How to Revive a Dying Snake Plant


how to revive a dying snake plant

The reason for a dying snake plant is commonly overwatering and slow draining soils which cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown and droop with a dying appearance. Snake plants do not tolerate cold and can die in temperatures lower then 50°F.

To revive a dying snake plant it is important to replicate some of the conditions of its native environment by watering it correctly, ensuring that it is in a room warmer then 50°F and to locate it in an area of bright indrect light rather the full sun.

Keep reading for how to revive your snake plant has turned yellow or brown with a drooping appearance due to overwatering or the leaves have curled inwards perhaps with white patches due to underwatering or cold stress…

Snake Plant Turning Yellow or Brown and Drooping

  • Symptoms. Snake plant leaves turning yellow, possibly drooping and develop a mushy texture rather then a firm feel to the leaves.
  • Causes. Overwatering, slow draining soils and pots without proper drainage.

Snake plants are a drought resistant succulent that has adapted to growing in an arid climate with gritty soil, infrequent rainfall and low humidity in tropical Africa.

Watering snake plants too often or planting it in standard potting soil that stays damp for too long can cause too much moisture around the roots for this drought resistant plant to tolerate.

Snake plants turn yellow or brown with a mushy texture to their leaves as a sign of stress due to too much moisture around the roots.

Therefore snake plants should be watered less often then most house plants and require a soil that drains much quicker then conventional potting soil.

To grow snake plants successfully and avoid the leaves turning yellow or brown it is important to emulate some of the conditions of the plants native environment by using a gritty or sandy, well draining potting mix and only watering when the soil has dried out completely.

If the snake plants soil does not dry out between bouts of watering then this is contrary to its the conditions to which it has adapted and the snake plant leaves turn yellow with drooping leaves and can in severe cases cause root rot and the snake plant dies back.

It is also essential that snake plants are planted in pots with drainage holes in the base and that water can escape freely.

Saucers and trays underneath pots often cause excess water to pool around the roots and cause the dying appearance.

(To learn all the best practices for watering snake plants read my article how to water snake plants).

How to Revive a Snake Plant with Yellow or Brown Drooping Leaves

  • Scale back the watering. If you are watering more then once per week you are watering snake plants too often. Typically snake plants should be watered once every two or three weeks. Allow the soil to dry out completely when the leaves are brown or yellow.
  • Replace the soil. Even if you are watering your snake plant with right sort of frequency, it can still turn yellow or brown and droop if the soil is slow draining and moisture retentive. If the snake plant is in ordinary potting soil then empty the pot and replace the soil with specifically formulated succulent and cacti (available from garden centers and on Amazon) which replicates the well draining soil characteristics of the snake plants natural habitat to significantly reduce the chance of your snake plant turning brown or yellow and dying back.
  • Plant snake plants in pots with drainage holes in the base. It is important that excess water can escape freely from the base of the pot to prevent the snake plants roots from being in damp soil for too long. Snake plants benefit from being plant in pots that are proportional to their size as particularly large pots contain more soil and hold more moisture and dry out a lot slower which can increase the risk of the leaves turning yellow or brown.

To establish how often to water snake plants, feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole in the base. If the soil feels moist then delay watering for a few days, but if the soil feels dry this is the perfect time fore watering.

Water snake plants with this schedule recreates the typical watering cycle of heavy rainfall followed by a period of drought, in their native environment.

Succulent and cacti soil is well draining.
Gritty succulent and cacti soil (on the left) compared with ordinary potting soil.

Typically snake plants require watering once every 2 weeks but this can vary according to the climate and conditions in your home, so it is always better to establish the ideal watering cycle for your home by feeling the soil to check when it is dry.

Always ensure that there is no compacted soil or roots that block the drainage hole in the base of the pot that could slow drainage.

Once the soil around the snake plants roots has had a chance to dry out completely and you have adjusted how often your water or replaced the soil, if it was slow draining, then the snake plant has a chance to revive without being under stress.

The snake plants should show signs of reviving over the following weeks.

If the brown or yellow color is still spreading and the leaf feels soft then cut back these badly affected leaves at the base of the plant as those individual leaves are not likely to recover and this can prevent rot from spreading to other parts of the plant.

Snake plants with severe root rot

If the snake plant leaves continue to get progressively discolored despite best practices of care then root rot is the cause, at which point it can be very difficult to save snake plant.

The most effective option is to take cuttings of any healthy remaining leaves for propagation as the rest of the plant could die back.

Snake plant leaves propagate readily propagate from cuttings and you can have several new plants as a result of propagation which may be the only way to save your plant.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to easily propagate snake plants from leaf cuttings to produce lots of extra plants at no extra cost:

(If your snake plant is turning black read my article for the solution).

