Stop Snake Plant Canker Disease in its Tracks (Identify and Treatment)

Discovering your snake plant has canker disease can be devastating. Seeing those strong, beautiful long leaves stained with canker brown spots is unsightly and, to be honest, slightly unsettling. But the good news is there is a solution. And we will guide you through your exact next steps in this article.

Snake Plant Canker Disease

What is Snake Plant Cankers?

As tough as we believe Sansevieria plants (recently reclassified as Dracaena) are, they are still susceptible to disease and pests if not cared for properly. One common symptom of disease infection is snake plant cankers.

Snake plant cankers are areas of dead tissue on the snake plant leaves that are usually brown or discolored and sunken. They appear as open wounds or sores on the plant.

How to Identify if Your Snake Plant Has Cankers

Besides the obvious legions described in the previous section on your snake plant’s leaves, cankers can cause some typical snake plant symptoms.

These are:

  • Soft and Mushy Feel – a healthy snake plant leaf will usually feel firm to the touch. However, snake plants with cankers will also display soft and squishy leaves. Soft leaves can also begin to droop or fall over.
  • Leaf Discoloration – along with a soft texture, the leaves may lose their vibrancy and appear discolored or faded. Badly affected leaves can eventually turn yellow.
  • Lesions or Blisters – Lesions or blisters appear on leaves before the snake plants cankers. These are different from cankers that are sunken into the leaf. They are raised areas of the leaf that can eventually turn into cankers.

If you don’t think the brown spots on your snake plant are cankers, check out our other article on Brown Spots on Snake Plants to help you identify your problem.

What Causes a Snake Plant Canker?

Many factors can cause cankers.

For example, stress from being underwatered and a lack of light can cause your snake plant to become weak, making it susceptible to pests.

Other potential causes are physical damage and trauma. This can occur while moving your plant around the house or during a session of repotting your snake plant. Another common cause of damage may result from boisterous dogs or curious cats who have a habit of pushing pot plants off high ledges.

credit: tenor

However, the most common cause of a canker on a snake plant is a bacterial or fungal infection. It is also essential to note that a condition can result from the first two causes (plant stress or damage).

Plants become susceptible when they are malnourished and weak. The exposed snake plants cannot fight off any incoming diseases, allowing the fungi and bacteria to attack the plant’s roots and foliage.

How to Treat Snake Plant Cankers

Without proper treatment, the cankers will continue to spread on your snake plant. This is why we encourage our readers to act swiftly if they say any signs of cankers developing.

Here is what we do when we identify cankers on a snake plant.

1. Containment

First and foremost, remove the infected leaves. There is a reason why we’ve placed this step first. It is important to isolate any infected leaves to minimize the risk of bacteria or fungal diseases spreading to healthy parts of your Sansevieria.

2. Chemical Treatment

As with most bacterial or fungal disease problems, treating your snake plant with an indoor plant-friendly fungicide is the next step.

Commercial fungicides are readily available at your local nursery. You can also source them at online marketplaces like Amazon.

You can find the steps for treating diseases on snake plants in our article HERE.


Treat the entire plant (including the healthy parts) with a fungicide to ensure you eradicate the disease. Nothing is more frustrating than thinking you have resolved your canker problem only to discover more developing a few weeks later.

3. Monitor and AfterCare

Once you have treated your snake plant, the final step is to monitor it closely over the next week.

After any fungicide treatment, we perform a daily check-in with our plants to ensure they recover as expected.

Your Sansevieria has just been through a traumatic process, so watching it closely will help to identify any issues early and allow you to tend to the problem swiftly.

In terms of caring for your snake plant, keep your houseplant in indirect light for the first couple of weeks. This will allow it to recover without being unnecessarily stressed from bright direct sunlight.

This is the perfect segue into the next section – how to prevent snake plant cankers.

Preventing Snake Plant Cankers – the Best Cure!

Keeping your snake plant canker free is easy once you know what causes the lesions.

By far, the best way to prevent cankers from developing is to keep your snake plant healthy and growing in optimal conditions.

Below are the conditions we aim to create for our snake plants at home.

Water Requirements

Allow the soil to dry before adding more water to your snake plant.

Although this sounds straightforward, it can be more challenging to determine when the soil is dry.

The easiest way to determine when the soil is dry is to use a finger soil moisture test or a soil moisture meter from your nursery or online at Amazon.

The longer you care for your snake plant, the easier it will be to understand its water needs, especially since the watering frequency changes as the weather changes.

We’ve compiled a guide on water frequencies in different seasons to make things easier. Check out our article HERE.

Light Conditions

Snake plants require plenty of bright light to thrive.

Indoor snake plants prefer bright indirect light but can tolerate direct sunlight. However, only in short doses. If you expose your snake plant to direct sunlight, ensure it is only dappled sunlight in the early morning or late evening. Midday and afternoon sun is too intense for indoor snake plants and will quickly dehydrate the leaves, causing leaf burn.

When grown outdoors, the snake plant becomes hardened to the weather elements and has higher tolerances for direct sunlight.

Read more HERE for tips on lighting conditions for snake plants.

Temperature Requirements

Most snake plants originate from Africa. This means they thrive in warm weather.

The recommended indoor temperature for snake plant is between 60-85° Fahrenheit (15-29° Celsius).

We caution all snake plant owners to be careful of extreme temperatures. At freezing temperatures, water expands when frozen. This means the water reserves in the leaves can freeze, causing irreparable damage to the leaf cells.

If your area is susceptible to freezing temperatures during winter, we recommend bringing your snake plants inside the house, where the temperature is acceptable.

Humidity Requirements

Humidity isn’t talked about much when it comes to snake plants. However, it is essential in regulating your snake plant’s internal processes, such as transpiration.

Keep your snake plant in between 30 and 50% relative humidity.

Not enough moisture in the air (low humidity) accelerates the transpiration process, dehydrates your plant, and causes water stress.

At the other end of the spectrum, too much moisture (high humidity) will prevent transpiration at the other extreme, and your snake plant will suffocate.

We have written an in-depth article discussing how humidity affects snake plants.

Soil & Fertilizer Requirements

The properties of the soil you use for your snake plant can profoundly affect your houseplant’s health.

Choosing the best soil for your snake plant can significantly impact your plant parent experience. Poor-quality or incorrect soil (like regular potting soil) will lead to rot issues and may even cause your snake plant to become mushy.

Good-quality soil will reduce the frequency of your watering, facilitate the uptake of nutrients by your snake plant, and reduce its susceptibility to pests and disease.

To be effective, your snake plant soil must be:

  • well-draining,
  • a sandy loam consistency (light and airy), and
  • contain some organic materials with water absorption properties.

We have devised a recipe for the perfect snake plant potting mix. You can also watch our video on making snake plant soil below.

Pot Size

Snake plants require a tight root system to support their large leaves like other snake plants.

When placed in a container too large for their root system, they will refocus their energy on developing the roots rather than growing new leaves. While they are still growing (under the soil), they will appear to be experiencing stunted growth.

Your snake plant pot should also have adequate drainage and plenty of holes. As we pointed out earlier, constantly wet soil rots your root system.