Snake plants are common houseplants popular for their hardiness and tolerance to imperfect growing conditions. These plants will sustain irregular watering and low light as well. Although mother in law’s tongue plants are very tough, they do need some basic care. If neglected for too long, they may become weak and attract pests and diseases. Curling of leaves is one of the symptoms that indicates your snake is having some troubles growing. Keep reading to know common causes, how to treat a snake plant with curling leaves and how to prevent this from happening again.
Appearance of curling snake plant leaves
If you notice your snake plant leaves curling and want to fix the problem, the first step is to identify the cause. Determining which issue is the underlying cause of the trouble is not too hard. Look for the key signs to correctly identify the root cause. This will help you know how to tackle the problem.
When you see curled leaves on a snake plant, you’ll know something is wrong. But what does it look like? The leaves may curl or fold in on themselves. Sometimes it is accompanied by leaves turning yellow at the same time. They might show signs of weakness and will ultimately die. In case of pest infestation, the leaves may develop wrinkled appearance and rough patchy surfaces.
Although, note that a little amount of waviness along the leaf borders is common in some Sansevieria species. Some cultivars of snake plants have naturally yellow and curling leaves. Varieties like Sansevieria Kirkii and Sansevieria Trifasciata Laurentii have slight wavy edges. Twisted sister snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata twist) exhibits leaves with yellow borders that twist and turn as they grow.
What causes snake plant leaves to curl?
Managing the curling leaves is easy by knowing what to look for in a plant. After that, you can take necessary steps to cure and heal the plant. The most likely cause of leaves curling on many varieties of snake plant is an infestation of thrips. Curled and distorted leaves is a classic sign of thrips infestation. Thrips are tiny insects that you may not even be able to see. Other reasons why you might find curling leaves can be fungus infestation, or watering problems.
Let’s see how to correctly figure out the exact cause and how to fix each problem with ease.
As mentioned, the most common affliction for snake plants that causes curling leaves is a thrip infestation. Thrips are tiny black insects that are impossible to spot without a magnifying glass. Their size is almost one twentieth of an inch in length. What you can see, though, is the result of the infestation. The way thrips feed on a snake plant leaf can help you identify them. A snake plant infested with thrips will appear to have tiny black specks on the leaves and buds. To identify them, you can take a blank white sheet of paper, put it under the plant and shake the leaves. You’ll notice small black bugs on the white surface. If needed, you can use a magnifying glass to observe and confirm that the pest is thrips. Placing a sticky fly paper near your snake plant will also attract thrips quickly.
In addition to the curling leaves, you will see and feel rough uneven patches. This is the result of thrips feeding on the leaves by making tiny wounds on them. They penetrate the cell walls and damage the plant tissues. These tiny black bugs attack the entire plant above ground, including leaves, buds and flowers. Thrips can not just harm the leaves, they can even kill your plant. Apart from that, these pests may also pass on some viral infections, so treating them early is essential.
After identifying the thrips infestation, you can start to fix the problem. To treat your snake plant that you suspect is infested with thrips, follow these easy steps.
- First of all, isolate your infested snake plant. Cross-contamination between plants can cause one plant infestation to spread rapidly among other healthy plants.
- Remove all the infected leaves by cutting them off near the base. Use a sharp and sterilized kitchen knife or shears to do this.
- Dispose of them safely so that they cannot infect your other plants.
- Then wipe down the remaining leaves using rubbing alcohol. Take a cotton ball or cloth, dip it in the alcohol and clean the leaves one by one. If you don’t have alcohol, use plain water instead.
- Make sure that you wipe both sides of each leaf and in between the crevices. This will ensure that most of the bugs get removed from the plant.
You may have to repeat the treatment a couple of times over a month. It will take a few weeks until you see that the leaves are not curling anymore. Because the snake plant is durable, treating it early on means that the plant can be saved.
Although snake plant problems are not common, thrips is an infestation that can wipe out your snake plants. Be aware of the signs and treat your plants accordingly as soon as possible. If a plant has been majorly affected by thrips and does not look like it can be saved, destroy it properly. Dispose of the entire plant far away so that it cannot infect your other plants.
Snake plants can experience fungal problems which may cause the leaves to curl. In addition to curling leaves, if you notice reddish brown lesions, white cottony mustard sized spheres or a web-like growth, it is a sign of fungal infestation. As the disease progresses, leaves can start to turn dark brown in color. Southern blight and red leaf spot are common fungal diseases that affect the snake plant.
Too much moisture is usually the main issue behind fungal infestations. So, controlling the amount of water is the most important part of the treatment. Keep the foliage and soil dry to stop the spread of the disease. Apart from cutting down on watering, you can follow these tips.
- If the fungus is in initial stages, you can wipe off the affected areas with water or alcohol. Remember to replace the soil if the soil surface has also developed whitish fungal growth.
- If the fungal issue is too severe and the plant cannot be saved, you should dispose of the plant. Ensure to do it safely so that it doesn’t affect other plants.
