Beginners Guide to Why is My Snake Plant Not Growing?

So, you’re doing everything right in terms of care for your snake plant. It looks healthy, it receives plenty of water and light, and there are no signs of pests or disease. So why is your snake plant not growing?

One of the prime reasons for snake plants not growing is they have been placed in a pot that is too large for the root system. Snake plants prefer to be pot bound, with a tight root system. When they have too much room in the soil, the root system needs to fill out before they shoot off new leaves. Unfortunately, to their doting parents, this appears like they are stunted and not growing.

Snake Plant Not Growing

There are other factors that can effect the growth rate of snake plants, like

  • inappropriate environmental factors (lighting, temperature and humidity),
  • pests and diseases, or
  • natural growth cycle factors.

We’ll explore all of these factors in detail below. However, before we jump to any conclusions, let’s make sure we have our expectations set correctly by understanding the snake plant’s growth cycles.

Snake Plant: Growth Cycles & More

Like all plants, snake plants have periods of growth and dormancy.

You will usually see more active growth in the warmer seasons, like spring and summer. When we refer to active growth, the already established leaves may grow a bit, and you may see a few more leaves (or pups) spring up from the soil.

Snake plants actively grow during summer and spring.

Their dormant periods are during the colder periods of the year, through autumn and winter. During these months, you can expect to see very little activity from your snake plant.

And yes, as you may have guessed, this is when your beautiful indoor plant will appear like it isn’t growing.

Snake Plant Not Growing

How Fast Do Snake Plants Grow?

While we are on the topic of snake plant growth, it is also worth mentioning that snake plants are considered slow-growing houseplants.

A snake plant growth spurt would be considered to be a few inches in a year, and possible 2-4 new years.

Suffice to say, even with flawless care and conditions, you won’t be growing any full-blown snake plant bushes inside a year.

If you want to discover more about snake plant growth rates, check out our in-depth article HERE.

Why is My Snake Plant Not Growing?

Alright, we’ve now adjusted our expectations to what we can expect to see during the normal growth cycle of a snake plant.

Let’s now dive into causes that may stunt a snake plant’s growth rate.

Too Big a Pot

As we pointed out earlier, the most common reason why snake plants may appear stunted is due to the fact there is too much room in their planter.

A snake plant in a large pot will redirect nutrients and energy away from new leaf growth, and concentrate on developing a root system.

The reason behind this decision is practicality. As we are all well aware, snake plants have long and heavy foliage. In order to support these beautiful sword-shaped leaves, a snake plant needs to have an extremely strong root system. Without an established and tight root system, the snake plant leaves will fall and become damaged.

So even though it may appear like your snake plant isn’t growing, it is still healthy and active. You just can’t see the growth happening.

Snake plant in too big a pot
Example of snake plant in too big a pot

How to Fix Snake Plants not Growing in Big Pots

The easiest and simplest way of resolving the problem of too much room, is to repot your snake plant into a more suitable sized pot.

If you haven’t repotted a plant before, check out this repotting guide specifically made for repotting snake plants.

Poor Light Conditions

Another potential reason for a lack of growth in your snake plant is inappropriate lighting conditions – specifically low light.

Even though many resources tout that snake plants are hardy plants that can survive in varying lighting conditions. It doesn’t mean they will necessarily thrive in them.

Snake plants require plenty of bright light to thrive and grow. If they are positioned in a space that receives limited light, they will survive. But they will not thrive. In many cases, they will show no or very little growth.

How to Fix Low Lighting Conditions

The solution is simple. Move your snake plant to a brighter position where it can enjoy an abundance of indirect light.

However, before you thrust it into a brighter position, we recommend taking your time with the move. Make small moves every day over the course of a week. Each day move your snake plant closer to its final position. This will give it an opportunity to adapt to the change in environment, and decrease the chances of your plant experiencing shock.

Water Stress

Achieving the perfect balance for watering a snake plant is a common problem we see with many new owners.

Overwatering becomes a problem when snake plant parents assume they need to be watered on the same water schedule as their other indoor plants. Overwatering can lead to soggy soil that attracts diseases like root rot, which will cause a snake plant to refocus its energy to survive, rather than grow.

Underwatered snake plants develop issues when new owners neglect their husbandry duties and don’t provide enough moisture for their plant. This hinders your plants ability to perform the necessary processes to produce energy to grow.

