Snake Plant Root Rot? Here’s Why & How to Fix It


Close up image of snake plant leaves.

Snake plants are popular houseplants. They’re known for their hardiness, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be susceptible to problems.

And one potentially big problem is root rot.

Root rot occurs when a snake plant’s soil becomes waterlogged and oxygen-deprived, causing the roots to rot. It’s a condition that can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Identifying and treating snake plant root rot is crucial to saving your plant. Once treated, it’s paramount you monitor your plant closely to ensure it’s recovering properly.

In this article, we’ll discuss,

  • Identifying root rot in your snake plant.
  • Causes and treatment of snake plant root rot.
  • How to prevent root rot in the first place.

Let’s dive in!

Snake Plant Root Rot

Several snake plants with browning leaves in one planter.
Photo by Anna Tarazevich

If your snake plant isn’t looking as healthy as before, it might be suffering from root rot. Identifying this condition early is crucial to saving your plant. 

With this in mind, let’s look at the symptoms, causes, and treatment of snake plant root rot.

Symptoms of Root Rot in Snake Plants

Here are some common symptoms of snake plant root rot:

  • Soft and jelly-like leaves
  • Dark, soft spots near the base or stem
  • Wilting leaves
  • Yellowing and softening of leaves
  • Black, mushy roots
  • Foul smell from the soil
  • Brown tips on leaves

If you observe any of these signs, it’s essential you take action. Your plant’s life may depend on it!

Causes of Snake Plant Root Rot

It’s not enough to know the signs of snake plant root rot, you need to know what’s causing the problem in the first place.

Here are some common causes of snake plant root rot:

  • Excessive watering
  • Poor drainage
  • Wet soil
  • Low temperature
  • Fungi and bacteria
  • Fungal diseases

Snake plant root rot is primarily caused by overwatering and poor drainage. 

Overly wet soil encourages the growth of bacteria and fungi and it prevents roots from getting enough oxygen. Weakened from the lack of oxygen, your snake plant roots can’t defend themselves against the excess bacteria and fungi. The roots start to rot, leading to the death of the plant. 

To prevent root rot, make sure to water your snake plant only when the soil is dry to the touch. 

It’s also vital you use well-draining soil. As well, use a pot with proper drainage and one that’s the right size.

A common problem, especially with new plant parents, is using a pot that’s too large for your plant. Snake plant roots are shallow. They don’t need a lot of soil. When you use an oversized pot, the plant can’t absorb water in the soil fast enough. So water ends up sitting and accumulating down below.

Root rot can spread rapidly. Keeping an eye out for the symptoms and causes is imperative.

My article on overwatered snake plants goes into more detail on watering your snake plant.

Treating Snake Plant Root Rot

You can’t cure root rot, but you take action to save your plant and remove the problem. And it’s vital you do so immediately.

Let’s delve into what steps to take if your snake plant has root rot.

Step 1: Remove the Diseased Parts

The first step in treating snake plant root rot is to remove the diseased parts of the plant.

Carefully remove the plant from its pot and inspect the roots. Look for any roots that are mushy, slimy, discolored, or giving off a foul odor. These are the diseased roots to remove.

Using a pair of disinfected scissors or pruners, prune away the affected roots. Make sure to cut at least one inch above the infected area. If the infection has spread to the root ball, you may need to remove the entire root ball.

Step 2: Disinfect the Plant and Pot

After removing the diseased parts, it’s important to disinfect the plant and pot to prevent the spread of the fungal infection. 

For the roots, clean them with a fungicide, or a hydrogen peroxide and water mixture. Mix 1 tbsp of hydrogen peroxide and 1 cup of water, then spray the roots with this mixture.   

You can use a bleach solution, rubbing alcohol, or a disinfectant to clean the pot.

To make a bleach solution, mix one-part bleach with nine parts water. Dip a rag into the solution and wipe down the pot. Make sure to rinse the pot thoroughly with water afterward.

Step 3: Trim Damaged Leaves

This step isn’t an absolute necessity, but removing damaged leaves will allow the plant to redirect its energy toward boosting new growth. This promotes the overall health and appearance of your snake plant.

A good rule of thumb is to trim as much of the foliage as you did the roots. So, if you trimmed ¼ of the roots, trim ¼ of the leaves.

To remove damaged leaves from a snake plant, use a clean pair of scissors or pruning shears. Inspect the plant for any leaves that are discolored, yellowing, or have brown tips. Then carefully snip these damaged leaves as close to the base as possible without harming the healthy foliage. 

Step 4: Repot the Plant

The final step in treating snake plant root rot is to repot the plant in fresh soil. Use fresh potting soil that is well-draining and has good aeration to prevent future decay. For more information on potting soils, take a look at my article on the subject.

Fill the new pot with fresh soil and create a hole in the center. Place the plant in the hole and fill in the gaps with soil. Make sure to water the plant thoroughly after repotting.

Infographic showing the steps for treating snake plant root rot.
Infographic by The Budding Planter

By following these steps, you can effectively treat snake plant root rot and save your plant from further damage. Remember to watch the plant and take preventive measures to avoid future infections.

Recovering from Root Rot

Now that you’ve successfully identified and taken action to stop root rot in your snake plant, it’s time to nurse your plant back to health. 

