Why Are My Snake Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? 7 Causes and How to Fix It

The snake plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue or Sansevieria, is one of the most popular and hardy houseplants. Its sword-shaped leaves add an architectural beauty while being able to thrive in most indoor conditions.

However, at times the leaves of this plant start turning yellow. Yellowing leaves are not always a cause for concern, but if the problem persists, it indicates underlying issues that need your attention.

Here are the 7 most common reasons why snake plant leaves turn yellow and what you can do to restore the plant to its former green glory:


Overwatering is the most common cause of yellowing snake plant leaves.

These succulent plants do not need frequent watering. Watering too often causes root rot and prevents the roots from getting oxygen. Excess moisture also leads to the growth of fungi and bacteria that can cause diseases.

How to fix it:

  • Allow the soil to completely dry out before watering again. Use your finger to test the soil moisture.
  • Water only when the top 2-3 inches of soil feel dry to touch.
  • Cut back on watering frequency. These plants only need water once every 2-3 weeks.
  • Drain any water in decorative outer pots. Never allow the plant to sit in water.
  • Repot in fast-draining soil and pot with drainage holes if needed.


While overwatering is more common, leaving the plant without water for too long can also cause the leaves to turn yellow.

If the plant stays dry for weeks, it causes stress, nutrient deficiencies, and lower leaf loss. The older leaves at the base are the first to yellow and shrivel.

What to do:

  • Check the soil before watering and water when the top few inches feel dry.
  • Gradually increase watering frequency if the plant shows signs of underwatering.
  • Cut back damaged yellow leaves to maintain the plant’s appearance.

Low Humidity

Snake plants prefer a humidity level of 40-50%. In dry air, the leaf tips and margins turn yellow and brown.

Indoor heating in winter and air conditioning in summer reduce humidity. Dry soil also leads to low moisture levels around the foliage.

How to increase humidity:

  • Place the pot on a pebble water tray.
  • Mist the leaves occasionally with room temperature water.
  • Group plants together to create a humid microclimate.
  • Use a humidifier near the plant.
  • Move the plant to a bathroom or kitchen where humidity levels tend to be higher.

Too Much Sunlight

While snake plants can tolerate low light conditions, direct hot sunlight can scorch and yellow the leaves.

Placing the plants too close to south or west facing windows subjects them to intense afternoon sun in summers. The leaves lose their green color and turn yellow or whitish.

What you can do:

  • Move the plant back from the windows or use sheer curtains to filter the sunlight.
  • Rotate the plant so no single side faces the window for too long.
  • Keep it under bright, indirect light instead of direct sun.
  • Grow fluorescent or LED grow lights if natural light is inadequate.

Cold Temperature

Temperatures below 50°F (10°C) can shock snake plants and cause chilling injury. The foliage develops yellow or whitish patches when exposed to cold drafts.

How to prevent chilling damage:

  • Avoid placing plants near drafty windows, doors, or air conditioners.
  • Move plants away from cold outdoor air currents.
  • Use a portable heater to maintain minimum temperatures.
  • Avoid sudden temperature drops at night.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Lack of nutrients due to incorrect or depleted soil can make the lower leaves yellow. Nitrogen, iron, magnesium, and manganese deficiencies commonly affect the leaf color.

Using tap water with a high level of salts also leads to nutrient lockout.

Correcting nutrient deficiencies:

  • Replace old potting mix with fresh well-draining soil.
  • Apply balanced liquid fertilizer at half strength during spring and summer.
  • Add slow-release fertilizer pellets to the potting mix.
  • Use distilled or rainwater instead of hard tap water.
  • Cut off severely damaged yellow leaves to improve appearance. New growth will be healthy.

Diseases and Pests

Fungal diseases like southern blight and leaf spot can cause yellow lesions and spots on snake plant leaves. Bacterial soft rot also leads to yellowish mushy areas.

Mealybugs, aphids, and scale can infest the leaves and roots, leading to yellowing foliage.

How to treat diseases and pests:

  • Isolate and trim off infected leaves. Disinfect tools after use.
  • Apply neem oil or insecticidal soap spray to control pests on the leaves.
  • Use fungicides and bactericides suitable for ornamental plants.
  • Remove severely affected leaves and discard them away from other plants.
  • Improve air circulation and reduce watering frequency.

How to Revive a Snake Plant with Yellow Leaves

If only a few leaves have turned yellow, you can clip them off and restore the snake plant with some care. But if the yellowing is more extensive, treat the underlying cause and take these revival steps:

1. Cut away all yellow leaves

Removing damaged and diseased foliage prevents the spread of infection to healthy leaves. Use clean, sterilized scissors or shears.

