How to Save An Overwatered Snake Plant – Beginners Guide
It is important to act quickly when dealing with an overwatered snake plant. If you leave your indoor plant sitting in wet soggy soil for too long, the consequences can be very damaging, if not fatal. Identifying if your snake plant is overwatered is relatively straight-forward if you look out for these symptoms:
- mushy and discolored leaves,
- soggy soil (often with a gnat infestation), and
- smelly rotting roots that appear black.
SOLUTION: If you suspect your snake plant is suffering from being overwatered, the quickest path to recovery will be to replace the soggy soil with fresh potting mix. If root rot has set in, you will need to treat your snake plant with a fungicide. However, if the disease has advanced into the leaves, your only option may only be propagation.
In any case, quick and prompt action is required, so let’s crack on, and we’ll explain everything in our guide.
Symptoms of an Overwatered Snake Plant
Treating a snake plant for root rot is not a quick process. So it would be prudent to familiarize ourselves with the symptoms of an overwatered plant, compared with a plant infected with root rot.
Mushy Yellow Leaves on Snake Plant
As a member of the succulent family, snake plants use their meaty leaves as water storage to survive extended periods of dryness.
However, if a snake plant becomes overwatered, their leaves become over saturated with excess water. This will make the leaves appear and feel mushy, compared with a healthy leaf which should feel firm. The leaves may also become discolored and become a dull yellow color along the entire length of the leaf.
If your snake plant has been infected with an advanced case of root rot, the parts of the leaves close to the surface of the soil will be mushy, with brown patches and smell rotten.
Mold on Snake Plant
Whenever there is excess moisture around, the chances of mold are high. And overwatered snake plants are no exception.
If you see mold on the leaves of your plant (as well as mushy leaves described above), or on the surface of your soil, it is likely you have waterlogged roots.
Mold can also be present alongside plants infected with root rot.
Leaves Drooping on Snake Plant
Part of the brilliance of snake plants are their vertical standing sword-shaped leaves. So when the leaves are drooping or falling over, there is clearly something wrong with your plant.
Drooping leaves can be a telltale sign that you have an overwatered snake plant, however it can also be symptoms of other problems. Therefore, we would want to confirm your plant is suffering from too much water with other symptoms listed here too.
Rotten Smelly Roots on Snake Plant
Another sign that your snake plant is overwatered are smelly and rotting roots. You may not be able to see these issues while your houseplant is in the container. However, you can sometimes smell the problem, as the infected soil will also give off a rotting smell.
Healthy roots are usually an off-white color and full of vitality, with very little give when you pinch them between your fingers. Whereas, rotting roots will look brown (or black) and will be quite soft and mushy when touched.
If you observe any of these signs in your snake plant, we are afraid to say that it is suffering from the fungal disease called root rot.
Snake Plant has Fungus Gnats
One particular indoor plant pest absolutely loves moist soil – called the fungus gnat.
From a distance they look like fruit flies, but are actually very different if you compared each of them side-by-side.
Fungus gnats actually seek out overwatered plants, because adult gnats require moist soil to lay their eggs. The larvae also need wet soil to survive, as they feed on the rotting organic materials in the soil.
If you have gnats flying around your indoor plants, it is very likely you are overwatering all your houseplants, as they will spread from one container to the other.
How to Save an Overwatered Snake Plant
As we mentioned earlier in the piece, the quickest and most effective way to save an overwatered snake plant is to repot your plant. The steps involved with the repotting process will change depending on the presence of root rot, and how advanced the infection is. We’ll discuss each scenario below.
Snake Plant WITHOUT Root Rot
If your house plant is fortunate enough not to have developed root rot, a simple repot into fresh moist (not soggy) soil will do the trick in reviving your ailing plant baby.
For those that are new to the repotting process, it can be a daunting proposition to get your head around. To help you through the process we have created a step-by-step guide to repotting snake plants.
Snake Plant WITH Rot on Roots ONLY
If you discovered root rot within your root ball, you may be feeling like your snake plant is doomed.
Fortunately for you (and your plant), this is the best case scenario when it comes to root rot.
In cases like this, the disease is only in the beginning stages of the infection. Which means you have an opportunity to treat your snake plant, before the fungal disease takes hold, and kills your plant.
