Snake plants are known for their toughness, ability to tolerate abuse and neglect. But as with all things, there’s a limit. And if you see your snake plant turning white, it means something is not right.
But don’t panic.
While this means there may be a problem, it is almost always fixable.
So, the most important thing to do is to diagnose what is happening to your beloved snake plant.
Why is my snake plant turning white? Excess sunlight exposure or changes in environmental conditions are what usually trigger this.
But white leaves on snake plant can also happen due to pests, diseases, watering problems and temperature stress.
Why is Your Snake Plant Turning White?
Snake plant turning white is something you need to take seriously. While some causes may be easy reverse and allow the plant to recover, others are not fixed as easily.
In fact, some of these can eventually kill the plant if you don’t take the necessary action in time.
Therefore, it is important to try and diagnose the cause the moment you notice your snake plant turning white.
Snake plants are very resilient and tough. I remember when I was starting out with gardening that some people were even labeling it as indestructible.
Unfortunately, that’s not true.
And while the plant can tolerate a lot of abuse and neglect, there are a few things that it is susceptible to.
That’s what makes it easy to care for and hard to kill.
It only has a handful of weaknesses.
But one of those happens to be strong light.
The plant can only withstand short periods of strong, harsh or intense light. As such, try to keep it away from direct sunlight.
Instead, it thrives in indirect, filtered or dappled sunlight indoors. And it does best in bright, medium or low light.
Outdoors, the plant will grow at its best in partial shade. Avoid full sun which is too much for it.
Note that it is not limited to that.
If you use artificial lights like growth lights, excess intensity will also eventually damage the leaves of the plant.
Too much direct sunlight or very harsh lighting will bleach the plant and make snake plant leaves turn white.
And if this goes on for long periods of time, you’ll see parts of the leaves get scorched or burned.
While the snake plant can tolerate this for a while, it will eventually succumb as the more damage it sustains in its leaves affects its overall healthy including its ability for photosynthesis.
Thus, prolonged exposure to too much direct sunlight or intense lighting can eventually kill the plant.
To fix snake plant turning white due to excess light, there are two things to consider.
- Fixing an already bleached snake plant
Prevention is much better than any fix or solution. That’s because your snake plant won’t have to ensure the stress and damage caused by excess lighting.
And the best way to do this is to position it either in near a north facing window or an east facing window.
An east facing window gives you gentle morning sun which the plant loves.
A northern exposure has the least light amongst the four directions. But since the snake plant does well in lower light conditions, this is perfect for it.
You can likewise position the plant in the west or south facing windows if you wish.
But you have to take a bit more precaution.
- One is to place it such that the sun’s rays never touch the plant at any time of the day. This way, it will not receive direct sunlight.
- The other is to filter the light coming in by adding sheer curtains, drapes or something similar on the windows.
On the other hand, if you notice one day your snake plant turning white due to too much light. Move it to less bright location immediately.
Then reground and think of a better spot.
Again, it is important to follow the same rules.
And the main one is to keep the plant away from the sun’s rays at any point of the day.
Indoors, you can do this by monitoring where the sun hits in different directions of your home at different times of the day.
Outdoors, you can put it in a covered patio, balcony or something similar provided there there’s still some light coming through.
Snake plants are tropical plants. As such, they like warm climate conditions.
Ideally, the snake plant thrives when temperature is between 55 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, this is a wide range which makes it easy to accommodate the plant into homes.
However, when it comes to temperature, there are two things to take into consideration.
One is the plant hates the cold. And it cannot tolerate cold conditions.
It is also not frost hardy.
As such, try to avoid temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The other thing to keep in mind is that snake plants hate temperature fluctuations.
Thus, if you suddenly notice your snake plant develop white patches or spots on the leaves, check the temperature.
One sneaky thing that can happen in some homes or locations is that nighttime temperature can drop significantly from that during daytime.
So, if you notice drops larger than 15 degrees Fahrenheit overnight then move the plant so somewhere with more consistently warm conditions.
Again, to solve the issue, it is important to consider two scenarios.
One is to fix your snake plant turning white due to the cold or fluctuating temperature. And the other is to prevent this from happening again.
If your snake plant has white spots, then check the temperature.
Indoors, this is easier as all you need is a thermometer. I prefer a digital thermometer since you don’t have to count the little lines on the side of the mercury.
Try to keep the plant in temperatures between 55 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Outdoors, this will be more tricky since you don’t have control of the weather.
Thus, avoid very hot, scorching locations as well as those that can get cold. You can move the plant to a patio or some covered area with good ventilation or air circulation to help keep temperature somewhat regulated.
Once you’ve fixed the cause, you can not prune the damaged leaves.
The white leaves won’t turn green ever again. So, it is better to cut them off and let the plant grow new leaves.
Snake plants don’t need a lot of water. In fact, the thrive in dry conditions.
And while they may some a few weaknesses, overwatering is the biggest weakness of this species.
