Virtually indestructible, the snake plant has been reported to grow best when ignored. For starters, the plant can grow in any light level, including but not limited to those shadowy corners inside your home that other house plants wouldn’t thrive in.
That said, like all other low-maintenance house plants (like the aloe vera), there is one tricky aspect you will need to master to grow this classic houseplant without a hassle. That aspect is the watering sessions, and missing the mark on those could leave wondering how to tell if a snake plant needs water.
We’ve already established that the plant will thrive on neglect, which implies you should only water it when you notice its soil is almost thoroughly dry. Having said that, if you push the wait too far and forget to water the plant for an extended period, do not be surprised to see undesirable symptoms popping up.
How To Tell If A Snake Plant Needs Water
Let us dive deeper into what these signs of underwatering are as well as solutions you can employ to save your underwatered snake plant.
The Plant’s Leaves Feel Brittle
The snake plant is technically a member of the succulent family (just like the aloe vera plant.) This further implies that the plant uses its leaves to store excess water for when seasons of drought kick in.
With that in mind, the leaves of healthy snake plants will usually be easily bendable, slightly shiny, firm, and plump due to all the water they’ve stored up. On the other hand, a dehydrated or sick snake plant in need of water will usually have dull, thin leaves that feel slightly brittle to your touch.
This brings me to the next way to tell if a snake plant needs water.
Like the human skin, a snake plant’s cells will usually lose volume and start to shrivel up after an extended lack of moisture, both of which will cause the plant’s leaves’ surface to start wrinkling. If you ignore the problem further and the plant stays dehydrated, you will begin to see dry brown areas within these wrinkling leaves.
Brown areas on wriggling leaves are usually signs that the snake plant is approaching its terminal dehydration levels.
Dry Soil Throughout The Container
While it’s a general rule of thumb that you should usually let the first two to three inches of soil in any houseplant’s pot dry out before watering the plant again, it’s never a good idea to let the entire soil dry out. This applies to succulent houseplants like the snake plant as well.
Therefore, if you lift the pot you’ve planted your snake plant in, and it feels light as a feather, that is usually a surefire sign that the soil has lost far more moisture than the plant desires. Another way to test the soil’s dryness is to stick one of your fingers in any of the drainage holes at the bottom of the bot.
For more extreme measures, you could try gently removing a root ball from the planting pot and inspecting it.
Leaf Drooping and Curling
In addition to underwatering, drooping and curling snake plant leaves are usually linked to nutrient deficiency caused by the roots’ inability to intake sufficient nutrients. Now, the fact the roots are unable to take in adequate nutrients could be linked to two things, either the soil lacks nutrients, or the roots do not have enough water (which acts as the transport medium for nutrients.)
If your snake plant had been thriving before and issues only started arising after an extended period of underwatering, then you have your answer as to why your snake plants’ leaves aren’t able to hold themselves upright.
A house plant that doesn’t have sufficient water it requires to keep its leaves healthy and alive will, without a doubt, have trouble either growing new ones or growing taller itself.
As such, if you notice that your snake plants have gone a significantly long time without producing new leaves or getting taller, it could be a telltale sign that the plants are severely dehydrated. This is particularly true during summer and spring since this is s usually the active growth season in the plant realm.
Yellowing Base Leaves
Yellowing base leaves will usually be one of the first signs you can use to tell if a snake plant needs water. Why?
Well, once your snake plant starts struggling with dehydration from irregular watering, it starts to allow some of its smallest leaves to die out in an effort to keep the bigger leaves at the top alive. So, immediately you notice that your snake plant boasts a collection of younger basal leaves that have been going yellow and eventually die before reaching maturity, the leading cause could be underwatering.
Browning Leaf Edges/Tips
If the base leaves on your snake plants have started yellowing, but you do nothing about the situation, the next symptom will usually be browning leaf edges and tips.
Usually, when the edges and tips of a plant start turning brown, it’s a sign that the parts aren’t receiving sufficient nutrients. As noted earlier, water is the medium through which plants send nutrients to all their parts, so any browning on the leaves (including edges and tips) will usually signify that you’ve been underwatering your plant.
So, once your snake plant reaches this step of dehydration, take action right away and try saving it because if all leaves on the plant turn brown, it will usually be too late to resurrect your beloved plant.
As you’ve seen, snake plants are naturally one of the most durable plants out there, and even in some of the worst cases, they should be able to bounce back from the point of underwatering.
All you ought to do is carefully observe the soil’s moisture level and the symptoms the plant is trying to communicate to you. These two coupled together are the best way to tell if a snake plant needs water.