The first step is to remove any infected parts from your plant. Next, you will have to treat it with a fungicide to ensure there are no further outbreaks.
For a complete guide to the method we use for treating root rot in snake plants, check out our instructional guide HERE.
Snake Plant WITH Rot in Roots AND Leaves
The worst case scenario for root rot is when it has advanced into the leaves and stems of plants.
As we described above, you can tell when a snake plant is infected with advanced root rot when the base of the leaves appears brown and mushy. If you smell the area, it should have a rotten odor.
Unfortunately, this means the rot has completely infected the root system, which is completely unsalvageable.
The only option to save your snake plant is propagation.
The good news is snake plants are an easy plant to propagate from cuttings. The main thing you need to ensure is you choose parts of the plant that have no signs of infection. To be safe, we recommend treating your cuttings with a fungicide to be 100% certain there are no spores.
Here is a quick video from Easy Gardening showing how to water propagate snake plant leaf cuttings.
Tips For Preventing Overwatered Snake Plants
Okay, we’ve treated your plant and got it back on the road to recovery. Let’s now turn our attention to how the problem of overwatering occurred.
Choose the Right Pot Size
Selecting the correct container for your snake plant is an important decision that many gardeners can take for granted.
If you choose a pot too large for your snake plant, maintaining the right level of moisture in the soil will be difficult. You will likely be continually topping up the water in the container to provide enough moisture for your snake plant.
This can easily lead to an over saturation of your soil, resulting in the development of root rot.
Use Good Quality Soil for Snake Plants
Being a succulent, snake plants prefer loam soils that are light, airy and (most importantly) have excellent drainage.
Using regular potting mix will result in soil that is too dense for a snake plant. Regular potting soil also has a higher concentration of organic matter, which will retain more water than a snake plant requires.
We use a specific recipe for our snake plants – we recommend checking out our recipe and process for making our own snake plant potting mix.
Understand Your Snake Plant’s Water Needs
Finding the right balance for watering each of your plants is a delicate game that can often feel like a Goldilocks story.
You don’t want to give them too much water or too little. They want just the right amount.
The easiest way to keep your snake plants happy is to allow their soil to dry out before giving them another drink.
To determine when it is time to top up your snake plant, we use the following watering techniques:
- We use the soil moisture finger method to avoid soggy and a water-logged root ball. It is a simple, yet effective method for determining if your snake plant requires a top-up of water. Simply dig your index finger into the top two inches of soil. Gently pull it out and see if any wet soil is sticking to your finger. If there is soil on your finger, there is moisture present. If your finger comes out clean, it’s time for some water.
- Or for those that don’t like to get their hands dirty, you can use a soil moisture meter that you can easily purchase online at places like Amazon, or from your local nursery.
Position Your Snake Plant in the Correct Lighting
Positioning your snake plant in a space that receives plenty of indirect sunlight will help you to maintain a good level of moisture in your container.
If your snake plant is in direct sunlight, you may be tempted to water your plant too often to compensate for the intense heat, which can lead to overwatering.
Overwatered vs Underwatered Snake Plant – How to Tell the Difference
With all these symptoms to look out for in your snake plant, it can be difficult to determine whether your plant is suffering from too much water or too little.
To help you out, we’ve put together a quick checklist of symptoms to help you compare the two problems.
|Overwatered Symptoms||Underwatered Symptoms|
|Wrinkled leaves||Wrinkled leaves|
|Moldy leaves||Leaves curling inwards|
|Yellow leaves||Leaves drooping or falling|
|Mushy leaves||Dry & cracked potting soil|
|Mold on soil||Stunted growth|
As an indoor plant, it is easy for a snake plant to become overwatered. As a succulent, they do not require as much water as other popular indoor plants, like tropical plants.
Usually you can identify when your snake plant is overwatered when the leaves appear mushy and become discolored. If your plant has developed root rot, the base of the leaves may even become rotten and release a rotting odor.
Regardless of whether there is an infection, we recommend repotting your snake plant immediately. Fresh soil will help your snake plant make a quick recovery and continue to thrive like the beautiful plant it should be.