2. Check roots for rot

Gently remove the plant from the pot. Cut away any black or mushy roots. Healthy roots are firm and white/cream.

3. Repot with fresh soil

Replant in sterile, well-draining soil. Add perlite or gravel to improve drainage.

4. Find a suitable spot

Place the plant in bright, indirect light. Maintain a temperature of 65-80°F.

5. Hold back on watering

Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Stick to a sparse watering routine.

6. Raise humidity

Use a pebble tray or humidifier to provide 40-50% relative humidity.

7. Fertilize lightly

Use a balanced houseplant fertilizer at half strength to nourish the plant.

8. Be patient

It takes a few weeks for the plant to recover and produce new green growth. Remove any yellow leaves that appear.

With good care, the snake plant will regain its healthy green foliage and continue growing. Be diligent about addressing the underlying cause to prevent recurrence of the yellow leaves.

When to Be Concerned About Yellow Leaves in Snake Plants

A few pale leaves here and there are not a big concern. But if the yellowing leaves persist or worsen, it indicates a significant underlying problem.

Be concerned if:

  • Several leaves rapidly turn yellow all at once
  • The yellowing spreads from old to newer leaves
  • Leaf tips and margins turn brown or mushy
  • Plant growth stalls and leaves start dying back
  • Webbing, white crusty dots, or sticky coating appear on leaves
  • New leaves emerge yellow rather than green
  • Yellow leaves drop quickly leaving bare stems
  • White mold or foul odor is noticed around the base
  • Rotting roots or soggy soil is present

In such cases, the problem needs immediate intervention to diagnose and treat the possible disease, pest infestation, or cultural issues. Catching it early improves the chances of saving the plant.

How Often to Water Snake Plant

One of the most common mistakes in caring for snake plants is overwatering. Getting their watering frequency right is key to keeping them healthy. Here are some tips:

  • Check soil moisture before watering. Allow the top 2 inches to dry out.
  • During the growing period in spring and summer, water when the top soil feels dry to touch. This can be every 2-3 weeks.
  • In fall and winter, allow longer intervals between watering, like once a month.
  • Reduce watering if the potting mix is moisture-retentive or humidity levels are high.
  • Increase frequency slightly for plants in small pots or porous soil that dries out faster.
  • Water thoroughly until it drains from the pot’s bottom drainage holes.
  • Never allow the plant to sit in waterlogged soil for prolonged time.
  • Rely more on your finger to test soil dryness than a fixed schedule.

Getting to know your plant’s needs takes some time. Adjust the watering frequency and volume based on the season, pot size, soil type, and growing environment.

How Much Light Does Snake Plant Need?

Sansevieria is most commonly known for its ability to tolerate low light levels indoors. But it thrives best in the following light conditions:

  • Bright indirect light is ideal for snake plants. Place them near an east, west, or north window.
  • Some direct morning sun for 2-3 hours is beneficial but avoid hot afternoon sun.
  • Low light areas like offices and dorm rooms are tolerated but result in slower growth.
  • Artificial lighting like broad spectrum LED grow lights also work well. Keep lights on for 12-14 hours daily.
  • Medium to high light is preferred for variegated varieties to maintain the striking foliage colors.

Rotate the plants periodically for even light exposure rather than having just one side facing the light source. Shifting to a spot with more light also encourages faster growth.

Snake Plant Leaves Curling – Causes and Fixes

Along with yellow leaves, curly, curling, or contorted foliage is another common snake plant problem. Here are some potential reasons and fixes:

Overwatering: Excess moisture in the soil leads to swollen, curled leaves. Allow the soil to dry out before watering.

Low humidity: Dry air causes the leaf tips and margins to curl up. Increase humidity levels to 40-50%.

Excess fertilizer: Too much fertilizer accumulates salts that dehydrate and deform leaves. Flush soil to remove salts.

Temperate extremes: Exposure to very high or low temperatures can distort leaves. Keep temps between 65°F-80°F.

Pests: Spider mites feeding on leaves causes stippling and curling. Spray insecticidal soap.

Diseases: Bacterial leaf spot and southern blight cause leaf curl. Prune affected parts and treat with a fungicide.

Insufficient light: Low light encourages leaves to twist or curl in search of light. Provide bright, indirect light.

Root problems: If the roots are damaged or restricted, it leads to contorted foliage. Repot in appropriate pot size.

Catching curly leaf problems early and taking corrective action helps minimize lasting damage in snake plants.