- In case the fungus has destroyed almost all the foliage but there are still a couple of leaves unaffected, you can try propagation. Remove those healthy leaves, wash them thoroughly and cut them into 3-4 inches sections. Then plant the parts bottom side down in the soil and water them regularly. Check out this post for detailed steps for propagation.
- In general, chemical fungicides are not always helpful to completely get rid of the fungus. However they can control the spread effectively. Chemical control for fungus works better as a preventative measure than a treatment.
Watering problems and their effects are always confusing in case of snake plants, as they can show similar symptoms for underwatering as well as overwatering. Sansevieria tends to curl its leaves when the plant is too dry. Snake plants store water in their fleshy, succulent leaves. Without sufficient water, the leaves start losing their shape and they may curl. Another symptom of underwatering is brown tips and dry brown edges on the leaves.
Snake plants tend to go through drought symptoms when they have too much water in the soil. This happens because when roots are destroyed by rot, the plant cannot absorb water anymore. Overwatering is a more common problem for indoor plants than underwatering. However, it is not always the result of giving plants too much water. Inadequate drainage of containers or watering the plants too frequently can also lead to the symptoms of overwatering. Snake plants often suffer from overwatering, which can produce leaves curling downward. Along with curling, you may notice leaves getting mushy and droopy. They can also start turning yellow.
When looking to identify this issue, the best way is to check the soil and its moisture content. If your soil is dense and clay-based, then you might be causing the overwatering issue. If it’s too loose and doesn’t hold any water, it might be the opposite. Check the exact moisture content using a moisture meter. A simple way is to put your finger in the soil 1 to 2 inches deep and see how wet or dry your soil is. Do this 3-4 days after you’ve watered the plant.
The main treatment to fix your snake plant leaves due to improper watering, is to make sure the underlying problem is corrected.
- First of all, unpot your plant to confirm if there is root rot. Normally, overwatering can cause parts of the roots to rot.
- If it is the case, remove the dark, mushy rotten parts as well as damaged leaves.
- Inspect the quality of your potting mix. If it’s too loose, fix it by adding proper additives. You can check this post for details on different soil ingredients. On the other hand, if the soil is dense and it has caused the rot, discard the soil. Use a fresh potting mix.
- Then repot your plant with the new potting mix. Check out this post for detailed steps on repotting.
- Follow a consistent watering schedule and modify it according to the season.
After care and prevention measures
Treating your snake plants with chemicals or repotting them to prevent the spread, both cause plant stress. Ironically the treatments can make the plant weak and it may result in causing more issues. Because prevention is better than cure, one of the best ways to keep your snake plant from having curling leaves is to take good care of it. Strong, healthy plants are less likely to succumb to pest infestation or get sick. Having a good care regimen that takes into account your plant’s various habitat requirements will ensure that it remains healthy and durable.
Sansevierias don’t require daily watering. They are drought-tolerant plants and need water once in a few weeks. Spring and summer are the months in which they grow faster. So, you need to feed them and water regularly during this time. On the other hand, reduce the watering in the winter season. Water just enough so the soil doesn’t dry out completely. After watering, don’t forget to empty the drainage tray. This will ensure that the plant doesn’t remain standing in the water.
Light and temperature requirement
Snake plants grow best in bright and filtered sunlight. Direct sun in the afternoon may be too harsh for the plants. Although they can tolerate full sun, don’t suddenly shift them from a low light place to a bright sunny area. Do this gradually if you wish to transfer your plants. Also avoid placing snake plants in deeply shadowy corners in your house.
Average room temperature and humidity around 40-50% works great for snake plants. They are happy in the temperature between 50-85° F (10-29° C). But, being tropical species, Sansevieria plants are not very winter hardy. When the temperature drops below 45-50° F, they can develop scarring and damage on the leaves. Winter frost can even kill the plant, if the roots are not kept dry.
Ideal soil mix
For snake plants, it is very important that the roots don’t stay wet for too long. Water-logged soil can cause root rot and plant death. So, a well-draining, sandy soil is recommended for these plants. Best soil ingredients are pumice, perlite, coco coir, gravel, peat, chicken grit etc. Most of these additives make the potting mix coarse while retaining a little moisture necessary for the plant. At least half of the potting mix should have such ingredients. The remaining part can be a regular soil.
Even the best potting mix doesn’t last forever. Organic materials break down, nutrients wash away and the soil deteriorates. Worn out potting soil can’t drain the water well and gets compact, leading to soggy soil. Repot the snake plants every two to three years to refresh the soil.
Feed your Sansevieria at most once a month during the growing period. Spring and summer are the best seasons to fertilize your plants. Although if you live in a warmer climate, you can feed the plant all year round. Avoid fertilizing during cold winter months.
Liquid fertilizers and slow release granular fertilizers works great for snake plants. You can use any general purpose balanced fertilizer in a diluted form. Be mindful not to overfeed your plants.