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Why is my Sansevieria Turning Yellow?

Sansevieria, commonly known as the snake plant, is a widely popular variety among houseplants.

Notably, their recognition stems from their striking green leaves and their almost minimalistic appearance.

Most people are in awe of its long, upright leaves that contain streaks of white and yellow on them.

These plants have caught the eye of plant lovers as well as interior designers. 

Thanks to these beautiful leaves, I was interested in buying this plant, but soon enough, I couldn’t figure out why the leaves had turned yellow.

To preserve the green shade of these species, I had to learn more about their needs and preferences.

In general, sansevieria leaves usually turn yellow due to poor watering schedules. Other factors like overexposure to direct sunlight, root rot, frequent temperature fluctuations, and fungal issues can also increase the risks of yellow leaves.

Listen to this article here:

Snake Plant
Sansevieria (Source: Unsplash)

Well, if you are going through the same problem and are desperately searching for a way to revive your plant, you have come to the right place.

Is it Normal for Sansevieria Leaves to Turn Yellow?

It is not uncommon that the leaves of sansevieria turn yellow. The situation mainly occurs if you are new to the plant or a beginner at raising succulents in general.

But it is to be noted that even professionals make occasional mistakes. For example, you cannot control various aspects like temperature and sunlight. Also, you might not be able to give 100% focus on your plant at all times.

Hence, it is normal for the leaves to turn yellow ever so often. Nonetheless, if this condition proceeds for a long time, your plant may get seriously damaged, ultimately leading to death.

What Causes Sansevieria Leaves to Turn Yellow?

These are some of the most common causes of yellow leaves in sansevierias (snake plants).

1. Overwatering

Sansevierias like dry climates and prefer little water. Overwatering is the most common and easy-to-detect issue in these plants.

In an overwatered snake plant, you will notice that the leaves become heavy, limp, and squishy.

In addition, the leaves have a yellowish color and may droop or, worse, fall over. With prolonged ignorance, the roots will rot, and the leaves get brown patches.

Solutions

  • When you water, make sure that only about 1-2 inches of the soil get wet.
  • Only water when the soil is dry to touch. This is usually every 9-10 days in summer and every 2-3 weeks in winter.
  • Keep your plant in a potting medium that has an excellent drainage system.
  • Change to a soil type that doesn’t get soggy quickly.

Learn more on: How Do You Fix an Overwatered Snake Plant ?

2. Underwatering 

Considering that overwatering can be deadly to a snake plant, underwatering can have the same effect on your plant.

Signs of an underwatered plant include wrinkled or curled leaves, yellow leaves, and brown tips.

The discoloration is because the plant becomes unable to absorb the necessary nutrients from the soil.

Solutions

  • If your plant is kept at a spot with more sunlight, watering intervals must be shortened.
  • Mist the plant routinely if it is underwatered.
  • Preferably, please place them in an area with less sunlight. This prevents the fast evaporation of water from the soil.

3. Too Much Direct Sunlight

The leaves of your snake plant will also become yellow due to overexposure to direct sunlight.

Strong sunlight can burn the leaves and damage their structure. However, you don’t have to worry about it if you are compelled to keep it in a dark place for a short time.

Healthy leaves
Healthy leaves of snake plant (Source: Pexels)

Solutions

  • They thrive in at least 8-10 hours of indirect sunlight regularly.
  • If you live in a tropical region, try not to keep this plant outdoors.
  • Rotate the plant every few weeks to ensure that all parts get enough sunlight.
  • If your plant is kept indoors, a few feet away from the north-facing window is recommended.

4. Infestation of Pests and Insects

Various sap-sucking pests can drain the plant’s nutrients and moisture. This can also make the leaves turn yellow to brown.

These are the most common pests in sansevierias.

PestsSymptomsSolutions
1Spider mitesFine webs, discoloration or holes on the leaves.Spraying leaves with water or soapy water.
2MealybugsCottony white spots, curling of leaves.Rubbing neem oil, wiping leaves with some rubbing alcohol.
3WhiteflyStunted growth, yellowing of leaves.Spraying leaves with water, pruning severely damages leaves.
4AphidsWilting leaves, curled leaves, sticky honeydew on leaves.Using neem oil, mist with cold water.
5ThripsTiny black bugs, wounds on the leaves.Pruning infected parts, wiping leaves with rubbing alcohol.

The best way to prevent pests is to keep snake plants away from other infected plants, along with cleaning the leaves periodically. 

5. Fungal Diseases 

Fungal diseases usually manifest as a result of the plant being waterlogged. When the plant is unable to absorb proper nutrients, the leaves can turn yellow.

Some common fungal diseases to look out for are as follows.

