Why Are My Snake Plant Leaves Curling | How to Fix It

Snake plants, Sansevieria trifasciata, are slow-growing, highly adaptable, and popular houseplants with long, beautiful, vertical leaves and are one of the top contenders on NASA’s air purifying plant list. 

A popular house plant, snake plants are known to be extremely hardy, tolerant, and nearly indestructible, so you must pinpoint the cause of any leaf curling on your long-living tropical companion.  

 Why Do Snake Plant Leaves Curl?

Environmental factors such as soil moisture levels, pH, nutrient availability issues, and improper climate conditions can cause snake plant leaves to curl.

Chlorosis, or the yellowing of leaves, often proceeds leaf curling symptoms, so be watchful for any colour changes from your snake plant’s typical colour and variegation.

What Causes Snake Plant Leaves to Curl

The most common causes of curling leaves on snake plants are issues with soil moisture, tap water contamination, pH, container size, and nutrient availability. 

Leaves Curl and Wilting

The curling and wilting of leaves on snake plants is often caused by dehydration and is the plant’s attempt at limiting further transpiration from its leaves. If low soil moisture continues, leaf chlorosis and browning edges are likely. 

How to Fix:

Immediately water your snake plant with enough water that it drains through. You will likely need to repeat this process 3 – 4 more times over the next few weeks until this most forgiving of plants perks back up.

Leaves Curl and Yellowing

The curling and yellowing of leaves on snake plants is usually caused by saturation of the soil from over-watering or poorly draining soil. 

Progressed symptoms include severe wilting and leaf browning caused by root rot. 

How to Fix

Immediately stop watering and remove any water from the catch tray. Then, only water when the top 2 inches of the soil is dry. Snake plants are very drought tolerant and would instead dry the soil between waterings. 

If overly saturated soil becomes a frequent issue, then transplant your snake plant into a more suitable well-draining soil mixture like the following: 

  • 50% Potting Soil
  • 20% Coco Coir
  • 10% Perlite
  • 10% Black Rice Husk 
  • 10% Horticultural Sand 

Leaves Curling, Yellowing, and Browning

A snake plant turning yellow, or suffering curled leaves or brown leaf edges is typically a sign of root damage from watering with unfiltered tap water. Tap water can contain hard minerals, salts, and contaminants that can damage the roots, cause pH imbalances, and lead to severe nutrient deficiencies. 

Snake plants are often used for phytoremediation, which reveals their astounding ability to uptake these compounds that could potentially cause them harm. 

How to Fix:

Flush your snake plant with the same volume of filtered water that the plant’s container holds. Repeat 3 – 4 times over the next 48 hours. 

If your snake plant is not showing signs of recovery after four days, then the contaminant build-up is too high, and it will be necessary to transplant your snake plant into fresh soil. 

Leaf Curling, Yellowing, and Browning Tips

Curling leaves, chlorosis, and browning tips are indicators of nutrient deficiencies and root shock likely caused by soil pH imbalances. 

Over-fertilization or soil ingredients such as bark can lower pH to unhealthy levels, often fatal if not rectified promptly. 

Leaf Curling, Yellowing, and Browning Tips

How to Fix:

Snake plants prefer a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. Adjust the pH of the soil by using Dolomitic limestone, which also provides calcium and magnesium supplements. 

Apply 2 – 4 Tablespoons per plant of pelletized dolomitic limestone and water thoroughly. It can also be applied in early spring or late fall as fertilizer and pH imbalance prevention. 

Stunted growth

Snake plants with stunted growth followed by leaf curl, severe wilting, and eventual leaf browning can be caused by overly root bound in too small of a container. 

How to Fix:

Re-pot your snake plant into an unglazed clay pot 2 – 4 inches larger than the previous container. 

To limit leaf rot, don’t bury it more profoundly than it was in its previous container. Water thoroughly after transplanting. 

Leaves Curl and Drop

Leaf curling, followed by premature leaf drop, is usually caused by nitrogen deficiencies. Other symptoms include yellowing and browning leaves, especially in its newest growth. 

How to Fix:

According to the University of Florida, potted snake plants benefit from receiving .272 oz of nitrogen per 10 square feet every month. The best results come from using N-P-K ratios of 3-1-2 or 2-1-2. 

These low N-P-K ratios give your efficient tropical plant the boost it needs to retain healthy growth while limiting the possible effects of pH imbalances and chilling injury, which occurs at higher levels of nitrogen fertilization.

Leaves Curling with White Spots

The presence of whitish water-soaked spots followed by leaf curling is often a sign of damage from exposure to temperatures lower than 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms will usually appear within 1 – 4 weeks after exposure. 

How to Fix:

Water your snake plant with at least an inch, just over 1/2 gallons per square foot. 

Avoid fertilizing for several weeks to limit additional stress and new growth, which allows the plant to focus on healing. During this time, only prune plant tissue that is black or mushy, which will help to limit pest infestations. 

Leaves Twisting with Yellow Edges 

If the leaves of your snake plant are twisted with yellow variegated edges, yet the plant is still healthy and showing signs of unwilted leaves, then you might have the ‘Twisted Sister’ variety of snake plants. 

How to Fix:

The twisting and yellow colours are normal phenotypes that happen to be present in this variety of snake plants, and as long as your plant is not wilted, then there is nothing that needs to be done! 

FAQ Snake Plant Leaves Curling

Should I remove curling leaves from my snake plant? 

No, it’s not necessary to remove curled leaves. You are better off focusing on what is causing the curling so that it can be rectified before the leaves turn necrotic. 

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.