Snake plant, or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), is considered by many to be a hardy houseplant despite neglect of watering, feeding, and low light. That’s good news if you have snake plant that’s drooping because a simple fix is usually available.
There are a number of reasons why your snake plant is drooping, including over-watering, inadequate drainage, lack of heat, pests or disease, poor lighting or from being rootbound. Recovering your plant from the underlying problem will require identifying and fixing the underlying issue.
Continue reading and you’ll learn how to create the perfect conditions for your snake plant to grow strong again and prevent its leaves from drooping again.
Causes of Drooping Snake Plant
We understand that there are 6 main reasons why snake plant leaves drop. I will cover the two most common reasons – overwatering and poor drainage – first.
Overwatering and Root Rot
Snake plants have succulent leaves, which are exceptionally sticky and hold moisture exceptionally well. Succulents generally do not need as much water as houseplants and snake plants are no exception. They normally thrive in hot, dry environments of the West African tropics.
That means you should avoid overwatering them, allowing the roots to rot if they receive too much moisture.
You should let your snake plant’s soil dry completely to get it “back to its former glory”. Make sure your fingers don’t just touch the top of the soil.
From that point on, it is recommended to allow the soil to completely dry between every watering, with at least 3 inches of topsoil becoming completely dry.
Water only with the 3% hydrogen peroxide solution for approximately 3 months to kill potential root fungus. You may need to repot your plant if you have severely damaged roots (see below tip), removing any dried out or dead roots.
Snake plants can usually be watered once every two to four weeks, with plants that receive more light or heat needing to be watered more frequently. In the winter, the plants need even less watering, with only a light misting to water them when the leaves look a bit wilted.
When taking care of houseplants, watering can be among the most challenging skills to acquire.
An article I wrote explains how to figure out when to water your house plants.
Inadequate Soil and Drainage
Root rot appears to be the cause of this snake plant drooping, from being planted in a container with no drainage holes. Even if your watering schedule is on point, it might be that the soil is simply holding too much moisture and has no drainage capability.
The solution to this problem is to repot your plant in cactus or succulent potting mix.
For your Snake plant, this is an excellent potting mix that I have used many times with great success. However, you can also add about half perlite to regular potting soil along with a bit of compost for fertility.
Repotting plants requires that the existing soil be as much removed as possible and that the pot used is large enough. A good way to tell if the soil is not well-drained, is that when you water, water should immediately come out of the drainage holes on the bottom.
It is generally a sign you need better drainage if the soil keeps absorbing water even after you’ve poured a cup or so.
A common houseplant problem is that it becomes rootbound when its roots do not receive periodic repotting and root trimming. It is not necessary to repot snake plants as often as other plants, as they will be fine rootbound up to a certain extent, but in extreme cases of rootboundness they may become unhealthy and droop.
It is important for snake plants to grow in soil so that they will be provided the nutrients and water they need. A plant with roots that are too tightly bound can also experience girdling (roots that strangle themselves), disease, and rot and can have difficulty breathing (plant roots need air, too).
The snake plant’s roots need to be trimmed about halfway to three quarters of it’s size in the pot if you’re unable to repotted the plant, or you’ll need to place the plant in a bigger container for whatever reason.
You can tell if you need to repot a plant, or if it needs trimming, by loosening the soil away from the sides with your fingers or by feeling around to determine if the roots of the plant are thick all the way up the sides. If the plant seems to have more roots than what it is surrounded by, it’s time to move to a bigger pot.
If you are unable to separate all of the roots well before repotting, you may have to tease them apart into a nice branching pattern.
Trim the roots (for putting the plant back in the same pot, or to prevent a weak root ball that may need repotting) by taking the plant out of the pot and carefully putting it on its side. The roots will need to be cut each by one with a pair of scissors or even a knife.
The root system should be teased apart carefully instead of simply being carved into a smaller ball. Pieces of root should be removed where necessary to allow the root system to expand freely. A good goal here is to break up the clump of roots to make it appear more natural looking. Keep in mind the previous tip concerning the need for appropriate potting mix.
Temperature Issues: Lack Of Heat
Although it’s possible that a snake plant get too hot, this is probably not your problem if all of the leaves are falling off. Most likely the plant does not receive enough heat. Keep the temperature on the plant above 50°F for optimum health.
You should also keep in mind that even when the temperature is warm in your house it is cooler outdoors if the weather is cold. Then look for a location where you can put the plant closer to the heat source or further away from the window.
It is true snake plants can cope well with shade, but they tend to do better in partial sunlight. When there is barely any light in the greenhouse, it might be causing the plant to grow unhealthy and make it droop.
It is important to ensure adequate lighting for both aesthetic and health reasons. Partial sun tends to make snake plants look better, with lighter colored leaves that will see their signature pattern be seen more clearly. While snake plants can withstand more than eight hours of sunlight per day, strong direct sunlight all day in a south-facing window will cause the leaves of snake plants to droop.
It is ideal to place the plant 10 feet away from a southern facing window or in an east facing or western facing window. Since the sun from the west can be more intense, west-facing plants perform best a few feet away from the window as well.
It is best to gradually let the plant get accustomed to the light, exposing it to sunlight for only a couple of hours at first, and then increasing the time spent in the sun when it gets used to the full amount of sun at its new location.
It is also possible to partially block the sun using curtains, sticks, or other obstacles, increasing the plant’s exposure to sunlight each day without having to move it around.
When snake plants have one of the following problems, it can weaken them and make them vulnerable to pests.
Plants may be attacked by fungus gnats (fruit fly-like insects that emerge from the soil as larvae) if they are overwatered or if the drainage is poor. The plant may be repotted in new soil, its roots may have rotted, and it might need watering and drainage instructions. A solution containing 3% hydrogen peroxide then also an insecticide is applied.
A good homemade option would be to mix one tablespoon mild dish soap (Dr. Bronner’s or Clorox) with one quarter cup oil (sunflower or olive). Concentrated infestations would require the use of an oral pyrethrin-based insecticide.
The snake plant can become infested by spider mites, mealybugs, and other insects, but these will usually be evident before the leaves begin to flake off, as the plants will display miniature brown spots and/or lose their leaves completely before they drop off. Treat by spraying with an insecticide as above.
Read my article on some of the best ways to get rid of plant bugs naturally if you’re struggling to get rid of pests on your houseplants.
How To Fix Drooping Snake Plant Leaves
Following these tips you may be able to revive your snake plant’s leaves to a certain extent depending on how much they have drooped. The existing leaves will probably be too damaged to fix, so you won’t be able to fix them. You have the option of either leaving them alone until they start to grow upright, and then cutting them down, or letting them die.
Dead or rotten leaves must be taken off just below the rotten or dead portion. Keep in mind that their tips will never re-grow. Keep in mind not to cut too much leaf mass off, as this may cause the plant to die, as the light may not be enough to allow enough photosynthesizing to allow the plant to grow.
It’s better to wait until new, healthy growth appears before you cut off the old leaves, as that will ensure your plant is back to full health much quicker.
You should never have any problems with your snake plant again as long as you follow the above tips for bringing it back to health.