Snake Plants are the least complicated succulent to grow at home but may quickly falter when their roots are compromised.
In fact, they display one or many signs of problems when their roots are suffering, requiring further diagnosis.
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Snake Plant Roots [Healthy vs. Sick]
Like any other succulents, Snake plants display thick root systems known as rhizomes that retain enough water and moisture.
The rhizomes have their sub-roots or feeder roots that help absorb water, oxygen, and nutrients and transfer them to foliage for storage.
In fact, the rigidity and upright structure of the plant depends on its root health and capacity to store water.
The only problem with Snake Plant root rot is rot or decay and shock caused by inappropriate watering, temperature stress, and poor drainage.
Here is how you can tell whether your Snake Plant roots are healthy or sick.
|Healthy Roots||Sick Roots|
|Appearance||Thick rhizome with twig-like feeders||Slimy and mushy|
|Color||Slightly orange and green||Deep orange, gray, black, or brown|
|Smell||It gives earthy or the potting-mix smell||Foul or musty odor resembling slightly sulphurous|
|Growth||Hardly grows an inch a year but feeder roots can get a few inches long||New growth stops,turns mushy overtime, and loses volume|
Remember, Snake Plant roots hate to stay crowded for longer as they can induce flowering.
Signs of Unhealthy Snake Plant Roots
Generally, Snake Plants stay sturdy and rigid as long as their leaves have enough water.
As the leaves lose water, they will flop, curl, or droop and change color to sickly yellow or brownish.
You must look for these signs when inspecting your Snake Plants for root problems.
Here are some tell-tale symptoms that your Snake Plant root is suffering.
1. Yellowing Leaves
Yellowing of the Snake Plant leaves is often the earliest indication of a problem with the roots.
Overwatering or underwatering stress, fungal disease, pests, overfertilization, and temperature stress may equally invite leaf yellowing.
These conditions may stress the roots and compromise the plant’s health, leading to leaf chlorosis.
- Overwatering is the main culprit, indicated by the yellowing of base leaves, Oedema (blisters), and floppy appearance.
- Yellowing caused by underwatering is often accompanied by brown tips or curling.
- On the other hand, overfertilization and temperature stress invite yellowing with stunted growth.
2. Drooping and Collapsing Leaves
Snake plant leaves drooping and falling off may indicate overwatering and root rot problems.
The Snake Plant roots sitting in soggy soil will fail to absorb oxygen and nutrients vital for proliferating leaves.
Moreover, the onset of root decay will deprive the leaves of the water required to maintain the rigid structure.
As the decay proliferates above the root, the leaves will go soft at the base and start drooping. These leaves will eventually fall off.
Excess lighting and under-fertilizing the plant can also cause droopy leaves, but they are less likely to fall off.
The only solution is to remove infected roots, apply an antifungal solution, and transplant it in a fresh potting mix.
Otherwise, salvage the healthy leaves for propagation if all the roots feel mushy and dark.
3. Brittle Roots
Snake plants can survive long drought sessions as these succulents hold enough water, but extensive drought can brittle the roots.
Remember, dried Snake Plant roots are less likely to transport nutrients throughout the plant.
Snake plants suffering from root problems from underwatering will witness brittle roots that look dried and sickly.
In addition, watering the plant after a long drought can lead the plant root into stress due to the overwhelming amount of water sitting around the root system.
Slide the plant out from the soil and inspect for brittle roots that look dry and weak.
The feeder roots will turn gray and fall off at the slightest touch. Leaf curling, wrinkly foliage, and brown and dried leaf tips will accompany.
4. Stunted Growth
The Snake Plant is a slow grower, so it may take years to grow about a foot.
However, do not mistake the stunted plant for slow growth, which is often caused by root decay, diseases, or temperature stress.
Damage from overwatering, fungal root disease, and freezing temperature directly affect the root’s health.
As the root health flounders, the top growth will fail to obtain water and nutrients necessary for vertical growth.
Some of the early indications may include curling and yellowing leaves.
On the other hand, saving a root rot or diseases-infested plant requires excessive pruning, fungal treatment, and repotting.
5 Red Leaf Spot
Snake Plants suffering from red leaf spots will fail to thrive as the complex fungal disease will damage the root system.
Although rare, the fungus can be caused by the Helminthosporium pathogen that thrives in warm and wet conditions.
Introducing infected plants to Snake Plants is likely to cause red leaf spots.
You will witness a red or brownish-red spore shaped like cigars appearing on the leaves.
6. Orange Root
Looking at the Snake Plant roots closely during repotting, you may witness the feeder roots are orange.
Although orange roots are entirely normal, it may indicate they are spoiled, requiring a closer inspection.
Overwatering the plant, low lighting conditions, and soil color may also change the root to orange.
However, it means that the root health is compromised and may require quick treatment.
If you witness brown and mushy roots along with an orange shade, troubleshoot the plant for root rot condition.
You must prepare to trim off decayed roots, transplant in a fresh potting mix, and provide excellent care to treat orange roots.
How to Treat Snake Plant Root Problem
Most root problems in Snake Plants can be treated by correcting daily care.
Once the root rot has progressed or is under severe shock, you must consider pruning the affected roots and repotting the plant.
Here are the necessary steps to properly repot your Snake Plant.
- Acquire the necessary tools and materials (Cactus mix, Organic Compost, Pruning shears, Rubbing alcohol, and Bleach)
- Sterilize the equipment using rubbing alcohol.
- Remove the plant by gently sliding it out using your hands.
- Get rid of excess dirt using your hand, or run it under the tap.
- Prune off the infected feeder and central roots that look dark, brownish, and mushy, including affected leaves.
- Dip the entire root system in diluted Hydrogen Peroxide.
- Prepare the succulent mix by adding compost to the cacti mix or pouring the market-brought blend into the new pot.
- Insert the plant root first into the soil, and fill the vacant space with additional soil.
- Avoid watering for a few days or weeks to allow the roots to hold the soil.
Why don’t Snake Plants Have Roots Sometimes?
It is common for the succulent to lose its thick roots to fungus and bacteria that decimate the healthy root system.
However, you can identify the problem before it proliferates by looking for the abovementioned symptoms.
Once the plant starts losing its roots, your only option is to salvage the healthy parts to report in a fresh potting mix.
Luckily, you can propagate the salvaged part to form a new plant.
- Start by washing and trimming the damaged and mushy roots and leaves.
- Apply some fungicide or antifungal like cinnamon to the leaves.
- Make an 80% peat moss and 20% perlite-based potting mix.
- Insert the leaf upright into the moistened potting mix with the tip staying outside.
- Moisten the potting mix regularly and wait 1-4 months for the cutting to develop new roots.
- Transplant it into a new pot in a perfect succulent mix.
Read more about propagating Snake Plants at home.
From Editorial Team
Always take precautions with your Snake Plant to avoid root problems.
Water your plant every fortnight, provide ample indirect sunlight and temperature above 60°F and fertilize with balanced plant food in spring.
Snake plant thrives in slightly acidic soil (5.5-7.0), which can be attained by amending the soil with organic compost.