Introduction: Save a Rotting Snake Plant

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a degree in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Mar…

I have a confession to make: I really over loved my Snake Plant. Like REEAAALLLYY over loved it. And by over loved, I mean of course, over watered. : ( If this has happened to you, don't despair! Here is one way to try and save face, along with your rotting plant friend.

Sansevieria trifasciata, a.k.a. Snake Plant or Mother-in-law's-tongue, is an extremely hardy plant. (Which makes it all the more embarrassing to have melted mine.) They are very much like succulents in that they don't require very much water and can handle most environments, with the exception of extreme cold.

When they get really droopy, as mine did - trying to tell me it wasn't happy, it will almost always mean too much water. There are many other factors that go into a healthy Snake Plant, but I'm going to focus on good ol' root rot and how to try and save as much of the plant as possible.

Step 1: Supplies

  • a clean pot & saucer- appropriate for the size of your leaves*
  • utility scissors or garden sheers
  • perlite
  • peat moss or vermiculite
  • container to mix the two soil ingredients
  • big wooden spoon

*I used a 6" plastic pot, but if you have it, a clay pot is even better as it offers more aeration for this desert loving plant.

Step 2: Make a Clean Cut!

In order to say goodbye to the rotten ends of your leaves, cut the bottoms off well above the 'melty' and yellowed ends. You want to make a straight cut across in what looks to be a healthy section.

I chose to leave my leaves as long as possible to maintain the 'look' of a plant while they try to take root. If you prefer to ere on the side of caution, cut them even shorter.

NOTE: There is always a chance that a fungus or bacteria has entered the plant's system as a result of the rot and there's no way to know if that's happened, but I always think it's worth a try to save it. If it doesn't work, then I'll throw it out and get a new one.

Let your cut leaves sit for 24 hours to callus over before moving on to the next step. If you have any cinnamon in stock, you can also sprinkle a bit on the ends as it's an anti-fungal. (I was out!)

Step 3: Mix Your Mix

Now, in a mixing container, add 2-3 cups each of perlite and peat moss (50/50). The perlite will offer good aeration while the peat will retain a bit of moisture, without staying too wet. (We don't want a rot re-run...) Don't worry about making too much, just take a guess. You can always save what's left and use it later for other plant biz.

Stir in enough water so that the mix is lightly moist, but not wet.

Step 4: Fill & Plant

Spoon the mix into your pot to about 3/4" below the rim. Pat it down gently with the back of your spoon.

Take each leaf and press it gently, and deeply, into the mix so that they stand up on their own. Press the mix around the leaf bases gently with your fingers.

Once you've inserted all the leaves, put the pot in a warm spot in your house with good, but not direct light. (A North facing window works well.) Keep the mix moist, but not wet. If the roots are in too dry of an environment they will shrivel and die, but too much water isn't good either. Use your judgement and your testing finger!

And finally, put your hands together and say a little prayer to the plant gods. If the propagation is successful, each leaf will take root (and eventually become it's own individual plant) in about 4-6 weeks. You can test them by pulling very gently on the leaves to see if there's resistance.

Once they have started growing roots (positive thinking!), they will eventually start growing new leaves. At that point you will have to move each new cluster to their own pots and dismantle your 'fake' rescue plant arrangement.

Toes crossed!