Struggling with brown spots on snake plants and not sure what to do about it?
I’ve owned snake plants for several years and have dealt with brown spots quite a few times. In most cases, overwatering is to blame, but it can also be due to other factors like sun scorch or problems with fertilizer.
In most cases, brown spots do not mean the end of your snake plant, and in this guide, I’ll walk you through 11 reasons why it can happen with solutions for each case.
- How To Use This Guide
- 11 Causes of Brown Spots on Snake Plants (With Solutions)
- 1. Overwatering
- 2. Underwatering
- 3. Excess Chlorine
- 4. Light Conditions
- 5. Fungal Diseases
- 6. Pest Infestation
- 7. Fertilizer Burn
- 8. Humidity
- 9. Temperature Issues
- 10. Wrong Soil Type
- 11. Nutrient Deficiency
- How To Prevent Brown Spots On Snake Plants In The Future
How To Use This Guide
The easiest way to figure out what is causing the brown spots on your snake plant is to quickly look at all 11 factors using the table of contents to see where your problem lies.
From there, you can quickly find the solution for that specific problem and see how your snake plant reacts.
Remember, snake plants are incredibly hardy so a few brown spots isn’t the end of the world. As long as you address the underlying cause fairly quickly, your plant should be fine.
11 Causes of Brown Spots on Snake Plants (With Solutions)
Let’s get straight into the list.
Overwatering is a common cause of brown spots on snake plants. When you give your snake plant too much water, it can lead to problems such as root rot, which in turn can cause brown spots on the leaves.
The first signs of overwatering may include wilted and soft leaves. Eventually, these will change color and may develop yellow or brown spots and patches as they do.
To fix an overwatered snake plant, the first thing you need to do is let the soil dry out. In most cases, that is all you will need to do.
In severe cases where root rot has set in you will need to trim affected roots – you can find more details of this in number 5 in the list.
Avoid overwatering by using the following tips:
- Check the soil moisture: Before watering your snake plant, check if the soil is dry at least one to two inches below the surface.
- Use the right pot: Choose pots with drainage holes to help avoid waterlogged soil. If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, consider repotting into one that does.
- Water sparingly: Water your snake plant sparingly, and be sure to pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer after watering.
- Adjust your watering schedule: Snake plants require less water in fall and winter, so make sure to adjust your watering frequency according to the season.
If your snake plant leaves are already soft, mushy, or showing brown spots, you can trim the damaged leaves by cutting them off neatly with a sharp, sterile pair of scissors or a clean knife, avoiding healthy parts of the leaves.
Remember to always sanitize your cutting tools before using them on your plants to prevent the spread of infections.
Underwatering is a common issue that can lead to brown spots on your snake plant. When underwatered, the plant becomes stressed, and its leaves may turn brown, curl, and eventually develop a wrinkly texture before falling off.
If your snake plant has crispy leaves, underwatering is almost always to blame (aside from sun scorch in rare scenarios).
The soil will also dry out which can affect root growth and overall growth of the plant.
To address underwatering, it’s essential to develop a consistent watering schedule tailored to your snake plant’s needs.
The first thing you need to do is water the soil thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain out of the holes at the bottom. Once the soil has been watered properly, leave your plant alone and water properly over the next few weeks or days depending on the temperature.
Remember to only water when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil become dry, and feel free to prune any leaves that have turned brown and crispy due to underwatering.
3. Excess Chlorine
Chlorine is a common chemical used to disinfect water, but it may lead to brown spots on your snake plant.
This is because chlorine, along with sodium and fluoride, can harm the plant when present in the water that you use to water your plant.
It’s very hard to know if chlorine is the problem, but it’s worth changing the type of water you use to find out.
- Use filtered water or rainwater: Use rainwater or distilled water over the next few weeks to see if chlorine is the issue. These types of water contain much less chlorine and are an easy way to check for it.
- Monitor the plant’s progress: After switching to filtered or rainwater, keep an eye on the plant’s growth and its leaves to see if the brown spots begin to fade or if new ones form. If the condition doesn’t improve, other factors might be to blame.
4. Light Conditions
Snake plants are known for surviving with little sunlight, but they actually do best in bright, indirect sunlight.
Direct sunlight on the leaves can lead to sun scorch, which happens when the leaves dry out due to increased transpiration caused by the intense sunlight.
Sun scorch can result in lots of brown spots forming on the leaves with yellow outlines.
Leaves affected by sun scorch will eventually die and fall off, and it’s pretty easy to spot as it will affect leaves that are facing the sun more harshly than others.
The first thing to do is move your snake plant to an area with indirect sunlight.
After that, examine the leaves and prune any that have been severely scorched. I like to water my snake plants if they are affected by sun scorch to ensure the remaining leaves have enough hydration to stay healthy.
Here are a few other tips for keeping your snake plant safe from the sun:
- Keep your snake plant near a north or east-facing window for moderate, indirect sunlight.
