Signs of Snake Plant Root Rot – Ways to Save Your Sansevieria
Snake plants are generally hardly plants that can endure even the harshest of conditions. However, snake plants have a kryptonite – snake plant root rot. One thing that leaves them defenseless is being overwatered, leaving them open to disease.
Snake plant root rot can be fatal if not acted upon quickly. To resolve root rot, you will need to:
- identify and confirm your snake plant has symptoms of root rot,
- remove all infected roots and leaves,
- treat with a fungicide and repot your snake plant.
We understand root rot in snake plants sounds daunting. Which is why we have put together this easy-to-follow guide for taking your rot-affected snake plant through simple steps to being nursed back to health.
So if you’re ready, grab some rubbing alcohol, and sterilize your hands, because we’ve got some plant surgery to perform.
How to Spot Root Rot Symptoms
Before we take the knife to your beautiful snake plant, it would be prudent of us to check your plant does in fact root rot that is causing your snake plant to look sick.
Mushy and Wrinkled Leaves
A clear sign of root rot is when the leaves of your Sansevieria begin to look wrinkled, soft and mushy. You can confirm this by touching the wrinkled areas to test touch your indoor plant. Snake plants hold water reserves in their leaves, and they should feel firm, with very little give.
Black or Brown Markings at the Base
If you see the bottom part of your snake plant beginning to darken and develop black or brown marks or spots, it is a sure sign your plant’s roots have begun to rot.
If your snake plant has reached this point, the rot has been present for quite some time. Which may mean your plant is too far gone to be salvaged.
Smelly Rotting Roots
If you see the above markings around the base of your plant, we recommend testing if your plant will slide out of the wet soil easily to check the roots. If the base is rotten, you should be able to pull it out without much effort. When root rot has gotten hold of your snake plant, the roots turn dark, rotten and actually smell bad.
Healthy roots are usually white, and appear virile and firm to the touch.
Here’s a picture to help you visually assess your snake plants roots
Leaves Looking Limp and Off Color
Healthy snake plant leaves should be standing up with vigor and appear vibrant. However, if your plant is suffering from root rot, the leaves may appear sickly. More specifically, the foliage will appear limp and even begin to turn into yellow leaves – although the discoloration is a bit harder to spot on variegated varieties.
It is also helpful to know that when leaves turn yellow, it is early warning signs that your snake plant is overwatered and there may be disease present in the soil.
How To Save Snake Plant From Root Rot – Beginners Guide
Now that we have established your snake plant is infected, let’s get into the steps in how to resolve the problem at hand – snake plant root rot.
There is no sugar coating it, the only way to resolve root rot is to repot the plant.
How to Remove Your Snake Plant from the Pot
Removing a plant from its pot for the first time can be intimidating. So we’ve stepped out a simple process for removing your snake plant. Follow these steps:
- If your snake plant is in a plastic pot, gently squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the plant from the pot. If your plant is in a ceramic or solid pot, you can skip this step.
- Spread your hand over the surface of the potting soil. We like to support the leaves of the snake plant snugly between our fingers, so we can help the plant without crushing it.
- In a smooth swift action, tip the pot upside down. You’ll feel some topsoil fall down, but the plant will most likely stay in the pot.
- Gently coax the plant out of its pot but shimmying it out of its home. As the plant comes out, you should begin to feel the weight of the plant on your support hand.
- Remove the rootball from the pot, and you have successfully extracted your snake plant.
Treat Root Rot in Snake Plants
Now that you have successfully removed your snake plant from its container, we can begin removing the affected roots.
- Loosen the soggy soil from the root ball. Make sure to break away any soil over a plastic bag or container, because we will be discarding all the infected old soil. We recommend gently washing the soil stuck on any roots under warm tepid water from a tap.
- With a hydrogen peroxide or bleach solution, wash the old pot and any gardening tools to kill pathogens and prevent the spread of fungal spores. The solution is made by mixing one part bleach with two parts water.
- Sterilize scissors with rubbing alcohol. Use the clean scissors to cut off all the brown, rotting dead roots. Keep as many healthy portions as possible. Remember to re-sterilize your scissors after use.
- Pour fungicide solution over the remaining roots to kill root fungus and prevent another infection. If you don’t have a fungicide, you can use the hydrogen peroxide solution (mix one part bleach with 15 parts water).
