Why Are My Snake Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

Something isn't right. Here's how to remedy it.

<p>Bilal photos/Getty Images</p>

Bilal photos/Getty Images

Snake plant is a hardy houseplant that has made a lot of lists for being a low-light plant. With upright, sword-looking green-banded leaves and some varieties having a yellow outer edge, snake plants are a favorite for offices or dim rooms. But these plants actually need plenty of light to grow and thrive. If they spend too much time in low-light conditions, you won't know if anything is amiss, as these plants take a long time to show signs that something is wrong. Yellowing leaves are a common sign that something isn't right.

We spoke with houseplant experts on why snake plant leaves may turn yellow, what could be the culprit, and how to remedy it.

Related: 30 Easy Houseplants Even Beginners Can't Kill

Meet The Experts

Getty Images
Getty Images

Inconsistent Watering

If you're forgetful about your plants and only water them when you remember, this can cause issues for your snake plant. "Inconsistent watering can also cause yellowing leaves by stressing the plant," says Raffaele Di Lallo, founder of Ohio Tropics and author of Houseplant Warrior: 7 Keys to Unlocking the Mysteries of Houseplant Care.

Wondering what's an example of inconsistent watering? "If your plant gets too wet for too long, then dries out too much, and gets too wet again," says Justin Hancock, a horticulturist at Costa Farms. "Lesions can appear on the roots, damaging them and preventing them [from] uptaking water properly."

Di Lallo recommends making sure that your snake plant is well hydrated after each watering. "You should always water your snake plants, or any plants for that matter, thoroughly until water escapes the drainage holes," he says.

Related: The 12 Best Plants To Grow In Your Living Room


Like with most houseplants, finding the right balance of just enough water–not too much and not too little—is key to keeping a snake plant happy. "Plant roots take up moisture, and the leaves release it through the transpiration process," says Hancock. Plants need water to grow, but too much keeps the soil soggy and the roots struggle. A rule of thumb for watering is to let the top soil dry before you give your plant another drink. "After watering, wait at least for the top inch or two to dry out before watering again," says Di Lallo.

He adds that if soil stays wet for too long and isn't drying out, there are several factors that could be causing the issue, including poor lighting, poorly draining soil or potting mix, containers without drainage holes, pots that are too big for the plant's root system and temperatures that are too cold.

Wondering what happens when your plant grows in wet or soggy soil? "If the potting mix stays too wet and the roots start to suffocate, the plant will start to sacrifice leaves to maintain a balance of the moisture it’s taking in and putting out," he says. If the snake plant receives too much water consistently, this can lead to root rot.

Related: Here's Why You Should Use The Ice Cube Method With Your Houseplants

Root Rot

If you suspect your snake plant is suffering from root rot, check the roots first for signs. "Don't assume that your plant has root rot until you actually take your plant out of its pot and observe the rotten roots," says Di Lallo. "You will see mushy roots and oftentimes, there will also have a funky odor."

Have root rot? No problem, as this can be easily remedied. He recommends removing any rotten rots and the potting mix. "Allow your snake plant to air dry for a day or so, and then pot it back up," says Di Lallo. "You may even have to pot it up in a smaller pot if your roots have rotted out." It's also a good time to consider if the potting mix drained well.

"I find that most succulent/cactus soil mixes hold too much moisture and don't drain well, so I like to amend them to make them more suitable," he says. "I like to use 2 parts succulent/cactus soil and 1 part pumice. This offers much better drainage, and the mixture will dry out faster."

Related: How To Grow And Care For Succulents


Not providing sufficient water for your snake plant can also happen. According to Di Lallo, "Many people are so scared of 'overwatering' that they end up doing the opposite and dehydrating their plant." All plants do need water, even if they are drought-tolerant like the snake plant. "If you're not thoroughly moistening the root system, your plant will suffer and the roots that aren't getting any moisture will shrivel up and die," he says. When your snake plant isn't receiving enough water, it will begin to show signs of drying or yellowing leaves. "You may start to notice that your snake plant leaves are shriveling and drying, and the older leaves may start to turn yellow," he says.

Extreme Temperatures

A sudden change in temperature can negatively impact these plants. "Temperature stress could also cause leaves to yellow—if you get one in winter, for example, and carry it out of the store uncovered when temperatures are well below freezing and it’s suddenly exposed to that kind of cold for a bit, it could yellow," says Hancock. You also want to be cautious with hot weather, too. "If you buy one in the summer, have it in the car and run some other errands, it could bake in the hot car, causing leaves to yellow and die."

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Snake plants have been on almost every list of "plants that can grow in low light," but this isn't exactly true. In their native habitat in Western Africa, snake plants grow in dry climates and love plenty of light—both direct and indirect sun. "Some direct sunlight will definitely benefit these plants, so placing your plant in front of eastern-facing windows (morning sun) or western-facing windows (afternoon sun) will be very beneficial," says Di Lallo. "You can even place them in a window that gets sun all day indoors, but keep in mind that your potting mix will dry out more quickly and you'll have to adjust your watering."

"Indoors, snake plants want as much light as [they] can get—more is almost always better," says Hancock. "As a rough rule of thumb, it’s difficult to give snake plants too much light inside."

Pay attention to your snake plant that receives a lot of direct sunlight because sometimes snake plants can sunburn. "If the direct sun exposure is on the high end, it can even cause all of the foliage to turn a yellowish-green color," he says. Luckily, if your snake plant's leaves are becoming yellow because of too much sun exposure, it's an easy fix—place it in an area that receives less direct sun. "If you reduce the amount of direct sun, the plant will green back up," says Di Lallo.

Hancock adds, "If the snake plant was grown in shaded conditions at the grower and it’s put directly outside in the sun, the leaves can get sunburned and show a yellowy, bleaching effect."


"Snake plants grow slowly and it can take a while—months or longer—for them to show stress in a low light situation," says Di Lallo. "If you've placed your plant in a dark corner and it still looks exactly like when you purchased it, even after a few months, it will eventually weaken over time."

Old Age

If you've had your snake plant for a long time, you water it properly, and it gets the right amount of light and the leaves are turning yellow, it could be a sign of old age. "Snake plant leaves will eventually yellow as they reach old age," says Hancock. "Each leaf has its particular lifespan, and while individual leaves are long-lived, each will eventually die."

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