- If your snake plant is in a room with south or west-facing windows, place it further away from the window to avoid direct sunlight, or use sheer curtains to diffuse the light.
- Rotate your snake plant every few weeks to ensure all sides receive equal exposure to the light.
5. Fungal Diseases
One of the primary causes of brown spots on snake plants is a fungal infection.
Fungal diseases often result from overwatering or water remaining on the leaves, leading to the development of a fungus.
If the leaves are suffering from a disease like red leaf spot or rust, affected leaves need to be pruned and the rest of the plant treated with a fungicide.
For root rot, you’ll need to remove your snake plant from its soil and gently brush away the soil around the roots to examine them.
If any roots are mushy and discolored they have rotten and will need to be removed with a pruning tool. Afterward, the rest of the roots need to be treated with fungicide and the plant repotted in fresh soil.
Preventing Fungal Diseases
It’s much easier to keep fungal diseases away as they can quickly kill your snake plant if they are not dealt with.
Here are some easy tips to achieve this:
- Watering schedule: Allow the soil to dry out a bit before you water your plant again. Snake plants are succulents and can store water in their leaves; they do not need frequent watering. Overwatering can create a damp environment favorable for fungi development.
- Proper drainage: Ensure that your snake plant has a suitable pot with drainage holes. This will prevent water from accumulating at the bottom, which can cause root rot.
- Avoid water on leaves: When watering your snake plant, try not to get any water on the leaves. If water droplets do end up on the leaves, gently shake the plant, or use a clean cloth to blot the water.
If you suspect that your snake plant is suffering from a disease, it’s always best to act quickly for the best chance of revival.
6. Pest Infestation
Brown spots on your snake plant can be caused by pest infestations, such as mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids.
These pests can cause damage to the leaves as they feed on the sap, resulting in brown discoloration and eventually killing entire leaves.
First, inspect your snake plant’s leaves and soil carefully for any signs of pests.
Look out for residue on the leaves as well as irregular yellow or brown spots. Some pests like mealybugs will be visible to the eye, while others like spider mites are much harder to see.
If you discover pests on your plant, there are a few steps you can take to get rid of them and prevent further damage:
- Remove Infested Leaves: Gently remove any heavily infested or damaged leaves from your plant. This helps prevent the pests from spreading to healthy parts of the plant.
- Wash Your Plant: Give your plant a shower. Use water and a soft cloth or sponge to gently clean the leaves and stems. Be sure to get both the tops and undersides of the leaves. This will help wash away pests and their eggs.
- Use Insecticidal Soap: Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil on the affected areas of your plant to kill and deter pests. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage and dosage.
- Maintain a Healthy Environment: Pests often thrive in stagnant, dense environments. Improve air circulation around your plant, and ensure it receives appropriate watering and light levels.
This is another case where prevention is much better than dealing with the consequences.
Pest infestations can quickly spread to other plants and lead to death if they are not dealt with, so you should make it part of your routine to look out for them.
7. Fertilizer Burn
Fertilizer burn can cause brown spots on your snake plant. This issue occurs when excess minerals, particularly salts, build up in the soil.
Excess salt draws moisture from the plant, which dries out the leaves leading to yellow and brown spots and root damage.
Certain nutrients like nitrogen are needed for proper leaf growth, so it’s still important to get the right balance of nutrients.
- Water your snake plant thoroughly: Giving your plant a good soak can help flush out the built-up salts. Remember to let the excess water drain, as snake plants prefer to dry out a bit between waterings.
- Repot your snake plant: If the damage is extensive, it might be best to repot your plant into fresh soil. Choose a well-draining mix and a pot slightly larger than the current one. Be gentle with the roots to minimize damage during the process.
- Go easy on the fertilizer: To prevent future issues, it’s best to use fertilizer sparingly for your snake plant. Generally, they don’t need much – I usually fertilizer once per month during the summer and that’s about it.
After repotting and watering your snake plant will recover quite quickly.
Snake plants prefer low to moderate humidity levels, ideally between 40-50%, which is pretty much the average for most homes.
Maintaining the right humidity levels is essential for the health of your snake plant and can prevent brown spots from appearing on its leaves.
If the humidity is particularly low, you will notice brown spots appearing at the tips of leaves.
High humidity on the other hand can promote fungus growth and attract pests, both of which can be responsible for brown spots on the leaves.
To maintain the ideal humidity for your snake plant, follow these simple steps:
- Monitor humidity levels: Invest in a hygrometer to measure the humidity in your home. This will help you determine if adjustments need to be made for your snake plant.
- Increase humidity if necessary: If your snake plant is experiencing low humidity, you can make a few changes to increase it. Place a pebble tray underneath the plant or use a humidifier in the room where it is located. Grouping your snake plant with other plants can also help raise humidity levels, as plants naturally release moisture into the air through transpiration.