In this section, we will cover two important steps to help your snake plant recover from root rot: monitoring the plant’s health and adapting the care routine.

Monitoring Your Plant’s Health

After identifying root rot, it is crucial to monitor your plant’s health regularly. Keep an eye out for any changes in its appearance, such as brown spots or yellow leaves. 

If you’re noticing a decline in leaf health, check the roots for any signs of rot, such as a slimy texture or a bad odor. 

To monitor your plant’s health, you can use a moisture meter to check the soil moisture level. This will help you determine if you are overwatering or underwatering your plant. 

Adapting Your Care Routine

To help your snake plant recover from root rot, you need to adapt your care routine. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Watering: Adjust your watering schedule to prevent overwatering or underwatering. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. 
  • Soil: Use a well-draining soil mix that allows air to circulate around the roots. I’ll often add a bit of perlite to the soil to give it a little more airiness. 
  • Sunlight: Snake plants prefer bright, indirect light. If your plant is in a low-light environment, consider using a grow light to provide additional light.
  • Fertilizing: Avoid fertilizing your plant until it has fully recovered from root rot. Once it has regained its health, you can start fertilizing it once a month during the growing season.

By following these tips, you can help your snake plant recover from root rot and thrive once again. Remember to monitor your plant’s health regularly and adapt your care routine as needed.

To learn more about snake plant care, check out my beginner’s guide.

Propagating Snake Plants

Sometimes, if the root rot is extensive, your only recourse is to discard the mother plant and propagate a new baby.

There are a few different ways to propagate a snake plant, but one of the easiest is using leaf cuttings.

To propagate your snake plant using leaf cuttings, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a healthy leaf from your snake plant. It should be at least 3-4 inches long. 
  2. Cut the leaf off at the base using a sharp, clean knife or scissors.
  3. Let the leaf cutting dry out for a day or two to allow the cut to callus over.
  4. Prepare a potting mix of fresh soil, such as succulent soil, or a potting mix with added perlite or pumice for extra drainage.
  5. Plant the leaf cutting in the potting mix, burying the cut end about an inch deep.
  6. Water the cutting sparingly, just enough to keep the soil moist but not wet.
  7. Place the pot in a bright, warm location with some humidity, but no direct sunlight.
  8. Wait for the cutting to take root and start to grow. This can take several weeks to a few months.

Once your new snake plant has grown a few inches tall, you can transplant it into a fresh pot with fresh potting soil mix. Be sure to give it plenty of bright, indirect light and water it sparingly to avoid overwatering and root rot.

Overhead view of a snake plant.

Preventing Root Rot in Snake Plants

Root rot is a common problem that many snake plant owners face. However, with proper care and attention, you can prevent it from occurring in the first place. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for preventing root rot in your snake plant.

1. Proper Watering 

One of the most important things you can do to prevent root rot is to water your snake plant properly. 

Overwatering is the most common cause of root rot, so it’s important to avoid this by following a few simple rules. 

Make sure you water your snake plant only when the soil is completely dry. You can check this by sticking your finger or some other type of probe into the soil. If the probe comes away dry, it’s time to water. 

Alternatively, lift the pot to test its weight and check the soil by the drainage holes. A heavy pot, or damp soil below means hold off on watering.

I’ve written a beginner’s guide on watering houseplants. Take a look if you have further questions. 

2. Choosing the Right Soil and Pot

Choosing the right soil and pot for your snake plant is another important step in preventing root rot. 

Snake plants prefer well-draining soil that is high in perlite or pumice. This helps ensure that the soil doesn’t become waterlogged, which can lead to root rot. 

Additionally, make sure you choose a pot with adequate drainage holes. This will help excess water drain away from the roots and prevent water from sitting in the bottom of the pot.

I’ve written an article on choosing plant pots. It’ll come in handy when picking one for your snake plant.

3. Providing Optimal Sunlight and Temperature

Finally, providing your snake plant with optimal sunlight and temperature can also help prevent root rot. 

Snake plants prefer bright, indirect light. Make sure you place your plant in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight but isn’t sitting all day in direct sun. 

Additionally, snake plants prefer temperatures between 60-85°F. Keep your plant in a location that stays within this range.

By following these simple tips, you can help prevent root rot in your snake plant and ensure that it stays healthy and happy for years to come.

Final Thoughts

If you want to prevent snake plant root rot or save a plant that is already suffering from it, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Overwatering is the primary cause of root rot in snake plants. Make sure to let the soil dry out between waterings, and avoid leaving standing water in the saucer beneath the pot.
  • Symptoms of root rot include yellowing leaves, wilting, and a foul smell emanating from the soil. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to take action.
  • Preventing root rot in snake plants involves proper watering techniques, good drainage, and using well-draining soil. Choose a pot with drainage holes and a well-draining soil mix that allows water to flow freely through the pot.
  • To save a snake plant from root rot, you’ll need to remove the affected roots and repot the plant in fresh soil. Cut off any squishy, slimy, discolored, or foul-smelling roots with disinfected scissors, and make sure to use a clean pot and fresh soil.
  • If your snake plant is suffering from root rot, don’t panic! With prompt action and proper care, most plants can recover from this common problem.

By following these key takeaways, you can help your snake plant stay healthy and avoid the pitfalls of root rot. 

And if you found this article on snake plant root rot, then 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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