Can I Cut the Brown Tips of my Snake Plant?

Group of Snake Plants
Snake Plant (Source: Wikimedia)

The Snake plant is a unique upright houseplant with a unique common name; mother-in-law’s tongue. It is called that because of its pointy leaves, similar to mother-in-law’s tongue.

You can not cut off the brown tips of your real mother-in-law’s tongue (even though you would want to sometimes 😉), but if it is the plant, you can cut off the tips.

It is better to cut the brown tips of the Snake plant as the brown part is primarily dried and dead. However, the leaf will be prone to scarring, so it is better to ensure it stays healthy for a few weeks after pruning.

Snake Plant in a pot
Snake Plant (Source: Wikimedia)

If you have witnessed brown tips on your snake plant and are in a dilemma about whether to cut or leave the tips as they are, you have come to the right place.

So without any further ado, let’s dive straight into the article.

Can I Cut the Brown Tips of my Snake Plant?

Yes, you can cut the brown tips of your Snake plant. Brown areas are just the part that has died in the plant.

Still, we can find what the cause is by checking other symptoms so that we can prevent browning tips next time.

We can cut the Snake plant’s brown tip, but it might not grow back.

Since most of the Snake plants above the soil are just leaves, we can know much about the present condition of your Snake plant just by clearly examining the leaves.

One of the significant issues Snake plants face is browning the leaves.

We should look closely at the brown tips to understand the actual cause for the browning and treat for the same. However, once the leaf gets damaged, it is permanent.

Snake Plant
Snake Plant

Tips to Cut the Brown Tips Properly

  • Sterilize your pruning scissors and gloves properly.
  • Trim the brown part of the plant exactly where it begins.
  • Make sure not to hurt the healthy part of the plant.
  • Cut off the entire leaf at its base on the soil if the damage has spread to the whole leaf.

If the damage is already seen on the leaf, we need to cut from the rhizome. The plant takes another few months to grow new healthy leaves.

Once your plant’s leaf tips turn brown, there is no going back. You can revive it from the yellowing stage, but once the leaves turn brown, it’s a lost cause.

What Causes the Leaves of Snake Plant to Turn Brown?

Snake plants’ leaves can turn brown due to various reasons. If you identify the reasons early and diagnose the plant, you may prevent the leaves from turning brown.

Let’s look at them in detail.

1. Overwatering the Plant

Overwatering the plant causes the potting mix to remain moist most of the time.

This lowers root aeration and potting media aeration, allowing anaerobic bacteria and fungus to grow and cause root rot.

It will also cause the plant to absorb too much water, resulting in edema or blisters on the leaves.

This can cause bacterial or fungal illness in the leaves, resulting in brown or black patches on the leaves.

When the roots are damaged by root rot, the plant can no longer absorb water and nutrients; thus, you may notice nutrient deficiency and water deficit in the leaves, such as discoloration and crispy brown tips.

Overwatering the Snake Plant
Overwatering the Snake Plant (Source: tenor)

To avoid the leaves browning due to this reason, you should check the plant regularly for its watering needs.

We should keep a regular schedule for watering our plants, generally around a week during summer months and once every 2-3 weeks during winter.

Solutions

  • Water your plant once every two weeks during summer and once every month during winter.
  • Make sure the soil is dry completely before watering the plant again.
  • You can follow the finger moisture test to check the moisture content in the soil.
  • For better growth and strong roots, watering the plant from the bottom of the pot is a better option.
  • Don’t let the plant stand on soggy soil for too long, or it may develop root rot.
  • Examine the plant for root rot and remove decayed/dead roots or damaged leaves.
  • If the root rot is severe, transfer the plant into a fresh sterile potting mix.
  • Use a soil moisture meter to monitor the soil moisture level. Anything beyond eight on a scale of one to ten indicates very moist soil.
Snake Plant grown in soggy soil
Snake Plant grown in soggy soil

Related Article: How to Revive and Prevent Snake Plant Root Rot?

2. Underwatering the Plant

Underwatering results in crispy brown leaves in snake plants.

As snake plants are highly resilient plants, these plants do not prefer frequent watering.

Snake plants require watering when the soil is completely dry. Because this is succulent, the water is stored on the leaves.

Although it can withstand drought conditions, letting the snake plant dry for an extended period can result in brown tips.

Dry and Cracked Soil
Dry and Cracked Soil due to Underwatering

Proper watering is required to carry soluble nutrients and other requirements to the leaves and different plant sections.

When the Snake plant does not get enough water, its physiological functions slow down.