This is the one thing that can quickly take down your snake plant, no matter how big or healthy it is.
Excess water, wet soil or soggy conditions will a cause snake plant to turn white, pale, become floppy and lose its healthy green and yellow leaf colors.
The plant is also very susceptible to root rot and when overwatered it can develop fungal infections that can damage the roots or the leaves.
Try to keep the snake plant on the dry side as much as possible.
While it does need water, it does not need a lot of it. So, do not treat it like other houseplants.
Instead, only water occasionally.
The most important thing here is to regularly check the soil. This will be how you’ll gauge whether the plant is getting too much water or not.
You want to avoid wet, soggy or mucky soil.
I like to feel the soil of my snake plant once a week. Just feel the surface of the soil and you’ll be able to tell if it is wet or has too much water.
Ideally you want it most. But dry works as well since the plant is drought tolerant.
In fact, you can water the plant once every 2 or 3 weeks and it will be healthy and happy. Just as importantly, it can go 6 weeks without watering.
Since it is more amenable to less water and gets into trouble with more water, try to stay on the dry side of things to play safe.
When do you water your snake plant?
I don’t like relying on days or weeks. Instead, I look at the soil. This lets you adjust you watering schedule automatically as the weather changes.
With the snake plant you can wait until the soil is almost completely dry before adding more water.
Try to avoid watering before that time.
And if you stick your index finger into the soil and it feels moist, don’t water yet.
You want to let the soil dry more.
In addition to knowing when to water, make sure you get two other important things right.
- Use soil with good drainage
- Make sure the pot the plant is in has holes at the bottom
Finally, never overpot your snake plant as this also increases the risk of overwatering.
Excess Salt in Water
Another reason that snake plant turning white is excess salts in the water.
When this happens, you’ll likely see white spots on is leaves or something that look like salt crystals.
This comes from excess salts in the water including magnesium and calcium.
The snake plant is sensitive to these chemicals. And while it can tolerate some of them, when there’s a higher amount of it, you’ll see it turn white in the form of spots on its leaves.
This occurs since some municipalities add more chemicals in to the tap water to make it safe to drink.
Minerals like chlorine, fluoride, calcium, magnesium and others are usually found in the water that comes out from the sink or shower.
And in most cases, there’s no problem.
But if your city happens to add a lot of these chemicals, which some do, then the snake plant will start developing certain symptoms.
This is likewise the case if you use tap water.
So, when you water the soil, the roots will eventually absorb moisture while the excess minerals build up in the soil.
Once the amount of these salts increase past a certain level, they will affect the roots of your snake plant. And the effects will later reach the leaves as well.
This scenario is less likely compared to overwatering, excess light and temperature stress. But in come situations, it can happen depending on where you live and the kind of water your get.
So, if you do see the symptoms of white spots in your snake plant’s leaves, consider checking the water.
You can call your local municipality to figure this out.
In case the situation is serious, don’t bother waiting, instead, repot the plant to fresh soil to give it a new start away from the soil with the salt build up.
Then use another water source.
You can use rainwater if there’s enough rain in your area. Another option is to filter the water coming out of the sink.
Some people use distilled water which I don’t recommend.
That’s because it will get costly after a while especially if you have a big snake plant.
Another option is to collect the tap water in a jug or container and leave that container at room temperature overnight.
This will let the excess chemicals evaporate by morning. Thus, making it safe to use for your snake plant.
Again, the white spots on snake plant leaves won’t go away or turn green even after you fix the problem. Therefore, prune the affected leaves.
Fungal diseases can likewise cause snake plant leaves to turn white.
Here, there are many possible fungal infections that can cause white leaves. And they will present in different ways.
So, with these pathogens, it is important to identify what they are in order to treat it.
Two of the more common fungal diseases that snake plants experience are powdery mildew and southern blight. Both can cause its leaves to turn white.
But each one will look very different.
Blight causes the leaves to look pale and turn more white from their leaves.
In contrast, powdery mildew will cause white powder-like patches to appear. In more serious situations, the entire leaves can be covered by this white powder-like substance.
Fungal infections is usually caused by excess moisture. This includes both overwatering and wetting the leaves.
If you maintain very high humidity, this could also be a reason for these infections to happen.
With snake plants, the biggest culprit is usually wetting the leaves.
This often occurs when the plant is over misted. As such, spraying the leaves or air around the plant too much such that the leaves end up wet or with water spots.
If they don’t dry quickly enough, it gives fungi a chance to develop due to the damp environment.
More commonly, fungal leaf infections occur when watering the plant.
Many people will water over the plant wetting the entire plant. This leaves foliage all wet by the time you’re done.
And it makes the plant susceptible to fungal disease.
Therefore, a better way is to water directly onto the soil so the leaves don’t get wet.
If there is fungal infection, you can use natural methods by allowing the plant to stay drier, giving it sufficient air circulation and sunlight.
But if you want to faster fix, go with fungicide.