A note on 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 names, which is why we sometimes refer to them as sansevierias. We have an article on the subject.Here.
If you've recently transplanted your snake plant to a new pot, you may have noticed that its root system looks a little different than other plants. You may be wondering if what you are seeing is normal. This article will give you information on what the roots of a snake plant look like, how they grow, and how to tell when something is wrong.
A snake plant's root system is a mixture of thick underground "stems" called rhizomes and smaller branch-like roots. If they are healthy, they should be firm to the touch and light orange in color. Snake plant roots usually don't grow deeper than a few inches; These plants prefer to send new rhizomes outside rather than extending into the pot.
The number one health issue to watch out for is root rot, a deadly disease that often results from chronic overwatering. Affected roots turn brown, gray, or black and develop a mushy texture. They can also emit an unpleasant odor. We'll explain how to identify and treat this problem, and share some tips on how to keep your snake plant's roots healthy and strong.
What should the roots of a snake plant look like?
You probably don't inspect the snake plant's root system very often. These plants grow relatively slowly and do not need to be repotted frequently. So when you finally dig it out of the ground, you might be surprised at what you find.
The first distinctive feature is the colour. Many houseplant roots are white or khaki in color, but your snake plant's will likely be bright orange. Don't worry, this is not a sign of health problems! This color is completely normal.
The next thing that might seem strange is that thick tubers are interspersed with smaller, more fibrous roots. A closer look will reveal that all of your plant's leaves emerge from these heavier segments.
These larger structures are calledRhizome,and are a normal feature of snake plants. Like many succulents, your sansevieria doesn't have any above-ground stems. Instead, its rhizomes meander through the soil until it finds a promising spot to send up some foliage. In the wild, this helps these plants colonize their environment even if they cannot reproduce from seeds.
This is one of the reasons sansevierias are so easy to makespread,or multiply. You can simply cut off a taproot rhizome and transplant it into a new pot to create a clone of your existing plant.
How Deep Are Snake Plant Roots?
The third thing you might notice about your snake plant's roots is that they look awfully flat. Your plant has a nice deep pot filled with healthy soil - why isn't it making use of the space you gave it?
Again, this is normal for snake plants. The soil in their native habitats is often sandy, rocky, and barren. As a result, they have evolved to spread more than down. It's quite common for a sansevieria to cling to the top 3 or 4 inches of soil and never dip into the deeper parts.
This growth pattern can lead to unexpected difficulties. For one, many types of snake plants can grow over 10 feet tall. Combined with their shallow root systems, their height can make them heavy and prone to tipping over. We recommend getting a fairly deep container, but don't fill it up as high as you normally would—you only need about 4 to 6 inches of potting soil.
The other potential problem is that your snake plant's rhizomes can stretch or even break the edges of the container as they push outward! The only way to avoid this is to keep an eye on the growth of your Sansevieria so you can divide your plant or move it to a larger container if needed.
Recognizing unhealthy roots of snake plants
How can you tell if there is a problem with your snake plant's roots? Sometimes you can get an indication of the condition of the foliage, which tends to wilt, discolor, soften and droop when the roots are not working properly. But for a definitive diagnosis, you need to pull the system out and look "under the hood."
As we explained in the introduction, is the most common problem to watch out forroot rot.This happens when the soil stays wet for too long, allowing fungi and bacteria to multiply in large numbers and infect your plant's root system.
Affected roots turn dark brown or black and become limp, slimy, and mushy. They can also smell bad - like vinegar, eggs, trash, or even raw sewage, depending on the types of microbes attacking your plant.
We provide a detailed guide on how to save a snake plant from root rot.Here.But here's the short version: Cut off any infected root and disinfect your trimmers with 10% bleach or 3% hydrogen peroxide between cuts. Then plant in a clean pot with fresh soil.
The other thing to watch out for isfertilizer burns.As the name suggests, this usually happens when you add too much synthetic fertilizer, although mineral-rich tap water can have the same effect over time. Burning fertilizers dehydrates the roots due to the osmotic pressure of the high concentrations of mineral salts around them. They will end up looking mushy and crispy.
You can reduce the chance of fertilizer burn by washing your snake plant's soil every 6-8 weeks. Slowly dip, letting the water run down the bottom of the pan until you've used at least 4 times the total volume of your Sansevieria container.