How to Propagate Snake Plant

Propagating snake plants is quite straightforward. You can get new plants from:

Rhizome division – Carefully divide the underground rhizome using a sterile knife. Replant sections in pots.

Leaf cuttings – Cut healthy leaves at the base. Allow cut end to dry and plant in soil. New plants will sproil at cut end.

Pups – Separate the pups or offshoots from the mother plant. Pot them up individually.

Stem cuttings – Cut a stem with a few nodes and root in water or soil.

Seeds – Plant seeds saved from flower blooms in starter mix. Keep moist.

Choose healthy leaves or pups for the best success rate. Propagation via division or cuttings is faster than growing from seeds.

With good care, snake plant cuttings root quickly. Pot up the new plants in well-draining mix and growing conditions similar to the parent plant.

Common Snake Plant Varieties

The Dracaena trifasciata species has around 70 varieties of snake plants. Some popular ones include:

  • Laurentii – Has dramatic yellow stripes on dark green foliage. Needs more light.
  • Moonshine – Pale green-yellow leaves with white veins. Compact and slow growing.
  • Whitney – Bright green leaves with white stripes. Tolerates low light well.
  • Futura Robusta – Tall green leaves with white edges. Grows up to 6 feet.
  • Black Coral – Dark green leaves with a black base. Dramatic look.
  • Golden Hahnii – Thinner leaves with bright yellow edges. Bushy type.
  • Twist – Unusual twisted and curled green leaves. Slow grower.

Choose varieties based on factors like light and space needs, growth rate, color, etc.

Tips for Growing Snake Plants

Here are some top care tips to keep your snake plant thriving happily:

  • Place in bright, indirect light avoiding direct hot sun.
  • Use well-draining cactus/succulent mix amended with perlite.
  • Water thoroughly only when the top few inches of soil are dry.
  • Fertilize during spring using diluted balanced liquid fertilizer.
  • Maintain indoor temperatures between 65°F-80°F.
  • Wipe leaves regularly with damp cloth to remove dust.
  • Rotate the plant periodically for even light exposure.
  • Propagate easily from pups, divisions, or cuttings for more plants.
  • Repot when rootbound into the next size pot with fresh soil.

Caring for these resilient plants is quite straightforward when you meet their basic needs. With the right care, snake plants can thrive for years as easy-care houseplants.

FAQs about Snake Plants with Yellow Leaves

Why are the tips of my snake plant leaves turning yellow?

Yellow leaf tips are often caused by low humidity. Snake plants prefer 40-50% humidity level. Increase humidity by misting, using pebble trays or humidifiers. Keeping the soil slightly moist also helps.

What does it mean when the leaves turn yellow?

Yellowing leaves point to underlying cultural issues like overwatering, insufficient light, low temperatures, or pests. Address the specific cause to restore health. Start by cutting off discolored leaves.

Can snake plants survive without sunlight?

Yes, snake plants can survive without direct sun as they adapt to a wide range of light levels. But they do best in bright, indirect light. Without adequate light, the foliage may become sparse or turn pale green over time.

Should I cut off yellow snake plant leaves?

It is best to cut off any fully yellowed leaves on a snake plant. Trim the leaves at the base using clean scissors or shears. Removing damaged foliage can prevent the spread of fungal diseases. It also improves the plant’s appearance.

What does a yellow snake plant leaf mean?

Yellowing typically indicates too much or too little watering. Overwatering causes soggy soil and roots to rot leading to yellow leaves. Underwatering also stresses the plant. Other causes include diseases, low light, humidity extremes etc. Identify and fix the underlying issue.

How do I know if my snake plant is dying?

Signs a snake plant is dying include yellowing or browning leaves, leaf drop, drooping, stunted growth, soft leaves, wilting, lesions on leaves, rotting at the base. Lack of vigor indicates the plant is stressed by cultural issues, pests or diseases. Taking corrective action can still revive it.

Can snake plants survive in office lights?

Office lighting is often insufficient for snake plants. But they can survive for some time under fluorescent lights. Provide 14-16 hours of light daily. Supplement with artificial plant lights. Rotate the plant to avoid one-sided growth towards light.


The foliage of snake plants may turn yellow due to various environmental stresses and care issues. But with some attentive care, these resilient succulents can bounce back quickly.

Check for signs of overwatering, underwatering, light problems, humidity extremes, temperature stresses, pests, or diseases. Address the underlying cause and provide ideal growing conditions.

Prune away all damaged leaves. Give the plant some time to recuperate and produce new growth. Keep a watch for any recurring yellowing issues and take prompt action. With a little extra attention, your snake plant can thrive for years as a low-maintenance houseplant.