Snake Plant Root Rot: Incredible Guide to Treating It (2021)

Snake plants can suffer from root rot, one of the most common and destructive ailments. Even though these plants are extremely tolerant of many environmental conditions, rotting can be very harmful to their health. A severe rotting condition can literally destroy a plant from the ground up. Any problem can be prevented by catching root rot as early as possible. Throughout this article, I’ll explain how root rot occurs in snake plants, how to diagnose and treat it, and, most importantly, how to prevent it.

What is a Root Rot?

In addition to absorbing water and nutrients, plant roots also synthesize oxygen. During an extended period of too much moisture, the roots slowly drown. Infected roots begin to decay when pathogens attack them. Brown or black mush forms when roots are affected, making it impossible for them to absorb nutrients. Because it is deprived of resources to grow, the entire plant suffers.

What Causes Root Rot in Snake Plants?

The main causes of root rot are prolonged exposure to wet soil and fungus growth in the soil. It is possible for soil to become wet for a variety of reasons. Because of a lack of oxygen, the roots of plants die. In time, they begin to rot from the inside out. Additionally, fungi can lie dormant in soil and suddenly thrive when it has a suitable moist environment. The most common cause of snake plant root rot appears to be standing in wet soil for an extended period of time. This problem is caused by a number of important factors.


You can easily rot your snake plant by watering it before the soil gets a chance to dry out. It needs less water than most houseplants, so Sansevieria do not need to be watered as frequently. A less frequent but deeper watering is the best method. Ensure that the top layer of soil dries out weekly or biweekly. Soil that is constantly moist is a breeding ground for root rot.

Snake plants are in dormancy during winter, so be very careful when watering them. The plants require water every month during these times. In this case, maintaining the same schedule of watering would lead to unintentional overwatering. You can find detailed information on watering Sansevieria in this watering guide.

Water Not Draining Well

Sansevieria dislikes containers with insufficient drainage. Drainage holes are necessary on pots for snake plants so water can be let out. Be sure to place a saucer under the pot and dispose of the drained water after a while. Even if you let the water sit in the saucer, the soil can still become sodden. You can raise the pot base above the water line by placing it on pebbles.

Overwatered container plants are more susceptible to root rot than garden plants. Taking precautionary measures to improve soil drainage prior to planting will most often prevent root rot in gardens.

Oversized Pot

Containers that are appropriate in size should be used for snake plants. Giving your roots an extra space to grow could save you some repotting work in the future. In addition, bigger pots mean excess soil and extra moisture, which is not good for succulents, especially Sansevierias.

Ensure that the plant’s root ball is held securely in the pot. Whenever you repot the plant (every couple of years or so), increase the diameter by 1-1.5 inches. Here’s how to pick the right pot for your snake plant.

Dense and Old Soil

Snake plants need potting mix that is porous and fast-draining. Soils that are dense, such as pure garden soil, can’t quickly let water through. Soil that is dense can become waterlogged for long periods of time, allowing harmful pathogens to grow. Root rot is caused and encouraged by this. Additionally, old soil tends to become compacted and retain more moisture.

Salt overload is another issue with old soil. Water with dissolved minerals keeps building up in the soil if it is hard or salty. Plant stress is increased when soil is salinized, not just because it reduces infiltration.

Using Contaminated Tools

Sterilizing tools is essential when pruning, propagating, or repotting snake plants. Plants will easily become infected with pathogens if not sterilised tools are used. Infections are more likely to occur on exposed plant parts (stubs after trimming the leaves). So, before reusing your equipment on alternative plants, disinfect it.

Propagation Water Not Being Changed

During water propagation, snake plant roots can rot. Using leaf cuttings can cause this to happen. It’s very important to replace water frequently when propagating a snake plant in water. The lower end of the leaf and the roots (if any) develop a fishy odor and begin to rot when the water is not changed every 3-4 days.

How to Tell If Your Roots Are Rotting

It is crucial to detect root rot early in order to take action. However, the first signs of this disease appear beneath the soil surface. Plant growers often aren’t aware of the problem until it is advanced and visible in other ways. Therefore, as soon as you see symptoms of root rot on your snake plant, seek immediate help.

Leaves’ Appearance

The plant roots might be struggling if it shows slow growth and yellowing leaves. The growth of snake plants slows down even more because they are already slow-medium growth plants. However, Sansevieria suffers from root rot if the leaves yellow. There may not yet be any effects on the root system.

The result of root damage is wilting, becoming mushy and soft, turning yellow, or falling off. Foliage on the outside gets affected first, then the rest of the foliage. You may want to check the roots if your snake plant is drooping and the leaves are turning yellow for no apparent reason.

Stinky Smell

If you see any discolored leaves, you should check the soil and roots. Gently remove the plant from its pot by loosening the soil around the base of the plant. Examine the roots carefully after shaking the soil off. If you notice a bad smell of decay coming from the soil or roots, it’s also a sign of root rot.

When the roots are healthy, they smell earthy or don’t have a scent at all. You may soon smell rotten plant material emanating from your snake plant as the disease progresses. If the problem is not addressed, it will become increasingly apparent. You may be able to detect the problem earlier when you recognize the smell early on.

