Brown tips on snake plants often means it is struggling with something. While not common, it can happen. Snake plants are very popular houseplants because they are beautiful, colorful and resilient.
They can tolerate a lot of abuse and neglect yet still survive.
Why does your snake plant have brown tips on its leaves? Brown tips on snake plant leaves can be caused by a few things, including:
- Too much chlorine in the water
- Excessive light
- Physical damage to the leaves
- Cold temperature
- Low humidity
- The plant is root bound
Just like all plants, proper care is needed to keep your snake plant happy.
Below I’ll go through each of these possible problems and explain what’s happening and how you can fix brown tips on your snake plant’s leaves.
Why Does Your Snake Plant Have Brown Tips & Leaves
Snake plants are among the most popular houseplants because of their lovely appearance, low maintenance and ability to take lots of neglect and abuse.
Many tout the plant as “indestructible“ or “hard to kill”, which is it. However, like all things, there’s still a limit to what it can tolerate.
Once things get past this limit, it will start to present some symptoms. Brown tips are usually a sign of stress due to something.
Below, I’ll go through the potential causes of this stress in detail and how to fix each one.
Underwatering Can Cause Brown Tips and Leaves
One of the reasons snake plants are very low maintenance is that you only need to water them once the soil is dry. That’s because it is able to store and conserve water.
This reduces watering frequency which makes it perfect for anyone with a busy schedule.
However, if you leave let it stay dry for an extended period, the plant will eventually get dehydrated as it uses up its water stores.
When this happens, you’ll see crispy, brown tips on your snake plant.
The good news is that the plant is very resilient. So, dehydration does not immediately kill it.
In fact, once you water a dehydrated snake plant, it does not take long before it recovers. Without 24 to 48 hours you’ll see it perk back up.
Make sure not to give it too much water all at once as this will shock the plant. Too much water too soon will likewise stress the plant which will worsen the situation.
Instead, water as you normally would and the plant will take care of the rest.
Brown tips and leaves on a snake plant are likewise a late-stage symptom of overwatering. As such, this takes a bit more time to develop.
For the most part, overwatering is the one of the very few things you can do to kill your snake plant. The reason is that too much moisture can destroy its root system.
Overwatering can happen due to a few reasons:
- You are watering the plant too often
- You add too much moisture each time you water
- The potting soil your snake plant is in retains too much moisture
- The pot you use does not have drainage holes
When overwatering happens, the soil will stay wet for extended periods of time.
Because there’s excess moisture all the air gaps are clogged by the liquid. This prevents air to get to the roots of the plant.
As a result, the roots will suffocate. Too much moisture also makes the environment perfect for fungal and bacterial diseases.
With your snake plant, the initial signs of overwatering show up as leaf edema (swelling). Blisters can likewise appear on the leaves.
If you see black or brown spots on its foliage, it means bacterial or fungal infection have likely set in.
As things get worse, the roots will start to rot. It begins with a few roots and keep spreading. Once majority of the roots have rotted, it becomes difficult to save the plant.
Unfortunately, damaged roots mean that they can’t absorb nutrients or water from the soil anymore. This results in deficiency which results in leaf discoloration and why the leaves eventually turn burn and have crispy tips.
Thus, checking the four causes of overwatering above to make sure all of them are addressed is important.
In general, snake plants are quite resilient. And it is not as sensitive as other plants when it comes to water quality.
However, if you happen to live in a municipality where the water supply is over-chlorinated, it can turn the plant’s leaf tips brown.
This is very rare for snake plants. However, it can happen as a result of stress.
If this is the case, you can use distilled or purified water. If you have a rain barrel, you can collect rainfall and use that as well.
Alternatively, you can leave tap water at room temperature overnight or longer. This will allow the chemicals to evaporate before you use the water on the plants.
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Another reason why snake plants are easy to care for is that they can tolerate many different conditions.
Unlike most houseplants, snake plants can take direct sun as well as low light.
But there’s a hitch.
It does best when kept in the same lighting condition it is used to. This means that if it is used to strong, direct sunshine, it is best to keep it in that kind of environment.
If is has grown accustomed to medium or low light, then it is best to place it somewhere with similar light.
That said, this does not mean you can change where you put it. But if you decide to move it from bright light to low light or vice versa, do so gradually to allow the plant to get acclimated.
If you suddenly change its lighting environment drastically, it can develop brown tips, especially if it cannot tolerate the new light intensity.
Over time, it will get acclimated though.
Brown leaf ties and edges can be caused physically as well. If the damage looks rough with marks of scraping, it is probably caused by human traffic.
Snake plants are commonly used in homes and indoor establishments. If it happens to be placed in a high traffic area where its leaves keep getting hit by people as they walk by, this can cause leaf damage and brown tips and edges.
