Identify and Save Underwatered Snake Plants – Beginners Guide
Snake plants will exhibit a range of symptoms that will indicate they are dehydrated or underwatered. The signs can range from:
- drooping or leaves that are falling over
- browning and discoloration of leaves around the edges
- wrinkling and curling of the leaves.
With experience, you will learn how to pick up on these subtle signals from your snake plant, so you can rectify the problem quickly.
For those beginning their plant parent journey, we have put together a guide to interpreting your snake plant’s signs and other symptoms to watch for. We’ll also walk you through the next steps to reviving your house plant. As well as ways to prevent your snake plant from becoming underwatered in the future.
Grab a coffee and settle in, because we’ve got a plant to save!
Signs of Underwatered Snake Plant
First up, let’s identify the symptoms of a thirsty snake plant by getting up close and personal with your beautiful plant.
One thing we wish someone had told us early on in our gardening journey is plants communicate through their leaves.
If something is not quite right, the first signs of distress will be shown via their leaves. As you read through these symptoms, you’ll begin to gain an appreciation for your snake plant, and learn how to interpret their cues.
Wrinkled Snake Plant Leaves
Like most succulents, snake plants use their leaves as water storage in order to survive extended dry periods. Once they have exhausted their water reserves, their leaves will begin to wrinkle and shrink.
The leaves of a healthy, hydrated snake plant should be plump and firm to the touch.
If you notice wrinkles beginning to form on your snake plant, and the leaves are softer than usual, it is a sure sign or a dried-up snake plant.
Curling Snake Plant Leaves
Curling leaves are another way snake plants will communicate that they are dehydrated and in need of a water top-up.
Similar to the wrinkled leaves above, as your snake plant uses the last of its water reserves, its leaves will begin to curl inwards. This is also a way for the plants to minimize the leaf surface and reduce the amount of moisture that is lost through transpiration.
Snake Plant Leaves Drooping or Falling Over
Another sign that you have an underwatered snake plant is when their leaves begin to droop or appear to be falling over. A lack of water will weaken your plant, causing it to lose its ability to hold its shape and structure.
It can be quite a confronting image to see your snake plant looking so limp. Particularly because the leaves usually stand upright on a healthy snake plant. Don’t panic – if you act quickly enough, your snake plant will recover.
Discoloration on Snake Plants Leaves
If your snake plant is left without water for a prolonged period of time, the leaves can begin to discolor and turn brown. The process usually begins at the most vulnerable parts of the leaves, on the edges and tips.
If left long enough without water, the leaves will lose their vibrant colors and appear dull.
In severe cases of dehydration (usually caused by dehydration from too much heat or direct sunlight), the leaves may become sunburned and feel crispy in texture.
Dry and Cracked Potting Soil
There may be other factors that may be causing your snake plants leaves to curl. If your plant is exhibiting curly leaves, we recommend you check out our full troubleshooting guide on snake plant leaves curling.
If your snake plant is showing any of the above symptoms described above AND has dry, cracked and compacted soil, your plant is 100% underwatered.
If potting mix is not watered on a consistent basis, it loses its integrity and ability to absorb water. This usually changes the properties of the soil, and to be honest, the usefulness of it to your houseplant.
Dried out soil tends to solidify and harden to the point that it becomes cracked. When it becomes a solid brick, the roots of your snake plant will not be able to extract the necessary nutrients and oxygen from the surrounding soil.
When this happens, your snake plant essentially starves and suffocates to death.
Snake Plant Stunted Growth
One final sign that you are not giving your snake plant enough water is if the growth appears to be stunted or is extremely slow.
You will also notice there are fewer (or no) snake plant pups developing from the rhizomes and the overall look of your plant is subdued.
Step-by-step Guide to Saving an Underwatered Snake Plant
Now you know how to identify an underwatered snake plant. Now it’s time for action!
Step 1: Give Your Snake Plant Some Water!
Let’s get your snake plant what it needs…water!
You may think this step is as simple as topping up your snake plant with some water.
However, if your snake plant is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, it is likely that the extent of your plant’s dehydration is severe. Which means the soil is likely also to become dry and won’t be able to absorb water.