- Decrease humidity if necessary: If the humidity around your snake plant is too high, you can improve air circulation with the help of fans or by opening windows.
Humidity is not usually a problem for snake plants given how tolerable they are of average humidity levels, but it’s worth measuring the humidity to rule it out.
9. Temperature Issues
Snake plants are quite hardy and can adapt to various temperature ranges and prefer a range between 60°F and 80°F (15°C-26°C).
However, they might develop brown spots if exposed to extreme temperatures, such as excessive heat or cold drafts. In addition to brown spots, extreme temperatures may cause other issues like leaves curling or turning yellow.
If you think that temperature is to blame, I would recommend using a thermometer to measure the temperature throughout the day and move your snake plant if it is outside of the 60°F and 80°F (15°C-26°C) range.
Unless the temperature fluctuations have been extreme (freezing or extremely hot, for example), your snake plant will bounce back to health when placed in the right temperature zone.
10. Wrong Soil Type
The soil type can cause brown spots on your snake plant.
Snake plants prefer well-draining soil that prevents too much moisture from accumulating around their roots. Using the wrong soil type can lead to poor water drainage, causing the plant’s roots to rot and developing brown spots on the leaves.
To check if your soil is well-draining, water it thoroughly and check how much water comes out of the bottom drainage holes.
If water isn’t flowing out readily, you will need to repot your snake plant into a fresh soil mix.
- Prepare a well-draining soil mixture: You can use a mixture of potting soil, coarse sand, and peat moss. This mixture will provide proper drainage and necessary nutrients for your snake plant.
- Remove the plant from its current pot: Carefully take your snake plant out of the pot, being gentle with the roots. Shake off the excess old soil attached to the roots.
- Trim any damaged roots: If you notice any rotten or damaged roots, trim them off using a clean pair of scissors or pruning shears.
- Repot the plant: Place some of the new soil mixture in the pot and gently position your snake plant’s roots over it. Fill the rest of the pot with the soil mix, ensuring the plant is positioned at the same depth as it was in the previous pot.
- Water the plant: After repotting, give your snake plant a good watering to help the roots establish themselves in the new soil.
Monitor your snake plant over the next few weeks after repotting to ensure that it settles in well to its new soil.
11. Nutrient Deficiency
One of the reasons for brown spots on your snake plant may be a nutrient deficiency.
When the roots are unable to absorb nutrients, it can lead to deficiencies in the leaves, causing brown spots to appear (remember how nitrogen is primarily responsible for leaf growth).
This issue can arise due to improper watering, root-bound plants, or can be simply due to a lack of nutrients in the first place.
Nutrient deficiencies are complicated because they can be caused by several things.
Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you are covering every possible factor:
- Make sure your watering schedule is correct. Proper watering allows for the proper absorption of nutrients, so only water when the top one to two inches of soil are dry.
- Fertilize with a complete fertilizer – I usually fertilize my snake plants once per month in the summer, but the frequency can depend on several factors like the size of your plant, temperature, etc.
- Check the roots and repot if necessary. If the roots are bound this will affect absorption, and it’s a good idea to repot every few years to boost the nutrient profile of the soil and allow for new root growth.
As long as you keep these points in mind, your snake plant should be getting all the nutrients it needs.
How To Prevent Brown Spots On Snake Plants In The Future
To prevent brown spots on your snake plant in the future, it’s essential to maintain a healthy environment and follow proper care guidelines.
Here are a few tips to help you keep your snake plant free from brown spots:
- Watering: Be mindful of your plant’s watering needs. Over-watering can lead to root rot and cause brown spots on the leaves. Make sure the soil dries out sufficiently between waterings.
- Soil: Ensure your snake plant has well-draining soil, as waterlogged soil can suffocate the roots and lead to root rot. Consider adding sand or perlite to your soil mix to achieve this.
- Sunlight, Humidity & Temperature: Keep the temperature between 60°F and 80°F (15°C-26°C), with humidity around 40-50%, and opt for bright, indirect sunlight.
- Pot and Drainage: Choose a pot with drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom. Proper drainage is vital to avoid root rot and maintain healthy roots.
- Ventilation and Air Circulation: Increase air circulation around your plant to reduce the chances of fungal or bacterial issues that can cause brown spots. Make sure your plant is not overcrowded and has enough space for air to circulate.
That’s pretty much everything!
Remember that brown spots on snake plants are not a super serious issue, and most of the time you’ll just need to optimize a few conditions and your plant will bounce back to health.
If there are multiple brown spots appearing and the overall growth of your snake plant is slowing down, a more serious issue is likely to blame. Use this guide to quickly identify the problem that your snake plant is facing and implement the solution.
If you want to learn more about snake plants, check out some of our other articles below:
- Can You Plant Two Snake Plants Together?
- Snake Plant Vs. Spider Plant
- ZZ Plant Vs. Snake Plant
- Can You Give Coffee Grounds To Snake Plants?