7 Reasons why Snake Plant Leaves are Turning Brown

Overall, snake plants are incredibly hardy and one of the easiest indoor plants for beginners to grow. However, like all plants, occasionally, problems do arise. So, what are the reasons why your snake plant leaves are turning brown?

Snake plant leaves turn brown as a result of incorrect environmental factors. These can include incorrect watering, too much direct sunlight, the air not having enough humidity, or even a possible infestation of common houseplant pests.

When the leaves of your snake plant start to turn brown, there are plenty of things you can do to fix the problem, and this browning of leaves is rarely fatal for your plant. Let’s look at some of the causes of leaf browning in snake plants and what you can do to fix them.

snake plant leaves dry

Watering Problems

Snake plants are succulents, and, as you may be aware, this group of plants has very precise watering requirements. Above all else, succulents should not be overwatered or left to sit in water for any period of time. In saying that, you can’t totally neglect these plants and not give them any water at all. So, let’s look at problems associated with both overwatering and underwatering.

Overwatering Problems

Snake plants are sensitive to overwatering. Because they are succulents, they have the ability to store water in their leaves. If they receive more water than they can actually use or store, their leaves become over-saturated, and this can cause them to turn brown and even become a little mushy.

To identify whether your snake plant is being overwatered, look at the leaves, and if the tips are turning brown, then this could be the case. Also, have a look at the soil. If it is damp all the time, then you are definitely overwatering your snake plant.

How to Remedy this Problem

  • Let the soil dry out completely before every watering
  • Always test the moisture level in the soil before applying water
  • Ensure that the pot your snake plant is growing in has plenty of drainage holes
  • Make sure that your plant is growing in soil that is free-draining
  • Never leave a saucer filled with water under your plant

To test the moisture level in the soil, it’s as easy as sticking your finger into the top one or two inches of soil. If the soil is completely dry, you can give your plant a drink. However, if the soil is still damp, it’s better to wait another couple of days before you check the moisture level in the soil again.

You could also invest in a moisture meter that will actually measure the amount of moisture in the soil.

Underwatering Problems

Although this problem is far less common than overwatering, it can occasionally happen. Because snake plants need fairly infrequent watering, you may have forgotten to check your plant for a couple of weeks or so.

If your plant has been dry for too long, it will respond with the leaves starting to turn brown. You might also notice that the leaves look a little wrinkled and are not as plump as they normally are. They may also become dry and crispy.

How to Remedy this Problem

  • Take your plant over to the sink or place it in the bathtub and give it a good soaking until the water runs out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
  • Leave the plant to drain completely before returning it back to its original spot.
  • Check the soil moisture of your snake plant at least every two weeks to see if it needs watering.

Inconsistent Watering

If your snake plant goes from being waterlogged to a prolonged period of having dry soil, this can cause some problems for the roots of your plant as they really don’t like such sudden changes in the soil environment. In turn, this will cause the leaves to turn brown.

Ideally, snake plants should be watered every two weeks, but this will depend on the time of year and the climate in your home. Because your watering frequency can vary, it’s a good idea to have a watering calendar that you can refer to.

On this calendar, you can mark when you watered your plant and then put a reminder to check the moisture level in the soil in another fourteen days. If you have a number of other houseplants, this is a great way to keep a record of when they should be watered so that you don’t forget.

Low Air Humidity Problems

Although snake plants can adapt to lower humidity environments, they don’t really appreciate the very dry air in our homes during winter when the heating is constantly on. The lack of moisture in the air can cause the leaves on your snake plant to turn brown.

How to Remedy this Problem

The first thing that you want to do is to check how much humidity there is in the air in your home. You can do this easily with a humidity meter. Ideally, you want the air humidity in your home or in the area where your snake plant lives to be above 40%. If your air humidity is below this level, here are things that you can do:

  • Mist your plant daily with a spray bottle filled with water.
  • Invest in a humidifier and place this near your plant.
  • Grab a shallow tray and fill the bottom with pebbles or colored stones. Add some water to the tray about halfway up the level of the pebbles. Place your plant pot on top of the pebbles. The water in the tray will slowly evaporate and increase the humidity level around your plant, while the pebbles will ensure that the roots of your plant are not sitting in water.

Problems with too Much Direct Sunlight

Although snake plants love the sun and need bright, indirect light to thrive, too much direct sunlight can actually burn the leaves of your plant. If your snake plant lives directly in front of a sunny window, you have to remember that the glass of the window will amplify the heat and rays of the sun.