Southern Blight

Southern Blight (Scientific name: Sclerotium rolfsii) is caused due to drainage issues.

Your plant may seem droopy with yellow to brown leaves if it gets infected by this disease. Eventually, your plant can collapse. 

Solution
  • Remove the infected parts.
  • Use fungicides like Azoxystrobin,  Flutolanil + Thiophanate-methyl, Flutolanil, Tebuconazole, and PCNB.

Red Leaf Spot

Red Leaf Spot (Scientific name: Drechslera erythrospila) is usually seen during summer, early fall, and late spring.

The fungus thrives in warm and wet environments. 

Solution

Rust

This fungal disease is caused by the fungus named Puccinia triticina Eriks.

Rust firstly develops as white spots. Then, as the infection spreads, these spots look like rust on iron. 

Solution
  • Cut the infected parts, make sure that the infected areas don’t come in contact with water.

Bacterial Leaf Spots

This disease develops as brown or black spots on the foliage occasionally with a yellow halo.

Without care, these spots may enlarge in size. As the number of spots increase, leaves may yellow and wither.

Solutions
  • Spray sulfur and copper fungicides, cleaning with soapy water.
  • Maintain proper humidity, temperature, and light requirement.

Powdery Mildew

As the name suggests, powdery mildew looks similar to powder. This develops in warm and dry climates.

The spores of this fungus can transfer to other plants nearby via air.

Solution
  • Use fungicides with neem oil, potassium bicarbonate, and sulfur.

Learn more on: How to Save Snake Plant from Fungus

6. Nutrient Deficiency 

The deficiency of magnesium, nitrogen, iron, and zinc can lead to yellow leaves in sansevierias.

However, there is a greater chance of the leaves returning to their green color when they get adequate nutrients.

Snake plant
Snake Plant (Source: Pexels)

Insufficient nutrients can hamper the plant’s ability to conduct photosynthesis. This can cause slow growth and discoloration. 

Solutions

  • Invest in a fertilizer designed for snake plants or succulents.
  • Add fertilizer according to the recommended dosage to maintain nutrition levels.

Here’s a link for succulent fertilizers from amazon.

7. Old and Depleted Soil

If your snake plant has been kept in the same soil for many years, you will notice that the leaves start to become yellow. 

Over the years, the soil tends to get heavy and keeps the root wet for a longer time. As mentioned earlier, this can induce root rot or obstruct nutrients and minerals from being absorbed. 

Solutions

  • Repot or replace the soil every few years.
  • Switch to a succulent-based soil mix.

Here’s a link for soil mixes from amazon.

8. Temperature Fluctuation  

Every plant will show signs of stress if they go through constant temperature fluctuations in their surrounding.

In sansevierias, these signs of leaf damage develop as yellow leaves. Both high and low temperatures can cause the yellowing of leaves.

It can also happen if you frequently shift your plant from indoors to outdoors and vice-versa.

We must also keep in mind that freezing temperatures can cause substantial injury to the plant.

Solutions

  • Keep them within temperatures up to 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit (16-24 degrees Celcius).
  • Place your plant away from air conditioning units and heating units.
  • If the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celcius), don’t position the plant outdoors.
  • Use curtains or shades to limit sunlight during hot summers.
  • Turn on your fan from time to time when there is high humidity.

9. Over Fertilizing 

Snake plants prosper with small amounts of fertilizer. So, please don’t go overboard with it; a little goes a long way.

Too much fertilizer can remove the soil’s moisture and increase salt buildups. Similarly, using the wrong type of fertilizer can also cause yellow leaves in snake plants.

Fertilizer
Fertilizer for succulents (Source: Amazon)

Solutions

  • Fertilizer your plant every one to two months.
  • Plants kept in dimmer light require less fertilizer.
  • Use fertilizer evenly on the soil, don’t concentrate it in one spot.
  • You should not fertilize young snake plants.
  • Use NPK fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 in labeled dosage.

10. Root Rot

Many factors like overwatering, fungal diseases, poor drainage, and so on can lead to root rotting.

If you don’t show adequate care to your plant, this condition can worsen and even cause the death of the plant.

Root rot can disrupt airflow and water flow in the soil. Besides, plants need their roots to be in good condition to absorb all required nutrients.

Hence, root rot causes yellow leaves in sansevierias.

Solutions

  • Treat fungal disease as soon as possible.
  • Remove or repot your plant and cut away mushy brown roots.
  • If your plant is overwatered, move it to a sunny place.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your plant.

11. Overcrowded Pot

Sansevieria’s leaves can also turn yellow as a result of an overcrowded pot. As this plant grows, it can become top-heavy, which further complicates things.