Keep the roots of your Sansevieria healthy
Maintaining healthy snake plant roots starts with the soil. Choose a rocky, fast-draining onejuicy mix, or make your own using the following formula:
You should also water your snake plant thoroughly but infrequently. Test the soil every few days, and when the top 2 to 3 inches are dry, water it. This should prevent overwatering and submerging and help prevent mineral buildup in the pot.
Want to learn more about the ideal soil composition for your snake? Read this article:What soil is best for snake plants? As well as store-bought mixes vs. make it yourself.
What if your snake plant has no roots?
Occasionally, the owner of a houseplant will dig their snake plant out of the ground and find a particularly startling sight: the roots have almost entirely disappeared. All that's left are a few rhizomes with leaves that might have a stray root or two attached to them.
How did this happen? It is almost always due to root rot. The foliage is so thick and fleshy that it can stay alive for quite a while on just the water stored in its tissues—even with an unseen, untreated infection gnawing at the roots.
Is there hope for your snake plant when it gets to this point?
It really is. Sansevierias can regenerate from leaf cuttings, allowing you to cut the foliage just above the point where the rot ends. Find the lowest point on the sheet that doesn't feel soggy and mushy and make the cut a little higher. Plant the seedling in a new pot of soil (or place it in a glass of water and wait for it to take root before transplanting).
Unfortunately, certain types of variegation are not transmitted when you propagate a snake plant from a leaf cutting. If your Sansevieria has light vertical stripes, like the classic Laurentii variety, it will lose them as it grows.
Are Snake Plant Roots Edible?
Looking at these bright orange rhizomes, you might think they look a bit like carrots—which might make you wonder if you can eat them. Hey, we're not here to judge. Maybe you are very, very hungry.
But no matter how much time has passed since lunch, you should not eat the roots of your snake plant. Every part of these plants is full of toxins calledSaponins.They are not generally fatal to humans, but do cause stomach upset. In some cases, they can also trigger an uncomfortable reaction that causes your throat to swell.
So keep your snake plant out of your mouth and away from your pets and children.
Your snake plant's thick rhizomes and flattened orange roots may look a bit odd. But there's no reason to think they're unhealthy unless they're discolored, wrinkled, limp, or smelly. If you spot any of these warning signs, take immediate action to save your plant!
What do healthy houseplant roots look like? ›
If the roots are white or tan colored, succulent when you pull on them and have fleshy white tips, then your root system is healthy. Remember, some plants have fine roots and you may need to examine them with care, even use a magnifier. Without robust root development plants can't thrive.How can I tell if my 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.
The roots of snake plants are called Rhizomes. This means that that growth can happen on multiple places on the root system at the same time. They are easy to divide, and when planted outside will spread. The roots are very shallow, especially considering how tall the plant can grow.What are signs of unhealthy roots? ›
Signs of root rot are slow growth, mushy stems, and wilting, yellow, distorted leaves (especially when the plant has been well watered, as wilting leaves can also be a sign of a dry plant). Usually the soil will smell rotten and the roots will appear to be reddish brown.What are 3 signs of a healthy plant? ›
- leaves wilt, curl or change colour.
- stems and roots are stunted or dead.
- flowers and fruit are not well formed.
- Leaves are brown.
- Leaves are curling.
- Leaves are wrinkly and brittle.
- The top layer (2-3 inches) of soil is dry.
- Slow growth.
One of the most common signs that you will notice in your overwatered snake plant is the drooping of the leaves. The leaves will begin to get soft and even mushy as they take in too much water and will start to lose their structure, also resulting in them bending over.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!What do healthy roots look like on a snake plant? ›
A healthy snake plant will have white, firm roots.
If the roots are brown or black and they feel mushy, then your plant is succumbing to root rot. The smell of the rotten roots will be rather odorous as well.
