You know what your Snake Plant is supposed to look like: a cluster of stripy, sword-shaped leaves pushing up into the air. But yours won’t stand up straight – it’s tilting to the side like an Italian tourist trap. What’s making your Snake Plant lean over and what can you do about it?
The worst-case scenario is that your Snake Plant is drooping from root rot. In that case, you’ll have to cut away all the infected tissue and replant it. Other less serious possible causes include top-heavy growth, lighting issues, and pressure from the roots. These aren’t likely to cause serious harm to your Snake Plant, but they can mess up its appearance and cause you some headaches.
You can often keep your plant from leaning by making sure it’s getting enough sunlight. You should also rotate it every so often to keep its growth even on all sides. If your Snake Plant’s roots aren’t deep enough to anchor it, repotting into a deeper container can help. For more tips on straightening out your Snake Plant, just keep reading!
How a Healthy Snake Plant Grows
As a caring houseplant owner, you want to take swift action when something is wrong with your Sansevieria. But a Snake Plant can have a few quirks and still be healthy. One or two leaves growing at an angle isn’t cause for alarm.
Snake Plants grow in a mostly vertical direction, but they often splay out a bit as they fill out their pots. The outer leaves, in particular, often grow on a bit of a diagonal.
Also, some varieties of Snake Plant are straighter than others. Cultivars like the Bird’s Nest or Twisted Sister have leaves that spread out to the sides for a bushier look. Species with tubular leaves, like Rhino Grass or Starfish Sansevieria, tend to grow in a fan-shaped arrangement. For these Snake Plants, tilting leaves are business as usual. So make sure you have a clear idea of how straight your plant’s leaves should be!
Now let’s look at some more problematic scenarios.
#1: Your Snake Plant is Going Soft
Some Snake Plants lean over because their foliage is turning soft and squishy at the bottom. Without a firm base to hold them up, the leaves flop to the sides.
This points to some pretty serious problems with your plant. We have a detailed article on diagnosing and solving this issue, but we’ll run through the basics here.
The prime suspect is root rot. This happens because you’re watering too often, or because the soil doesn’t dry out quickly enough. This allows microbes to build up to dangerous levels in the soil until they infect the roots.
If you don’t spot root rot early, the infection can make its way up from the roots and start turning the lower parts of the leaves to mush. The only treatment is to clip off all the infected parts of your plant.
Take it out of the soil, disinfect some pruning scissors, and remove any roots that are dark, limp, or slimy. Then slice off any leaf tissue that’s turned soggy. Sometimes this means getting rid of large chunks of the foliage. Sadly, there’s no alternative if you want to save your Snake Plant. Rinse the roots with a ¼ strength solution of hydrogen peroxide. Then plant your Sansevieria in a clean pot with fresh potting mix and hope for the best.
What if you don’t find any signs of rot when you inspect the roots? The soft spots on your Snake Plant’s leaves could be from cold shock or a fungal infection. You should still cut out the infected areas, but aggressive surgery on the root system won’t be necessary.
#2: Your Snake Plant is Falling Over
Your Snake Plant’s leaves are firm and healthy, but it keeps tipping on to its side. Why can’t your plant stay standing in its pot?
The simplest explanation is that it’s gotten top-heavy. Snake Plants tend to have shallow root systems and tall, thick foliage. With so much of their mass above the soil, they can become very unsteady. Sometimes they fall to one side and yank their roots out of the ground. Other times they’ll tip the entire pot over with them.
If you have an older Snake Plant with tall and heavy leaves, you may need to move it to a deeper pot for extra support. Be careful, though. When there’s a lot of soil in the container, it can take a lot longer to dry out after you water it. That’s a problem for any plant, but it’s especially bad for Sansevierias. As we explained above, soggy soil makes them vulnerable to root rot.
When moving your Snake Plant to a deeper pot, plant it further down than usual. There should only be an inch or two of soil underneath the deepest roots. This lowers the risk of the soil getting waterlogged. It will also help to prop up the foliage since the walls of the pot will come up higher on the leaves.