As a result, the cells on the tips of the leaves suffer and perish. Because of the dead cells, the leaves of your Snake plant will have brown tops.

There are ways to identify underwatered plants and solutions to them. Read “Underwatered Snake Plants: Signs, Causes, and Solutions

Solutions

  • Place the plant pot on a pebble tray filled with water to allow it to absorb moisture naturally from underneath.
  • To immediately hydrate the soil, fill a large container halfway with water and immerse the pot.
  • Spraying water on the leaves will start re-creating the moisture level.
  • Check if the top few inches of soil are still dry before deep watering the plant.
  • We can check if the plant is getting enough water by using a moisture meter.

3. Excess Sunlight or Extreme Heat

Though Snake plants can tolerate being in low light, the growth process will significantly slow down.

Snake plants are robust, but they limit how much sunlight and heat they can withstand. Excessive heat or sunlight might cause discomfort or stress in your plant.

If your snake plant is near a window or in a location that receives a lot of sunlight, the tips of your plant may be browning.

According to extension.umd.edu, extreme sunlight or heat can cause the chlorophyll in the leaves to break down, turning the area brown.

The plants in the bathroom suddenly being moved into the terrace or balcony may also result in browning leaves.

The sudden change in the environment of the plants is not helpful. We should let them acclimatize to their surroundings by performing more minor changes.

Place the plant in a better light with time until it adapts to the new environment.

If you have low light problems, you can use artificial grow lights for your plant. But remember, do not overfeed your plant with light, or you may end up killing it.

Houseplants thrive best in indirect sunlight
Houseplants thrive best in indirect sunlight (Source: Giphy)

This might help: “How Much Light does a Snake Plant Require?

Solutions

  • Place the plant under bright light for some time before exposing it directly under the sun.
  • Occasional exposure and putting the plant indoors for a few weeks will help the plant adapt seamlessly to the light.
  • Keeping the plants in the shade is suitable for the Snake plant. The plant does well during an occasional morning sun, but you should prevent it from the effects of direct sunlight.
  • Also, avoid placing the plant around heaters and radiators, as these absorb moisture from the surroundings.
  • Snake needs nearly 8 to 10 hours of indirect sunlight every day. Although, it can also do good in 5-6 hours of direct sunlight.

4. Low Humidity

Many indoor plants thrive in a specific humidity level to function correctly.

Although Snake plants do not have atrocious demands, they still need around 40% of relative humidity.

According to extension.uga.edu, for indoor plants, 20% is considered low humidity, 30-50% humidity is medium humidity and anything above 50% is considered good.

In low humidity conditions, the plant leaves lose water faster. As you know from the previous heading, lack of water can lead to the browning of leaf tips.

You should shade the plant from light and heat extremities during such conditions, or the plant will lose water faster.

A better option would be to group the plants to create a humidity-sharing microenvironment.

Effect of humidity and the loss of water
Effect of Humidity and the Loss of Water

Or you can get a humidifier for your plants. You can maintain the humidity for an even cheaper option by placing a wet pebble tray around the plant.

You may need to mist the plant occasionally to maintain the relative humidity around it.

5. Infestation of Pests and Diseases

Although the Snake plant is highly tolerant, insects like spider mites and mealybugs infest this plant.

These insects feed on the fluids of the plant’s leaves, making them dry and browning the tips.

If your plant leaf tips have developed some brown patches, we should immediately inspect the leaves thoroughly for any infestation.

Mealybugs
Mealybugs (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A Snake plant disease called Anthracnose is caused by fungi Colletrotrichum and Gloeosporium. The leaf tips go from yellow to tan before turning brown.

If you witness this fungal disease in your plant, you should remove the infected part of your plant.

It would be best not to mist the plant. Moisture works in favor of this fungus.

Solutions

  • Splash the plant with a strong stream of water to help you get rid of the bugs. However, to avoid the spread of infections, wipe the leaves dry.
  • Apply neem oil on the plant.
  • To efficiently remove pests, use the low-toxicity insecticide Pyrethrin or insecticidal soap.
  • Remove and discard any leaves that have suffered severe pest damage.
  • Spray the plant with myclobutanil, tebuconazole, copper soap, or chlorothalonil to prevent any future occurrence of this disease.
  • Isolate the plant in case of insects or fungal infestation. The infestation reduces the risk of spreading the disease to nearby plants.
  • Use alcohol-dipped cotton swabs or fungicides in case of excessive infestation.
Spray fungicide to prevent diseases
Spray fungicide to prevent diseases (Source: Amazon)

Preventive Measures

  • Wash the plant leaves with clean water or a soapy water solution every few weeks.
  • To repel insects, rub the entire plant with 98 percent isopropyl alcohol once or twice during the growing season.
  • Avoid introducing plants that have yellowed foliage, rotted stems, and spider webs underneath the leaves.
  • Before introducing the plant to other plants, quarantine it for at least two weeks and treat it.
  • Do not keep the soil and the leaves wet for a more extended period.

