Snake plant leaves curling are usually something that you don’t expect. After all, the plant is often considered indestructible or hard to kill.
But excess conditions or lack of others can do a number on the plant as well.
So, when you see its leaves curling, this is the plant’s way of telling you that something is not right. And it wants your help to fix the problem.
Why area your snake plant leaves curling? Underwatering is usually the cause but pests and disease are not far behind when it comes to leaf curl in this plant.
Do consider overwatering and root rot as well since the consequences can be deadly.
Why is Your Snake Plant Leaves Curling?
Underwatering Can Cause Snake Plant Leaves Curling
Snake plant leaves curling can happen if you completely neglect the plant for a very long time.
Yes, it is drought tolerance. And it will do well 3 weeks with no water.
And they can push it to 6 week or slightly more going dry.
But if you completely ignore it for months at a time, it will eventually experience some side effects. Snake plant leaves curling is one of the more common ones. The leaves will also start browning.
The leaves will droop and go limp.
And you’ll see a sad looking plant.
By this time, the soil will be extremely dry. And if you take the plant out of the pot, you’ll see that even the bottom part of the root ball does not have moisture anymore.
This is a bad sign and something you never want to do, even with snake plants.
That’s because dry roots become more susceptible to damage.
Additionally, the plant is not able to get the moisture or the nutrients it needs. Remember, roots can only absorb nutrients from fertilizer when there is water. That’s how they absorb them.
How to Fix This
Ideally, like other houseplants, the snake plant likes a fairly consistently schedule.
Note that this does not mean a fixed schedule.
Instead, you’re consistent based on how much moisture is left in the soil. As such, the timing will adjust depending whether it is summer or winter.
In general, it is good practice to water your snake plant when the soil is 50% dry. This means the top have has gone dry.
You don’t need to be precise.
As long as you water around that area, the plant will be happy.
I known many gardeners who allow the entire root ball to dry or nearly dry between waterings. This works as well for the snake plant.
What you want to avoid is letting the root ball go bone dry and leave it that way for weeks and months after.
So, what should you do with an underwatered snake plant?
Give it water!
And the best way to do this is via bottom water. This allows the plant to slowly absorb as much water at it wants without overdoing it.
Of course, you can water from above as well. Just don’t oversoak the plant in hopes to compensate for the dry period. This will shock it.
To bottom water the snake plant:
- Place the plant in a large container, sink or tub. This will depend on how big your plant is.
- Fill the container, sink or tub with about 3 to 4 inches of water.
- The soil will absorb the water through the drainage holes on its own. It can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on how big the plant is.
- Check every 10-15 minutes by placing your hand on the surface of the soil. You can insert your finger 2-3 inches deep into the soil as well.
- Once the soil feels moist at that top later, take the pot out of the water.
- Then drain the excess liquid completely.
This will allow the soil to absorb the water slowly so the roots can drink as much as they need at their own pace.
It also prevents overwatering or waterlogging.
Overwatering Can Lead to Snake Plant Leaves Curling
Because of the drought tolerant nature of snake plants, underwatering is usually less of an issue than overwatering.
That’s because it is easy to overwater this plant.
It does not like being watered the same way that other houseplants do.
In fact, if you do that, you’ll soon see the soil wet and soggy. This will leave the roots drowning in too much moisture.
As such, it is important to wait until the top half of the soil is dry between waterings.
If you want to be more conservative, wait until the soil is almost completely dry before you add water. This works very well.
In both cases, by allowing the soil dry significantly dry before you add water, you’re able to give the roots the moisture they need without the risk of overwatering.
How to Fix This
Since watering is usually a common issue with snake plants, it is always important to verify the difference between overwatering and underwatering first.
To do so, check the soil.
If the plant is underwatered, the soil will likely be very dry. So, not only the surface of the soil is dry but also the root ball will be dry.
On the other hand, if you suspect watering issues and the soil feels soggy or wet on the surface, it is likely overwatering.
Always check the soil to avoid adding more water to an already overwatered plant. And letting an underwatered plant go even drier.
Once you verify overwatering, it is time to figure out the action plan.
Here, you have 2 options.
- Option 1: Allow the soil to dry by waiting. This can take a while especially if the soil is overwatered. And the risk here is that in the extra time that it takes to dry, more damage or new damage may occur.
- Option 2: Unpot the plant, check the roots for rotting. If there is rotting, go to the next item. I’ll cover that there in detail. If there is no rotting, repot the plant in fresh, dry soil.
The first option calls for waiting.
The second option is more aggressive. It keeps the plant safer since you know that after you’ve repot, there is not root damage or anything else that happened.
But it requires a bit more work.
Of course, after applying the fixes, it is important to adjust your watering schedule to be more consistent.
This means choosing when you’ll water the plant based on how dry the soil is. And following that routine.
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Root Rot Will Cause Snake Plant Curling
Root rot in snake plants occur from overwatering.