Step 2: Soak the Soil in Water
Soak the soil in water to give it time to return to functional soil. This will require a deep watering to overcome the infrequent watering and lack of nutrients. For this we recommend using the bottom watering technique. You can read more about this method in our article HERE.
Step 3: Refresh Your Potting Soil
Repot your snake plant to provide it with fresh soil mix that has sufficient water retaining properties as well as the ability to drain any excess water, to avoid diseases like root rot.
Step 4: Position Your Snake Plant Correctly
If you suspect your snake plant became dehydrated from being exposed to direct sunlight, now is the time to move it to a more light-friendly position.
Snake plants like to be bathed in plenty of bright indirect light. They can tolerate a bit of direct sunlight; however, it should only be dappled sunlight in the early morning or late evening when it isn’t so harsh.
Step 5: After Care During Rehabilitation Period
While your snake plant is recovering, make sure it has plenty of water to rehydrate itself. The new potting soil should be able to retain enough moisture for your plant, but also have the ability to expel any excess water, so as not to encourage any root rot from developing.
If you are revitalizing your snake plant in the growing seasons (spring and summer), feel free to top up your plant with some natural fertilizer feed. You can also use any of the commercial fertilizers, because snake plants are hardy plants that are not fussy when it comes to fertilizers. As long as it is a balanced fertilizer, it will help replace all the nutrients it missed while it was underwatered plant.
Best Tips for Keeping Your Snake Plant Hydrated
Now that we have your snake plant on the road to recovery, let’s look at ways to prevent your plant from becoming underwatered in the future.
Optimal Frequency of Watering Your Snake Plant
We understand finding the right balance for watering your snake plants can be tricky. After all, they are succulents that naturally live in dry soil and arid conditions – shouldn’t they be able to live off little water?
We find the best way to keep snake plants happy is to allow their soil to dry out before giving them another drink.
How do we determine when the soil is dry before letting them go too long without water?
There are a few ways:
- 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.
- 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.
Avoid Direct Strong Sunlight
We’ve already touched on this point in Step 4 of the recovery process for your snake plant. However, it is an important element to get right in your snake plant care, so it is worth repeating.
Place your snake plant in a position that it can be bathed in plenty of bright indirect light. It can tolerate short periods of direct sunlight, however, only when the light conditions is not at its most intense period during the day, usually around midday.
Use the Right Pot
Choosing the proper container for your snake plant is an important choice that many novice gardeners can easily overlook.
Your planter needs to be large enough to allow for your plant’s root system to thrive and absorb enough moisture and nutrients from the soil.
However, not too large that keeping the moisture levels in the soil becomes a chore or can lead to other complications, such as pests that love moist environments (like fungus gnats) and fungal diseases.
You will also need a container with drainage holes to allow any excess water to escape.
Mix in Water Absorbent Organic Materials
While we are on the topic of pots and soil, we think a top tip is to mix in some organic materials (like coconut coir or sphagnum moss) into your soil to enhance the water absorption capabilities of the soil.
These types of materials are a great way to assist in retaining enough water in your soil for your snake plant, so you can go for longer periods without topping up the water.
IMPORTANT: We only recommend mixing a small amount of these organic materials into the soil. Your snake plant requires a loamy soil that is mostly light and airy. Check out our recipe for the best type of soil for snake plants HERE.
Keep Away From Heaters
If your snake plants are located near a heating vent or portable heater, the increase in ambient temperature may be causing it to dehydrate quicker than usual.
Try to keep your snake plants (or all indoor plants) away from heating sources. The temperature fluctuations often upset their rhythms, and you will end up having to water your plants more often than you would like.
Final Thoughts on Underwatered Snake Plants
If you suspect your snake plant is underwatered, chances are you are correct.
There are many signs that indicate a snake plant is underwatered. Such as droopy leaves, changes in colorations of the foliage, and even cracks in the potting mix.
We have detailed an easy to follow step-by-step instructional guide to nurse your snake plant back to its former self.
We also recommend the best method of avoiding these types of situations is being proactive and taking a preventative approach. By recognizing the signs of distress in your plants, you will become a more mindful indoor plant owner, with much fewer frustrations along the journey.