There is a reputation for snake plants being extremely hardy. Water evaporates slowly from their fleshy leaves, so they don’t need to be replaced often. Therefore, snake plants are a familiar member of many households.
Even though snake plants are more prone to overwatering, underwatering them is not impossible. Plants can be underwatered without giving them too little water. Basically, the soil became extremely dry before water was added. Find out how to identify the cause of dehydration, as well as how to save a underwatered snake plant.
What Causes Snake Plants to Dehydrate?
Infrequently watered snake plants can survive in tropical climates. Some people are scared to overwater succulents when they get their first succulents because of this. It is common for people to follow the watering regimen without paying attention to the status of the plants. It is recommended that snake plants be watered moderately, at least every two weeks, during the growth season. Winter requires less water, maybe every 1-2 months depending on the environment. In most cases, these guidelines apply. However, these recommendations are flexible. Lighting conditions, temperature, and humidity all have an impact on a plant’s water needs. If these factors are ignored, snake plants can sometimes become dehydrated.
Climates with warm or hot temperatures are most conducive to Sansevieria growth. Low temperatures cause them to go dormant. During winter, they need less water and nutrients. Same is the case with light. Snake plants need less light to consume less water. Snake plants, however, will need more water if kept near a heater or a sunny window. The soil will lose more moisture when there are more air drafts, the air is too dry, or the pot is made of porous material like terracotta.
The soil itself can sometimes be a problem. Snake plants require a potting medium that is fast-draining and not dense in any way. It will not hold water if it is too loose. To increase the soil’s water holding capacity, it’s recommended to add some peat, coco coir, or pumice. The ingredients are coarser than garden soil. In addition to improving soil drainage, they increase oxygen levels while retaining moisture.
Sadly, the symptoms of over- and under-watering snake plants are almost identical. It is especially difficult for new plant growers to tell them apart. However, there are some slight differences. You can get more information about the plant by checking more parts. Underwatering problems can be accurately diagnosed by using this information.
The Leaf’s Appearance
First and foremost, check the leaves of the snake plant to determine if it has been underwatered. You will likely notice brown tips on the leaves of your snake plant if it is dehydrated. Usually, the tips are dry and feel crispy. Brown areas appear along the edges and tips of the soil once it has been dry for a while. It appears wrinkled and shriveled. Curled leaves are sometimes seen. To the touch, the brown parts feel dry, thin, and papery. In the event that the leaves remain underwater, they may bend over, become limp, or die.
Eventually, the oldest leaves will turn brown, and then yellow. Yellow leaves can indicate both too wet and too dry soil. These are sometimes difficult to understand. Rather than the color of the leaves, the main distinguishing characteristic is the texture of the leaves. If the damaged leaf part is mushy or pulpy, then you overwater the plant. Plants that are underwatered have dry and fragile leaf tips. Plants of this type usually grow slowly.
The moisture content of the soil is also an important indicator of underwatering. You can tell whether a plant needs water by checking the soil surface. The top soil layer can be dry. It is advisable to let the top 1-1.5 inches of soil dry completely before watering your snake plant.
Snake plant potting mixes distribute moisture evenly throughout the entire container. Even though the top of the pot is dry, the soil at the bottom of the pot can retain little moisture. It is a sign of underwatering, however, when the soil is extremely dry throughout. In other words, all the water evaporated or drained off too quickly. To test soil moisture near the roots, use an electronic moisture meter or a probe. The soil is too dry if the meter reads “dry”.
Oftentimes, an underwatered snake plant has brown tips on its leaves and is dry in its soil. Usually, they appear before root damage occurs. Roots can also be affected by insufficient water if the plant goes without water for an extended period of time. Snake plant roots store moisture like all of its other parts (leaves, rhizomes). Dehydration causes them to become dry and brittle. It’s probably too late to save the plant if the roots are dead and crumble in your fingers.
Identifying the Problem
When you notice any of the above signs of dehydration, you can be sure your snake plant is underwater. Identifying the exact reason for this will be the next step. Underwatering can be prevented in the future if the root cause of it is resolved. The following are some of the causes:
A plant’s dehydration can be caused by not giving it enough water or watering it infrequently. For snake plants, it is best to water them thoroughly, let all the excess water drain off, and then wait until the top 1-1.5 inches of soil are dry before watering again. You can feel how moist the soil is by putting your finger into it. Chopsticks and popsicle sticks are other wooden items you can use.
Moisture meters can provide a more accurate reading of what’s going on near the roots. After watering the plant, check the moisture level 2-3 days later. It is important to water the snake plants more frequently, maybe twice a week, if the needle goes all the way to the dry end.
