It's been more than one month since I planted this Mother-in-Law's Tongue/Snake Plant. It was fine in the first few weeks. I had put it near my Wi-fi where less light reached it. It was doing fine until I noticed that a stem (leaf?) died, and I plucked it with ease, so I moved it to my north-facing window, as I thought low light was the cause of the dead leaf.

Now there is a hole big enough to see if the soil is dry or not. I water it once a month, and it's been around 20 days since I watered it. Lately, another leaf is getting yellow and brown:

enter image description here

Another thing I observed is the plant is kind like wilting. They were all straight and tightly packed, like all snake plants are, but now they have gone wilting:

enter image description here

enter image description here enter image description here

Today, I tried to lift the drowsy stem, and I found that it had gone kaput. At least that's what I think happened. I pulled it with little to no effort, and it came out. Another leaf of the same stem came out easily, like someone just put it there:

enter image description here

enter image description here enter image description here

Then, there is this young stem that came out completely:

enter image description here

enter image description here enter image description here

In case it is needed, here is the soil:

enter image description here

What's wrong with this plant? Why so many weird things are happening?

  • 1
    this is root rot from overwatering – kevinskio Jul 31 '16 at 20:16
  • @kevinsky so the plants are dead? or should I propagate? – 4-K Aug 1 '16 at 11:12
  • 1
    No they aren't dead, yet. I'd repot with potting soil in a pot slightly larger preferably clay. Don't water until the soil drys out quite a bit. Use distilled or bottled water, not tap water. Cut off the mushy stuff and you'll be fine. No rocks or gravel at the bottom of the plant just soil, drainage hole and always dump saucer. – stormy Aug 1 '16 at 19:56
  • 1
    I understand what you are going through. You are a true gardener to be able to feel angst for a plant. Is there a 'witness protection' service in your area for plants? Grins. Were you able to show her all our comments? Most house plants die from over watering, next would be over fertilization. Tell her you did this for HER, got some information because that plant is sentimental to you and your relationship? I would fold if my son told me that... – stormy Aug 2 '16 at 19:11
  • 1
    Ah well, baby birds HAVE to leave the nest sooner rather than later. You can love your family but you don't have to like them nor do you have to emulate them. Life is full of heartache, no getting around that. We are supposed to become BETTER than our parents, that is a good thing. You are a GARDENER and I don't say that to many peoples! Huggs. – stormy Aug 3 '16 at 21:04

I don't know what planting medium you've used, but it looks like mud rather than good potting compost, number one, and number two, it would appear the pot you've used has no drainage hole in the bottom. I'm assuming that because you have it standing on the floor in the house without any kind of receptacle outside to catch water when the pot drains down.

Find another pot with a drainage hole, either one large one or several small ones, stand that inside an outer pot or tray, empty the outer container 30 minutes after watering the plant, to make sure its not sitting in water. Use some good potting compost to repot with, which should mean it drains down better. When you repot, try not to leave soil inside the bottom of the leaves.

These two things are likely to be the cause of the problems you've been having.


You say there is a drainage hole, and you previously had a different plant growing in the same soil that's in the pot. Turn the plant out of its pot, wash and sterilize the pot (doesn't look like that's going to be easy, since it appears to be rough clay or concrete) wash off as much soil as you can without damaging the plant, repot in new, proper potting compost, water in well, allow it to drain freely for 30 minutes or so.

  • There is a drainage hole :( – 4-K Jul 31 '16 at 14:12
  • What's the potting medium? Is it just soil from the garden? How do you water the plant without soaking the floor? – Bamboo Jul 31 '16 at 14:12
  • I don't know :( There was Indian Curry Plant in it before. It was growing well in it so my Mom planted the Snake Plant in it. – 4-K Jul 31 '16 at 14:14
  • Thanks! I will soon get new pots and soil when I get more snake plants. I will try to avoid sterilizing it, as the pot is made of concrete with bits of stone embedded. – 4-K Jul 31 '16 at 14:20
  • 1
    Manure contains pathogens as well as good stuff - on or in the ground, thst's fine, but contained in a pot, its risky, true for all potted plants, not just yours. It might be fine - but it may well not be. If the manure has been processed and treated, say into pellets, they're less risky. – Bamboo Aug 2 '16 at 15:42

My best guess is that the roots are rotting, and therefore the leaves that are dying aren't really connected to the plant at all.

The usual cause is pathogens in the compost. It's easy to physically damage succulent plants like the Snake Plant when you repot them. Overwatering, or irregular watering, can also physically damage the plant below ground level if the roots or leaves swell too quickly as they take up a lot of water. Any small damaged areas will let the bugs get into the plant and rot it from the inside outwards. If you have any bigger bugs or insects living in the soil, they can also cause root damage (the OP is in India - I have no idea what bugs you might find on house plants there!)

If you get the plant out of the pot and remove the soil from the roots you will probably find that the healthy roots (if any) are light coloured and the diseased ones are darker. If there are hardly any healthy roots, you might as well just throw the plant away. Otherwise, sterilize a knife (e.g. wash the blade in household bleach and then rinse the bleach off it - and don't finish by drying it on a dirty towel and put another collection of bugs on it) and cut away all the diseased roots and leaves. Then replant it in fresh compost - and preferably not from a bag of compost that somebody bought years ago, which has been sitting around accumulating pests and diseases from the environment.

You can sterilize soil and compost in a microwave. Add enough water to make sure the compost is damp, use a microwaveable container with a loose fitting lid (so any steam given off won't explode it!) and heat on full power for about 1 minute per pound of compost.

Clean the inside of the pot thoroughly. Ideally you need to sterilize it as well. If it is glazed (smooth and waterproof) on the inside, you can scrub it clean using household bleach diluted 10:1 with water, and then rinse off the bleach with running water. Otherwise, the best way is to bake the pot in an oven at about 300C for 4 hours. If you put the pot in when the oven is cold, it won't crack. And don't forget the pot will be HOT (and stay hot for a long time!) after you baked it.

The "Curry Plant" that was previously in the pot is actually a tree, and trees tend to be pretty tough at surviving diseases. Succulents like the Snake Plant aren't so tough.

  • the pot is made of concrete with stones embedded, so it is not a god idea to bake the pot else the glass plate will break :( BTW, a great answer, sad I cannot choose two :( – 4-K Aug 3 '16 at 13:20
  • But aren't all trees plant? – 4-K Aug 3 '16 at 13:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.