Snake Plant Not Growing? Here’s What to Do

Snake plants, aka mother-in-law’s tongue, are known in scientific circles as Dracaena trifasciata or Sansevieria. These succulent plants are best known for their ability to filter indoor air by removing toxins and absorbing cancer-causing pollutants, such as benzene and carbon monoxide, from the air.

They’re also known for their slow and sluggish growth rate. Yet, they don’t stop growing entirely except for two reasons.

The first is that the plant lacks one or more than one of the essential conditions that promote healthy growth. These conditions include light, nutrients, and water.

The second reason is that the plant is stressed out due to stress. Some of the typical stress triggers are diseases, pests, acclimation, or temperature fluctuations.

With so many possible causes, you need to do some detective work to discover what’s causing your snake plant not to grow. Then, once you know what the problem is, fixing it is pretty straightforward.

TLDR: Why Is My Snake Plant Not Growing?

Snake plant growth can be hindered by improper watering, incorrect fertilizer use, pest infestations, diseases, insufficient light, and unsuitable temperature or humidity. Ensure optimal care by addressing these factors. Regularly check for pests, adjust care as needed, and maintain consistent watering routines.

Are Snake Plants Slow Growers?

snake plant disadvantages, man holding plant

Like other types of succulent plants, the snake plant is quite hardy and tolerant of droughts. These are potentially why they’re often categorized as slow-growing plants.

Under the right conditions, snake plant growth rates average of 1–3 inches monthly. It’ll usually produce between 2–4 new leaves during its growing season, then slow down during winter.

The roots typically spread about 1–2 inches per year. As a result, they need to be repotted every 2–3 years to prevent their growth from being limited.

5 Signs of a Healthy Snake Plant

woman holding curling snake plant

Here’s what to look for to determine whether your snake plant is healthy.

1. No Discoloration

Healthy snake plant leaves are primarily shades of green, ranging from light to dark. They have a tiny bit of minimal yellow or brown discoloration, mainly at the tips, which is pretty typical for healthy snake plants.

2. No Pests or Diseases

Healthy snake plants don’t have any traces of pest infestations or diseases. With each watering, inspect the plant from top to bottom until the topsoil as well as both sides of the leaves.

3. No Drooping Leaves

Healthy foliage isn’t curled at the edges or drooping. These are signs that are typically caused by overwatering.

4. No Roots Growing out of the Drainage Holes

Healthy snake plant roots have enough room to spread around in their pot. They’re not rootbound and forced to stick out of the pot’s drainage holes due to lack of space.

9 Causes Why Your Snake Plant Isn’t Growing & Fixes

repotting a snake plant

As you’ve seen, healthy snake plants are pretty sensitive when their care conditions aren’t met. While relatively low-maintenance, they get stressed out quite easily, which can significantly slow down their growth.

Here are some common causes of a snake plant not growing. We also added a fix under each cause that can repair any significant issue.

1. Going Through a Dormant Stage

It’s common for these versatile plants to stop growing during the winter when light conditions aren’t sufficient to promote new snake plant growth. So, as with many other plants, especially succulents, they go dormant.

The Fix:

To keep your plant growing year-round, even during the darker, colder months, consider getting a grow light to increase light levels.

They’ll help prevent your plant from deteriorating over the winter while encouraging new growth until springtime.

2. Not Enough Light

Snake plants are usually described as ‘low-light plants.’ This is because they’ll do fine for long periods in low light conditions and continue to survive, provided they’re not overwatered.

Yet, over time, they’ll slowly stop growing altogether because there isn’t enough light energy reaching their leaves to maintain a healthy plant and produce new growth.

Therefore, placing your snake plants in bright indirect light, is always better. You can put in direct sunlight for an hour or two, preferably in the early morning or late afternoon when the heat isn’t as harsh, and the light isn’t as glaring.

The Fix:

You can easily use growth lights if you feel your plant isn’t getting enough natural light. In either case, ensure the plant receives the right amount of bright light using a light sensor or a light meter app available on Android and Apple stores.

The reading for the appropriate amount of indirect sunlight a snake plant should be getting is between 10,000 and 20,000 lux (lx) or 1,000–2,000 foot candles.

3. Temperature Fluctuations

snake plant outside

One of the most common causes why these indoor plants aren’t growing as fast as they should is that they’re placed in areas with temperatures either below 55℉ or more than 85℉.

Incorrect temperatures can cause the leaves to become wrinkly or develop brown rings at high temperatures. Alternatively, cooler temperatures can cause permanent damage to the plant, especially when combined with damp, soggy soil.

The Fix:

First, keep the thermostat within the plant’s preferred temperature range day and night.

The second thing you should do is avoid placing your plant near windows or air conditioning units where it can be subjected to cold drafts.

Finally, keep your plant away from space heaters and fireplaces where temperatures exceed 85℉.

4. Becoming Rootbound

snake plant roots

This popular houseplant is known to keep its foliage and root system tightly packed.

Yet, no plant can ever produce new growth if its root system has no room to spread. Being cramped in the pot means the roots can’t breathe and, thus, can’t absorb the nutrients they need from the soil to sustain a healthy plant.

So, if your snake plant has reached a point where the roots are overtaking the pot or there’s no more room for new foliage to grow, it simply will stop growing.

The Fix:

Some people prefer keeping their plants rootbound. This restricts the growth of snake plants and keeps them limited to a desired size. It’s also a way to encourage your snake plant to flower.

However, if you want to promote new growth, then it’s time to repot your snake plant.

Find a pot that’s only a couple of inches bigger than the current one for repotting. Anything bigger increases the risk of overwatering, leading to root rot.