You can also determine if the soil is dry by its weight. It’s best to try this technique in summer, as plants may not be able to handle wet soil in winter. Water the plant thoroughly when you think it needs it. Drain the plant completely in a sink or collect the water in a saucer. Pick up the pot after 20 minutes of draining and pay attention to its weight. The moisture content of your body is that weight. Pick up the pot every few days to check the weight. With or without water, you’ll learn how the soil feels. You can note down the weight on a scale and measure it.
Water Evaporation in a Faster Way
Despite watering the snake plant regularly, it may run out of water because of fast evaporation. A heater, for instance, can quickly dry out the soil in small pots. Make sure you have kept your snake plant in a warm room with a heater nearby. It is possible for the central heating system to dry out the pots even faster than in the summer. Plants of this type will require more water. It will be necessary to water them more than once a month during the winter.
You can also encourage pot soil to dry out faster by using air vents, box fans, or a ceiling fan. Snake plants should not be kept very close to air circulation devices. Remove excess water from the soil without using any instrument like a hair dryer. The leaves can be damaged by heat.
Potting Mix Too Loose
A snake plant will most likely die due to over-watering rather than under-watering. Due to this, it is always better to have a loose soil mix that prevents overwatering and root rot. It may, however, cause the mix to drain rapidly, causing very little water to remain in the container. Water will pass through gravel, coarse sand, and pebbles. In addition, pumice, perlite, vermiculite, and coco coir maintain some moisture in the soil while maintaining good air circulation. Organic compost and garden soil add nutrients, but they also make the soil mix denser. Maintaining the balance between good drainage and sufficient moisture holding capacity is crucial.
There’s no correlation between overwatering a snake plant and too much nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen overdose is characterized by browning of the leaf tips. Lack of other nutrients can cause some leaves to turn yellow. As a result, the roots will be damaged and burnt over time. Nitrogen is added in greater quantities in most commercial fertilizers. Compost and natural fertilizers like it contain more Nitrogen than other nutrients.
Nitrogen toxicity may be the result of overfertilization. Soil nitrogen can be measured with test strips. If this applies to you, you may want to add a teaspoon of potassium sulfate per gallon of water. Adding potassium to soil balances nitrogen and doesn’t harm soil microbes. Never use overly potent organic fertilizers on snake plants in the future, and always use an equal mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (N-P-K).
What is the Best Way to Save an Underwater Snake Plant?
A snake plant that has been submerged can most likely be saved if the damage is not too severe. It is not possible to heal the leaves completely. When they are damaged, the scars are permanent. However, you can definitely prevent further damage. New pups will grow out of the roots as long as they are healthy. First and foremost, you need to identify and fix the problem in order to save an underwatered plant. The following tips will help you revive the look of your snake plant.
Discard Severely Affected Parts
The snake plant’s damaged leaves will not recover and should be removed. It is possible that they won’t get worse with proper care. The leaves that still have some healthy and firm parts can be trimmed back. However, half-cut leaves won’t look good in the pot. It’s best to cut them off at the base. Sterilize pruning shears, a knife, or scissors.
The Soil Mix Needs to be Fixed
Soil that is too loose and free draining does not retain any water. Rather than soaking the soil, water will run directly through the bottom holes instead of coming out. Adding some peat moss, perlite, coir or regular soil will help. Don’t add more than one third of the mix. After an hour of soaking in water, drain the pot and throw away the drained water. For the next 2-3 days, monitor the moisture level regularly.
If you don’t want to use a medium that drains well, use a medium that doesn’t. Find out how to combine potting mixes here. A 10-10-10 fertilizer is recommended for feeding the plant. Snake plants do best with liquid-based or slow-release fertilizers.
Make Sure the Pot is in a Proper Environment
Plants should be kept at a moderate distance from air vents, heaters, etc. Plants that grow in brighter and warmer areas will need more water than those that grow in shaded and cool regions. In many cases, more light is better for plant growth, particularly for new plants until they are fully rooted. This should take place over a period of 3-6 months. Following that, the water level and light levels can be reduced. In any case, avoid strong sunlight. In hotter climates, snake plants can tolerate a little sun at the beginning or end of the day.
Water Your Plants Properly
Lastly, it’s important to follow a watering regimen based on the conditions of your plants. During the winter, snake plants can be watered with warm water (up to 80°F or 27°C). The morning is the best time to water them, since it is warmer then. Roots of snake plants shouldn’t be kept wet and cold for long periods of time. When the soil is completely dry, water deeply until the water runs through the drainage hole. Before watering snake plants, it is not necessary for the top layer to become completely dry.