Sometimes, a Snake Plant’s leaves will fall over and reveal that there are no roots at all underneath. This almost always means that you’ve been overwatering it. The root system has been completely devoured by rot.
You may still be able to revive your Sansevieria by planting the leaves in a smaller pot with fresh soil. Make sure to use a potting mix with good drainage to avoid this issue in the future.
#3: The Leaves On Your Snake Plant Are Curving to One Side
Your Snake Plant isn’t falling over yet, but it is bending to one side like it’s doing houseplant yoga. What’s happening here? This growth pattern means that your Snake Plant is reaching for the sun. When a plant’s light is all coming from one window, its growth will concentrate on that side.
You can prevent this by giving your plant a quarter-turn every few days. This helps keep its exposure even on all sides. Unfortunately, this won’t straighten out the slanted foliage. Your Snake Plant will develop a more even look over time, but the existing leaves will always have a bit of a bend in them.
#4: Your Snake Plant is Growing a Pup
What if the leaves don’t seem to be curling, but the whole clump of foliage looks like it’s leaning to one side? This could mean that your plant is ready to be a parent.
Snake Plants can flower and reproduce from seed, but this is very rare indoors. Usually, they multiply asexually by pushing new rhizomes out from their roots. These underground stems pop up and sprout leaves a little way off from the main plant. Sometimes these “pups” can press so hard against the walls of the pot that they push the rest of the plant off-kilter. (Other times, they may crack the container!)
See if you can spot any nubs of green peeking up near the edges of your Snake Plant’s container. If so, the thick rhizome below it is probably what’s tilting your plant.
This is a good opportunity to propagate your plant. You can uproot it, slice the new extension off from the rest of the roots, and plant it in a small pot. With patience and care, it will one day grow into a mature Snake Plant. Make sure you wipe down your knife or shears with some rubbing alcohol before making the cut.
If you don’t feel like multiplying your Snake Plant, you can discard the pup or move the whole plant to a larger pot.
Note that pups are no threat to your Snake Plant’s health. Unless you’re worried that the pot will break or your plant will tip over, you don’t need to fix the problem right this second. The best time to repot or propagate is the early spring, when the growing season is getting started.
To read more about propagation, check out How to Remove, Repot, and Propagate Snake Plant Pups.
#5: Your Snake Plant’s Foliage is Too Thin
One reason your Snake Plant’s leaves might lean to the sides is that they’re abnormally long and skinny. Without a thick enough base, they can’t hold themselves upright.
This happens because of poor lighting. Though Snake Plants can survive in relatively low light, they prefer brighter conditions. When there’s very little sun, they can become etiolated or leggy. This means that the leaves are rushing to grow as long as possible. The plant is gambling that it can push out of the shade and reach a sunnier area.
Etiolated leaves tend to grow farther apart from one another than normal. They also may get pale and lose some of their lighter-colored variegation. And etiolation often goes hand in hand with the leaves curving one side as we discussed above.
The only way to help a leggy Snake Plant is to move it to a brighter location. East-facing windows are often perfect. Southern or western exposures are also good as long as the plant isn’t right against a window. Sansevierias like to get 2-4 hours of direct light per day, plus another 4-6 hours of bright indirect light.
Make this move in stages. Start by giving your Snake Plant an hour or two a day in the new spot, then increase its time in the sun little by little. This will allow it to build up its tolerance and avoid sunburn. This won’t fix the etiolated leaves won’t change much. But once your Snake Plant is getting enough light, its future growth should be full and healthy.
To read more about what causes skinny Snake Plant leaves and learn how to stop it, read this article.
When your Snake Plant seems to be going sideways, the first thing to check is whether the leaves are going soft. If so, you’ll need to move fast to save it from root rot. Otherwise, you should be able to straighten your plant out with proper lighting, and a nice deep pot. Thanks for reading, and best of luck getting your Snake Plant back in shape!