How to Remedy this Problem

  • Move your plant further away from the window.
  • Cover the window with some sheer curtains to screen your plant from direct sunlight.

Problems associated With Fertilizing

Snake plants are quite used to living in impoverished soils and don’t require a lot of fertilizer. In fact, if you fertilize too much or too often using inorganic fertilizer, the salts from the fertilizer can build up in the soil and cause damage to the roots of your plant. This, in turn, will eventually turn the leaves brown.

How to Remedy this Problem

  • Keep fertilizing to a minimum.
  • Use a quality slow-release fertilizer in pellet form and only apply once a year.
  • Alternatively, you can use a liquid plant food designed for succulents and only apply this at half-strength no more than once a month.
  • If you notice your snake plant leaves turning brown directly after you’ve fertilized your plant, stop fertilizing for at least two to three months in order to give your plant a chance to recover.

Problems Caused by Scarring

Believe it or not, those tough-looking snake plant leaves are actually quite delicate. Just a slight knock on any part of the leaf can cause it to scar. These scars will often appear as brown marks on the sides of the leaves.

Because snake plants can be quite top-heavy, they can also have a tendency to topple over if the pot is not large or heavy enough. This will often cause scarring or damage to the leaves and can cause those damaged parts to turn brown.

How to Remedy this Problem

  • Make sure that your snake plant is not in a high-traffic area.
  • Keep your plant well away from children and pets to avoid any damage to the leaves.
  • Ensure that your snake plant is growing in a nice heavy pot that is not likely to topple over easily as the plant continues to grow. Remember that the pot will get lighter as the soil dries out in between watering.

Problems Caused by Cold Temperatures

Like many succulents, snake plants do not like cold temperatures, especially those below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). If your snake plant is exposed to colder temperatures, the leaves will first start to curl inward as a sign to you that the plant is under stress.

Also, be aware that if your snake plant is exposed to extremely cold conditions, the leaves will start to develop white patches and become mushy. This is caused by the cell walls collapsing due to extreme cold conditions.

How to Remedy this Problem

  • If your snake plant is only displaying slight curling of the leaves and maybe some browning of the tips, then move your plant into a warmer spot or a room in your home that is constantly heated.
  • If the leaves on your snake plant have developed white and mushy areas, then these cannot be saved. You should take a sharp, clean knife and cut off the entire leaf right down to the base of the plant.

Problems associated with Houseplant Pests

Common houseplant pests such as spider mites and mealy bugs can cause the leaves of your snake plant to develop brown spots. That’s because these insects are sap-suckers, and they suck the goodness right out of the leaves.

How to Identify Spider Mites

  • Spider mites are tiny red insects that are mostly impossible to see with the naked eye. Therefore, you’ll need a magnifying glass to spot them on the leaves.
  • The telltale signs that you have a spider mite problem will be the appearance of tiny white webs on the leaves of your snake plant.

How to Remedy a Spider Mite Infestation

  • Spray your entire plant with a mixture of water and insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Repeat this for a week or two until all the spider mites have disappeared.

How to Identify Mealy Bugs

  • Look for tiny white insects that look like little bits of cotton wool on the leaves of your plant.

How to Remedy a Mealy Bug Problem

  • If you only notice a few mealy bugs on your snake plant, you can dab these with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This will immediately kill the bugs.
  • On the other hand, if there are numerous bugs all over your plant, you can spray with a solution of water and neem oil in order to kill them. You may need to repeat this application once or twice more to ensure that you get rid of all of the bugs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the brown leaves on your snake plant turn green again once you’ve fixed the problem?

Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. Once your snake plant leaves have turned brown or developed brown spots, these will not turn green again. That’s because the brown spots are a result of necrotic or dead tissue.

Luckily, snake plant leaves grow fairly quickly. Therefore, once the new green leaves have grown, the older brown ones will be less noticeable.

Can you trim off the brown parts of a snake plant leaf?

Although this is possible, it’s best not to do this. This is because snake plant leaves are highly sensitive, and by cutting parts of them off, you could be exposing the plant to fungal disease and further damage.

If there are only a couple of leaves that have turned brown and you find these unsightly, you can remove the entire leaf by using a sharp, clean knife or a pair of secateurs to cut the leaf off at the base of the plant.

How much sunlight does a snake plant need?

Ideally, a snake plant needs only around 5 hours of bright, indirect light on a daily basis.

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