Do snake plants like shallow or deep pots? ›
No, snake plants do not need deep pots. In fact, they prefer wide, shallow containers to help promote proper drainage and discourage root rot. Make sure you choose a pot that is at least two inches wider in diameter than its current size to give the roots adequate space to develop and expand.How long should snake plant roots be? ›
New roots will emerge from the bottom of the leaf within three to four weeks. Once the roots are about two inches long, pot up the new snake plant.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.What color are healthy snake plant roots? ›
A Snake Plant's root system is a mix of thick underground “stems” called rhizomes and smaller twig-like roots. When healthy, they should be firm to the touch and light orange in color.How many days can a snake plant 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 do you tell if roots are dying? ›
Carefully dig the plant from the soil and look for roots that are light, supple, and have little to no scent. Dead roots will either be mushy and smelly or dry and brittle.How do you keep roots healthy? ›
And to keep root rot from coming back, make sure you do the following: Use reverse osmosis water in your grow environment. Use aerators to ensure sufficient oxygenation. Use chillers to keep your root zone cool.How can I make my roots healthier? ›
Loosen and Aerate Soil (compacted or waterlogged soil slows down root growth) Practice Deep, Infrequent watering (this promotes a more extensive root system) Provide Proper Nutrition (get the pH and nutrient levels right) Add Rooting Hormone (usually for cuttings when propagating plants)How can you tell if your plant is happy? ›
A happy plant typically has shiny dark green leaves, its flowers are bright and its roots are pale. If you are watering it too much, its extremities will tend to turn yellow and the rhizome will turn brown or black.How do you tell if your plant is doing well? ›
Avoid plants with yellowing or brown leaves, or if the leaves look brown and dry along the edges. Signs of a healthy plant include a full, bushy growth habit. Avoid long, leggy plants and, instead, choose compact, sturdy plants.
How do you tell if a plant is stressed? ›
- Wilting. Wilting can indicate insect or disease problems, but is most commonly due to a lack of soil moisture. ...
- Bleached Foliage. ...
- Blackened Leaves. ...
- Ragged Foliage. ...
- Off-Color Foliage. ...
- Dried Leaf Margins. ...
- Burned Foliage.
Water from the bottom of the pot, if possible. This encourages the roots to grow downward and deep, helping to stabilize the thick, tall leaves. During the winter, while the plant isn't actively growing, water less often than you would in spring and summer.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.Do snake plants like to be crowded? ›
Do snake plants like to be crowded? Yes, snake plants do like to be crowded. However when they're severely root-bound the pot can break, or they can have a hard time absorbing the water and nutrients they need.What is the proper way to water a snake plant? ›
Snake Plant Watering
Water only when the soil is nearly dry. The quickest way to kill a snake plant is through overwatering. Before you think it's time to water, check the soil with your finger. If it feels dry to the touch, you can still safely wait a day or two before watering.
Easy does it with the watering – this is essential to Snake Plant care. You want to be careful not to overdo it because your plant will rot out. Always make sure the soil is almost completely dry before thoroughly watering again. Water your Snake Plants every 2-8 weeks.How do you keep a snake plant upright? ›
As your Snake Plant grows, the falling over can happen a few times a year. You might have to tie your leaf to the stake to keep it anchored; depending on how tall and heavy it is. I like to use jute string because it's tough, inexpensive and non-obtrusive.Should I shower my snake plant? ›
Putting your plants in the shower helps remove dust and pests. The occasional shower helps counteract the low humidity and indoor heating that's prevalent in winter, removes dust and dirt that may have accumulated on the leaves, and allows the plant to “breathe” and photosynthesize more efficiently.When should I repot a snake plant? ›
Repotting Snake Plants
Believe it or not, snake plants prefer to be a little pot bound. This means you don't need to repot your plant that often. A general rule of thumb is to repot every 2-5 years but it can be left even longer depending on your plant.
Now, as a general rule of thumb, Snake Plants prefer to be root bound, so if you don't need to do this I don't recommend that you repot your plant into a larger pot. This can unnecessarily stress your plant out.
What does a dehydrated snake plant look like? ›
A thirsty snake plant shows wrinkly, curling, browning leaves, and its soil may be so dry they seem baked. If your snake plant is dehydrated, give it a thorough, deep watering and allow all excess water to run off. Your plant should revive shortly.Is it better to root snake plant in water or soil? ›
Rooting snake plant cuttings in soil results in hardier and stronger roots. But it's a slower process that requires a lot of patience. Propagating Sansevieria cuttings in water is very easy, but increases chances of rot and transplant shock. It's a fun method to try though.What room is best for a snake plant? ›
It Even Produces Oxygen At Night
At night, on the other hand, these plants take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, a process called respiration. However, the Snake Plant is one of the lucky few that continues to produce oxygen at night, making it the ideal plant to place in your bedroom for better sleep.
