Snake plants are a popular choice as a houseplant as they are fairly hardy and easy to take care of. But, as with any plant, the snake plant can have its problems.
I grew up with snake plants being all over the house, so this is one plant I knew the name of, and how to pick it out amongst other houseplants, quite distinctly from a young age.
One of the most common problems associated with growing snake plants is when the plant develops brown tips.
But why does this happen? And what can you do about it? Keep reading and I’ll tell you more.
What Are Snake Plants
Snake plants are native to the tropical regions of West Africa.
I was always raised calling it a snake plant, or mother-in-laws tongue (which always made me giggle), but it is also known as viper’s bowstring hemp and Saint George’s sword.
It’s biological name is Dracaena Trifasciata.
This houseplant is both evergreen and perennial. It grows stiff, tall leaves which, when mature, are dark green in colour.
It survives well in areas, like West Africa, where drought is common.
Reasons Why A Snake Plant Has Brown Tips
I have to admit, I always thought brown tips on a snake plant, or other plants like this were totally normal.
My mother and grandmother took good care of their houseplants, but I distinctly remember them always having brown tips. So I knew no different.
Consequently, my mother-in-laws tongues – or snake plants – have always had brown tips too.
It was only as I started to learn more about gardening and as I tried to improve my green-fingered abilities that I realised brown tips on a snake plant can indicate an issue.
Brown tips on your snake plant can actually be an indication that your plant has undergone some stress.
They are effectively dead areas of the leaves – and these dead areas have occurred for a reason. But what are the main causes of this?
More often than not, the tips will turn brown due to overwatering or – on the other end of the scale – not enough water.
Check your soil – is it water clogged or is it dry even when you pop your finger a few centimetres into the soil? This will give you a good indication of whether you are providing your plant with enough water or not.
Interestingly, there could also be an issue with the chlorine levels in the water. If you suspect this to be the case, it can be helpful to filter your water before giving it to your houseplants.
I mentioned that snake plants are common in warm conditions and in areas where there is a lot of sunlight, but, that’s in relation to the wild plants.
If your snake plants at home aren’t used to direct sunlight, and you move it to a sunnier spot, you may see it develop brown leaf tips.
This is not to say that you can’t relocate your snake plant, but you may need to acclimatise it a little before you move it to that warm, sunny window spot.
Too Much Fertilizer
As with water, it is also possible to give your plant too much fertilizer.
Snake plants are commonly found in areas where the soil isn’t super rich in nutrients and, as such, the plant has adapted.
Therefore, if you are adding fertilizer to your snake plant too often – obviously with all the best intentions – you could end up doing more harm than good.
Pests are every gardener’s nemesis – whether you’re growing plants indoors or out.
It’s unsurprising that pests are a common reason for the tips of snake plants turning brown.
Spider mites and mealy bugs are common pests attracted to snake plants.
Take a good look at the leaves of your plant for signs of pests and, if you find any, treat with a suitable pesticide.
As I’ve mentioned, snake plants originate from warmer climes. As such, they don’t fare well in colder weather.
If you keep your snake plants indoors, this really shouldn’t be an issue. But, if you keep them outdoors, they may suffer from cold stress which can result in brown leaf tips.
These houseplants enjoy humid environments, so, if the air in your home is too dry, this can have an impact on the health of your snake plants.
Misting your plant can be really helpful in combatting low humidity or, if you have a humidifier, you can use this instead.
Can You Cut The Brown Tips Off Your Snake Plant?
If there isn’t a great deal of damage to your plant’s leaves, and the brown area hasn’t spread too far, you should be fine to safely cut off the tips.
Just remember that the tips won’t actually grow back though – so think about the aesthetic of the plant before you get to work cutting the tips off.
Top Tips For A Healthy Snake Plant
Okay, so now we have a good idea as to why the tips of the leaves on a snake plant can go brown, so let’s recap on some top tips for caring for this type of houseplant:
- Only water your snake plant when the soil is dry to prevent overwatering (but check the soil regularly so it doesn’t dry out too much)
- Snake plants enjoy humidity so consider misting your plant with water every couple of weeks
- Regularly check for signs of pests and treat accordingly
- Don’t expose your plant to too much direct sunlight if it’s not used to it
- Remove dust from your snake plant’s leaves gently by using a damp cloth – don’t use any products
If you follow the above, you should have a happy and healthy houseplant.
Now you know that brown tips on your snake plant aren’t necessarily normal, and hopefully you are now armed with the information to grow healthy snake plants, I’m sure your houseplants will flourish.
Remember to ensure your snake plants have the right conditions and the correct amount of water.
And if the brown tips are just small, you should be perfectly safe just snipping them off.