How to Revive and Prevent Snake Plant Root Rot?

Snake Plant
Healthy Snake Plant (Source: Pexels)

Are you worried about your Snake Plant’s unusual stalled growth and drooping leaves? To make matters worse, the potting soil has started emitting a foul smell.

These grave signs are the indication of root rot problems likely caused by overwatering or fungus infestation.

However, do not worry yet. You can still rescue and revive your plant by applying the proper treatment.

Treat root rot in Snake Plant by inspecting for root rot damages, then prune the infected parts immediately. Next, sterilize the plant roots followed by repotting in healthy fresh soil.

Snake Plant Root Rot
Snake Plant Root Rot

Otherwise, discard the entire plant if the problem seems severe, but not before salvaging the rhizome for propagation.

Overall, reviving Snake Plant from root rot is possible, but you must catch the problems early.

Signs of Root Rot in Snake Plant

Catching the signs of root rot may help to take early action to prevent further damages.

However, identifying root rot conditions from a single symptom may be difficult. Most growers do not realize the problem until it is too late.

Therefore, check for multiple signs exhibited by your Snake Plant before applying the treatment.

ProblemDetail
Yellowing or browning leavesYellowing or browning leaves is the early sign of Chlorosis caused by root rot
Stalled growthRoot rot may prevent the plant from getting the oxygen and nutrients required for the growth
Droopy leavesDroopy leaves may begin a bit later when the plant is stressed
Foul smell from the soilRotting root emits a foul stench from the soil, which smells like a swamp
Brown tipsBrown tips are more familiar with root rot caused by overfertilizing
Dark and mushy rootThe roots will start turning brownish and mushy in texture after a significant decay.

Let us look at the signs of root rot in detail to help you analyze the situation.

1. Yellowing or Browning Leaves

One of the earliest signs of root rot problem is changing leaf color.

Yellowing starts when fungus and soil pathogen feed on feeder roots without touching the entire root system.

The outer bottom leaves may start turning yellow, with a few brownish patches throughout the leaf surface, and the affected leaves will soon start dropping.

Over time, the yellowing will spread to the rest of the foliage.

However, a yellowing leaf could be a sign of many different problems.

Start with ruling out other possibilities such as pests, underwatering, overwatering, and high temperature before deciding on root rot.

Check for other tell-tale signs after your plant starts exhibiting yellowish and browning leaves.

2. Stalled Growth

Stalled growth is another early sign of root rot problems in Snake Plants, but do not confuse it with dormancy or root-bound condition.

When it goes into dormancy during winter, the slowed growth becomes reasonably expected, and the root-bound may experience delayed growth due to a lack of nutrients.

On the other hand, the onset of root decay will prevent the plant from growing even during the growing season (spring and summer).

The decaying root becomes weak and may struggle with absorbing oxygen and nutrients from the soil.

Seeing a stalled plant growth despite weeks after fertilizing may also suggest the problem of the decayed root.

Moreover, you may also witness cankers or oozing sap with the prolonged root rot problem.

3. Droopy Leaves

Droopy and wilted leaves are common signs of a dying plant caused by root decay.

The leaves start drooping primarily because of stress caused by pathogens eating up the root system.

Many growers confuse drooping leaves with the problems of cold drafts and changing environment that also causes drooping leaves.

However, in the case of root rot, the drooping of leaves is often accompanied by yellowing foliage and a foul smell from the soil.

4. Foul Smell from the Soil

When your Snake Plant’s potting soil starts emitting a foul smell after a few early signs, you can b sure about the root rot problem.

The decaying root is a prolonged root rot condition caused by an increasing number of bacteria in anaerobic conditions, which grow without oxygen.

When the root system starts decomposing, the infected soil emits a foul odor that may smell like a swamp or slightly sulphuric or ammonia.

Whether you have seen other root rot signs or not, it is time to inspect it for root rot damage if your soil starts smelling foul.

5. Dark and Mushy Root

Inspect your Snake Plant for root rot. The only effective way to know is by sliding the plant out to check the root condition.