Fill it with fresh potting soil. Then, remove the plant from its old pot, and gently loosen the root ball from the packed soil before placing it in the new pot.

5. Not Enough Water

watering a snake plant

Since snake plants are part of the succulent family, they’re highly drought-tolerant. Yet, they can show signs of distress from not receiving enough moisture and won’t show it for weeks or even months after the soil has dried out.

If the plant isn’t getting the water it needs, it’ll begin to reduce its growth rate until it stops completely.

To determine whether or not your plant isn’t getting enough hydration, there are two things you need to look at: the soil mix and the leaf tips.

You can’t just go by how dry the layer of topsoil is. You need to make sure that it’s also dry up to an inch underneath.

As for the leaves, the main symptom of underwatering is that the leaves curl up near the edges. They may also appear to have brown, brittle tips.

The Fix:

There are a couple of things you can do to make sure you water your plant only when it needs it.

The first thing you can do is stick your finger about an inch into the soil to test for dampness.

Another trick is to lift the pot and check the weight. Dry soil is much lighter than wet soil, so you’ll know pretty quickly whether your plant needs to be watered by gauging how heavy or light the pot is.

6. Too Much Water

watering a snake plant

Many people make the mistake of giving their plants too much water. Often following a strict water schedule. Unfortunately, overwatering is one of the most common snake plant problems regarding lack of growth.

The reason is that when the soil is waterlogged, it results in root rot. If left untreated, this fungus won’t only stop the plant from growing but also kill it in the process.

The Fix:

If you notice signs of overwatering, like the leaves turning yellow or drooping or curling leaves, you can still save your plant if you act quickly.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Gently remove the plant from the pot.
  2. Inspect the snake plant roots for signs of smelly, mushy roots that are either black or brown. These are the most common signs of root rot.
  3. If there are rotten roots, prune the affected areas with sterile pruning shears.
  4. Next, gently remove the soil around the remaining healthy roots by hand.
  5. Rinse any remaining soil with water to remove any potential pathogens that are likely to still be in the soil.
  6. Apply a solution of diluted hydrogen peroxide to the healthy roots to kill off any remaining pathogens.
  7. Prepare a new pot with fresh soil and plenty of drainage holes.
  8. Then, provide your snake plant with moderate light, humidity, and temperature conditions.
  9. Give your plant a few months to start developing healthy new roots, make a full recovery, and eventually start growing once again.

7. Not Enough Fertilizer

Since snake plants are part of the succulent family, they aren’t generally categorized as heavy-feeding. Yet, if they don’t get enough essential nutrients, their growth slows down and ultimately stops growing altogether.

The Fix:

Choose a balanced, water-soluble liquid fertilizer and apply a layer every 2–3 months only during the growing season, which lasts from early spring to late summer or early fall.

The good news is that the options for a good fertilizer are limitless. For example, you can use natural products like compost tea or worm castings.

You can also add compost to the potting mix. The easiest option is to buy synthetic fertilizer online or from your local grower.

Whichever type you go for, ensure it contains an adequate supply of all the primary nutrients your snake plant needs to grow.

The important thing is not to add too much. Over-fertilizing your plant could damage the leaves and roots. It can even cause it to stop growing much more than not adding fertilizer.

Look for signs of fertilizer build-up on the soil surface or brown spots on the leaves. 

These are signs of over-fertilizing. In this case, the best thing you can do is flush the soil out with plenty of water to remove any excess fertilizer. 

Then, wait for about six months before reapplying.

8. Pests & Diseases

a snake plant turning yellow

Unfortunately, pests and diseases significantly cause stress for all living things, snake plants included.

The good news, however, is that the majority of diseases that affect these hardy plants are caused by overwatering. Hence, if you only water your plant when needed, you’ll also have prevented any potential diseases like root rot.

Pests, on the other hand, are a different problem. The two most common pests that affect snake plants are scale and mealybugs.

The damage they cause significantly affects the plant’s general health and growth rate.

The Fix:

Luckily, a pest infestation can be treated if detected in its early stages. Each time you water your plant, look at both sides of the leaves.

Start at the tips and go all the way down until you reach the base of the plant. As soon as you notice any signs of pests, follow these steps to eliminate them once and for all:

  1. Isolate the plant from other houseplants.
  2. Remove the pests by washing them with water using a hose or shower head. You can also wipe them off using a damp cloth.
  3. Spray every plant surface using a pest treatment, such as neem oil, diluted hydrogen peroxide, or isopropyl alcohol spray. For mealybugs, wipe with rubbing alcohol.
  4. Repeat this treatment every 5–7 days for about three or four weeks until you’re confident no more pests are lingering.
  5. Once the plant has been effectively treated, you can return it to its original spot next to its neighboring houseplants.

9. New Surroundings

enjoying snake plant benefits

Like all living things, snake plants need to go through a period of adjustment, or acclimation, when you first bring them home.

These plants are usually cared for and maintained in optimal conditions by the grower. Yet, it’s highly unlikely that the growing conditions in your home are of the same high standards.

So, while your plant adapts to its new home, it’ll usually go through a period of dormancy where it’ll slow down its growth until it stops completely.

The Fix:

Provided you give your plant all the primary care and maintenance it needs, it should get used to its new surroundings quickly. Give your plant a few weeks, and you should start seeing new growth before long.

Snake Plant Won’t Grow = Solved

Knowing if your snake plant isn’t growing can be challenging. Yet, using the tips in this article, you can detect what aspect of its care is lacking and fix it accordingly.

Sansevieria trifasciata plants don’t take much to thrive and reach optimal growth. So, take the time to nurse your plant by providing it with the proper care; it’ll be happy and healthy for years to come.

Website | + posts

Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.