Both, overwatering and underwatering, will lead to problems with your snake plant. Ultimately, this will have flow on effects on their ability to produce new growth.

How to Fix Water Stress in Snake Plants

Finding the right balance for watering each of your plants is a delicate game that can often feel like a Goldilocks and the Three Bears scenario.

You don’t want to give them too much water or too little. It needs to be 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Pests And Disease Stunting Growth

Although the snake plant is classified as a tough-as-nails plant, it can still be susceptible to disease and pests.

When a snake plant has a pest infestation or is infected with a disease, it will become weak and stressed. When a plant becomes stressed, it ceases all new growth and concentrates on fighting the diseases and pests.

The most common pests that snake plants attract are sap-sucking insects that love to feed on their meaty leaves. They love to hide under the leaves, or even in the crevices close to the base of the plant.

When it comes to diseases, snake plants are usually susceptible to fungal infections. The general ways a snake plant contracts an infection is from overwatering or through touch and contact with an already infected plant.

pest damage to snake plant stunting growth

How to Treat a Snake Plant with Pests

Here are a few simple steps for treating a snake plant infested with pests,

  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.

How to Treat a Snake Plant Infection

The best form of treatment for fungal diseases in snake plants is immediate removal of any infected parts of the plant. Once you have cleaned up your snake plant, you will have to treat it with a fungicide to ensure any remaining spores are killed off.

We have covered fungal diseases in snake plants extensively in our other article SNAKE PLANT DISEASES, which also includes step-by-step instructions for treating each type of disease.

For a full list of common snake plant pests and diseases, jump on over to our detailed troubleshooting guide.

Under Fertilized Snake Plant

As is the case for most living things, if they don’t receive enough food and nutrients, they will experience little to no growth. Ultimately, if a plant is starved, it may even decay and slowly die. This is especially the case for indoor plants that don’t have the luxury of having a rich and fertile soil with microorganisms providing a continuous source of nutrients.

Snake plants are by no means a hungry plant, however they do still require the base essential compounds for healthy and strong growth. Using an all-round fertilizer should provide everything your snake plant requires, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.

How to Correct Low Nutrient Levels

We recommend feeding your popular houseplant just before the growing season kicks off. From our discussion earlier, we now know that snake plants have active growth during spring and summer. Therefore, feeding in early spring would be perfect for optimal growth.

This should provide your snake plant with plenty of food at the time that it needs it the most. It also helps to prevent a build up of fertilizer, and avoids the fertilizer burn that we discussed previously.

Root Bound Snake Plants

Okay, we can hear you saying – didn’t we just say snake plants prefer a tight root ball in small pots? Then how can a snake plant suffer from a root bound system.

We admit this may come across as slightly confusing, however stay with us while we explain.

When a plant becomes too root bound, it prevents the soil from absorbing any water you may be providing it. This is evident if, when you water your snake plant, the water immediately gushes out of the drainage holes or sits on top of the soil. .

So this problem is somewhat linked with a snake plant not growing due to being underwatered. The problem isn’t that you are not giving it enough water. The issues lie in the fact that the soil cannot retain water.

How to Fix Root Bound Snake Plants

To resolve this problem, we recommend upgrading your snake plant to a slightly bigger pot – just make sure it isn’t too big a pot for your houseplant.

For steps involved with repotting a sansevieria, use the link we referenced to our snake pot repotting guide above in the TOO BIG A POT section.

Snake Plant Not Growing – Frequent Questions

How Can I Make My Snake Plant Grow Faster?

This may sound like common sense, however it is definitely something that is worth reiterating to drive home a point. Provide your snake plant with ideal conditions and care. This includes providing them with an abundant amount of indirect sunlight (not direct sunlight), only water when their soil has completely dried out, and finally giving them a feed in early spring.

Mastering these simple responsibilities will set your plant up for fast, healthy growth.

Finally, adjust your expectations. Snake plants are a slow-growing plant that experience a period of dormancy in the winter months of the year.

Why Is My Snake Plant Not Growing Straight Up?

Healthy snake plant foliage generally grows upright. If your snake plant is growing haphazardly, it is a sign that there is a fundamental issue with the conditions your snake plant is growing in. Your plant may not have a strong enough root system to support the leaves. Or you may be starving your plant. We recommend referring to our article WHY IS MY SNAKE PLANT LEAF FALLING OVER to help troubleshoot the problem.