Slowly slide the plant out from the pot using a trowel and check for visible signs of root rot.

  • The decaying root will look dark but light-brown.
  • Healthy roots give an earthy scent, but decayed roots will stench like decomposing plant material.
  • The roots starting to decay will look limp and dead, whereas severely rotten roots will look mushy.
  • If the root has blackened with or without smell, it could signify root rot from fungus infestation.

6. Brown Tips

A Snake Plant may develop brown tips on the foliage for many reasons, like too much direct sunlight, too much fertilizing, and underwatering.

Overfertilizing stresses the plant’s root system. When you fail to treat them on time, the weakened root stops getting oxygen and nutrient from the soil.

Therefore, seeing brown tips on the leaves should make you aware of possible root rot conditions with your plant.

Carefully slide out the plant and check for visible signs of decay on the roots to diagnose better.

Causes of Root Rot in Snake Plant

The most likely cause of root rot problems in Snake Plant is overwatering. However, root rot may not only be a byproduct of excess watering.

The plant grown in wrong conditions could easily invite root rot problems. Here is the list of some critical contributors to it.

1. Overwatering

Overwatering is the rookie error made with Snake Plants.

With wet soil conditions, the fungus and pathogens will increase and start feeding on the feeder roots.

The soggy soil deprives plant roots of getting oxygen and nutrients vital for maintenance. It is when you get yellowing, curling, and drooping leaves.

A Woman Watering Plants
A Woman Watering Plants (Source: Unsplash)

These plants are drought-tolerant to the extent that they can survive well without water for two weeks or more.

However, they do not tolerate excess watering at any cost.

Without timely treatment, the pathogens will reach the rest of the root system. Within a few days, the roots will start decaying and stalling overall plant growth.

2. Inadequate Drainage

Although you are watering right, you could see your plant facing root rot problems. Do not be surprised because this could be the classic case of inadequate drainage.

A potting medium that holds too much moisture or lacks drainage holes will encourage soggy soil; hence, root rot problems.

These plants do not like sitting in idle water, and insufficient pot drainage holes will worsen it.

Another related cause could be the idle water sitting on the saucer that you forget to throw away. It may keep the base layer moist and prevent the soil from drying out.

3. Oversized Pot

Did you ever think that the wrong pot size could create problems for your Snake Plant?

Growing them in a significantly larger pot requires more watering. However, the plant roots can suck up only a limited amount at a time.

Hence, the excess water sitting in the soil will create a soggy condition for the plant.

However, the plant grown in small pots may quickly outgrow the container, requiring frequent repotting.

Therefore, choose the appropriate size of the pot before growing a Snake Plant.

4. Stale and Dense Soil

By stale and dense soil, we meant a ground that becomes denser and heavy after a while and retains more salt.

Dense soil may retain more water for long periods and encourage the growth of harmful pathogens.

An example of dense soil
An example of dense soil (Source: Unsplash.com)

On the other hand, Stale soil retains more salt from watering, causing an alarming rate of harmful salinity in the ground.

A wrong potting mix will become denser after a while that may require frequent change.

5. Overfertilization

Overfertilizing a Snake plant could cause plant stress that leads to root rot.

Overfertilizing the plant will increase the salinity level in the soil. The sudden spike of salt will quickly boost plant growth but also harm its roots.

When the Snake plant goes under stress, it fails to retrieve water and oxygen from the soil, causing gradual root decay.

Most growers commonly use imbalanced fertilizer and feed in high doses that leave the plant weak.

6. Soil Contamination

Another possible cause for root rot is soil contamination, but it is harder to identify among all the causes.

The potting soil most likely becomes infected with toxins and pathogens when you forget to sterilize your pruning and gardening tools.

While pruning, propagating and repotting, the unsterilized tools could leave bacteria hanging to the roots that will increase once they get a conducive environment.

Once they start feeding the roots, they will soon multiply and quickly decay the entire root system.

7. Not Changing Water After Propagation

This one is a catch because you do not frequently propagate your Snake Plant!

The plant roots may start rotting in the propagation process when you fail to replace the water every 3-4 days.