Since the cause is not internal nor chemical, the best way to fix this is to move the plant somewhere so it does not keep getting hit by people walking by.
Besides overwatering, another weakness of the snake plant is the cold.
It is a tropical plant that’s used to warm, balmy weather with good sunshine. Therefore, it is not well suited for cold environments.
As such, if it is left in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for prolonged periods of time, it will get stressed. Later on, its leaves will develop brown tips.
If you want to keep the plant outside during summer, make sure to bring it back indoors once the weather gets colder around autumn.
Too Much Fertilizer
Another thing that makes the snake plant low maintenance is that it does not need a lot of fertilizer.
The plant has evolved to survive with very low nutrient needs.
But while this generally makes it easy to care for if you don’t have a lot of time, someone who like caring for plants can become overly generous with fertilizer.
Applying too much fertilizer, doing it too often or using very strong doses can all cause damage to the plant’s roots and leaves. And in addition to root damage, you may see brown leaf tips as well.
Snake plants only need to be fed once a month during its growing season. Don’t forget to dilute the dose to half strength as well.
Lack of Humidity
Snake plants thrive in humid conditions. Although it will tolerate humidity levels of 40% and above. This makes it easier to care for in most homes.
But it room humidity drops to the low 30s or even to the 20s on a regular basis, the dry air can cause brown leaf tips on your snake plant.
To remedy this, you can use a humidifier or mist the plant regularly.
Pest infestation is something every houseplant owner needs to be wary of. Untreated, these bugs can cause a plant to deteriorate or even get overwhelmed.
And while the snake plant is generally resilient, it is somewhat prone to sap suckers. The most common pest problems for this plant include spider mites, mealybugs and fungus gnats.
Fungus gnats tend to occur with excess moisture. Thus, you want to avoid overly high humidity, excessive misting or overwatering.
Both spider mites and mealybugs like to steal the sap of the plant. And by taking the liquid, it can lead to dehydration.
So as the pest problem grows in size, it also increases the stress experienced by the plant as they are able to cause more damage. This results in brown tips and curling leaves.
Therefore, it is important to quickly address any pests since their population tends to grow very quickly.
The Plant is Root Bound
One of the reasons why repotting is an important part of plant care is that it helps your houseplants stay healthy.
Once a snake plant outgrows its container, the roots will take over. As more and more roots take up the space in the pot, there’s less soil left.
The decreased soil volume means it cannot hold as much water or nutrients to sustain the plant. Thus, over time the plant will suffer from dehydration and nutrient deficiency.
Of the two lack of water tends to occur more quickly. But both can cause brown leaf tips on your snake plant.
Therefore, once the plant becomes root bound, be ready to repot it. The best way to tell is to check the holes at the bottom of the pot.
If you see roots coming out from the holes, it means their current container is not big enough anymore. And they need more space.
How to Fix Brown Tips on Snake Plants
The best way to fix brown tips on snake plants is to diagnose the cause of the problem. Because there are many potential causes, it is best to go through the list above one by one.
By process of elimination, you’ll be able to narrow down the reason for brown leaf tips.
From there, follow the solutions above to fix the problem based on its cause.
Unfortunately, even after you remedy the issue, the brown leaf tips won’t turn back to their original green color. The damage is permanent.
However, once the plant gets healthy it will produce more leaves to replace the damaged one. So, there’s no need to worry about the leaves themselves since they’re more cosmetic.
Instead, focus on the underlying problem.
Alternatively, you can likewise prune off the brown tips. This works best when the browning is minor and only parts of the foliage are affected. You can reshape the leaves by removing the brown sections.
Frequently Asked Questions About Snake Plant Brown Leaves/Tips
Can I cut the brown tips off my snake plant?
Yes. How much you cut off will depend on the amount of damage and how many leaves have been affected. For minor browning, you can cut off the sections. Before you do, decide on what the shape of the leaf will be. The damaged tip will not grow back. If a large part of the leaf or the entire leaf is affected, cut off the leaf at the soil line. Over time, new leaves will grow in its place.
Will snake plant tips grow back?
Unfortunately, not. Full grown leaves will not grow new tips if you cut them off. Therefore, decide on the new shape of the leaf before you cut any section of it. In addition to brown tips, you can likewise remove dead and old leaves by either plucking them off or cutting them with pruning shears.
Why are my snake plants tips turning brown?
The most common cause of brown leaf tips in snake plants is improper watering. Lack of water leads to dehydration which turns leaf tips brown. However, brown leaf tips can also be a late-stage sign of overwatering.
How do you fix brown tips on snake plants?
Browning leaves if often caused by a thirsty snake plant. As such, giving it water will allow it to recover and perk back up. Before you add water, make sure to check that the soil is dry. You can use your finger or a moisture meter to see how dry the soil it.