The Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria trifasciata) is one of the most common houseplants in the US. With its long, elegant foliage, this hardy, low-maintenance plant is a go-to for homes, offices, and public spaces alike. But even a tough-as-nails snake plant's leaves can turn yellow.
The occasional yellow leaf on a snake plant is nothing to worry about, and some types of snake plant are known for the attractive yellow borders on their foliage. But if you see several of your plant's leaves turning yellow at once—or if the plant is exhibiting other signs of stress or hasn't had the proper care or conditions—it's time to identify the problem and take action. Here are seven reasons your snake plant's leaves could be turning yellow and how to fix it.
Causes of Yellow Snake Plant Leaves
Several different plant problems can cause yellow leaves, or chlorosis. Chlorosis occurs when plants don't have the micronutrients they need to produce chlorophyll, which makes foliage green and allows plants to convert sunlight into food. As you figure out why your snake plant's leaves are turning yellow, consider these potential causes.
Too Much Water
Snake plants are drought tolerant thanks to their succulent leaves. These plants grow best in loose, well-drained soil that's allowed to dry out completely between waterings and may only need water once per month during winter. Overwatering can prevent roots from absorbing moisture and nutrients that the plant needs and can even cause root rot.
Too Much Light
Versatile snake plants can adapt to full sun or lower-light conditions, but they grow best with bright, indirect light. Pale, yellow, or brown spots on otherwise healthy green leaves can indicate sunburn from too much direct sunlight.
If your plant has recently experienced a sudden temperature change, or if it's by a drafty door, window, or air vent, inconsistent temperature could stress the plant and cause its leaves to turn yellow.
Several common houseplant pests can affect snake plants. As insects like scale, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites suck sap from the plant's foliage, leaves can turn yellow and die.
Too Much or Not Enough Fertilizer
Snake plants generally need little fertilizer, but if it's been a few years since you fed your plant or gave it fresh soil, a nutrient deficiency could cause leaves to yellow. On the other hand, overfeeding can cause dry, pale leaf edges and wilting.
A potbound plant can't absorb nutrients from the soil. If your snake plant is overcrowded or outgrowing its pot, this may be the cause of yellow leaves.
Normal Leaf Growth
An occasional yellow leaf is completely normal for a snake plant. As the plant ages, old leaves yellow, die, and drop off as they're replaced with new ones.
How to Treat Yellowing Leaves on Snake Plant
Once you narrow down the reason your snake plant has yellow leaves, you'll want to address the issue quickly to keep your plant healthy. However, yellow leaves won't turn green again even if the issue is remedied, so it's best to cut them off with sharp, sanitized pruners or scissors at the base of the plant.
Check your plant's soil moisture. If the soil feels soggy and you've been watering frequently, overwatering could be to blame. Let the soil dry out completely before watering again. In extreme cases, you may need to repot the plant in fresh soil and inspect the roots for signs of rot.
If your snake plant's leaves look sunburned and the plant is getting direct sunlight, move it further away from the light source or use a sheer curtain to filter the light and make it less intense. Address inconsistent temperature by keeping the plant away from drafty areas and putting it in a space with a more consistent temperature.
Inspect your snake plant regularly for signs of pests. Remove insects with blasts of water or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, then use neem oil or horticultural soap to prevent them from coming back. Keep your plant healthy going forward to lessen the likelihood that pests will attack.
If you haven't fertilized or refreshed your snake plant's soil in a few years and other causes don't apply, repot it with fresh soil. If the plant seems potbound, use a pot one size larger or divide the plant and repot it in its original container. If you suspect overfertilizing is the issue, flush your plant's soil several times with water to remove excess nutrients. Going forward, only fertilize your snake plant twice per year in spring and summer.
The best way to keep your snake plant's leaves from turning yellow is to give it the proper growing conditions and basic care. Make sure the plant has bright, indirect light and consistently warm temperatures, and water only once the soil has fully dried out. Keep an eye out for problems and catch them early on to keep your plant looking healthy and beautiful.
Chlorosis. University of Illinois Extension.