Droopy Snake Plant Leaves – What To Do About A Drooping Mother In Law’s Tongue
By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
You may know mother-in-law plant (Sansevieria) as snake plant, appropriately nicknamed for its tall, slender, upright leaves. If your snake plant has droopy leaves, it’s an indication that something isn’t right. Read on for suggestions about possible causes and fixes for a mother-in-law tongue with drooping leaves.
Help! My Snake Plant is Drooping!
If your snake plant has droopy leaves, there are a few likely possibilities.
Mother-in-law’s tongue is a succulent plant with thick, moisture-holding leaves. This built-in watering system allows the plant to survive in its native environment – dry, rocky regions of the West African tropics. Like all succulents, snake plant is susceptible to root rot in soggy conditions, and droopy snake plant leaves often result when the plant is overwatered.
Water snake plant only when the top 2 or 3 inches (5-8 cm.) of soil is completely dry, and then water deeply until water runs through the drainage hole. Although conditions vary, a plant near a heat vent or a sunny window will need water more frequently. However, many people find that watering every two or three weeks is adequate.
Water around the inside edge of the pot to keep the leaves dry, and then allow the pot to drain freely before replacing it on the drainage saucer. Don’t water again until the top of soil is dry. Water sparingly during the winter months – only when the leaves begin to look slightly wilted. Once a month is usually enough.
Also, be sure the plant is in a pot with a drainage hole. Use a fast-draining potting mix such as a mix formulated for cactus and succulent, or a regular potting soil with a handful of coarse sand or perlite to enhance drainage.
Some people joke that Sansevieria is so hardy it can grow in a closet, but droopy snake plant leaves may result when the plant is in excessive darkness for long periods of time. The pattern in the leaves also tends to be more bright and prominent when the plant is exposed to light.
Snake plant tolerates relatively bright light, but direct light from a south-facing window may be too intense and may be to blame for drooping mother-in-law’s tongue. However, a southern exposure works well during the winter months. A sunny west- or east-facing window is a good bet nearly any time of year. A north-facing window is acceptable, but long periods of northern exposure may eventually cause droopy snake plant leaves.
If improper watering or lighting isn’t the reason for drooping mother-in-law’s tongue, check to see if the plant is rootbound. However, keep in mind that snake plant generally only needs repotting every three to five years. Move the plant to a container only one size larger, as a too large a pot holds an excessive amount of potting soil that can cause root rot.
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Read more about Snake Plants
Common Snake Plant Problems
If your thumb is everything but green, growing a snake plant (Sansevieria spp.) can be ideal because it requires minimal care and is hard to kill. Also called mother-in-law's tongue, this African native and common houseplant grows erect, sword-shaped leaves and is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12. Although simple to grow, there are still some problems that can affect the growth of the plant.
Snake Plant OverviewFull snake plant care guide on my YouTube channel.
|Common Name(s)||Snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp|
|Scientific Name||Sansevieria trifasciata|
|Height||Up to 40 inches|
|Light||Direct sunlight, filter harsh light|
|Soil||Free draining soil|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize in spring with a 20-20-20 fertilizer mixed in a watering container.|
|Propagation||Cuttings or divide|
Mother in Law’s Tongue has thick, vertical sword shaped leaves. The leaves are dark green and are accented with lighter green bars going horizontal along the blade like leaves. Some varieties have a yellowish colored border along the leaves.
Wilting in conjunction with twisting or curling of leaves is often a symptom of an infestation of thrip pests. Though thrips measure less than 1/20 inch in length and are difficult to spot with the naked eye, you may recognize their presence by the rough areas they leave in the wake of their feeding. As thrips feed on your snake plant's leaves, they damage and weaken your plant. However, these pests can infect your plant with viral diseases such as tomato spotted wilt virus, which has no cure.
For thrip infestation management, wipe plants down with a cloth or cotton balls wet with water. Remove and destroy affected plant parts. If you cannot control the infestation manually, destroy the entire plant.
The Right Temperature for Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
Sansevieria trifasciata thrive in average room temperatures. For best growth, don’t let the temperature indoors drop below 70°F (21°C). However, mother-in-law’s tongue plants are hardy to 50°F (10°C). You know if the temperature for your snake plant is right if you are warm enough and feel comfortable.
Although it’s difficult to kill a Sansevieria trifasciata, they don’t grow well in drafts. So, keep the plant away from air vents, open windows, or air-conditioner airflow. Also, in winter, make sure the snake plant pot is not beside a hot radiator, or it may start to wilt and have droopy leaves.
Mother-in-law’s tongue cultivars grow outdoors in USDA zone 10 to 12. As long as the temperature is above 55°F (12°C), the plant shouldn’t suffer any damage. But remember that they prefer warmer temperatures. If you take your potted snake plant outdoors in summer, put in a shady location with an average temperature of 70°F (21°C) or more.
What About Division?
Dividing snake plant requires a little finesse. You have to determine where the division points are before you can split it up.
Examine your plant, especially where the leaves and stems vanish into the soil. Remove your plant from its pot to make it easier to find the individual stems.
Grasp at the base of one of those stems and give it a little wiggle. You should be able to tease the roots apart a bit. Repeat the process to loosen up the root mass and partially separate the plants.
With a Japanese garden knife or sterilized razor blade, sever the plants from the mass. You can keep two to three clumped together, or separate each individual plant into its own pot. Decide what looks the best as a grouping and go with that.
Once you’ve divided them, follow the above sections to repot your plants in separate pots. Opt for a pot which is roughly 1-2″ wider than the size of your divided plant’s root cluster.
Repotting snake plant really is that easy! And what’s best of all is that it only needs to be done every 2-3 years. Your snake plant will be happy, you’ll be happy… and you might even get new plants too!