Why Is Your Snake Plant Turning Yellow? (Revive it!)

Snake plants have served as beloved houseplants for about a hundred years. But it was in the 1920s that they started gaining popularity. Although they’re ridiculously low-maintenance, it’s pretty common to see them turn yellow sometimes. This is the guide you need to find out what exactly went wrong and how you can fix it!

Snake plants can turn yellow due to 1) overwatering, 2) underwatering, 3) too much light, 4) improper potting, 5) cold damage, and 6) bacterial soft rot. These factors can easily be corrected by 1) adjusting watering, 2) using the right pot, and 3) removing damaged leaves.

You can probably find snake plants almost everywhere now. However, they probably can’t replace the sentimental value of your very own snake plant, even if it is struggling and turning yellow. To help you save your plants, here are the most common reasons they turn yellow and what you can do to solve it!

1. Overwatering

Snake plants with bloated and flimsy yellow leaves are common indicators that the plant is receiving too much moisture. If the plant is continuously exposed to excessive moisture, this can lead to root rot and be fatal for the snake plant.

One of the great benefits of owning these plants is that they require little to no water. So if you hate your snake plant, the easiest way to kill it is to overwater it.

Once the leaves are filled with excessive moisture, they’ll eventually become flimsy and yellow. Another tell-tale sign of overwatering is when you find slime mold or fungus growing in the soil.

Avoid Overwatering Snake Plants
Avoid Overwatering Snake Plants

They might not look like other succulents, such as the Echeveria, but snake plants are succulent plants that come from Africa and require very little water to live.

Thanks to their water-storing abilities, snake plants can survive with less water than you realize. Left in soggy soils for long periods, however, the plant may even eventually rot and die away.

This is the number one reason why snake plants typically turn yellow, so continue reading to find a detailed solution below.

2. Underwatering

Dehydrated snake plants will become yellow and curled at the edges if left unwatered for too long. Water the snake plant until water seeps out of the drainage holes to provide adequate moisture.

On the flip side, what if you’ve forgotten you even had this plant and haven’t watered it in months?

You can tell your snake plant is dehydrated when the base of the plant looks wrinkly and its spear-like leaves start to curl inwards.

Yellowing will develop at the leaf tips and will spread to the rest of the plant until it receives the moisture it needs. The leaves won’t uncurl, but the new growth will look perfectly normal.

When this happens, all that is needed is to simply give your snake plant a deep and thorough watering. Let the water run out of the drainage and your plant is ready to go!

Pro Tip: Check the drainage holes of your snake plant pot from time to time. These can get blocked over time, leaving the excess water nowhere to go.

3. Too Much Light

Snake plants that receive more than 6 hours of unfiltered sun daily will rapidly become yellow and crispy. But this is easily reversible and can be corrected by moving the snake plant into the shade or bringing it indoors.

Your snake plants do a fantastic job of adapting to different lighting conditions and will happily grow in an area with ample sun exposure.

In an area with more than 4–6 hours of direct sunlight, however, its sword-like leaves will quickly turn brown and yellow.

Generally, snake plants can survive in dimly-lit areas better than other plants. But if you like having yours in the sun, be careful that they don’t get burned by the harsh afternoon sun.

To prevent the plant from drying out and getting discolored, simply place them in a shadier setting, and they’ll quickly recover.

4. Improper Potting

Grown in overly large planters, the snake plant is much more likely to face rot and excessive moisture, which can cause yellow leaves. Ideally, it’s best to grow snake plants in small pots no more than 2 inches bigger than their root systems.

It might be tempting to grow that beautiful new snake plant in a large container, hoping the plant will eventually grow into them. But there are risks to this.

Having all that unused space surrounding the root system will only provide more surface area for water to stay and suffocate the roots. It’s also problematic if the snake plant is not properly planted, having its leaves partly submerged in soil.

If the base of a snake plant is covered in soil, this can cause moisture to pool at the bottom of the leaves and cause them to rot and turn yellow.

A lack of drainage holes can also lead to a sickly snake plant. Luckily, this issue is easy to fix—only requiring you to change the pot.

Young snake plants with 4-inch roots will be more than happy in a 6-inch deep pot. These plants don’t need containers much bigger than their root system, so try to tailor the planter’s size to your plant.

5. Cold Damage

Wilted, yellow snake plant leaves can occur due to frost damage. Snake plants do not tolerate frost very well and will respond poorly to temperatures constantly below 50°F. For optimum growth, it’s best to keep these plants at 68–77°F.

Snake plants are known for being absolute troopers that can live in many harsh conditions. But excessively low temperatures will quickly spell their doom.

These succulents won’t last very long in temperatures under 50°F or 10°C.

Plants in the Sansevieria and Dracaena families rarely experience frost in their natural habitats, so the cold is quite literally a shock to them!

Drastic temperature changes are also not ideal. In just a few days, the leaves will wilt and turn yellow out of stress. To help prevent yellowing and encourage faster growth, snake plants are best grown at 68–77°F (20–25°C).

6. Bacterial Soft Rot

Sunken yellow lesions on snake plants are typically caused by bacterial soft rot. Overwatered snake plants are the most prone to this. There is no cure but the infected leaves can be removed. Then the plant must be kept dry to prevent rot from occurring.

