Why is My Snake Plant Not Growing?


Why is my snake plant not growing

Has your snake plant friend in the corner appeared to stop growing at all? Snake pants are incredibly popular houseplants due to their ability to tolerate a wide range of conditions, and they are a plant I recommend to beginners. But I get this question a lot about snake plants, and I’ve seen first hand how they can grow especially slowly…

So, in this article, I’ll share with you how to troubleshoot the problem with your slow growing snake plant so you can diagnose the problem and fix it.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Typically, I find snake plants do not grow because they are dormant due to cool temperatures, low light levels, and shorter day lengths. Snake plants only grow noticeably if the room temperature is above 16 degrees and if there are enough hours of bright, indirect sun.

Has your snake plant toppled over? (This one happened to me!) If an individual pointed leaf tip of your snake plant becomes damaged or broken, the leaf blade can stop growing.

We need to remember that our snake plants are naturally slow growing, as is characteristic of most succulents, and their leaves can reach a height of around 4 feet tall in optimal conditions.

However, several factors can cause your snake plant to grow very slowly or not grow at all:

Conditions:Reason for Snake Plant not Growing:
Low Light Intensity:Snake plants are tolerant of low light levels but they grow more in rooms with bright indirect light. Too much direct sun can burn the leaves yet too much shade can cause your snake plant to grow slowly.
Shorter Day Lengths:Snake plants are often in a dormant state in Winter and day lengths are a lot shorter with less light so the snake plant is not likely to be growing.
Low Temperature:Snake plants grow well in a normal room temperature range of 15° C (60° F) or more. If the snake plant is in a typically colder room in your house it grows very slowly or not at all.
Watering:Snake plants are drought-tolerant and do not require frequent watering. Water your snake plant too often and it may develop root rot and die. If the snake plant is watered with only a light watering then the plant tries to conserve resources by not growing as much.
Damage to Leaf tip:If the pointed leaf tips are damaged then the leaf blade can stop growing. This can happen if the snake plant is tall and top-heavy and therefore more likely to fall over.
Pot Size:Snake plants actually thrive even if the roots are pot-bound, however, a small pot can restrict the growth of the plant.
Lack of Fertilizer:Snake plants are not heavy feeders but a lack of nutrients can contribute to the snake plant not growing. A half-strength feed of cactus fertilizer once per month in the growing season can help to boost growth.

Snake Plant Not Growing due to Seasonal Dormancy

Is your snake plant not growing in Winter? Don’t worry because snake plants are often dormant and do not grow all through Winter. This is because the growth of your snake plant is highly dependent on factors such as light intensity, the hours of sunlight per day, and the temperature.

So, if you live in a cooler climate like me and perhaps in a northerly latitude with shorter day lengths in Winter, then your snake plant may not grow at all in any noticeable way for several months.

I was so concerned that my snake plant wasn’t growing and perhaps even dying (despite it still being green) that I once measured my snake plant’s growth when I lived in my flat in New York with very low light intensity. From November to February, it grew a whopping 3mm (0.11 inches)!

This is perfectly normal, and the snake plant is simply reacting to its environment.

My snake plant began growing again in the Spring when the temperature is consistently higher and when exposed to more hours of light so that the snake plant can photosynthesize and grow.

The following year I thought I’d try an interesting experiment to see if light was the limiting factor for the growth of my snake plant. So I placed my snake plant under a grow light from November to Febuary. I used the light for 2 hours each evening to supplement the natural day light. I measured the leaves after the 4 month experiment and from looking at it it was notably grown, which was confirmed with my ruler. The snake plant had grown 7mm or 0.27 inches (compared to 3mm without a grow light).

Therefore the growth rate was more then double with a grow light! Even though it had doubled the difference from 3mm or growth to 7mm isn’t huge but nonetheless I think that the test shows that light is a very important factor for snake plant growth! The snake plant’s variagtion also stood out more noticeably, which I actually think was a bigger more exciting benefit of using a grow light.

If your snake plant does not seem to be growing even in the warmer Summer months, consider moving it to a room with brighter light (snake plants prefer bright indirect light) and a consistently warmer room.

Snake plants are adaptable house plants and can live in different temperature ranges and tolerate temperature fluctuations, but for optimal growth, a warmer room is preferred, so keep snake plants in a bright room and away from cold draughts, which can slow down their growth.

With the right indoor conditions, the snake plant can grow (at a relatively slow rate as is typical of succulents) from early Spring to late Summer with a mature height of around 4 feet tall.

(Read my article for how often snake plants should be watered in Winter).

Snake Plant not Growing due to Lack of Light

One of the reasons I love snake plants are because they can tolerate low levels of light.

However, if they are in a particularly shaded room with little to no natural light, then the snake plant conserves its energy by growing very slowly, and the leaves can even begin to droop in appearance.

The optimal light conditions for snake plants to promote growth is to be in bright indirect sunlight or perhaps some direct morning sun followed by shade at midday and the afternoon when the sun is at its most intense.

How do we achieve this? What I like to do is grow snake plants in a south facing room but use a sheer curtain to diffuse the direct sunlight. If your snake plant is in full sun all day it can scorch, giving it a yellow, shrivelled appearance which is why I recommend the sheer curtain. This notably boosts the growth rate if your snake plant has been shaded!