Although it commonly happens when using leaf cuttings for propagation, failing to replace water frequently will cause the lower end of the leaf to decay quickly.

Once it starts decaying, it will spread to other parts of the plant, causing root rot.

How to Revive Snake Plant from Root Rot?

Remember, you can save and revive your Snake Plant from Root Rot only during the early progression of the disease.

Once the root becomes severely decayed and mushy, there is no undoing it.

Your only option is to salvage the healthy rhizome for repotting in a fresh potting mix. Otherwise, discarding the entire plant is the only safe solution.

So, be prepared to bid farewell to your beloved plant when treating them for root rot.

A. Treatment For the Rot

The amount of time, tools, and materials required for treating the root rot will depend on the severity of the disease.

However, be prepared to tackle any issue with these tools and materials in hand.

Materials required

Here are the step-by-step instructions.

Step 1: Sterilize the Tools

  • Start with sterilizing the equipment so you can avoid the hassle in the middle of treatment.
  • Take the disinfectant or rubbing alcohol and wipe it all over the tool.
  • Once done, keep it aside in a safe container.

Step 2: Remove and Clean the Plant Root

  • Next, remove the plant from the pot using your hand.
  • You can also use a trowel to remove excess sand.
  • Slowly slide out the plant with roots intact, and gently rinse it under running water to remove all the sand.

Step 3: Prune the Infected Parts

Now, this one is tricky!

  • Start with identifying the infected parts that will look dark, brownish, black, or mushy.
  • The infected part gives a stench, which will help you identify it.
  • Take the pruning shear and cut off all mushy, brown parts.
  • Sterilize the shear again and start pruning the infected stems and leaves. You can prune old and yellow leaves at the same time.
  • Trim off any flower stalk as well to reduce plant stress.

Step 4: Sterilize the Plant Root

Although optional, it is recommended that you sterilize the plant root to kill off any remaining bacteria.

Dip the entire root system in a diluted solution of Hydrogen Peroxide, one tablespoon of H2O2 mixed in one liter of water, before planting it again.

Step 5: Repot the Plant

  • Disinfect the container with bleach or use an entirely fresh pot if your plant is root-bound.
  • Use the same potting mix you used before to pot your Snake plant and fill it half soil.
  • Next, place your plant, root-down, into the soil and add the remaining soil to cover it just below the bottom leaves.
  • Press the soil gently to put the plant in its place.
  • Do not water the plant if you have already moistened the soil. Wait a few days before it gets dry.

Read more about Repotting the Snake Plant

B. Fungus Treatment

Removing the fungus infestation from the Snake plant requires treating the root with the right kind of fungicide.

Alternatively, you can also use your regular kitchen items to treat the fungus.

Root Rot
Root Rot (Source: Unsplash.com)

Here is a list of a few options.

ProductTreatmentBenefits
CinnamonPrune away infected parts, including the leaves. Then apply some cinnamon powder over the entire root system.

Add some into the soil as well before repotting.
1. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide less toxic in nature.

2. It contains an ingredient, cinnamaldehyde, that is effective in killing fungus found on 40 different crops.
Neem OilPrepare a mixed spray of 1tb neem oil and 1-liter warm water with ½ mild liquid soap.

Spray the solution just over the infected part before repotting the plant.
1. Neem oil contains triglycerides, campesterol, and triterpenoids that act as a natural bug repellant and fungus remover.

2. It is effective against fungi, sooty mold, mildew, and nematodes.
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)Dilute 1tb of 3% H2O2 in one-liter water in a large mug. Then, dip the roots and other affected parts in the solution before repotting.
1. H2O2 is a disinfectant that is very effective in removing fungus and bacteria.

2. A mild fungicide helps control fungus gnats by providing oxygen to plant roots.
Commercial FungicideMake a diluted solution by adding 1tb of fungicide in 1 liter of water and spray on the infected parts.

Alternatively, you can spray it over the soil without repotting the plant.
1. Fungicides are a pesticide that will effectively kill all kinds of germs, fungus, and bacteria.

