Why Is My Snake Plant Drooping: 9 Causes & Solutions

Snake Plants (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria trifasciata) are tall, striking plants with strong, leathery leaves standing upright like sentinels in the soil. But sometimes, these tall, beautiful leaves droop down over the edge of the pot, ruining the effect.

What causes Snake Plants’ leaves to sag? This often happens when one or more of their growing conditions are out of balance and need adjustment.

Here, then, are nine common causes of drooping Snake Plant leaves and how to prevent them:

Short Answer: Why Is My Snake Plant Drooping?

Snake plant drooping typically results from overwatering, poor soil drainage, insufficient light, low temperatures, pests, or being rootbound. To restore the plant, adjust watering, improve soil and light conditions, manage temperature, address pests, and consider repotting if the plant is rootbound.

9 Causes & Solutions: Drooping Snake Plants Explained

Understanding why a snake plant droops is crucial for its effective care and growth. Various environmental and care-related factors can cause this issue. By identifying and addressing these causes, you can help your houseplant regain its health and upright structure.

1. Underwatering

watering a snake plant

Snake plants are native to tropical West Africa, which is hot, rocky, and dry. They have adapted to these conditions with their succulent leaves that hold water for long periods of time.

They do need some water, however, and too little water can cause their leaves to curl inward, lose their rigidity, and droop down. This is one of the most common reasons for droopy leaves.

During the spring and summer, it’s best to water a Snake Plant every 10 days to 2 weeks while it is actively growing. Then, in the winter months, when it’s cooler, and the light is lower in the sky, it won’t need watering more than every 3 or 4 weeks.

2. Overwatering

Overwatering can cause all kinds of problems for Snake Plants, which is the most common cause of droopy leaves. When air spaces in the structure of the soil are filled with water for too long, the roots can’t “breathe,” and root rot will set in, causing the leaves to yellow, become mushy, and droop.

The hot, dry conditions of West Africa show us that although Snake Plants do need water periodically, they will not tolerate too much water. Therefore, they must only be watered when the soil is dry or almost completely dry.

Environmental conditions will not be static in your home or office. They will change with the time of year, temperature, heating or air conditioning, humidity, and light. These conditions will all affect how fast the plant will absorb the soil moisture and how quickly the moisture will dry out.

So the best practice here is don’t use a watering schedule!

Test the moisture by digging your finger two or three inches down in the soil, and if it comes out dry, it’s time to water. But if it’s moist, wait to water until it passes the finger test. A moisture meter can also help you determine when it is dry.

If your plant has developed root rot, a root fungus, from overwatering, its leaves will turn yellow or brown and droop. This serious problem can kill your plant unless it’s fixed.

Turn the pot on its side and gently pull out the root ball. Shake or wash off the soil to get a good look at the roots. Healthy roots are firm and white, but if they are black and mushy with a foul odor, your plant has a case of root rot.

Cut off the black, dead roots with clean scissors or a knife and drench them with either a fungicide like Neem oil or a wash of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide and two parts water to kill the remaining fungus. Then replant it in clean soil in a fresh pot and only water when the soil is dry or almost dry.

3. Poor Drainage – the Wrong Soil and Pot

snake plant soil

Soil structure is important for a plant’s well-being. Snake plants, being a type of succulent, need loose, very well-draining soil that affords the roots plenty of air space and drainage.

Too heavy a soil won’t allow good drainage or the roots to breathe, which can lead to root rot and yellow or brown, droopy leaves.

Commercial potting soil specially formulated for succulents is best, but you can also use a good, regular potting soil as long as you amend it with some perlite, coco coir, peat, coarse sand, or pumice.

Along with the right soil, you’ll need a good pot. Terracotta pots are porous and allow the soil to dry out faster. But ceramic, composite, or plastic pots are all fine, too, as long as they have at least one drainage hole so that excess water can escape and the roots won’t sit in a buildup of water.

Tall pots with a small base can easily tip over, and since Snake Plants are 2’ to 4’ high, it’s best to have a wide, somewhat shallow pot that will give it stability so that it won’t fall over.

