Save a Rotting Snake Plant




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 BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Mart...

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.

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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!

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    7 Discussions


    Question 4 months ago

    "Keep the mix moist, but not wet." … Oops. So, I didn't water it. After a couple of weeks I checked them and the ends were yellowing. I'm going to cut more off and try again, my question is this: Can I reuse the same potting mix? Or is it possible/likely that the rotting plant could compromise the soil and I should just get rid of it and start again? I also read elsewhere that the leaves can be left out for a week to callous over, so I might try that as well, or at least a few days. I still have hope for my little leaves... I think. Thanks!


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    Hi. I neglected my snake plant for a little too long and is basically falling out of the pot. So I gave it a little tug and noticed there wasn’t long roots and the bottom of snake plant was orange. Can I save it or is it dead? It hasn’t grown much but the leaves are still bright and green


    2 years ago on Step 2

    I have tried doing this twice (instructions from other sites) and failed. No one ever mentioned leaving it 24 hours to callous over. I'm giving it another shot. I have two snakes with ridiculously long leaves I don't have to heart to throw away. They will be cut and become new snakes. Don't know how to thank you.


    2 years ago

    About 2 1/2 years ago, my neighbor gave me half of an enormous snake plant that someone had given her. It sat in my basement that winter (she gave it to me in the fall, and I didn't have time to repot the beast). Long story short (or longer), I got an appropriately sized pot and repotted it the following spring/early summer. It actually took some abuse (rained on, water-logged, bright sun), but still came away unscathed.

    I finally brought it in the house, where it was thriving for awhile; that is until...yep, I over watered the poor thing. I guess I never realized that this was a succulent, or that I needed to severely cut back on watering. Needless to say, it started to droop and sections just kept coming out one by one. The wretched smell was the telltale sign of what I had done. I removed the rotting stuff and left it alone for about 5 weeks and finally watered it. Well, I guess it was too much, even though it didn't seem like it, and the same thing is happening again. I feel so bad that this once beautiful plant, that had so much new growth is just tanking before my eyes!

    After plucking out some more smelly leaves this morning, I also noticed some spider web looking stuff inside one of the leaves and am now beginning to wonder if there is something more sinister going on here. I don't know, but will try rooting some pieces nevertheless.


    2 years ago

    I grew 2 snake plants to a height of about 5', and they even bloomed! I was so proud of them, and they made a beautiful statement in my living room.
    One day I noticed that one had a leaf completely collapsed. I was shocked, but not enough to examine closer. Well, more & more collapsed, and they were now falling on the second plant.
    So, finally I took them out of their pots, and found the rot had spread throughout. I tried cutting the mushy parts of and than replanting, but every time they just started rotting again, and smelled bad! I ended up losing both my beautiful plants. Apparently the rot went too far.
    I was crushed and actually just cried over it. I couldn't believe I had murdered these 2 mature & beautiful plants. It certainly humbled me.
    Sine then, I have grown more because I just love them. But the trauma of losing them made me much more careful First sign of trouble, you have to act. Waiting does not help. And even after years of taking care of them, you can slip up and over water. It can happen to anyone! Let root rot go on too long, and you will lose the plant. I wish I had seen this article back then!


    2 years ago

    I will try this one. My neighbor gave me two of hers and I am having this problem. I think when we went on vacation my friend watered them and I forgot to tell her not to. They keep dropping the leaves and they are soggy at the ends. I'm sure this will work. Thank you


    2 years ago

    I am surprised that almost 90,000 people have read your instructable, and I am the first to comment. First of all, thank you! I have had so many people tell me it was impossible to kill a snake plant, but I either caused a (bad) miracle or everyone is wrong.

    I did almost exactly as you did, with two differences: I mixed coarse garden sand with that potting mix which is supposed to regulate moisture, and before allowing the leaves to dry, I dipped them in rooting hormone, which is available with plant food and the like. Now I water my snake plant on the first of each month, and then only sparingly. In summer, they sometimes start to look droopy, and if they are really dry, they get watered again. The plant (and all my other succulents) get plant food once a year, mixed at half strength.

    This may not be optimum treatment, but they have grown from a joke gift in 2" plastic pots to big, healthy looking plants in 8" or 10" clay pots. Thank you for your wonderful instructable, and I hope your plants are happy and healthy.