Snake Plant Leaves Curling

  • Symptoms. Snake plant leaves curling inwards with the leaves potentially splitting or appearing wrinkled.
  • Causes. Underwatering, soil that has become hydrophobic or cold damage.

If your snake plant leaves are curling inwards then this is usually because the plant is under watered or suffered cold damage.

Snake plants store water in their leaves so when they are suffering drought stress the use up the stored moisture which cause the leaves to curl inwards.

Under watered leaves can also sometimes look wrinkled or even split at some point down the leaf.

This can happen because of the advice that ‘snake plants do not need much water’ which people interpret for watering the snake plant with a small quantity of water rather then not watering too frequently.

Whilst snake plants are drought resistant and can go for 2 or 3 weeks without water, they do require a generous soak at each watering which is then stored in the leaves as a strategy to survive drought.

Another potential cause of leaves curling inwards is that some soil mixes bake hard when they dry out.

This dry soil can then repel water off the surface so that it runs down the side of the pot and out of the drainage holes

This can give the impression that the snake plant has had a generous amount of water, but the water has not infiltrated the soil properly and the roots can not draw up moisture which causes drought symptoms of curled leaves.

Cold Damage Causes Leaves to Curl

Snake plants are tropical plants and do not tolerate cold or freezing temperatures.

Snake plants require a growing temperature of between 50°F (10°C) and (23°C) 75°F. If they are in an room that gets significant colder then this temperature their first reaction is to curl as a sign of stress.

If the snake plant is exposed to severe cold then it develop white mushy areas to the leaves from 1-4 weeks after they were in the cold.

This can happen if your snake plant is on a window sill and the leaves are in contact with a frosty window.

How to Revive a Snake Plant with Curling Leaves

For drought stress snake plants with curling leaves:

  • Place the snake plant in a basin of water for 10 minutes. If the snake plant soil is repelling watering off the surface, then submerging the root ball for 10 minutes allows the snake plants roots to draw up much needed water.
  • Always water with a generous soak. Watering too lightly only moistens the top inch or so of the soil and the moisture does not infiltrate and reach the roots. Water with a good amount so that excess water trickles out of the drainage holes in the base. This is a good way to tell if you have watered with a sufficient amount of water to keep the plant healthy.
  • If water is running off the surface of your snake plant and the soil underneath the surface feels dry then replace the soil. Snake plants should be planted in a special succulent and cacti soil that mimics the well draining, porous soils of the snake plants native environment. The succulent and cacti soil ensures that water can infiltrate properly and does not bake hard like some potting mixes even if it is dry.

With the proper watering practices and an initail 10 minutes soak in water your drought stress snake plant should show signs of recover in the following week.

The curled in leaves can start to store water again and restore to a plump full texture rather then a dying appearance.

Reviving Cold Damaged Snake Plants

If your snake plant has been exposed to temperatures slightly lower then 50°F (10°C) then it can recover from its curled in appearance once it is located in a room that is consistently warmer then 50°F (10°C).

However if your snake plant has areas of white that have a mushy feel to them then these leaves are not likely to recover.

Cut the damaged leaf blades back down to the soil with a sterile pair of pruners to prevent the damage from spreading.

Snake Plants With Brown Spots

Snake plants grow in hot, sunny climates but in shaded areas often under tree canopies.

Snake plants can adapt to full sun in some cases but prefer bright indirect light and can even survive in considerable shade.

(Shade can slow down the growth of snake plants. Read my article for why a snake plant is not growing and how to solve it).

If the snake plant is moved from an area of shade to any direct sunlight then it can burn with brown spots on the leaves.

The sunburn parts of the leaf do not recover in appearance but they also do not kill the snake plant and it can live for a long time despite sun burn to its leaves.

However it can be a good idea to cut the damaged leaf blade back to the soil to encourage more growth of healthy leaves.

Pots with a larger base prevent the snake plant from falling over as it can get very top heavy. Snake plants can suffer bruising if they topple over.

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying snake plant is often due to over watering and damp soils which causes the leaves to turn yellow or brown and droop. Temperatures lower then 50°F can cause cold stress and result in a dying snake plant.
  • If the leaves are curling this can indicate cold stress if exposed to low temperatures or drought stress as the leaves store water.
  • Brown spots on the leaves if often a sign of sunburn. Snake plants prefer bright indirect light and can develop brown spots in direct sunlight.
  • To revive a dying snake plant mimic the conditions of its native range with infrequent watering, indirect light, and maintain a warm temperature to prevent cold stress. If the snake plant is dying take cuttings of leaves from healthy tissue for propagation.

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