The roots will get congested if you have a snake plant in the same pot for many years. The overgrown roots get tangled with each other and do not get sufficient nourishment. As a result, the leaves turn yellow. 

Well grown leaves of snake plant
Well-grown snake plant (Source: Pixabay)

Nonetheless, this is one of the most manageable problems to deal with.

Solutions

  • Repot your plant every 4-6 years.
  • You can even divide your plant and raise them in separate pots if the plant gets too big.
  • Put your plant in a pot that is a little bit bigger than the plant’s root ball.

Note: Repot your young Sansevieria plant every 2-3 years and matured Sansevieria every 4-6 years. 

12. Repotting Shock

Repotting can be difficult, especially for a beginner. If you don’t do it properly and provide the plant with enough nutrients, repotting shock can affect its health.

Repotting shock can also be a valid reason that the leaves of your plant have turned yellow. This can occur if you drastically change the type of potting soil while repotting.

It can also be caused by injury to the roots. Therefore, you should be aware of not leaving the roots exposed to air for a long time while you repot the plant.

Plants are more fragile during the flowering season, which is usually during spring. Repotting in the wrong timeframe can also cause stress to the plant. 

Sansevierias can get yellow leaves just by the sheer act of repotting. So, you should wait for a few days for the root to calm down and settle into the new soil. If the condition doesn’t improve, then you should treat the plant.

Repotting snake plant
Repotting snake plant (Source: Pexels)

Solutions

  • Try not to change the type of soil mix for your plant.
  • Place the plant in the same place it had been before if you see symptoms of repotting shock.
  • Provide a dose of quality plant food to your plant after repotting so that the plant gets enough nutrients. 
  • Avoid repotting when the plant is about to flower.

If you want to repot your plant, learn more on: How to Repot a Snake Plant? [Steps Explained]

13. Aging of the Plant

If you have had your snake plant for a long time, yellow leaves can indicate the natural cycle of aging.

When your plant ages, it is normal for the leaves to turn yellow and droop at the outer perimeter.

Eventually, these leaves may even fall on their own. This is a natural leaf-shedding cycle, and you don’t need to worry about it.

It is just a way for your plant to give space for new leaves to grow. You can easily remove the yellow leaves at the outer layer if you want the plant to look fresh.

Should I Remove the Yellow Leaves?

It would be best if you removed yellow leaves from your plant. This is because yellow leaves will only disrupt other life processes like photosynthesis, transpiration, and more.

Pruning off yellow leaves ensures the proper growth of the plant. However, if the leaves have only slight discoloration, it is okay to let them stay on the plant. 

However, if some leaves have turned a brownish yellow color and are giving off a weird smell, you can prevent the spread of infection to other leaves by pruning them as soon as possible.

While pruning, use sterilized equipment and cut the leaf as close to the soil line as possible.

Here’s a link for pruning shears from amazon.

Can Yellow Leaves Turn Green?

Yellow leaves are a sign of stress, and they can be a bit difficult to fix in a short time.

When the problem is identified at an early stage, you will most likely return it to its original state. But, in severe cases, you may need to cut off the leaves or dispose of the plant entirely.

You have to take mild discoloration and yellowness as a warning sign and act upon it immediately.

If the damage is moderate, you can cut off leaves that are brownish and droopy. You have to stay patient as the plant will require some time to recover.

Take the above factors into consideration and try to identify the exact cause.

Tips to Take Care of Sansevieria 

A few more tips that can help you take care of your snake plant are given below.

  • Rotate your plant about a quarter each week so that all parts get proper sunlight.
  • The soil ph of 5.5 to 7.5 is excellent for these plants.
  • Snake plants favor humidity levels of about 40 percent.
  • Water along the sides of the plant. Don’t start directly from the middle because the roots are delicate.
  • Stay away from misting or spritzing water on the leaves.
  • When you repot your plant, make sure that no roots stay on top of the soil; cover all roots with soil.
  • Terracotta pots are great for snake plants as they absorb excess water and prevent soggy soil.
  • There are plant pots made up of various materials these days. Depending on this material, the soil may dry up quickly or slowly.
  • Snake plants are toxic to pets and animals, so keep them in a place away from your pets.

Conclusion 

Now that we have covered the most common causes of yellow leaves in sansevierias, I hope you have gotten answers to all your burning questions. 

With only a bit of extra care, your snake plant will preserve its beautiful colors on its own. It might be unclear at first, but you figure out what works best for your plant with some time.

If you focus on all the factors mentioned above, your plant will thrive and stay healthy for a long time.

However, remember to remain patient as it will take some time to bring your plant back to normal, and try not to go overboard with the solutions. 

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