Causes of Snake Plant Brown Tips (+ How to Fix It)

Brown tips on a snake plant are usually one of the initial signs of stress from an underlying problem. The challenge that we have is identifying the cause of the brown tips, before it advances and begins to snowball into more dire problems for your snake plant.

Snake plant brown tips can be caused by a variety of factors, like

  • water stress (too much or too little),
  • inappropriate lighting conditions,
  • environmental factors like drafts, temperature swings or changes to humidity, or
  • disease and pests.
Snake Plant Brown Tips

Whatever the cause may be, we can be sure of one thing. Your snake plant needs help, so grab your troubleshooting hat because we have a problem to solve!

Why Do My Snake Plant’s Leaves Have Brown Tips?

Snake plants are one of the hardiest houseplants around, so when it begins to show signs of stress (like leaves with brown tips) you know it is time to sit up, take notice and take action.

In the following sections we will explore the potential reasons why your snake plant has browning tips. We’ll identify other symptoms to look for, as well as provide solutions to get your indoor plant back on the road to a healthy snake plant.

Water Stress – Most Common Cause of Brown Tips on Snake Plants

One of the most common causes of problems developing in your snake plant is water stress.

Generally, when snake plant owners encounter water issues with their plants it is because they are relatively new to the indoor plant space or don’t understand the needs of the plant.

Snake plants are part of the succulent family, and as such like to have their soil completely dry out before it needs topping up. Incorrect watering will stress your snake plant, leading to stress responses, like brown tips.

Overwatered Snake Plants with Brown Tips

Judging from the feedback we receive from our community, one of the most common problems snake plants encounter is being overwatered.

It mostly occurs because their owners mistakenly assume all their houseplants should be on the same watering schedule.

However, like other succulents, snake plants have the ability to store water in their leaves. This means when they are given too much water, it will remain in the pot, resulting in wet soggy soil.

When snake plants sit in soggy soil, they experience an overload of water, which creates small brown and black spots on the leaves called oedema. This essentially means the leaf cells have absorbed too much water and have exploded, damaging the leaf.

Water-laden soil also restricts the ability of the roots to absorb oxygen, which allows bacterial and fungal spores to grow and develop. The bacteria can infect the root system, developing into the disease all gardeners dread: root rot.

When root rot takes over the roots’ system, your snake plant will have no means of delivering water and nutrients to the leaves. This leads to malnutrition, and the foliage begins to degrade, by developing brown tips and patches along the leaves.

Underwatered Snake Plant with Brown Tips

At the other end of the scale, not giving your snake plant enough water can also lead to stress signals, such as brown tips.

Underwatered snake plants can result for a few reasons.

If your snake plant’s soil is extremely dry, cracked and doesn’t easily give way when you push your finger into the top later, your snake plant is 100% dried out, and needs water immediately. The likely reason for it becoming under watered is neglect.

However, if your soil is moist, but the leaves are still developing brown tips, your snake plant may be suffering from a condition called a root-bound roots system. This occurs when your snake plant has outgrown its home, and the roots have entangled themselves to the point that they cannot extract water and nutrients from the soil. This leads to malnutrition in the leaves, developing into brown tips and coloration.

How To Fix Water Stressed Snake Plants

If you suspect your snake plant has developed root rot, the only solution is to:

  1. inspect the root ball for rotten roots,
  2. clean up any diseased parts of the plant,
  3. treat with a fungicide, and
  4. repot your healthy snake plant.

We have a complete step-by-step guide to treating a snake plant HERE.

If you discover that your soil is completely void of moisture and has solidified to the point of cracking, we recommend repotting your snake plant into fresh potting soil. It is the quickest way of getting your indoor plant back on the road to recovery.

Finally, we recommend implementing a regular watering regime specific for your snake plant. Unlike tropical plants, that require a constant moisture source, snake plants have their own reserves in their leaves. This means they prefer to let the soil completely dry out, before requiring another drink of water.

Other Causes of Snake Plant Brown Tips

If you believe you have your snake plant’s water requirements under control, there may be a few other reasons why your snake plant is developing brown tips.

Let’s take a look at these potential causes and how to fix them.

Inappropriate Lighting Conditions

Even though snake plants have quite a high tolerance to varied lighting conditions, the one type of lighting that can cause damage like browning tips is direct sunlight for prolonged periods throughout the day.

When a snake plant exhibits browning leaves (without the yellowing), it suggests that it may be experiencing leaf burn – which is another way of saying plant sunburn.

