Common Snake Plant Pests (+ Solutions)
Snake plants are renown for their easy-to-care for persona, which makes them ideal indoor plants for new or busy plant parents. However, even the easiest plants in the world are susceptible to pests and diseases without proper support.
Snake plants are succulents, which means they have fleshy leaves that are heaven for common sap-sucking pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and thrips. Snake plants are also susceptible to being overwatered, opening them up to a range of fungal diseases (root rot) and pests that seek out moist environments, like fungus gnats. With a bit of know-how and guidance from us, you can quickly identify and treat for common snake plant pitfalls, and restore a happy, healthy plant.
Welcome to today’s feature article at the Garden Bench Top – Common Snake Plant Pests. You can expect to learn:
- a list of the top pests that you can find on your snake plant,
- identify when your plant has become infested, and
- how to treat an infected snake plant.
So grab a coffee because we’re about to throw some knowledge your way.
We received so many questions about common Snake Plant Diseases, we decided to move the entire section to a dedicated article. So if you suspect your sansevieria is infected with a disease jump on over to our dedicated guide.
Common Snake Plant Pests
Let’s begin with the little creepy crawlies that can invade your beautiful houseplant. Some of these are easy to see because they leave tell-tale marks on the plant. While some are less obvious, and like to hide in plain sight. But don’t worry – we’ll tell you how to find them and where to look.
Mealybugs and Snake plants
Mealy bugs are strange looking pests that look like they belong in the land before time.
They are small ancient looking bugs that have a white furry appearance. When they congregate into colonies, it looks like someone has attached cotton wool to various areas on your indoor plant. Traditionally, they like to hide on the underside of snake plant leaves. However, since healthy snake plants have tall vertical leaves, they will tend to gather around crevices or the base of your plant.
They feed on the sap of your snake plant, penetrating through the tough exterior with specialized equipment, and slowly draining all the plant’s nutrients from the leaf cells.
How to Treat Mealy Bugs
Mealy bugs are not the easiest pest to eradicate.
It requires a lot of manual removal by dabbing a cotton bud into rubbing alcohol and rubbing it on each mealy bug. The rubbing alcohol will kill the mealy bugs, and they should fall off shortly after.
As you can imagine, if you have a large infestation of mealy bugs, this process can become tedious quickly. In this case, we recommend purchasing an Insecticidal Soap or natural insecticide (like neem oil) to spray on the colonies of mealy bugs. You will be able to target more bugs in a shorter period of time.
Spider Mites and Snake Plants
Spider mites are the kind of pest that love to hide in plain sight. They are tiny little spider-like pests that can easily be missed, unless you are searching for them.
In fact, spider mites are actually part of the arachnid family, but rather than preying on insects for food, these guys feed on the sap in plants – including snake plants. You may have seen different colored spider mites, and that is because they change colors depending on the season. They are red in their resting periods (winter and autumn), while they can range from white to yellow / green during the warmer months of the year.
You can identify when your snake plant has a spider mite infestation by the tiny thin cobwebs that will be present on your leaves and crevices of the plant.
How to Treat Spider Mites
Because spider mites are difficult to see, we recommend applying a thorough treatment to your snake plant. This will ensure you don’t miss any spider mites, and end up with another pest infestation a few weeks later.
We like to take a pressurized hose and apply a medium pressure jet of water to the entire spider plant. Make sure to cover both the top and underside of leaves, as well as the crevices. This should dislodge the majority of the spider mites.
To cover all bases, we then apply an organic insecticide, like Neem Oil, to target the spider mites that may have evaded the pressurized hose attack.
Thrips and Snake Plants
Another sap-sucking pest that can attack your snake plants are thrips. Like the previous pests, thrips live on the leaves of the snake plant, feeding at their leisure as they bore into your leaves.
You can identify thrips by their look, as they are very different to spider mites and mealybugs. Thrips are long thin insects with small antennae on their head. Their color can range from black, brown or cream. Some younger thrips can even appear translucent.
However, you are more likely to notice the leaf damage on your snake plant, before realizing you have a thrips problem. You will see discolored spots or scars peppered all over your beautiful leaves.
How to Treat for Thrips
Like spider mites, a good thorough blast with a pressurized hose outdoors will help to clear the majority of thrips off your plant.
The good thing about snake plants is their leaves are quite robust and durable. Which means they can handle a good amount of water pressure.
Make sure to check at the leaf nodes for any thrips that may be hiding in the crevices. Repeat this process each week.
If you don’t mind using a bit of insecticide on your plants, any commercial brand at your local nursery or supermarket will work instantly. Again, we recommend spraying the insecticide outside.
Fungus Gnats and Snake Plants
Fungus gnats are also a common pest with snake plants, however not for the same reason as the previous insects.
A common mistake by many first-time plant parents is overwatering their snake plants. We don’t know if it is because they are overzealous with their watering schedule, or it is simply a knowledge gap.
Whatever the reason, overwatering leads to moist soil – which attracts fungus gnats.
The strange thing about fungus gnats is they don’t actually harm your snake plant. They feed on the rotting material in the soil – including any rotting roots.
Nonetheless, they are a pest and these little fly-like creatures can become extremely annoying to other household inhabitants when they grow to plague number proportions.
How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats
Getting rid of fungus gnats is a process that requires patience and diligence.
Some indoor plant owners think that by killing the adults (miniature flying insects), they will solve their problem. However, unfortunately this is only a short-term solution, that will only thin down the numbers temporarily.
A proper eradication process involves attacking fungus gnats at all stages of their lifecycle; eggs, larvae and adult fungus gnats. We detail our three-pronged strategy in our detailed guide to getting rid of fungus gnats.
How Do You Know If Your Snake Plant Has Root Rot?
As we mentioned earlier, snake plants are often vulnerable to being overwatered. This often leads to a common fungal disease, root rot.
Root rot is hard to identify without regular inspections of your plant’s root ball. Sometimes you cannot identify the problem until it is too late, and the disease has consumed your entire root system and travelled up into the leaves.
If you suspect your snake plant may be suffering from root rot, we recommend promptly jumping over to our in depth article How to Identify and Treat Root Rot in Snake Plants.
Common Snake Plant Pests – Final Words
In our experience, snake plants are hardy indoor plants that can deliver a rewarding plant parent journey when cared for correctly.
Without proper care, even the toughest plants can become susceptible to pests and diseases. Snake plants are particularly vulnerable to sap-sucking pests like mealy bugs, spider mites and thrips.
Overwatering a snake plant opens them up to many fungal diseases, and can even lead to other pests like fungus gnats breeding in the moist soil.
Whatever problem you are experiencing with your snake plant, we recommend prompt and decisive action to prevent any further damage occurring to your snake plant.