4. Rootbound Plant

repotting snake plant on a wooden table

A plant is rootbound when it has roots growing through the soil to the point that they circle the sides of the pot on the inside and grow out of the drainage holes.

A severely rootbound plant won’t be able to get the nutrition or air it needs, so it can become stunted and droop with yellowing leaves. You can see if your plant is rootbound by turning the pot on its side and gently removing the root ball from the pot.

If there is an overgrowth of roots, you’ll need to repot your plant. Untangle the roots as much as possible and trim them individually.

Then repot your Snake Plant in fresh soil in a pot one size up from the previous one. Water it in, and empty any excess water from the dish or tray underneath the pot. Since Snake Plants grow slowly, they will only need to be repotted every 3 to 5 years.

5. Not Enough Nutrients

Snake Plants grow slowly, so the amount of nutrients in the potting soil is usually enough to support their growth until you repot them. A plant that has had problems such as being rootbound, under or overwatered, fungus gnats, or root rot may need a boost of nutrition to help it recover.

You can fertilize with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer. If you use a slow-release granular fertilizer, add it to the soil once in the spring.

6. Not Enough Light

snake plant lighting

When plants don’t get sufficient light, they can’t make enough food energy for their growth by photosynthesis. Low light can leave them pale, soft, and droopy.

The best type of light for Snake Plants is mostly bright indirect light with 5 to 6 hours of direct sun each day. Too much direct sunlight will burn the leaves, but some direct light will bring out the colors in the leaves and help the plant to grow well.

Keeping your plant close to a west- or east-facing window is fine, but all day in a south-facing window might burn the leaves unless you put a sheer curtain up or set the plant back a few feet.

7. Not Enough Heat

Snake Plants are native to hot, dry conditions and don’t do well in the cold. Their leaves will droop if the temperature drops to 50 degrees F or lower. While the room may be warm in the winter, it will be colder next to the windows.

Average household temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees are fine for Snake Plants, but low temperatures and cold drafts are unhealthy for the plant.

8. Pests

The main pests that attack Snake Plants are fungus gnats, and infestations of these critters can cause your Snake Plant to droop. Commercial potting mix often has dormant gnat eggs in it, and overwatering – keeping the soil too moist for too long – will bring them out of dormancy.

Larvae will hatch from the eggs and they will start feeding on the organic material in the soil and the plant’s roots. They mature into small black flying insects that buzz around the plant or that fly up in a cloud when the pot is jostled. They will lay their eggs back in the soil and the cycle will start again.

The way to eradicate fungus gnats from the soil is twofold. You have to treat the eggs and larvae in the soil, and you also have to eliminate the flying insects.

To treat the soil, water it with a solution of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to three parts water. It will kill the eggs and the larvae as well as bring oxygen to the roots.

You may have to repeat this treatment more than once to completely get rid of the soil-dwellers. A systemic insecticide will also be effective.

Then use sticky traps to catch the flying gnats so that they won’t be able to lay eggs in the soil and perpetuate the life cycle. Yellow traps are the most attractive color to the gnats and they are easily obtained online.

You can also put a one-quarter inch of sand down on the top of the soil so that the gnats can’t emerge from the soil or they can’t lay their eggs back in the soil. A layer of cinnamon powder is also effective.

Spider mites and mealybugs can also be a problem for Snake Plants. Use a stream of water to knock as many bugs off as possible and then use a spray of insecticidal soap and/or Neem oil per directions to kill them.

9. Transplant shock

Repotting will send any plant into transplant shock for a short amount of time, and if cultural conditions are not good enough to support it, your Snake Plant may droop.

When you repot your plant, make sure that it has fresh soil with adequate drainage, the right-sized pot with a drainage hole, and adequate warmth and light. Water the plant thoroughly when you repot it, then wait until the soil has dried out before you water it again. It should recover a week or two after repotting if conditions are good.

Final Thoughts

Drooping Snake Plants can recover and stand up tall with upright leaves when conditions are right. In some cases, however, when the leaves are too damaged to save, it’s better to cut them off and nurture the remaining leaves so that they will stay standing.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.