When a snake plant is dehydrated and exposed to too much direct sunlight, it can result in wrinkling leaves with brown marks around the edges and tips.

It is also an indication that your snake plant may be suffering from extreme temperature stress. That’s right, even succulents can find high temperatures stressful – especially when they do not have enough water reserves.

How to Fix Leaf Burn

If your snake plant is in a pot, we recommend giving it a good watering and then moving it to a position that receives plenty of indirect light.

As with the case of an under watered snake plant, the soil is likely to be dry. In cases like these, we like to bottom water our snake plants to afford them the time to slowly regain their water absorbing properties.

Moving your snake plant to a position with plenty of indirect sunlight (not direct sunlight) will also reduce the temperature and allow it to recover from the stress.

Pests Causing Brown Tips on Snake Plant

Another form of stress that can manifest in brown tips on your snake plant is a pest infestation.

The most common pests that have a taste for snake plants are sap-sucking insects, like mealybugs, spider mites and thrips. They love to attack the juicy leaves, feasting on the nutrients.

To access the sap, these insects have specialized equipment to penetrate the thick skin of the snake plants. As you can imagine, this causes damage to the leaves, creating marks polka-dotted along the length.

As the pests increase in numbers, they may deprive the snake plant of enough nutrients, that the leaves become malnourished, and develop brown tips.

How to Treat Pests on Snake Plants

There is only one solution to treating a pest-infested snake plant – eradication! Here is a breakdown of the steps involved.

  1. Manual Pest Removal – the first step involves manually removing any visible pests from your plant. We usually take our snake plant outdoors and apply a medium pressure water spray on the plant to remove any visible bugs. Mealybugs may be a bit more stubborn during this process. To eradicate mealybugs, use a cotton bud dipped in rubbing alcohol, and dab each visible mealy bug.
  2. Remove any Damaged Leaves – now remove any infected leaves that have brown lesions and appear rotten. These leaves will not recover, and just continue to use up essential nutrients that could be used for new growth.
  3. Treat with Organic Pesticide – the final step is to treat the remainder of the plant with a pesticide from a spray bottle to remove any pests that may be hiding. Remember to treat the crevices and spaces in between the leaves.

We have a detailed step-by-step guide for eliminating pests from snake plants. Check out our article on the common snake plant pests.

Over-Fertilization Causing Brown Tips

This can result from over application of fertilizer or a gradual build up of unused chemicals in the soil over time. You can identify when your snake plant is suffering from too much fertilizer in the soil, because the leaves will also have a distinct yellow color surrounding the brown marks and brown tips. You may also see a chemical build up on the surface of your soil.

If you suspect your snake plant has fertilizer burn, you have two options:

  1. Repotting into fresh potting mix (refer to Fixing Water Stressed plants section above for repotting instructions), or
  2. you can flush your plants’ soil to get rid of the excess chemicals.

If you have never flushed a houseplant before, check out this useful video tutorial by Marianne from My Wasteless Life

Low humidity Causing Stress to Snake Plant

Sudden changes to the immediate surrounding environment, like temperature fluctuations or low humidity, can shock a snake plant to the point that it becomes weak. Usually, this often leads to distressed symptoms developing in your snake plants’ leaves, like brown leaf tips and markings along the foliage.

If your snake plant is in the direct air flow zone of an air conditioner, the constantly fluctuating temperatures and humidity will make your plant go into shock. This is especially relevant for air conditioners, that tend to circulate dry air, dramatically reducing the humidity levels in the ambient space. They prefer a stable temperature range between 70-90° Fahrenheit (21-32° Celsius) with a humidity range between 30-50%.

brown tips and markings on snake plants

Snake Plant Brown Tips – Common Questions

Can I Cut the Brown Tips Off my Snake Plant?

Once a part of a snake plant suffers from damage, such as the development of brown tips, that localized part of the plant is dead. The snake plant will not use precious energy to sustain that area, and it will slowly die off. We recommend removing the brown tips from your snake plant to preserve the energy that it may incidentally absorb.

How Do I get My Snake Plant Green Again?

The best way to get your snake plant green again is to repot it into fresh potting mix. If you are unable to repot your snake plant, we suggest using a water-soluble fertilizer to encourage healthy growth.

Will Damaged Snake Plant Leaves Grow Back?

Unfortunately the answer is NO – damaged snake plant leaves will not grow back.

The plant will heal the wound, and cauterize the exposed parts of the leaf to prevent any fungal disease, rot or further damage. However, eventually the snake plant will sacrifice the damaged leaf for new growth, and the leaf will slowly die and fall off.