Is your snake plant healthy? 5 signs of a healthy houseplant - The healthy houseplant (2023)

A note about names:In scientific circles, snake plants are now considered part of the genus Dracaena, and the name Sansevieria has been dropped. However, many people still know these plants by their former name, which is why we sometimes refer to them as Sansevierias. We have an article on the

Whether you're checking out an existing snake plant or thinking about getting a new one, it's important to know that you're in good health. How does a Sansevieria let its keepers know that it is happy? We'll explain the signs of a thriving snake plant and give you some pointers on what might be wrong if something feels off.

A healthy snake plant has tough, fleshy leaves that stand upright. Some species twist and bend more than others, but none should give way. Plant coloration should be light, usually alternating between light and dark green. The patterns vary among the different varieties, but almost all feature striking zigzag stripes.

While some popular Sansevieria cultivars have yellow edges, the rest should show shades of green. The leaves should also be free of brown, crusty spots, and the foliage as a whole should have a smooth texture and springy feel. Want more details about these health indicators, including the types of problems that can alert them? Take a look at our list of the top 5 clues that your snake plant is healthy.

Number 1: Vertical sheets

The stems of a snake plant are hidden underground, but the leaves make up for this with their tall, upright foliage. Some types of Sansevieria can reach more than 2 meters in height! They don't usually grow that much indoors, but a specimen doing just fine should be clutching its leaves as if eager to answer a teacher's question.

It's okay if the foliage isn't perfectly upright. Certain species grow in curved arches, including theKirkii, Ehrenbergii,miHahniivarieties Others, such as the popularboncelcultivar, have tubular foliage that forms a spreading fan. And even fully erect snake plants like African spear or black coral will have some leaves that point at odd angles.

That being said, any healthy snake plant should have firm rather than curved leaves.

What to worry about:

  • Leaves that bend at the base and droop may have become soft on the undersides because root rot caused by overwatering has spread to the aerial part of the plant. This is often accompanied by foul odors in the pot or a yellowing spreading upward from soil level.Our article on root rot in snake plantsexplains how to identify and correct this problem.
  • Fallen leaves can also be caused by a cold snap. Make sure your snake plant is not in a cold or drafty area where temperatures can drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Foliage curled back or inward could be a sign that the plant is too dry or too hot. Test the soil to see if it needs water.

Number 2: Full and Tight Look

To survive in the arid regions they call home, snake plants develop thick leaves that can store water for long periods. When your plant is well hydrated, its foliage looks plump and smooth.

It's a good idea to check the soil in your snake plant's pot every 5 to 7 days (more if it's very hot outside) to see if the top 2 to 3 inches have dried out. When the top layers are dry, water your Sansevieria well. That should help keep you fat and happy. To read more about snake watering,Click here.

Note that if you are using a potting mix with a lot of soft ingredients like peat, be very careful about overwatering. You may want to try all the way to the roots with ahumidity probeto make sure the bottom soil is not yet soggy.

What to worry about:

  • Leaves that look shriveled and wrinkled, suggesting dehydration. This could be due to submersion, overheating, or problems with the roots.
  • Crumpled, scaly tips and edges are particularly indicative of problems at the roots, such as overfertilization or crowding in the pot.

Number 3: bold coloring

Most snake plants follow a similar color scheme: light and dark green wavy stripes running the length of the leaves. Some varieties, like the iconicLorenzo, also show yellow stripes along their edges like racetracks.

There are only a few exceptions to this pattern, such as the silver Moonshine or the vertically striped Bantel Sensation. But unless you know you're looking at one of the paler cultivars, a well-cared for snake plant should display a vivid contrast between the darker and lighter stripes.

What to worry about:

  • A pale, discolored appearance could mean the plant is suffering from a nutrient deficiency. You may want to read our article on how to fertilize snake plants.
  • When combined with thin, flexible, closely spaced leaves, loss of color suggests that your snake plant isn't getting enough sunlight.
  • Too dark an environment can also cause variety loss, turning the cheerful yellow edges of a Laurentii or Black Gold Sansevieria a dull green.

Number 4: light skin

Granted, technically plants don't have skin, but the outer covering of the snake plant should be smooth with no visible blemishes. If all goes well, there will be no rough patches, discolored areas, bumps, or scars to interrupt your succulent's beautiful patterns.