2. It contains inorganic ingredients like Sulfur, copper, Feram, metiram, and more.

If you want to learn more about treating Snake plant for fungus and need a few commercial fungicide recommendations, read out article on How to Save Snake Plant from Fungus

Post-Treatment Tips

  1. It is essential to provide enough care to your plant after treatment and to repot to prevent plant stress.
  2. After repotting, let the plant sit idle for a couple of days without water. Let the soil dry before watering again.
  3. Resume the watering schedule but do it sparingly to help the roots recover and start producing feeder roots.
  4. Place the plant in indirect sunlight and do not change the place any time soon.
  5. Avoid using fertilizer for at least a month or two. Let the plant roots suck up nutrients from the potting mix.

Quick Tip: Salvage your drying plant by cutting off the healthy rhizome and propagating it in a new potting mix or water. Read more about Propagating Snake Plant at Home

How to Prevent Root Rot in Snake Plant?

Here is the preventive measure to keep your beloved Snake plant from possible root rot in the future.

1. Adequate Watering

Start with scheduling the watering with the right amount at the right time.

Snake Plants are water-sensitive species that can survive drought conditions slightly but do not do well with excess watering.

  • Deepwater your plant once a week or in two weeks, depending on the soil conditions. If it is still moist, avoid watering altogether.
  • Cut back on watering to once a month during the winter because the plant goes into dormancy and may use even less water.
  • Use filtered water or rainwater instead as it does not consist of fluoride and chlorine usually found in tap water.
  • Alternatively, bottom water your snake plants by placing the pot in a shallow container or saucer filled with about an inch of water.

2. Adequate Drainage

For the best possible drainage, use containers with more drainage holes.

  • More drainage means no excess water remains in the soil that may invite root rot problems.
  • Use pots with multiple drainage holes at the bottom to let out the excess water collected at the bottom of the pot.
  • Instead of using plastic pots, choose Terracotta and Clay pots that effectively remove excess moisture from the sides.

3. Find a Right Sized Pot

As per the rule of thumb, the pot size should be similar to the plant’s size. For a 1-foot plant, you should choose a 2-gallon pot.

  • With pots smaller than the plant, the plant roots will soon outgrow the container and restrict its growth.
  • While, large containers require more soil and more watering that the plant root may not absorb well, leading to waterlogging.
  • Choose the right-sized pot for your plant. When repotting, choose a pot 2″ larger than the previous one.

4. Dense Soil

A wrong potting mix is likely to become denser after a while.

  • When preparing a potting mix at home, choose the suitable materials; cactus mix, perlite, pumice, and coco peat that retains less water.
  • Avoid using ground soil that contains a lot of silt and clay.
  • Alternatively, you can use a commercial potting mix as Miracle-Gro Fast-Draining Formula or Hoffman Organic Cactus Mix meant for succulents like the Snake Plant.

5. Adequate Fertilizing

Overfertilization increases the salinity level in the soil that may affect the roots’ ability to take up nutrients.

In most cases, it may lead to plant stress.

  • Fertilize your snake plant every two or three months in the growing season, but cut back on winter.
  • Use balanced organic fertilizer diluted in water before using it on the plant.
  • Choose Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food or Slow-release pellets for less harmful results.

6. Sterilize Tools

Strictly sterilize or disinfect your tools before and after pruning, repotting, and propagating the plant.

The bacteria found in infected tools will quickly contaminate the soil, leading to anaerobic bacteria, fungus, and gnats when the soil becomes soggy.

Hence, sterilizing the tools with disinfectant or rubbing alcohol will help protect your plant from possible root rot.

Snake Plant (Source: Pixabay)

Conclusion

You can easily prevent root rot conditions by taking recommended preventive measures.

Remember, succulents like the Snake Plant do not enjoy too much of anything; watering, fertilizing, sunlight, or pruning.

Therefore, apply moderation in everything and assess your plant’s health every few weeks to prevent root rot.

Otherwise, revive your plant from mild root decay using the treatments mentioned above.

Related Article: How to Make Snake Plants Grow Faster

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