Why does my snake plant have yellow leaves

Why does my snake plant have yellow leaves?

Snake plants are among the top plants experienced plant growers recommend to people who are only beginning their planting journey. They’re one of the hardest plants to kill because of their adaptability and resilience.

That’s why it can be concerning when your supposedly hardy and resilient snake plant suddenly turns yellow. Just what could you have done to make this diehard plant suddenly show signs of stress?

In this guide, we’ll discuss the possible reasons why your snake plant is unhappy and turning yellow. We’ll also guide you through the process of rescuing your beloved snake plant.



One mistake homeowners make with snake plants is underwatering. As succulents, many assume that the plant stores enough water to support their water and don’t water them as needed.

However, like many other plants, snake plants also need sufficient water to function properly. They need water to uptake nutrients from the soil, so without enough water, they can result in nutrient deficiency, which can manifest in yellowing leaves.

Water is also vital in photosynthesis. Lack of sufficient water can hinder this process, leading to a decrease in chlorophyll production, resulting in leaves losing their green color and turning yellow.

How to Fix Underwatering

To fix underwaterting, adjust your watering routine to make sure your snake plants receive enough moisture. Immediately water the plant whenever the top inch of the soil is dry, and don’t let it dry completely to avoid moisture stress.

If the soil has become extremely dry, water it gradually instead of drenching it with a large amount of water all at once. Soaking it suddenly can lead to root shock, which can only result in further yellowing.

Trim away any yellowed leaves while you’re trying to recover the plant. The leaves are unlikely to turn yellow again, so it’s best to just remove them to let the plant focus on its healthy leaves.


Overwatering is among the most common issues for snake plants. The plant can tolerate drought and adapt to low lighting conditions, but they’re pretty sensitive to overwatering.

Unlike some plants who want their soil to be consistently moist, snake plants prefer theirs to dry out a bit between waterings. They’re native to arid regions in West Africa, so they’re not well-suited to overly moist soil.

Too much water in the soil can lead to root suffocation and yellowing leaves. In severe cases, it can lead to root rot, which can kill the plant.

How to Fix Overwatering

To fix overwatering, adjust your watering based on the specific needs of your snake plant instead of following a strict calendar-based watering schedule. Allow the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering it again.

If the leaves also start to droop due to overwatering, check the roots, as they might already be rotting. If so, repot your snake plant to a soil mix with better drainage.

Exposure to bright, indirect light also helps water evaporate quickly, which can prevent too much water from staying in the soil.

Poor Drainage

Poor Drainage

Even when you strive to follow proper watering routines, water can still accumulate around the root zone and cause yellowing leaves if the soil and pot have poor drainage. This leads to root suffocation and damage, similar to overwatering.

When the soil has inadequate drainage, the upper part of the soil takes a long time to dry, and water accumulates at the bottom of the soil, causing waterlogged conditions. This makes the soil a favorable environment for fungi and bacteria to grow.

Fungi and bacteria can attack the roots and cause them to decay. The yellowing leaves are a result of the plant’s inability to uptake water, oxygen, and nutrients due to decaying roots.

How to Fix Poor Drainage

If you’re only watering your plant when the upper soil dries or if you only need to water your plant once a month, then the problem might not be your watering routines, but the pot and soil’s poor drainage.

To fix poor drainage, repot your snake plant to a more well-draining soil mix. Try using succulent soil or mixing 2 parts of potting soil, 1 part of perlite or coarse sand, 1 part of coco coir, and 1 part of pine bark in a container.

Make sure to use pots with drainage holes to let excess water exit the pot and not stay at the bottom of the soil. If you have to use one that doesn’t have drainage holes, add a layer of rock at the bottom of the soil to improve drainage.

Temperature Stress

Snake plants are tropical plants that thrive in warm environments. They’re generally sensitive to cold temperatures, so they’re often brought inside the house during winter.

Exposure to temperatures significantly below or higher than 60ºF and 90ºF can lead to temperature stress. Their metabolic process slows down when exposed to inappropriate temperatures, resulting in decreased nutrient uptake and yellow leaves.

Frequent changes in the temperature, like drafts or inconsistent heating, can also stress your snake plant and disrupt their ability to absorb water. This can lead to dehydration and subsequent yellowing of the leaves.

How to Fix Temperature Stress

To fix temperature stress, keep your snake plant away from drafts and cold air, especially during winter months. Don’t place it near windows or air during winter since these areas tend to have cold drafts.

Maintain a consistent room temperature within the 60ºF and 90ºF range and avoid sudden temperature fluctuations. 

Once you’ve made some adjustments, allow the plant to recover. They’ll be able to produce healthier leaves after a few weeks or months, but the damaged ones will probably not return to their original color.