A few minor scratches aren't necessarily a problem; houseplants can be more fragile than we think, and a snake plant that lives long enough will usually take a few bumps and scratches as you move the pot around. But these signs of wear should be the exception, not the rule.

What to worry about:

  • Spots that have faded to a white or pale brown color may be due to sun damage. Snake plants can handle a few hours of direct sunlight a day, but more than that tends to dry out their leaf tissues.
  • Brown or yellow wet patches can be caused by cold weather or a fungal infection (including a severe case ofrotten rootthat crawled through the foliage).
  • Physical damage from curious pets or rough handling can leave small marks of pale scar tissue. This is usually not a big problem unless it is persistent and widespread.
  • If the leaves appear to be dotted with small light spots, you may be dealing with pests like spider mites or thrips. Dust mites can also create small, fine webs.
  • Strange bumps on the surface could be other types of pests. If they are soft, brown, and still, they are probably mealybugs. Mealybugs, which are like more mobile versions of scale, appear as patches of white fluff. Aphids come in a variety of colors, but look like pear-shaped blobs that swell as they feed.
  • Aphids, mealybugs, and scales can also leave sticky patches of a sugary secretion called honeydew.

Number 5: New growth

When a snake plant is happy in its home, it responds by growing taller and putting out new leaves. This new growth may emerge just at the edge of the existing leaf rosette, or it may sprout within a few inches of the main plant.

The last type of growth is often called a "puppy". It's a sign that the snake plant is trying to reproduce asexually by producing a new rhizome (a specialized root structure like an underground stem). Usually this means that your plant feels fine - it is trying to propagate in a favorable environment.

New leaves on snake plants should look like miniature versions of older ones, although they may be lighter in color at first and take some time to develop the same variation.

What to worry about:

  • A snake plant that won't expand or grow is likely lacking a key growth ingredient. It can be sunlight, water, fertilizer or space in the pot. If that's all that's wrong, your plant isn't in serious trouble, but it's worth reassessing your care routine to see if there's anything you can improve.
  • If the emerging foliage is wilted or misshapen, your Sansevieria could be suffering from pest damage or a lack of important nutrients.
  • When a snake plant is determined to grow but there is very little space, it can sometimes push a new rhizome with such force that the container swells, cracks, or bursts open.

final thoughts

A snake plant in perfect health should be full of firm, lush, colorful foliage and no faded or wilted spots. That doesn't mean you should go crazy for crispy ends or browned edges; your plant can still be in good shape even with a few blemishes. But be on the lookout for the more serious warning signs we've outlined. Now that you know what a healthy snake plant looks like, you'll be able to tell when yours needs help.


How do you know if your snake plant is healthy? ›

Look for dark green leaves to make sure your sansevieria is healthy. Dark leaves on a snake plant indicate that it is healthy and well-nourished. Leaves that have a yellowish tinge on the outer edge of the leaves or leaves that are pale and floppy could indicate that the plant is dying.

What does a unhealthy snake plant look like? ›

Leaves are wrinkled

What is this? Snake plant leaves are normally deep in color with shiny, healthy-looking leaves. If your snake plant has wrinkled and dull leaves, you know something's not right. There are a number of causes for wrinkled leaves, but most are related to temperature.

What does a good snake plant look like? ›

A healthy snake plant has pump, fleshy green leaves. If you see wrinkles in the leaves, it could be a signal that the snake plant has root rot, which means it has been overwatered to the point that the roots have been damaged. This is a tough issue to fix, so it's best to keep scouting.

How do you keep snake plants healthy? ›

Allow soil to dry between waterings and take extra special care not to overwater in winter. Try to avoid getting leaves wet when you water. Place your snake plants in indirect light (although they are tolerant of a variety of light conditions) and fertilize during the growing season with all-purpose plant food.

How do I know if my snake plant needs water? ›

Here are five signs that your snake plant needs water.
  1. Leaves are brown.
  2. Leaves are curling.
  3. Leaves are wrinkly and brittle.
  4. The top layer (2-3 inches) of soil is dry.
  5. Slow growth.