Mushy, Dark Roots

Check the roots carefully after removing the plant for examination. Snake plant roots are light yellow or white in color and firm to the touch. The disease causes them to become limp and slowly change color. Black or brown roots are affected by root rot. They feel soft if you touch them.

During the worst stages of root rot, the roots turn to mush. The roots slowly die, and healthy portions become dark and mushy. If you pull the roots slightly, severely damaged roots may literally come off the plant.

The Soil’s Appearance

If soil stays wet for too long, there may be a problem with root rot below. You can check the moisture in your plant soil with your finger or a moisture meter. Feel 2 inches under the surface of the soil. Even if it’s wet after days of watering, that’s not a good sign.

A wet soil, excessive water or poor drainage can cause root rot, but fungi in the soil make the problem worse. The presence of too much water creates the perfect breeding ground for fungi. Overwatering causes fungal diseases such as red leaf spot and southern blight to attack snake plants. The presence of visible fungi on the soil surface or leaves is often accompanied by root rot.

How Can You Save Your Snake Plant From Root Rot?

During the early stages of the disease, you may be able to revive the plant. Assess whether the plant can be saved once root rot has been identified. If the entire root system has already become mushy, the only option is to throw the plant away. Keep it away from other healthy plants and dispose of it carefully. After preparing the pot and tools, make sure that they are sterilized.

You can try to restore your plant to health if the rot is widespread, but there are still living roots. If some healthy, firm roots remain, a snake plant can produce new pups even though most of the foliage is dead. Acting quickly is the first and most important step. Give your plant the best chance of survival by starting the treatment as soon as possible.

Rot Treatment

  • Wash the roots of your snake plant under running water after removing it from the soil. As much infected soil as possible should be washed away from the plant. Examine the roots carefully after they have been cleaned.
  • Trim away all parts of the affected area with a sharp, sterilized pair of shears. Remove mushy, brown parts of the root system. Depending on how badly the plant is damaged, you might have to get rid of a large number of roots. You should sterilise the shears again and prune one-third of the leaves on the plant. You should begin with the yellow and wilted leaves. Plants grow new leaves from the center rather than the outside as old leaves decay. If there is a flower stalk, cut it off. Plant stress will be reduced, as it will not need to support as many leaves.
  • There is no requirement for this step, but it is recommended. To prevent root rot, dip healthy roots in a fungicide or add it to the soil. An overview of fungicides follows. It doesn’t matter which one you use.
  • Repotting the plant in fresh soil is the last step. Potting soil should be dry, sand-based, and well-drained. Wash the old pot thoroughly with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for at least 10 minutes if you are reusing it. Let it air dry after rinsing it off with hot, clean water. After planting your Sansevieria in your pot, make sure the depth is the same as before.

Fungus Treatment

You should use some fungicide to ensure that the pathogens are completely eliminated and won’t attack the plant in the future. Listed below are some commonly used types.


Spices such as cinnamon and cumin are natural fungicides. Cinnamaldehyde is an amazing ingredient that is present in this product. More than 40 crops have been shown to be resistant to fungal infections using this compound. In addition to reducing soil gnats, cinnamon prevents root rot. Moreover, snake plants are mildly toxic for cats and dogs as well, so the scent also works as an added benefit.

You can dust cinnamon over the roots of your snake plant to treat it. You should apply it after you have removed the diseased leaves from the stumps. Add some to the soil as well. Cinnamon essential oil can also be used, but it must be diluted in some carrier oil.

Neem Oil

You can also use neem oil as an organic multipurpose product. Neem fruit kernels are used to extract this oil. Fungi, sooty mold, mildew, etc. can be removed. Additionally, this natural pesticide is effective against nematodes and bacteria.

Sprays are the most common form of application. In 1 quart (1 liter) of warm water, combine 1 teaspoon (5ml) neem oil with 1/2 teaspoon mild liquid soap. It should be shaken well and sprayed on just the affected parts of your plant.

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)

The use of Hydrogen Peroxide as a root rot treatment is also readily available. Water and oxygen molecules are formed when peroxide is added to it. Plant roots get oxygen from this, which helps control fungus gnats. A plant’s leaves use carbon dioxide, but its roots still require oxygen.

About 1 teaspoon of 3% H2O2 solution should be diluted in a cup of water. Before repotting, soak roots and other affected parts in diluted solution. Also, it can be mixed into the soil or added to a watering can. Add about one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to one litre of water when you water the snake plant. Dip the roots in it, mix it with soil, or water with it. It might be too much to try all three at once.

Commercial Fungicide

It is possible to use commercial fungicides to control the fungus at an affordable price. The good microorganisms in the soil can be damaged by these pesticides. Weak plants are more prone to rot due to this. As such, use it as a last resort if at all possible.

The Aftercare

  • Allow the plant to rest after repotting.
  • Restart the watering schedule carefully. Once the roots have recovered and the plant is producing new foliage, water it sparingly. Reduced root size and plant size means less water is needed. Only water the plant when the top of the soil is dry.
  • Sunlight should not be too intense. Put it in a place with moderate light.
  • The plant should not be fertilized until it is healthy again. Compromises roots will not absorb nutrients and may burn. The use of fertilizers on sick plants is not permitted as they are not medicines.

With any luck, you’ll be able to enjoy your snake plant again and it’ll return to its beautiful self soon.

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