9 Signs of an Overwatered Snake Plant (& How to Fix It)


Image of 3 Sansevarias.

Snake plants (Sansevieria) are beloved houseplants known for their resilience and air-purifying abilities. 

Native to arid West Africa, snake plants have adapted to thrive in dry conditions with minimal water. 

Understanding this is key when it comes to your plant’s care. Because overwatering can seriously harm your snake plant. 

And, unfortunately, this is a common pitfall many new plant enthusiasts encounter.

In this article, we’ll explore nine signs of overwatering, as well as solutions to keep this plant healthy. So, let’s dive into rescuing your snake plant from the perils of excess water.

9 Signs of an Overwatered Snake Plant

Like us, snake plants can drown in too much water.

Overwatered roots become soggy and waterlogged and are no longer able to drink up vital oxygen and nutrients.  

You don’t want this happening to your plant! 

So, let’s look at the signs of an overwatered snake plant. 

Infographic listing the 9 reasons for an overwatered snake plants.

1. Leaf Discoloration

Leaf discoloration is the most prevalent sign of an overwatered snake plant. Usually, leaves will start yellowing, but browning leaf tips can also signal excessive moisture. Take a look at my article on why leaves turn yellow or brown for more information.

2. Drooping or Wilting Leaves

If you notice your snake plant’s leaves drooping or wilting, it’s a red flag. Don’t mistake this for dehydration. Overwatered plants struggle to hold their leaves upright. 

3. Soft or Mushy Stems 

Overwatering can lead to soft, mushy stems in your snake plant. This indicates that the plant is absorbing more water than it can handle, causing structural issues.

4. Root Rot

Beneath the surface, an overwatered snake plant might be grappling with root rot. Root rot is a general term for a fungal disease that renders plant roots useless. This condition can wreak havoc on your plant’s overall health and can be potentially fatal.

5. Mold and Mildew Growth

Excessive moisture in the soil can invite mold and mildew growth. These unwelcome guests not only indicate too much water, but they can also pose health risks to you.

6. Unpleasant Smell 

An unpleasant, musty odor emanating from your snake plant’s soil is a clear sign of overwatering. It often goes hand in hand with mold issues.

7. Fungus Gnats

These tiny, pesky insects are drawn to moist soil. An invasion of fungus gnats is a classic sign of overwatering. I’ve struggled with this myself. It’s not fun!

8. Plant Falling Over

Rotting roots and soggy soil can’t provide the stability a plant needs. If you’re noticing your plant tipping, it’s an indication something is amiss.

9. Overly Soggy Soil

Soil that’s consistently moist to the touch is a sign your plant is getting too much water. Snake plants prefer well-draining soil. Even after watering, the soil shouldn’t stay soggy for long.

Overwatering vs. Underwatering Your Snake Plant

Distinguishing between overwatering and underwatering your snake plant is crucial. 

Overwatering involves giving the plant more moisture than it can efficiently absorb. This leads to symptoms like yellowing leaves, soft stems, and soggy soil. 

On the other hand, underwatering occurs when your snake plant doesn’t receive enough water to sustain itself. This results in dry, drooping leaves and parched soil. 

While the signs may seem similar at times, the difference lies in the moisture level of the soil and the overall condition of the plant. Finding the right balance in your watering routine is the key to a thriving snake plant.

Image of 2 rows of snake plants with their leaves braided.

Causes of an Overwatered Snake Plant

There can be a number of reasons why your snake plant is overwatered. Including the following.

1. Improper Watering Schedule – Simply put, you’re watering too much. It’s a common mistake – especially for new plant parents. Water is vital, but there’s also too much of a good thing. When it comes to water, a little goes a long way with snake plants.

2. Container Size – Planting your snake plant in a container that’s too large can spell trouble. A larger pot holds more soil and moisture. This makes it harder for the plant’s roots to absorb water at a balanced rate. The result is water accumulating at the bottom of the pot, suffocating the roots. I’ve written an article on choosing the proper pot for your plant. You’ll find it helpful.

3. Improper Drainage – Inadequate drainage coupled with too much water means disaster. Without drainage, excess water becomes trapped, turning the soil into a waterlogged mess. For plants that like dry conditions, it is imperative water can escape.

4. Not Enough Sunlight – Sunlight plays a pivotal role in a snake plant’s water uptake. When placed in low-light conditions, the plant’s growth slows down, and it requires less water. Overwatering can occur if you keep the same watering schedule without considering the reduced light intake.

How to Save Overwatered Snake Plant

If you’ve accidentally overwatered your snake plant, consider these steps.

Step 1. Stop Watering

The first step in rescuing an overwatered snake plant is to cease all watering immediately. Allow the plant to dry out naturally to regain its moisture balance.

Step 2. Move to a Sunny Spot 

If possible, move your snake plant to a sunnier location. More sunshine means the plant uses more water, which can aid in drying out the soil more quickly. 

Step 3. Repot with Dry Soil

If the plant is doing very poorly and the soil is very soggy, repotting can be the best option. Use well-draining soil and choose a proper sized pot with drainage holes

Step 4. Look for Signs of Root Rot

Inspect the plant’s roots for signs of rot. They may appear dark, mushy, or foul-smelling. If root rot is present, trim off the infected roots using clean, sharp scissors. If the roots are very soggy, you can wrap them in newspaper to help facilitate drying. This also helps protect them from too much air exposure, which can cause roots to stop growing.