6. Excessive Use of Fertilizers

Snake plants are one of the most resilient indoor plants. These plants can absorb nutrients even from less nutritious soil.

Fertilizing your snake plants too frequently or with a potent fertilizer can cause root damage.

When harsh chemicals damage the roots, the foliage suffers as well. This frequently results in brown leaf tips or brown margins on the leaves.

Fertilizer with plant
Fertilizer with a plant (Source: Wikimedia)

If our plant’s leaf tips turn brown and look dry within a short span of using fertilizers, we should be concerned.

Snake plant brown tips are visible sometimes if the fertilizers ratio is not suitable for the plant.

If the browning persists and grows further in the plants, we should immediately clean the soil.

According to PennState Extension, too much fertilizer can damage the tips by slowing down the flow of water into the roots.

To save an overfertilized Snake plant, take the pot to a basin and clean the soil in running water. This will help flush out the excess chemicals present.

salt-buit-up
Browning leaves and salt build-up

Solutions

  • Using a balanced NPK 10-10-10 fertilizer works best for Snake plants.
  • Fertilize your Snake plant during its growing season and cut back on fertilization during the winter season.
  • Before fertilizing, dilute the strength to 50%.
  • Water your plant before fertilizing to ensure that the fertilizer is absorbed correctly.

What type of fertilizers do Snake plants need? Read it on “Snake Plant Fertilizer – Everything You Need to Know“.

7. Cold Exposure

Snake plants are succulents; they store water in their leaves, making them suitable for a dry climate, where there might be less water, and they do exceptionally well in tropical climates.

But, the plant gives in to the effects of cold climates. The critical temperature for the Snake plants is 10℃ (50℉).

If the temperature goes below this point, the plant may damage the leaf tips permanently.

Guy Shivering
A plant can Have Temperature Shock (Source: Tenor)

The leaves get tiny scars and turn light-brown in color. We can cut it off if the leaves have just a little bit of brownish patch towards the tip.

You cannot reverse the permanent damage if the leaves are mushy from the base. We should try to revive the plant by propagation if the roots are healthy.

Snake plants are weak in cold climates. We should take the plants inside if the temperature is low, mainly during winter.

Also, keep the Snake plant away from the radiators to avoid damage. The draft created by the radiators is unsuitable for the plant.

Or, you can go for a frost blanket or heating pad to shield your plant from the cruel cold. Mulching this plant with coffee grounds can also help prevent heat loss.

8. Excessive Use of Chlorinated Water

The tap water we drink is usually chlorinated or mixed with fluoride. These are good for humans to fight against any water-borne diseases.

But, in the case of plants, the accumulation of these chemicals in the pot may lead to chemical poisoning in the roots.

If there is an excessive amount of chlorine dissolved in the water, the snake plant will acquire brown tips.

According to extension.umn.edu, in some cases, excess chlorine can accumulate in the leaves and give them a brown appearance.

Chlorine and fluorine can be toxic to plants. Chlorine can kill off the microbes in the soil, and fluorine can hinder the photosynthesis process.

Chloride in Soil
Chloride in Soil (Source: Science Direct)

We should try to use distilled water for a couple of weeks and see for any changes in the plant.

After flushing the excess chemicals, we can continue with the distilled water and use water that contains less chlorine or fluorine.

9. Physical Injury

Physical injury to the Snake plant leaves can also cause brown tips and blotches. If you bought the plant online, it might have been damaged during shipping.

Moving a large plant from one location to another, on the other hand, may cause some damage to the outside foliage.

Brown tips are dead leaf sections that cannot be treated. If you believe the affected areas are unsightly, you can have them removed. Just be careful not to injure the plant further.

Healthy Snake Plants
Healthy Snake Plants (Source: Amazon)

To Wrap It Up!

Snake plant brown tips are dead parts of the plant. We can cut them off to make our Snake plant look pretty again.

However, we should make sure that we do not cut any part of the healthy leaves.

The cutting of dead parts will boost the healthy parts of the plants, and the brown part will not spread to other parts of the leaves.

Good luck!

Wanna know more about Snake plants? Please read about making it bloom, its lifespan, ways to choose its pot, good soil for it, and its curling.

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