General leaf yellowing can be concerning enough. Seeing your snake plant covered in mushy yellow spots is even worse.

This issue is commonly seen in snake plants that are misted or kept in perpetually soggy soil.

The bacterial pathogens of bacterial soft rot tend to target snake plants in moist conditions. Such pathogens survive by eating plant cells, causing the tissue to collapse and become slimy.

Sadly, there is no cure for this. Bactericides have been noted not to be very effective to resolve this issue. Over time, these spots will blacken and spread to the rest of the plant.

The only way to control this is to remove and dispose of the infected leaves and to keep the plant dry inside a room with good air circulation. Eventually, the plant will sprout new leaves completely free from bacterial soft rot.

How to Save and Prevent Yellow Snake Plants (3 Critical Steps)

The 3 steps that must be taken to save and prevent yellow snake plants are 1) adjusting the watering frequency, 2) using the right pot size and material, and 3) removing all the damaged leaves.

Luckily, snake plants are just as easy to rescue as they are to take care of. If you were struggling with it, that’s okay. You can prevent this from happening again and revive your valued snake plant.

Here’s a detailed guide on to do to save yellowing snake plants!

1. Adjust Watering

Providing adequate moisture is key to rescuing and preventing yellow snake plants. Water them only when their soil is completely dry, and avoid making the soil soggy.

When it comes to growing snake plants, proper watering is crucial in keeping them green and healthy.

With proper watering, you’ll be able to protect the plant from excessive moisture, bacteria soft rot, and even increase its chances of surviving cold temperatures!

How frequently you water your snake plants depends on many things, like its lighting conditions. If you grow your snake plants outdoors or in full sun, they might appreciate being watered weekly.

Water Your Snake Plant (Sansevieria) Properly
YouTube Video – Water Your Snake Plant Properly

However, what you must be sure to remember is to let its soil become 100% dry before watering it again. It’s better to keep the snake plants dry than moist.

Thanks to their fleshy, succulent leaves, these plants are practically indestructible and require very little water.

 Discover how to Water Succulents and Cacti The Right Way here! 

2. Use the Right Pot

Snake plants grow best in containers no larger than 2 inches of their root system. Clay or terracotta pots with drainage holes are ideal for keeping the plant dry.

For a happy and healthy snake plant, I suggest putting it in pots made of terracotta or unglazed clay with drainage holes.

Here are some great pots from Amazon that come with drainage and saucers all in one!

By using pots made of these materials, the plant is less likely to sit and be suffocated by excess water. Instead, the clay or terracotta will draw the extra moisture out of the soil and prevent the snake plant from being overwatered.

Use Small Pots for Snake Plants
Use Small Pots for Snake Plants

The downside to using these materials, however, is that the plant could break through them.

Snake plants have free-running root systems with thick rhizomes. These rhizomes tend to continue growing despite the confinements of their pots, which can potentially cause clay or terracotta pots to shatter.

Try to keep these plants in small pots no more than 2 inches (5.08 cm) deeper and wider than the plant’s root systems. Snake plants don’t mind being pot-bound and will even grow happily in the same pot for years!

3. Remove Damaged Leaves

Trimming snake plant foliage is recommended if it is suffering from rot or is generally dry and unkempt. Cut away any rotting or yellow leaves with clean scissors.

If the damage isn’t so bad, you can always clip it away to help maintain the plant.

But if more than 50% of the leaves are damaged or infected with bacterial soft rot, it’s best to remove the entire leaf right away. Ideally, you’d want to use a pair of sterilized shears to prevent contamination. After that, dispose of all the trimmed dead or rotting leaves.

Snake plants are quite resilient and can handle heavy pruning if necessary. But their sharp and rigid foliage is what makes them so appealing, so try to avoid excessive trimming.

For more wonderful foliage plants, check out the 19 Stunning Houseplants with Large Leaves [With Photos]! 

I realize this may seem like a convenient and easy fix. While it certainly is the easiest thing to do and eliminates the sickly appearance, it will not solve any issues of rot or consistent abuse.

Pruning is best used as a last step to tidy up your plant after you’ve cared for its other needs. This plant doesn’t need much maintenance, so with the right care, you won’t need to trim its leaves at all!


Are snake plants supposed to be yellow?

There are many varieties of snake plants that have yellow patterns. The Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria trifasciata, is known for the natural yellow border around its leaf edges. Such distinct yellowing is different from random discoloration caused by things like overwatering and sun damage.

Why don’t my snake plants have yellow borders?

While many snake plants have leaves with yellow borders, some species do not have this pattern and stay green all their lives. Examples of these would include Dracaena trifasciata ‘Moonglow’, Dracaena angolensis, and Dracaena masoniana.

Summary of Why Snake Plants Turn Yellow

Snake plants are generally easy to take care of. However, their leaves can face discoloration and turn yellow due to factors such as overwatering, underwatering, too much light, improper potting, cold damage, and bacterial soft rot.

Many of these issues can be resolved by watering snake plants only when their soil is completely dry, using smaller pots made of terracotta and clay, and removing damaged and infected leaves with a clean pair of shears.


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