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7 Reasons Your Snake Plant Leaves Are Turning Brown

If your snake plant is turning brown, it could be due to a number of factors, including improper watering, low humidity, too much sunlight, overfertilization, or certain types of pest infestations. Although snake plants are very hardy, it’s not uncommon to see the tips of their leaves turn brown from time to time. If you notice this happening to your snake plant, there are adjustments you can make to get your plant healthy again.

Snake plant leaves turning brown

Why Do Snake Plant Leaves Turn Brown? [7 Reasons]

Snake plants are sturdy succulents that can grow in a wide range of conditions. Their adaptability and resilience make them a popular choice as an indoor plant. Plus, they’re a great first plant for new owners. However, even snake plants have their limits.

One of the telltale signs a snake plant is in distress is the browning of its leaves, particularly the tips. This is rarely fatal, and usually easily remedied, but brown leaves are a sure sign that something isn’t quite right. Here are the most common causes of brown leaves on household snake plants.

Overwatering

Snake plants are succulents, which means they’re experts at storing water and making it last for a long time. For this reason, they don’t respond well to being overwatered. They’ll tell you they’re receiving too much by starting to turn brown. To avoid this, allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. 

  • Snake plants can be damaged by providing them with too much water.
  • Leaves turning brown at the tips are a sign of an overwatered snake plant
  • Avoid overwatering by letting soil dry fully between waterings.
  • Ensure your snake plant’s container has adequate drainage to prevent overwatering.

For proper watering practice, check to make sure your pot has a large drainage hole in the bottom. This is necessary for excess water to leave your snake plant’s container. Without enough drainage holes, water will collect in the bottom of the pot and rot your snake plant’s roots. You can increase drainage by drilling new holes in the bottom of your pot or repotting your snake plant

Underwatering

Even succulents can be underwatered. If you realize it’s been a long time since you’ve watered your snake plant, and its leaves are starting to turn brown, it probably needs water. Give it a good soaking, and then let it dry out before watering it again.

  • Water snake plants once every 14 days.
  • If you have neglected your snake plant for more than 2 weeks, it may start turning brown from lack of water.
  • Test the soil by sticking your finger 1 inch (2.5 cm) into the dirt. If it’s dry, you have an underwatered plant.

To see if it’s time to water your snake plant, stick your finger 1 inch (2.5 cm) into the soil. If the soil is dry to this depth, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, then it’s likely your plant is suffering from overwatering, not a lack of water.

Inconsistent Watering

Perhaps you remembered to water your snake plant after neglecting it for a long time and soaked it a little too generously. Perhaps you went from watering it regularly to barely watering it at all. In either case, the stress of an abrupt change in watering habits can cause your snake plant’s leaves to turn brown. To prevent this, set a watering schedule. Watering once every 14 days is typically best for a snake plant.

  • Changing your waterings schedule can stress your snake plant, causing brown spots to form on the leaves.
  • Plan to water your snake plant once every 14 days.
  • Make a monthly watering calendar to help you remember when to water each plant you own.

If you are caring for several plants, it can help to make a watering calendar every month. Making sure your snake plant is on the watering schedule once every 2 weeks will help you prevent brown spots from developing on its leaves.

Low Humidity

Snake plants can adapt to different levels of humidity, but if you live in a very dry climate, brown leaves might be an indication that your plant needs some more moisture in the air. If you are concerned this may be a problem for your plants, you can check the air using a humidity meter. Anything above 40% humidity is ideal. If the humidity is below this point, mist your snake plant’s leaves with a spray bottle once daily.

  • Snake plants may develop brown spots on their leaves in very dry climates.
  • Humidity under 40% is too dry for snake plants.
  • You can prevent your snake plant’s leaves from drying out by misting your plant daily.
  • Place this humidifier near your snake plant to help it thrive in dry conditions.

Instead of daily misting, you can invest in a small humidifier for your snake plant. Simply run the humidifier in the same room as your plant on days where the humidity is below 40%. This will provide enough ambient moisture to keep your plant’s leaves green.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Snake plants love sunlight, but if yours is positioned in a place where it gets bright, direct sunlight for all or most of the day, it may be more than its leaves can handle. If your snake plant’s leaves are turning brown and it receives a lot of full sun daily, move your plant further from the window. This will prevent new leaves from turning brown.

  • Intense, excessive sunlight can dry out snake plant leaves and turn them brown.
  • If your snake plant receives several hours of direct sunlight each day, move it further from the window to prevent excessive sunlight exposure.
  • Snake plants thrive in 5 hours of indirect sunlight per day.