- Using the same ratio as the infected root removed, prune back the same proportion of the plant foliage. This will reduce the burden on the pruned, smaller root base to support the plant foliage.
- Re-pot your snake plant into a container with sufficient drainage holes. Use a fresh batch of potting mix that has good drainage properties. We like to make up our own indoor plant soil using our recipe to ensure our indoor plants have soil that drains well, but also retains enough moisture to thrive.
- Finally, make sure to water the plant and feed it with a seaweed fertilizer. We find it helps to help the plant recover from the shock by supporting the plants’ ability to absorb the essential nutrients from the soil. Plus it will need everything it can get to recover and grow stronger than before.
For those that have not had the pleasure of repotting a plant before, here’s a quick video from JoyUsGarden with some great tips on transplanting snake plants in a new pot.
How to Prevent Future Root Rot Problems
Okay, let’s take a few minutes to catch our breath! You’ve just performed plant surgery – give yourself a pat on the back, because it is not an easy feat.
That being said, what can you do to avoid having to perform a root rot surgery in the future?
Here are a few of our favorite care tips for avoiding the causes of root rot.
We hate to say it, but the majority of cases of root rot are self-inflicted by indoor plant parents. Go on, put your hand up and admit it. To be fair, it is almost like a rite of passage that every gardener must endure – we’ve all been.
Overwatering your snake plant is one of the biggest mistakes to make, and yet it is the easiest to correct.
We would like to introduce you to the soil moisture finger method. 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 soil knuckle deep. 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.
Sometimes root rot can develop due to inappropriate drainage conditions in the container or pot.
There could be a few factors that could cause poor drainage.
First and foremost, make sure your container has enough drainage holes for any excess water to escape. If you feel the pot could have more holes, grab a sharp knife and perform some DIY by cutting more holes in the bottom.
In addition, if you are sitting your snake plant’s pot in a decorative container WITHOUT drainage holes, then make sure you tip out any excess water from the decorative container. Allowing your pot to sit in a pool of water is the same as letting your plant go for a swim and develop root rot.
One final note on snake plant pots – if your snake plant is housed in a container that is too large for it, it can lead to root rot. The reason is, in order to keep your snake plant sufficiently watered, you will have to constantly top up your plant with a large amount of water. This results in the soil becoming over saturated, and attracting diseases such as root rot.
Wrong Soil Mix
If you have the incorrect soil or growing medium in your snake plant’s container, it can also cause problems. Improper soil can lead to plant stress, because as you water your plant, the excess water cannot drain away properly and your snake plant may develop possible root rot. We recommend using a loamy soil that consists of:
- 3 Parts Regular Potting Soil,
- 2 Parts Porous Material (like perlite or pumice), and
- 1.25 Parts Sand.
By using a loamy soil, it allows aeration for oxygen to reach the roots, and also allows the soil to dry between watering, which helps in preventing root rot issues.
Common Questions for Snake Plant Root Rot
Why does my snake plant have no roots?
If you discover your snake plant has not roots, it has become a victim of root rot. Unfortunately for your snake plant, a fungal disease has infected the root system, and it has caused your roots to rot and die. Once a snake plant has reached this stage, it is unfortunately too far gone to be salvaged. Usually, the bottom part of the plant will also be mushy and have developed brown or black spots. This is also an indication that the plant has succumbed to rot.
Does hydrogen peroxide kill snake plant root rot?
Hydrogen peroxide is an effective treatment that kills the disease called root rot. It will effectively cleanse any healthy roots, and rid them of any fungal spores that may have spread to them.
Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to clean any instruments (like garden scissors) and containers that may have been contaminated with the disease.
We highly recommend using hydrogen peroxide when treating a plant with snake plant root rot.
Do houseplant pests cause or spread root rot?
As we mentioned earlier, root rot is a fungal based disease that is soiled borne and can spread easily by contamination. This means if you use utensils or even touch rotted parts of the plant, you can spread the disease simply by touching other plants or soil. It, therefore stands to reason, that pests that live in infected soil, like fungus gnats, can also spread the disease when they lay eggs in other indoor plants.
There are many things that can cause root rot to develop in your snake plant succulent. These causes can be driven by incorrect potting mix, water your snake plant only when is required, or even changing your snake plant to a new pot.
To fix snake plant root rot we need to remove the oil soil and use fresh soil that isn’t diseased.