Why Is My Snake Plant Dying?

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Snake plants have a reputation as great starter plants. Yet, more and more people are buying the popular snake plants in recent years only to have their new plant fall ill and possibly die.

The failure isn’t the fault of these growers. One of the significant botanical classification systems has merged the Sansevieria genus into Dracaena.

Dying Snake PlantPin

The two have similar genomes. Still, sansevierias and dracaenas have different appearances and care needs.

Many boycotted the new botanical names. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with many online sellers, causing confusion and dead plants.

Can I Revive A Dying Snake Plant?

The good news is that you can revive your sansevieria when a vacation or mixup in care instructions happens.

First, let’s look at the signals your plant will give, what they mean, and how to deal with their major causes.

Common Symptoms

Plants have their own language, although the dialect can vary a bit.

The following symptoms are all signals by your plant that something’s wrong.

Brown Leaves: This is usually a sign of overwatering but can also be due to sunburn (though some species have naturally brown margins).

Drooping Leaves or Leaf Drop: These symptoms most commonly go with overwatering, which may also involve the onset of root rot.

Leaf Curling: Curling leaves are usually a sign of stress caused by environmental changes. Or it can also be a reaction to overwatering or infestation.

Spots on Leaves: Spotting often comes with an infestation or infection as the two go hand-in-hand.

Wilting: This sign is pretty vague alone but usually accompanies another sign to help you pinpoint the exact problem.

Yellow Leaves: For sansevierias, yellow leaves most often indicate a lighting problem or underwatering.

Solutions To Problems

Thankfully, most problems are easy to solve, although you’ll want to prune away any dead or damaged leaves afterward.

Remember to use a sharp tool and sterilize before and after each cut.

Diseases Or Infestations

Piercing insects such as aphids or mealybugs drink the sap from your plants, which can eventually kill portions of the infested leaf.

On top of this, their frass (called honeydew) attracts many common fungi, such as powdery mildew and sooty mold.

Regular use of neem products such as neem soil soaks or foliar sprays can help protect your plant from infestations and fungal infections.

They combat existing problems and boost the plant against some bacterial infections.

As neem can take a few weeks to do its job, you may need to resort to a fungicide or insecticide to get a major outbreak under control.

Also, since fungal infections need moisture, it’s essential to avoid wetting the leaves when watering. Leaf shine products usually evaporate without leaving residue.

Lighting Issues

One of the most critical rules in growing plants: If it’s tropical or a rainforest plant, chances are it burns quickly in direct sunlight.

Keep sansevierias in bright, indirect sunlight for the best results.

This could mean a home beside a sunny window where the sun’s rays won’t hit it directly. Or use a sheer curtain to diffuse the direct sunlight.

Also, the morning and evening sun is milder. So it’s okay to place your snake plant in an east or west-facing window where it’ll get a little direct sun but have shade in the afternoon.

Artificial light can sometimes cause problems if the plant is too close or far away. Don’t be afraid to shift your plant around to find that perfect spot.

Root Rot

Few diseases are more dreaded than root rot, although you can save your plant if you catch it early enough.

Root rot is often the result of overwatering or contaminated soil, so you should check the roots when dealing with either.

Infected roots will be dark brown to black and may give off a nasty smell.

Here’s how to remedy it:

  • First, carefully cut away any infected roots.
  • Then, dip the remaining root system in a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water for 30 minutes.

Be warned that either bacteria or fungi can cause root rot, so dipping in fungicide isn’t always guaranteed to work.

Allow the roots to air dry for 2 to 3 days, then gently repot the plant using a fresh, sterile pot and new potting medium.

Avoid using fertilizer for 1 to 2 months so the roots have a chance to heal.

Soil Issues

There are three basic types of soil issues: 

  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Excess toxins
  • Compacting

Proper fertilization and regular repotting with fresh oil can help ensure your plant gets enough nutrition.

You can use an eggshell infusion or Epsom salts to boost calcium and magnesium content.

Too much fertilizer or frequent use of tap water can cause a buildup of mineral salts that can poison your plant or even cause chemical burns.

Remedy this by doing the following tips:

  • Flush the soil every few months.
  • Use only liquid fertilizers.
  • Avoid tap water and repot with fresh soil every 2 to 3 years.
  • Never use a container that’s too big for the plant as the roots won’t be able to reach all the water, which could lead to soil contamination by mold or fungus.
  • Also, keep an eye out for roots popping out of the drainage holes or soil surface, indicating root-binding and a pressing need to repot.
  • Finally, never buy cheap potting mixes unless it’s a company you can trust. Many companies cut costs by skipping the sterilization process before packaging soil.

Watering Issues

Watering problems are some of the easiest to solve simply by using the soak-and-dry method.

Just stick your finger in the soil and water if it feels dry 2” inches down.

Use room-temperature water and pour slowly, working your way around the pot.

Stop watering when moisture begins to seep from the drainage holes or the surface can no longer absorb as quickly as you pour.

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