Normally, a healthy snake plant will put its long stiff leaves out on full display. In a rather dark and dreary home, having pots of this beautiful foliage plant can lift your spirits—well, this was the case for me. But what are you supposed to do when your snake plant starts becoming mushy and soft?
Snake plant leaves can turn mushy and soft due to 1) overwatering, 2) insufficient drainage, 3) poor soil quality, 4) temperature stress, 5) pest infestation, and 6) plant diseases. A good watering regimen can prevent snake plants from softening and dying from such issues.
How do you fix soft and mushy leaves on snake plants? Is it as easy as just cutting off the damaged parts? Do you need to replace the potting mix entirely? Let’s get into it! The good news is that you can save your snake plant!
The most common reason for mushy soft leaves at the base in snake plants is overwatering. It is the most common cause and often causes further problems such as root rot and death.
There’s a good reason why snake plants are often recommended for beginner home gardeners. Snake plant’s main selling point is that it’s truly low-maintenance.
In other words, don’t water them too much. They actually need very little water. Especially in winter, I water them once a month with no issue!
Check out other newbie-friendly plants for your house!
As you’re probably already guessing, yes—watering is included in terms of plant care. In other words, you don’t even have to water your snake plant on a weekly basis!
Common signs of overwatering in snake plants include:
- Yellowing from the base
- Bending of softened leaves
- Leaves turning mushy
- Dropping leaves
- Constantly damp soil
- Presence of pests
- Development of diseases
Unless overwatering is properly addressed and resolved, all that excess water in the soil will continuously deal serious damage to the snake plant’s root system. This leads to root rot.
Over time, all of those extra water will keep on drowning more roots until it doesn’t have enough healthy roots to continue to live. In the end, your overwatered snake plant will die.
Cut back on how often you water snake plants. Generally, they’ll do well with only being watered every 3–5 weeks.
It’s best to let the soil dry between waterings to avoid overwatering snake plants. You can check this with a wooden chopstick or your finger.
For cases of root rot, discard all affected parts and only save healthy leaves and roots for propagation. Plant each surviving snake plant portion into new clean pots and soil.
2. Insufficient Drainage
When snake plants don’t have sufficient drainage, their soil is likely to get waterlogged which can cause mushy soft leaves in the long run.
No matter how gorgeous the pot may be, it’s never a good idea to use it for potting a succulent snake plant if excess water has no way to exit it.
This is also closely related to the leading cause of softening, mushy snake plant leaves—overwatering.
Even if you don’t water your snake plants every week, as long as all the extra water is kept in the soil then they will inevitably still collect more water for far longer than necessary.
Simply put, insufficient drainage leads to overwatering plants in the long run. It’s also important to keep in mind that this is true regardless of your choice of planter material.
I would also like to again emphasize that adding a layer of rocks at the bottom of your pot without holes will do more harm than good for your snake plant!
Always grow snake plants in pots with sufficient drainage holes to ensure that all the excess water can freely drain from the potting soil.
If you do find a really pretty ornamental planter, you can use that for double-potting. Using this method, you can fit a smaller pot with drainage holes into a bigger decorative pot.
3. Poor Soil Quality
Potting soil that contains too much organic matter, retains too much water, or compacts too easily can lead to snake plant leaves becoming very soft and mushy.
Although vermicast, compost, humus, and other organic materials are highly beneficial for fruiting plants like tomatoes and cucumbers, they aren’t as helpful for snake plants.
Having too much of these in your snake plant’s potting mix will keep it too wet for too long, which can significantly affect them. They are likely to develop root and/or crown rot in such conditions.
Clay-rich soil is not good for snake plants either. Aside from having high a water-retention ability, it’s a medium that has very poor drainage and readily gets compacted.
Meaning, clay soils can easily and rapidly suffocate snake plants while not letting them drain properly. This can also cause rotting which often manifests in the softening of its leaves.
Unlike most other foliage plants, succulents like snake plants thrive with gritter soil that allows for great drainage which prevents overwatering and water-logging.
Opt for cactus and succulent soil mixes (like the one below from Amazon) for your snake plant or add non-organic growing mediums such as perlite or pumice to improve soil drainage. Then, adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Explore this in greater depth in our article on how to water snake plants.
4. Temperature Stress
Despite being relatively hardy, the leaves of snake plants can turn soft and mushy due to drastic temperature changes which is why they shouldn’t be in entryways.
Snake plants are one of the most common houseplants grown across not only the US but also the entire world. They’ll thrive in various growing conditions if they’re properly acclimatized.
