pot space at the most. This will give them ample room to grow without becoming tangled to a detrimental point.
One way to tell if your plant needs to be repotted or trimmed is by loosening up some of the soil on the sides of the pot. Check to see if the roots are thick to the edges of the pot. Should it look like there is more root than soil, start looking for a pot that is the next size up.
There can also be a time where the root ball has become solid. When this happens, you can actually tease the roots apart. Keep doing so until there is a pattern of branching instead of that big clump before you start the repotting process.
If you opt to trim the roots, take it out of the pot and gently place it on its side. Use a pair of sharp scissors or a knife to cut the roots individually.
It is important to know that you shouldn’t just start cutting into the root ball to make it smaller. Teasing the roots apart, you can begin to trim the roots where it is needed without causing major damage to the roots themselves.
Keep an eye on the roots from time to time. Make sure there is ample space to give the roots the care they need to properly “breathe.”
3 – Bad Drainage/Soil
Maybe you are watering based on the guidelines above but drooping persists. The next step should be to check to see if the soil is holding in too much water. Also, make sure that the pot you are using has proper drainage.
Without proper drainage, overwatering becomes possible. Since the water doesn’t drain out properly, that can lead it to sit there until the next watering. Rinse, repeat until the problem becomes great enough to cause root rot.
If you feel like drainage issues are the reason, you can simply repot your plant. Try to place your plant in a soil that is meant for succulents or even for cacti, which require less water and nutrients to live.
You will also want to add half perlite into your regular potting soil and use a bit of compost to make the soil more fertile as well.
Should you decide to repot, be certain that you remove as much of the old soil as you can. Also, since you’re repotting, ensure that you are using a pot that is large enough to house the current structure of the roots.
There is one good way to tell whether have proper drainage. When you water your snake plant, you should begin to see water dripping out from the drainage holes on the bottom.
If you don’t, there’s a blockage somewhere and water will sit in the soil for longer than is necessary.
4 – Bad Lighting
One way or another, people tend to take “negligent-resistant” as “doesn’t need attention.” While snake plants can do quite well in the shade, they tend to do a bit better when they have at least partial exposure to natural sunlight.
If your snake plant tends not to get a whole lot of light, this could be one of the leading reasons why your plant is unhealthy and why it is beginning to droop.
Partial sun is important for a couple of reasons. For one, it is imperative to the overall health of the snake plants. The second is that sunlight generally will make a plant look better, providing much brighter leaves that will display the pattern that is the signature of snake plants.
Constant direct sunlight, however, is not good for your snake plant. They can take around eight hours of direct light per day but placing them in all-day direct light can be too much. That’s right, too much light can cause the leaves to droop as well.
An ideal situation would be to put your snake plant a good 10 feet or so from a window that faces south or in an east or west-facing window. The western sun is actually more intense, so if you keep your plant in a western-facing window, try to keep it a few feet away from the window so that it can hold up to the intense sunlight much better.
Lastly, don’t just stick the snake plant into direct sunlight. Give the plant a gradual introduction to the light, starting with a couple of hours on the first day. Add an hour or so each day until the plant begins to get the full sun exposure that it requires.
You might consider using potential obstacles to block out some of the sunlight. Sticks, curtains, and other things can be good to limit the amount of sunlight exposure that the plant gets without having to frequently move it around on a daily basis.
5 – Pest Problems
As is the case with other plants, pests can become a serious issue when it comes to weakening the overall health of that plant. Of course, each plant has its own unique set of pests that tend to do more damage than others.
Fungus gnats, which are similar to fruit flies that can emerge from the soil in larvae form, can attack your snake plant if you have bad drainage or overwatering has taken place. When this happens, you will need to repot your plant into new soil and cut off any of the roots that have become rotted.
Then, check the drainage of the new pot to ensure that it is properly draining. When you are finished, repeat the hydrogen peroxide step from above and add in a pesticide to keep the pests away.
There are also homemade options when it comes to keeping the pest problem at bay. Mix a tablespoon of dish soap (mild, if possible), a tablespoon of olive or sunflower oil, and around 15 or so drops of neem oil into a cup with one cup of water.
In the most extreme of pest infestations, you can try to use insecticides with a pyrethrin base. Other pests, such as mealybugs and spider mites, are rare but are still a possible problem.
These pests tend to be a little more obvious before drooping begins as the plant will have faded dots or brown specks on the leaves.
If you use a pesticide, be certain to follow the manufacturer instructions before spraying. An improper use of the insecticide can be unhealthy for the plant and can project chemicals into the soil that they should not have.
Keeping your snake plant healthy and vibrant isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but there are steps to be taken. Any drooping can be the result of very common issues and thankfully have very common resolutions.
Knowing what signs to look for can not only help you to identify potential issues with the snake plant, but implement the proper solutions as well. Pay a little attention to your snake plant and you can keep it looking healthy and green for a long time to come.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.