What does a snake plant look like when it needs water? ›

If your Snake Plant goes too long without water, its leaves will start to wrinkle, curl, and droop. With prolonged or repeated underwatering, you may see them fade to yellow or turn crispy and brown. Try to check the soil often so that it doesn't get to this point!

How can you tell if a snake is unhealthy? ›

Signs that your snake needs veterinary care
  1. Changes in behaviour.
  2. Loss of appetite.
  3. Lethargy.
  4. Difficulty breathing.
  5. Wrinkled skin.
  6. Abnormal wee or poo.
  7. Vomiting/regurgitation.
  8. Loss of weight or condition.

Can a snake plant make you sick? ›

Snake Plant

They've even been used as herbal remedies in some parts of the world. But the plants are also poisonous if ingested. Large doses can cause nausea and vomiting, and the poison found in the plant has a numbing effect that can cause the tongue and throat to swell.

Do snake plants like to dry out? ›

Snake Plants do not need a lot of water, and it's always best to err on the side of underwatering with this plant. In fact, the sanseveria is incredible drought resistant and can go long periods without a single drop of water.. Water once every ten days to two weeks, or whenever the top soil is completely dry.

Do snake plants like small pots? ›

Do Snake Plants like small pots? Yes, they do. As the taller species & varieties grow bigger, they need larger pots. The lower growing varieties do fine in smaller pots.

How do I make my snake plant happy? ›

Complete guide to snake plant care
  1. Water fortnightly, or when the top two inches of soil feels dry.
  2. More sunlight is better, but anything is fine.
  3. Keep your snake plant in a warm spot, ideally above 10°C.
  4. Repot in spring, if needed, using houseplant compost.
  5. Wipe the leaves once in a while with a clean, damp cloth.

What kills a snake plant? ›

In fact, too much water will kill a snake plant by causing root rot. This plant's toughness makes it a top choice for offices and homes alike. It can survive long stretches of neglect and will thrive when treated with bright indirect light and proper watering. It's the perfect starter houseplant.

Does coffee in water help snake plants? ›

There are so many benefits of coffee grounds in snake plants that we can get. The soil is fertilized when coffee grounds are added to snake plants. Coffee grounds can assist in the addition of nitrogen, potassium, and other vital nutrients.

Should you spray snake plant leaves? ›

You don't need to mist your snake plant, they tolerate low humidity levels very well. However, if it's extremely arid, they will enjoy occasional misting. Just make sure the leaves never stay wet for long periods of time.

Can I water my snake plant with tap water? ›

Can snake plants be watered with tap water? Ideally it's best to use filtered water or rain water for snake plants and other house plants because they're sensitive to the chlorine that is added to tap water.

How often should I Bottom water a snake plant? ›

Water. Your Snake Plant only needs to be watered fortnightly, allowing its soil to completely dry out between waterings to prevent overwatering and root rot. During the winter months feel free to only water your snake plant once a month if the soil is still moist after 2 weeks.

How long can snake plants go without water? ›

While some plants are fairly high-maintenance and borderline dramatic (cough, cough: the fiddle-leaf fig) sansevierias, known also as snake plants or mother-in-law's tongues, are the quite the opposite. In fact, these trusty greens are so resilient they can go up to two weeks without water.

How often do you water a snake plant? ›

Your Snake Plant only needs to be watered fortnightly, allowing its soil to completely dry out between waterings to prevent overwatering and root rot. During the winter months feel free to only water your snake plant once a month if the soil is still moist after 2 weeks.

How do you know when to repot a snake plant? ›

You will know it's time to repot when the top of the roots are swirling or coming out of the bottom of the pot. Another sure sign that your plant should be repotted, is if water drains straight through the drainage holes when watering. This means your snake plant is root bound.

What does an overwatered snake plant look like? ›

Overwatered snake plants will have squishy leaves that are soft to the touch. You may see this sign before the leaves start to droop. Excess water in the leaves causes the cellular structure of the leaves to break down, making them soft, and sometimes even mushy.

How do you know if a snake plant is not getting enough light? ›

If your snake plant isn't getting enough sunlight, it will tell you with droopy and sad-looking leaves. While you should be careful to not suddenly move your snake plant from a dark corner to a high-light environment, you can train it to grow really well next to a window that receives some brighter light.


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