This happens because too much water will cause the soil to get waterlogged. And as the roots drown in too much water, they are unable to get enough oxygen.
Waterlogged soil causes the roots to eventually suffocate if the water does not drain soon enough.
And when the roots suffocate, they will die then rot.
Rotten roots are useless.
They don’t function anymore. So, the plant is not able to absorb any water or nutrients from the soil from these rotten roots.
So, the more of the root system rots, the more dire the survival possibility of the snake plant.
As such, root rot will cause snake plant leaves curling because the plant won’t be able to get as much water as its needs.
How to Fix This
To check for root rot, unpot the plant.
In all likelihood once you take a whiff near the roots of the plant you’ll instantly know if there is root rot or not.
If the soil and roots smell earthy and like good soil. You likely don’t have root rot.
But if there’s a stink or foul smell, root rot is happening.
The simplest way to confirm is to remove as much soil as you can to see the roots. If they are black, soft and mushy, then they’re rotten.
If they are white and firm but flexible, they are healthy with no rotting.
In case there is rotting, it is time to get to work.
Prune all the rotten roots but be careful not to cut off any of the healthy ones. You’ll want to keep as many of them to support the new, possibly reduced plant.
After removing all the rotten roots, it is time to reassess the survival potential of the plant.
If almost all or all the roots were rotten and pruned off, then survival is very unlikely. Your best bet is to try to propagate the plant and start over.
Then throw the mother plant in trash. Sad but it will eventually die anyways.
This is why root rot is dangerous. Past a certain point, there is no saving the plant.
If only a portion of the roots were pruned due to rotting, then figure out how much is left. If you pruned more than 1/3 of the original root system, you’ll also want to prune the same corresponding size of the plant (leaves) above.
This will give the new, smaller root system a better chance at survival.
Then repot the new plant into fresh, dry well-draining soil. Don’t water for at least as week.
Now, it is up to the snake plant to recover. You’ve done all you can.
Pests are one of the biggest reasons for snake plant leaves curling. And there are many culprits here.
Thrips are a common issue that can lead to leaf curl in snake plants.
These are tiny black bugs that cause small black specks on leaves. If you see these specks, your snake plant likely has thrips.
And you’ll need to treat the pests then remove all the affected leaves.
Similarly, mealybugs and spider mites are common pest problems for snake plants.
These are sap sucking insects that will feed on the internal juices of the plant. As they grow in number and rob more moisture and nutrients (which sap contains), the leaves will curl, turn yellow and later fall off.
There are many different kinds of spider mites.
But the most common are red spider mites. So, you’ll see tiny red and black mites present. They also like to hide on the undersides of leaves.
Mealybugs are tiny, white cotton like creatures. They’re easy to spot when they get together because they form a bigger cotton ball.
These lay lots of eggs which hatch in just a few days. So, they will multiply very quickly.
How to Fix This
The most important step in treating pest problems in snake plants is spotting the pests early.
The early you get them, the easier they are to get rid of because there are only a few of them. Pests become much more of a headache when they grow into an infestation.
Not only does it take longer to eradicate, it becomes harder to do so.
My first line of treatment is usually spraying the bugs off with water.
You can use a garden hose or shower head to do this depending on the size of the plant. The sink, bathtub or yard are good options to spray the plant.
This stream of water will dislodge the bugs.
It may take 2 to 5 sprayings with a few days interval between them to get rid of all the pests.
You can likewise use neem oil or insecticidal soap spray to get rid of these bugs.
Fungal disease is another common cause of snake plant leaves curling.
Snake plants are susceptible to leaf spot and Southern blight. And when these fungal disease attack, the hit the leaves.
Curling is just one of the symptoms.
With leaf spot, the most common for this plant are red leaf spots. Although, there are tons of different leaf spot diseases.
Later on, the leaves will turn brown and get hard instead of being healthy and pliable.
Like pests, it is important to get rid of fungal infections because if you let them keep spreading, you’ll have no option but to throw the plant away in the end.
Watering is the most common reason why fungal infections develop.
That’s because fungi and other pathogens thrive in damp conditions. So, the excess water allows them not only to grow but also to spread.
How to Fix This
Fungal infections are usually treated but cutting down on water which will prevent them from spreading or thriving.
You can likewise use fungicides if you want to be more proactive.
The earlier you discover the issue, the better your chance to get rid of the fungal problem.
You don’t want to let it proliferate.
For bad infections, you usually only have a couple of options.
One is to repot the plant.
Here, you’ll unpot your snake plant and plant it in new, well-draining soil. It is very important to give the plant the same living conditions as much as possible.
This means the right size of pot, enough soil so that its depth and height are the same as what it used to be in the old pot.
The second option is to propagate your snake plant.
This is more of an insurance policy at this point. So, in case you cannot save the plant, then you have a new young plant that will grow into a clone of the parent.