Snake Plants are typically hard to grow, making them very popular as houseplants for the average homeowner. Also known as Snakeskin Plants and Mother-in-law’s Tongues, they have a reputation for being nearly indestructible. Snake plants can, however, succumb to problems as any other plant can, leading you to scratch your head in wonder, wondering why your snake plant is dying and how to treat it.
A snake plant is dying. Why is that so? Root rot, extreme temperature fluctuations, insect infestations, or fungal problems are the most frequent reasons why snake plants die. There is little difficulty in diagnosing and treating snake plant problems and most problems can be identified quickly.
Read on to learn about the ailments Snake Plants suffer from, and the treatments you can utilize in order to address the problem correctly and promptly.
Problems with Snake Plants
It is quite easy to cultivate Snake Plants, making them a favorite houseplant for a lot of people, even if they aren’t particularly good at caring for plants.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a green thumb, these things can still affect your plants.
One of the most common Snake Plant problems is root rot, caused by overwatering, especially during the winter months. When roots are starved for oxygen or the fungus takes over, they eventually die off. Plant roots are damaged by fungi spread by slick soils, such as Pythium, Phytophthora and Rhizoctonia, which infect plants. When healthy roots perish, they turn brown and lose their ability to take in nutrients and grow.
Root rot typically doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms because the disease occurs beneath the surface of soil and out of sight. In sometimes perfect conditions, i.e. without drainage holes and in pots, root rot can kill the whole plant in ten days.
Despite the fact that snake plants struggle in pots without drainage holes, there are several solutions you might not have considered.
Although it is essential to pot your snake plant in a well-draining pot, you still want it to look good and complement your home. If you have some decorative pots with drainage, you can plant a snake plant in them. Personally, though, I like to put the pot inside a drip tray, or in a planter with a more decorative design.
If the plant is caught early enough, repot it. Remove as much of the infected soil as possible, and refill the pot with fresh, clean potting soil. A root treatment with beneficial mycorrhizal species may be added to healthy roots, or sulfur powder may be sprinkled on strong roots in order to prevent reinfection. Sulfur acidifies the soil, reducing the availability of nutrients and reducing the food for pathogens that can cause root rot, while beneficial mycorrhizae create an acidic environment hostile to undesirable bacterial and fungal populations.
Root rot should be removed if it has spread widely across the roots. If the entire base of the plant has been damaged, cuttings from healthy foliage can be taken to propagate a new plant.
Plants should only be watered when the top 2-4″ of the soil is completely dry. That means only watering your Snake Plant once a month during the cooler, winter months when it is dormant.
If you’re not too attentive, snake plants make easy houseplants. You can leave them dry for up to 3 weeks. Even in hot, arid conditions, you can water them without worrying.
Exposure To Extreme Temperatures
Snake plant origins are from West Africa and akin to other succulents, preferring warmer temperatures. As leaves are exposed to cold temperatures, the cell walls within them are damaged, thereby interfering with the pathways for water and nutrients to flow. This leaves the plant deprived of moisture as a consequence.
Even though the plant hasn’t been overwatered, there are scarring or mushy leaves on the leaves.
Do not remove healthy foliage when you prune heavily damaged leaves, as this could cause more stress on the plant.
Snake Plants prefer temperatures between 55° and 70°F at night and 60° to 80°F during the day.
They have pink, soft bodies covered with a white, waxy material that almost resembles cotton. Cottony fluff serves as a protective layer against moisture loss and excess heat. Mealybug colonies are located in more protected areas, such as on the leaves close to the soil surface.
Mealybugs are similar to their relatives the soft scales, but lack the covering of the scales, and retain their legs throughout their life cycle, allowing them to move around. Most citrus mealybaths live on succulents like the Snake Plant and they lay microscopic eggs in a mass of white cottony threads. After they hatch, the mealybugs slither away, dying in 5 – 10 days.
Mealybugs inject a toxin into leaves when they feed on the plant’s fluids, which stunts or deforms leaf growth, especially on new foliage. A mealybug also excretes honeydew — a sticky substance containing sugar — while feeding, encouraging the growth of black mold. An infestation of a healthy plant doesn’t necessarily mean it will become unhealthy overall. Leaves won’t grow if left untreated.
In order to treat Snake Plants for mealybug infestations, it is best to pick off the adults and egg masses by hand, or to wipe them off with a cloth or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Make sure it won’t damage foliage by spot-testing an inconspicuous area on your plant with rubbing alcohol. It is usually possible to protect the waxy succulent leaves with just a little rubbing alcohol, but it is always advisable to make sure before treating the plant.
Be close to all new plants when you bring them into your home because mealybugs easily move between plants. Make sure infected plants are separated from healthy ones to prevent the spread of disease.
The tiny sucking pests can be found on the undersides of leaf stems, affecting indoor houseplants. Spider mites feed on fluids found within the leaves of Snake Plants, which are then punctured in order to get to the internal fluids.
A substantial infestation of spider mite may occur, undetected, before physical evidence of damage is noticed, leading to one of the greatest challenges associated with spider mites.
Leaves may be discolored, or turn yellow overall. Some plants might also encapsulate a fine, spiderlike webbing between the leaflets or at the growing tip of the plant.
Clean the plant’s leaves carefully with a clean, soft cloth using water or insecticide soap. The plant can also be turned upside down and cleaned in the shower, basin, or kitchen sink with tepid water. Serious infestations require pruning off the problematic leaves.
Keeping snake plant leaves dust free will reduce the chances of spider mites nesting and residing on your plants. Keep your plants at a higher humidity level; spider mites thrive in dry conditions.
Sclerotium rolfsii, a parasitic fungus that infects thousands of houseplants and garden plants, causes southern blight. It usually causes lethal results, especially when plants are kept in warm, moist conditions.
Symptoms usually appear within a week or ten days after southern blight infests a host plant. On infection, the plant’s stem will become infected and its leaves will shrivel up over time.
The fungus first appears on leaves as white areas which then turn into a dark brown color. Snake plants also wilt, showing white thread-like growths and areas of wet, softened plant tissue.
For southern blight in houseplants, fungicides such as methyl bromide are effective, but removing the diseased tissue is recommended for only a single plant rather than chemical treatment.
On the leaves are red spots with a tan center. As the spots develop over time, they coalesce into large sunken lesions.
Get rid of affected leaves to prevent the spread to other areas. You can also use fungicides or sulfur spray to treat mild infestations. Please note that sulfur spray or copper-containing fungicides do not eliminate the existing infestation.
The best way to prevent infection is to keep standing water off of the snake plant’s leaves. Make sure there’s good airflow around it while keeping it dry. Also do not introduce new Snake Plants into the house until they have been thoroughly tested for infections.
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