Step 5. Tackle Affected Leaves 

Yellowing or damaged leaves on an overwatered snake plant won’t revert to their original green state. Prune these leaves using sharp, clean pruners or scissors. Removing affected foliage encourages new growth and prevents the plant from wasting energy on these damaged leaves.

Step 6. Propagate if Necessary

In severe cases where the plant’s health is in question, propagating a new snake plant might be the only option. To propagate, select a healthy leaf cutting with at least two inches of stem. Let it dry out for a few days so it forms a callus. Then plant the cutting in well-draining soil. With time and care, it will grow into a new, thriving Snake Plant.

Learning how to properly water your houseplants takes time.  I’ve written a beginner’s guide on watering houseplants to help you on that journey.

How to Prevent Future Overwatering

Overhead view of a snake plant.

1. Adjust Your Watering Schedule:  Understanding your snake plant’s specific needs is the first step in avoiding overwatering. Typically, plants require less water during the winter when their growth slows down, and more in summer when light and heat increase.  So, take note of your plant’s environment and adjust your watering frequency accordingly. Paying attention to your plant’s cues will help you strike the right balance.

2. Check Soil Moistness:  A simple but effective method to prevent overwatering is to physically check the soil before reaching for your watering can. If the top several inches of the soil feels damp, it’s a sign that your snake plant still has plenty of water – so don’t give it a drink.

3. Use a Moisture Meter: A moisture meter can be your trusty sidekick when it comes to watering. I know I use mine all the time. This tool gauges the soil’s moisture level, taking out the guesswork. 

4. Provide Ventilation:  Crowded plants are moister plants. Proper air circulation around your snake plant aids in keeping moisture in check.

5. Ensure Good Drainage:  To safeguard against overwatering, always use pots with drainage holes. These holes allow excess water to escape, reducing the risk of waterlogged soil. Furthermore, choose a well-draining potting mix to help keep water from lingering around the roots.

Common Snake Plant Watering Mistakes

Let’s go over a few common mistakes new plant parents can fall victim to.

1. Watering Too Often: I get it. You haven’t watered in a while and you’re thinking your plant is begging for a drink. But, for your snake plant, there’s still plenty of water down below and stored in its leaves. The passage of time is only one measurement of determining when your plant is thirsty.

2. Inadequate Drainage:  Your snake plant may look adorable in that plant pot, but if it doesn’t have drainage holes, walk on by.  A pot without drainage can spell disaster for new plant owners. When starting out, always choose pots where excess water can drain away.

3. Ignoring the Seasons:  Neglecting to account for seasonal changes in your snake plant’s water requirements is a mistake. Water sparingly during the dormant winter period and more frequently in the growing season.

4. Failing to Test the Soil’s Moistness:  Watering without physically checking the soil’s moisture level is a common oversight. You can check the soil with your finger or by using a moisture meter.

5. Overlooking Ventilation:  Poor air circulation can contribute to overwatering. Don’t overcrowd your snake plant. Doing so can result in too much moisture and humidity.

Tall snake plant surrounded by other plants.

How to Correctly Water a Snake Plant

Proper watering is a key aspect of snake plant care. These hardy houseplants thrive when you follow a simple watering rule: less is more.

On average, water snake plants every 6 weeks. But, this frequency can vary depending on factors like the plant’s size, the pot size, and the ambient humidity.

Image of starfish snake plant.

Personally, I water my snake plant about every 6 – 8 weeks.  But, I have a starfish variety and it can store a lot of water in its thick leaves.

When it’s time to water, thoroughly soak the soil, allowing excess water to drain away. After that, it’s time to leave your plant alone.

Remember, it’s better to underwater than overwater a snake plant. They can tolerate drought but are highly susceptible to root rot caused by excessive moisture.

FAQ

1. Is it better to underwater than overwater a snake plant?

Yes, it’s generally better to underwater a snake plant than to overwater it. Snake plants can tolerate periods of drought, but they are highly susceptible to problems from overwatering.

2. When should I throw out my overwatered snake plant?

You should consider discarding an overwatered snake plant when it’s severely affected by root rot, has extensive mushy stems and roots, and shows minimal signs of recovery despite proper care efforts.

3. Should I mist my snake plant?

There is no need to mist a snake plant. These plants thrive in low-humidity environments and do not require regular misting. In fact, excess moisture can lead to overwatering issues.

4. Will an overwatered snake plant repair itself?

An overwatered snake plant can recover, but you need to take action. At a minimum – stop watering! Further steps may be called for, depending on your plant’s health.

5. Do you cut off dead snake plant leaves?

It’s advisable to cut off dead or yellowing snake plant leaves, although not an absolute necessity. These leaves won’t return to their healthy state, and removing them helps redirect the plant’s energy toward new growth. Use clean, sharp scissors or pruners for this task.

And, if you found this article on the signs of an overwatered snake plant helpful, feel free to share it.

Angela

Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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