Whilst snake plants can tolerate some sunshine, II must caution that if you are moving it to any direct sunight then it is important to gradually expose them to more light rather than transfer the plant from a shady spot to a sunny spot, as the immediate contrast can scorch the leaves.

My method for doing this is to expose my snake plant to and extra 20 minutes of direct light each day for 2 weeks, which give the snake plant time to adjust to bright light! This worked great for me and as I mentioned previously, increased the contrast of the colours of the variation!

(Read my article, on how to save a snake plant with yellow leaves).

Leaf Tip Damage Prevents Yoour Snake Plant Leaves from Growing

Our snake plants have pointed leaf tips which, if they are damaged or broken significantly, can prevent the individual leaf blade from growing, however, the plant is likely to live, s don’t worry too much!

This is a common problem for people growing snake plants as house plants as they are tall and top-heavy.

If the plant topples over when someone bumps into it, it can cause the leaf damage that prevents the leaf blade from growing. My cat slinked its way past my snake plant on my mantle piece, knocked it off broke, the pot, sent the potting soil flying and damaged two of the leaf tips!

I recommend leaving the snake plant after it has been damaged to see if it can recover, but if the individual leaf blade is clearly not growing and it is noticeably damaged at the tip, then I cut the leaf blade back to help stimulate more growth of other leaf blades. My cat got quite the fright too!

Pro Tip: What I do now to prevent the snake plant toppling is to place it in a much larger cermic outer pot. The ceramic pot is reassuringly heavy which provides a good counter balance to the tall snake plant too stop it falling!

(Read my article on how to revive a dying snake plant if the leaves turn yellow or brown, have a mushy texture, and are drooping).

How Your Pot Size Can Slow Growth Rate of Snake Plants

So in my experience, Snake plants are hardy and actually prefer their roots to be somewhat pot-bound so a small pot is not necessarily detrimental to the health of your snake plant, however, it can ultimately restrict growth.

From what I’ve seen is smaller pots may not necessarily be the cause of your snake plant’s lack of growth, but they could be a contributing factor. Why is this? Well a smaller pot has less capacity for soil, and therefore, the roots have less access to nutrients.

From my research, snake plants are actually more likely to display flowers in smaller pots as the ‘stress’ of being pot-bound can cause it to flower so there is no case for urgency when it comes to re-potting the snake plant.

However, repotting a snake plant after three years in a larger pot with new potting soil is often a good idea to promote growth and prevent toppling, as snake plants often become top-heavy. I always repot my snake plants into a pot that is just one size larger then the previous pot. This avoid the problems associated with overpotting which can cause root rot!

In my opinion, terracotta and clay pots are the best for growing snake plants as they are porous which allows the soil to dry out more evenly, whereas plastic and ceramic may retain too much moisture for the snake plant to tolerate.

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

Lack of Fertilizer

One of the reasons I love snake plants is because they are so low maintenance so as you can imagine, snake plants are not necessarily heavy feeders but if they are growing at a very slow rate then a fertilizer can help to stimulate the growth of leaves.

As we discussed, snake plants that have been in the same pot for many years can exhaust the soil of nutrients which can slow the rate of growth so that the leaves do not appear to be growing.

But can you use ordinary hoouseplant fertilizer? Unfortunatley, not…Snake plants are succulents, so it is important to give the snake plant a specialized fertilizer, as ordinary house plant fertilizer may have nutrients in a concentration that is too high for the snake plant to tolerate, which can lead to leaves drooping.

Use a succulent and cactus fertilizer (available online) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fertilizer for succulents
This is the fertilizer I use for my snake plants and succulents.

Always apply the fertilizer during the growing season (Spring and Summer) and avoid applying it during Winter as they are often in a dormant state in response to cooler temperatures and less light.

To be honest with you the 2 factors that in my opinion made the greatest difference to increasing the growth rate of my snake are hours of sunlight (remember bright indirect light is best rather then full sun) and fertilizer to ensure the snake plant has all the nutrients it needs to fuel its growth.

However we should remember that our snake plants are perfectly happy growing in shadier conditions without fertilizer even if they grow slower!

Do you have anymore questions about snake plan ts? Or have any insights of your own? Please leaves a comment below and I’ll reply to you! I love too hear your perspective!

Related article, Complete Guide to Snake Plants Care: Growing Snake Plants Indoors.

Key Takeaways:

  • If your snake plant is not growing, this is because there are not enough hours of bright light, the temperature is too cold, or the tip of the leaf has become damaged, which can cause the individual leaf to stop growing.
  • Snake plants are dormant over winter when the light intensity is lower, day lengths are shorter, and temperatures are cooler. They should grow in the Spring in response to more hours of light.
  • Damage leaf tips can stop an individual leaf of your snake plant from growing. Cut any damaged leaves that are not growing back to the base of the plant to help stimulate more growth.
  • If the pot size is too small, the snake plant can exhaust the available nutrients, and its growth can slow down or stop.
  • Some succulent and cacti fertilizers can help stimulate the growth of a snake plant when applied in the spring and summer.

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