Just keep in mind, however, that snake plants grow well with considerably stable growing conditions including temperature among many other factors.
This means that even if you’re planning to keep your snake plant indoors, choosing the right place for them in your house is necessary in making sure it thrives and won’t go soft.
When you leave your snake plants in areas with highly fluctuating temperatures throughout the day—like the kitchen or entryway—the leaves will become all mushy due to the stress.
Like other houseplants, snake plants do quite well with more stable and mild temperatures ranging from 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C). So place them in a room with such temperatures.
Allow a newly bought snake plant to adjust to its new growing environment by leaving it on its own for 1–2 weeks before repotting it or doing anything else that could shock it. This should give it enough time to acclimatize.
5. Pest Infestation
Damage from serious infestations in snake plants from pests such as fungus gnats and mealybugs cause deterioration as evidenced by wilting and softening of leaves.
To clarify, pest damage alone normally doesn’t cause snake plants to weaken to a significant degree.
Cases of serious infestations of moisture-loving pests brought on by overwatering, however, can give you really soft, dying snake plants pretty quickly.
These bothersome pests include mealybugs and fungus gnats.
Even if it doesn’t happen often, snake plants can sustain severe damage from pests that feed on their roots, leaves, and sap.
Such injuries will lead to the eventual deterioration—death, even—of even the hardiest snake plant.
Avoid overwatering your plants to also avoid attracting pesky pests that thrive in overly moist soils.
Proactively control pest population not only for your snake plants but for all your other houseplants. Use organic pesticides like neem oil and castile soil or chemical sprays.
If you’re only able to spot the infestation when the damage is already serious, remove all the soft and affected parts with a clean pair of gardening scissors. Then repot it with a gritty mix.
6. Plant Diseases
Bacterial and fungal diseases like soft rot and leaf spot can make snake plants’ leaves soft and mushy. These are often preceded by problems of overwatering.
Of all the plant diseases that they can catch, snake plants are particularly susceptible to developing bacterial soft rot and fungal leaf spot—especially with excessive watering.
When the soil is kept damp for long periods and not allowed to dry out in between, various pathogens can easily spread and destroy your plant.
Below are common pathogens that can cause snake plants to become soft and mushy
- Erwinia carotovora
Once again, proper watering is the number one way to prevent snake plants from having soft and mushy leaves and stems. Aside from that, provide ample ventilation and allow their leaves to dry completely to prevent further spread of the disease.
However, if the disease has already dealt severe harm to your plant, then do your best to remove all the damaged parts and save it.
The application of copper fungicide (like the one below from Amazon) alongside properly sanitizing plant tools before and after use can help control disease development.
Why are my snake plant’s soft leaves rotting?
Soft and rotting leaves on snake plants are largely caused by watering too much and too often. The excess water is always in contact with the base or crown and the damage is often exacerbated by bacteria and fungi which thrive in damp and anaerobic soil. If left unaddressed, the damage will extend to the whole plant and lead to its death.
Why is my snake plant soft and wrinkled?
Drooping soft and wrinkled leaves on snake plants is often indicative of serious underwatering. They will look dull and shriveled but not become mushy as they already lack water. Mushiness is a sign of rot. Once they receive enough water, underwatered snake plants will regain their firmness, upright growth, and bright coloration after a few days.
Can humidity cause mushy aloe leaves?
High humidity is rarely a cause of concern when snake plants are grown as houseplants are most homes rarely get more humid than 60–70% on average. But in enclosed spaces with limited air circulation such as the bathroom, elevated humidity together with poor drainage and overwatering can lead to rotting and death.
Summary of Snake Plant Leaves are Soft
The primary cause of soft and mushy snake plant leaves is overwatering. More often than not, this is also caused by insufficient drainage and poor soil quality since all three are closely related. Hence, the best way to prevent snake plants from becoming soft and weak is proper watering, and allowing the soil to dry between waterings.
Soft and mushy leaves in snake plants may also be a result of temperature stress, pest infestation, and bacterial and fungal diseases. These happen less often with such succulent houseplants but can still end with plant death if not promptly resolved.
- “Growing Succulents Indoors” by Aaron Steil in Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
- “Tips for Growing Houseplants in Maine” by Donna Coffin, Rebecca Long, and Matt Wallhead in The University of Maine Cooperative Extension
- “Soft Spot for Succulents” by Hannah Ayala in the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- “Symptoms and Signs for Plant Problem Diagnosis – An Illustrated Glossary” by Janna Beckerman and Tom Creswekk in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University