Snake plants grow well in indirect light, so you don’t need to worry too much that reducing light conditions will kill your plant. As long as the area where your snake plant is placed receives at least 5 hours of indirect light daily, the plant will grow well and resist leaf browning.

Overfertilization

Snake plants are used to adapting to and thriving in nutrient-poor soil. They don’t need a lot of fertilizer or fancy plant food to grow. In fact, if you plan to fertilize your snake plant, be sure to do it no more than once a month. When you do fertilize your snake plant, consider diluting the solution by at least 50 percent. This will prevent brown tips caused by excess fertilizer.

  • Too much fertilizer at once can cause snake plant leaves to turn brown.
  • Most leaf browning from overfertilization is caused by nitrogen burn.
  • If your snake plant’s leaves turn brown within a week of fertilizing, cease fertilizing for 2–3 months to allow your plant to recover.
  • Use half the recommended amount of fertilizer for snake plants.

The reason snake plant leaves turn brown from too much fertilizer is a phenomenon known as “nitrogen burn.” This is when an excess of nitrogen in the soil prevents cellular respiration, causing damage to plant leaves and roots. A little bit of nitrogen is great for snake plants, but too much can cause the leaves to start to turn brown. If you’ve just fertilized and your snake plant seems to be suffering, hold off on fertilizing again for 2–3 months. When you do add more fertilizer, use half the recommended amount.

Pest Infestation

Some pests, like mealy bugs and spider mites, leave brown spots on snake plant leaves. If spider mites are the problem, you may notice traces of their thin, white webs on your plant. If mealy bugs are the culprit, you may be able to see them crawling on your plant’s leaves, or in its soil. If you’re dealing with an infestation, quarantine your plant, and treat it as soon as possible.

  • Some insect infestations can cause your snake plant’s leaves to turn brown.
  • Look for the signs of white webs or small bugs on your snake plant.
  • If you spot the signs of pests, spray the area with this organic-approved neem oil to kill the bugs.

An easy and natural way to treat insect infestations on snake plants is to spray any visible bugs with neem oil. Neem oil comes from neem seeds. This particular oil clings to insects and kills them. Plus, it won’t harm your snake plant.

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Can Brown Snake Plant Leaves Turn Green Again?

Unfortunately, once your plant has developed brown areas on its leaves, those areas will not turn green again. Brown tips or spots mean that part of the plant has died. You could attempt to trim the brown areas off if they are around the edges, but this can be tricky.

  • Brown snake plant leaves cannot turn green again.
  • Brown areas of the plant have died.
  • You could attempt to trim off brown parts, but that is risky.
  • Once new, healthy leaves grow in, the brown damage will be less noticeable.

However, don’t worry if a few leaves have turned brown. Snake plants grow quickly. Once your plant is healthy again, new leaves will sprout up. This will make the brown, damaged leaves less noticeable.

Should You Cut Off Brown Leaf Tips on Snake Plants?

Trimming damaged snake plant leaves is a highly debated topic in horticulturist circles. While you can trim the brown leaf tips off your snake plant, you probably shouldn’t. You may do more harm by cutting off these leaf sections and opening wounds in your snake plant.

  • You can trim off brown leaf tips, but it’s best not to do this.
  • The leaf tip will never grow back, so the leaf will always be misshapen if you cut it.
  • Snake plant leaves are very sensitive. Trimming them can cause additional damage.
  • It’s safer to leave the brown leaves alone and wait for new, healthy leaves to grow.

If you use clean, sharp pruning shears or a knife, you may be able to remove brown areas from your plant, especially if they are near the tips of the leaves. However, the area you trim will not grow back, so that part of the leaf will be missing forever. Additionally, snake plant leaves are very delicate, so if you aren’t careful, you could cause even more damage. Your best bet is to leave the damaged leaves as is, and wait for new, healthy leaves to grow in and obscure the damaged bits.

Why Are the Leaves of Your Snake Plant Turning Brown?

Your snake plant leaves can turn brown for a variety of reasons. In an indoor setting, the most common culprits are:

  • Overwatering 
  • Underwatering
  • Inconsistent watering 
  • Very low humidity
  • Too much direct sunlight 
  • Overfertilization
  • Pest infestation 

Don’t worry though. Every one of these issues can be fixed. Your snake plant will bounce back after you make a few adjustments. Then, it will produce new, green leaves. While it’s not possible to fix the parts of your snake plant that have already turned brown, working to eliminate the problem can prevent more brown spots from occurring in the future.

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