While snake plants don't require much water, they do need it to continue growing and expanding. Since snake plants thrive in soil that drains freely and is well-aerated, you should get a terracotta or ceramic container with at least one or two drainage holes for optimum water drainage.Does cinnamon help plants root? ›
Cinnamon as rooting agent
Cinnamon as a rooting agent is as useful as willow water or hormone rooting powder. A single application to the stem when you plant the cutting will stimulate root growth in almost every plant variety. Give your cuttings a quick start with the help of cinnamon powder.
Rooting a Snake Plant in Water
Put the cut end of the leaf in just enough water to cover the bottom quarter of tissue. Place the container in an indirect light situation and change the water every couple of days. Soon you will see little roots.
|Height||1 to 3 feet|
|Width||6 to 36 inches|
|Special Features||Low Maintenance|
Healthy roots on houseplants are white. When overwatering occurs, roots become dark and blackened, and soil has a sour, sewer gas-type odor.How do you know if houseplant roots are dead? ›
If there is no green anywhere in the stems, roots can still be checked. Carefully dig the plant from the soil and look for roots that are light, supple, and have little to no scent. Dead roots will either be mushy and smelly or dry and brittle.How should repotting roots look? ›
A plant ready for repotting should slide out with the soil in one piece. If much of the soil falls free of the roots, the plant may not need repotting. If it does, there will likely be a solid soil-and-root mass in the shape of the just-removed pot. Roots should be white or light-colored.
How do I know if my indoor plants are healthy? ›
- Growth: Healthy plants should be growing. ...
- Color: With the exception of variegated colored leaves, healthy plant leaves are green! ...
- Condition: Healthy plants grow in a uniform way.
- New and old leaves are falling off at the same time.
- Leaves are brown, yellow, and wilting.
- Leaves, stems, or flowers are moldy.
- Leaf tips are brown.
- Root rot or foul odor.
- Grey and slimy roots.
Signs of Underwatering:
Drooping leaves that look completely lifeless can be a sign of underwatering. Soil pulling away from the outsides of the pot is another indicator that your plant may be underwatered. If you notice this happening, try shortening the length of time between waterings.
Yellow Leaves + Fading to Green + or Bright Yellow =
These symptoms together mean that your plant is overwatered. Usually lower leaves drop first, although the whole plant may be affected. The solution = repot (to remove soaked soil) and water less, or let soil dry out and water less.
A key indicator of root rot is wilting leaves accompanied by wet soil. Take notice of the pot's saucer, if there's water left in the bottom then too much was applied at some point and your plant's soil and roots have been drenching.Can you leave dead roots in soil? ›
When you're preparing your garden beds for a new season, don't rip your plants out of the ground, roots and all. If you do, you'll be robbing your soil microbes of a good meal and degrading your long-term soil fertility.What do good roots look like? ›
Healthy roots should be white or tan, succulent, numerous, and long enough to hold the soil in the shape of the pot. If any root tips are visible, they should be white. If the roots are brown and crumbly, that means the plant is unhealthy.Should you remove old soil when repotting? ›
Remove about one-third or more of the old potting mix surrounding the plant's roots. As it grew, your plant removed some or all of the nutrients in the current mix, so you'll want to give it fresh potting mix or soil. Pour a layer of fresh potting soil into the empty planter and pack it down, removing any air pockets.What does a unhealthy plant look like? ›
Warning signs of unhealthy plants include: Wilting. Change in color (a green plant now looks yellow or brown) Dropping leaves or needles without explanation.How do you make sure your plants are happy? ›
- Follow your plants' changing watering needs. Plants vary their water needs over the seasons. ...
- For proper watering, think of your plant as a sponge. There's no need to let your plant completely dry out before you flood it - that can be stressful. ...
- Maintain moisture in your plant soil. ...
- Need for feed. ...
- Keep clear of bugs.
What are features of a healthy plant? ›
- Vigorous growth.
- Uniform color (unless they are naturally variegated)
- Open, rather than curled, growth.
- Upright appearance.