Lighting Issues

Lighting Issues

Snake plants are famous for being able to tolerate various lighting conditions, including low light. However, even if they can survive in low-light rooms, they still need a certain amount of light to carry out natural processes like photosynthesis.

If you keep your snake plant in a room with excessively low light conditions for an extended period, it may struggle to produce enough chlorophyll and energy for healthy growth. This can result in yellowing leaves, especially on older, lower leaves.

How to Fix Lighting Issues

To fix lighting issues, move the plant somewhere with more sunlight. If you’ve kept it in a low-light room for a long time, gradually move it closer to a brighter location to avoid stress from sudden exposure to bright light.

It can also be helpful to rotate the plant every now and then to ensure all sides receive an even amount of sunlight.
While snake plants thrive in bright sunlight, avoid locations that receive a lot of intense, direct sunlight as they can cause browning leaves. Hang a sheer curtain to your south-facing or west-facing window if you’re considering placing the plant there.

Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrients play a huge role in keeping snake plants green and healthy. Nutrient deficiencies can hinder the plant’s ability to produce chlorophyll, which is responsible for the green colors in the leaves.

Nitrogen, magnesium, and iron are particularly important in chlorophyll production, so a lack of them can lead to your snake plant’s leaves turning yellow.

Although snake plants don’t need highly fertile soil or a lot of fertilizer, they can benefit from occasional fertilization to supply their nutrient needs. Without sufficient nutrients, you’re not only risking yellowing leaves but also stunted growth.

How to Fix Nutrient Deficiency

To fix nutrient deficiency, apply a 3-2-1 or 10-10-10 slow-release or water-soluble fertilizer to your snake plant once in early spring and once in early summer. 

Follow the recommended application rates on the packaging to make sure you’re not under or over-fertilizing.

Monitoring the soil’s pH is also just as crucial as applying fertilizer. If the pH level is way out of the 5.5 to 7.0 range, your snake plant may struggle to uptake the nutrients available in the soil.



While a lack of nutrients can cause yellowing leaves, overfertilization can be just as dangerous and damaging. Applying too much fertilizer or doing so too frequently can lead to a variety of issues that contribute to yellowing leaves.

Among the most common problems you’ll encounter when you overfertilize is salt buildup in the soil. Excessive salt in the soil can absorb moisture while hindering the plant’s ability to uptake water, leading to dehydration and yellowing leaves.

Overfertilization can also cause fertilizer burn, which damages the root system. As the roots continue to get damaged from the excessive amount of fertilizer in the soil, they lose their ability to absorb nutrients and oxygen, resulting in yellowing leaves.

How to Fix Overfertilization

To fix overfertilization, always follow the recommended application rates on the fertilizer packaging. If you think the recommended rate is too high, you can dilute it to half-strength.

Remember that more is not necessarily better, and providing the right amount of nutrients is crucial if you want a healthy, green snake plant. Don’t fertilize snake plants more than twice yearly, especially in winter.

If you already applied too much fertilizer to the plant, flush the soil with water to leach out excess salts.

Age of the Plant

No matter how hardy snake plants are, they can’t stay alive forever. Some of their leaves will eventually decline and turn yellow as the snake plant continues to grow and produce new leaves.

Over time, the plant will shift its focus from its older leaves to newer ones. This means the energy and resources it absorbs will be redirected to the newer leaves, leading to yellowing leaves in older leaves since they’re left with little to no resources.

If the leaves turning yellow are the oldest outer leaves, then it’s probably just caused by age, and there’s nothing to worry about. Just let the older ones turn yellow and die because your snake plant will eventually produce greener leaves.

However, if the yellowing is uniform across all leaves, including the ones on the center of your snake plant, it’s likely not because of age. There might be other problems with the plant, such as overwatering, underwatering, or nutrient deficiency.

Pest Infestation

Pest Infestation

As with any plant, snake plants can also be infested with pests. Among the most common pests that will probably give you a headache are aphids and mealybugs, which are both sap-sucking pests that feed on snake plants’ juices.

As the pests extract juices from the leaves, they also extract nutrients, compromising the plant’s ability to produce chlorophyll. They also weaken the plant’s overall health, making it more vulnerable to diseases that can lead to yellow leaves.

If you see small, pear-shaped insects or oval-shaped insects covered in cotton-like substance on your snake plant’s leaves, it’s most likely infested by aphids or mealybugs.

How to Fix Pest Infestation

To fix pest infestation, immediately remove the pests you see on the leaves to stop them from causing more damage. You can use a wet towel or a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to manually remove the pests from the plant.

It’s also best to trim severely infested leaves to prevent the infestation from further spreading. You probably won’t be able to save them anyway, so just focus on the ones that can still be saved.

Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil on the leaves until you’re sure you’ve eliminated all the pests. You might have to repeat this multiple times over several days.

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