What Are The Reasons For a Skinny Snake Plant

What are the reasons for a skinny snake plant and how can you prevent or treat them? Snake plants are a group of plants formerly in the genus Sansevieria, now Draecena that originated mainly from Africa. These plants have been spread globally as house plants and garden plants because they are really tough, pretty, and water-efficient. Sometimes these plants can get long and leggy – in the article, we ask “What are the reasons for a skinny snake plant?” and then explore how to fix them!

Leggy Snake Plant Explained

Snake plant leaves will tend to grow narrow if they are not being supplied with the required amount of sunlight. In low light conditions, the leaves will tend to bend and grow towards the light. This causes them to become elongated and narrow. Rotating the plant and supplying additional light will fix the problem.

Snake plant, also called mother-in-law’s tongue, is known botanically as Sansevieria trifasciata. For readers unfamiliar with this plant, it is a popular, very easy-to-grow houseplant that has thick fleshy leaves that are 1-4 feet tall and up to 3 inches across. The leaves have interesting patterns that somewhat resemble a snake’s skin, hence the common name. Plants grown in high light will be well-patterned, but plants grown under low light conditions may be almost solid green. In our mild climate, Sansevieria can be grown successfully outdoors too.

To reduce the height of the plant, cut off the tallest leaves all the way to the soil line. The leaves grow in a rosette pattern from the rhizome in the soil, with the newest leaves at the center of the rosette and the oldest, tallest leaves usually around the outside. This makes it a little easier to reduce your plant’s height without altering the character of the plant. 

The good news is, leggy seedlings can usually be fixed before it’s too late. I’ve transplanted hundreds of tall, floppy seedlings with success, most of which went on to recover and have normal, productive yields.

Use a thin knife to cut the individual leaves away, being careful not to damage adjacent leaves. Remove all the leaves that you think are too tall. The smaller, younger leaves will continue to grow and preserve the character of the plant. If you want to grow additional plants, use the pruned leaves to start new ones.

  1. Pinch back seedlings.
  2. Transplant seedlings deeper.
  3. Increase your lighting.
  4. Provide air movement.
  5. Increase seedling spacing.
  6. Move seedlings off heat.

Skinny Sansevieria – What to do?

The most important factor is a healthy amount of sunlight, which your plant needs to power its expansion. The other important growth boosters are water, fertilizer, and container space. It’s important to be cautious as you increase these growth factors.

The only way to do away with your Snake Plant’s long and skinny foliage is to clip it off. However, if you trim off all the plant’s leaves at once, you’ll deprive it of the ability to photosynthesize, and it will take a lot longer to send up new growth.

While mother-in-law’s tongue is one of the best low-light houseplants in the world, you can make the plant grow faster by keeping it in a bright spot that remains warm. A location with bright indirect sunlight is an ideal spot. Also, a couple of hours with a direct morning sun will boost its growth.Pruning. Whether your Snake Plant is overgrown or it has some damaged leaves you’d like to remove, pruning a Snake Plant is very easy. Using a sharp, clean blade, simply cut off the stalks you’d like to remove at the base, closest as possibly to the soil.///

About The Snake Plant

This plant is native to tropical Africa, but it has been widely cultivated globally. There are actually many species that are sold, but most people view the common Dracaena trifasciata as the sort of generic snake plant against which all others are compared.  The leaves of the snake plant can be up to three feet tall.  The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs along the length of the stem.  These leaves grow close together and may have serrated edges.  They are often referred to as spear-shaped.

It has been cultivated as a house plant in the United States for about 100 years. The plants are perennials, with glossy green, leathery leaves that grow from a rosette at the base of the plant. The roots are thick, sometimes more than an inch or two thick.

Read more about How To Get Rid Of ZZ Plant Black Spots On Stem

What Are The Reasons for a Skinny Snake Plant?

It is common to notice skinny snake plant leaves on many of these plants.  But why do they get skinny? Here are reasons why you may have a skinny snake plant.

  • Lack of Adequate Water. One of the reasons why you have a skinny snake plant is that it gets too little water and light.  Water is everything to a plant, if not provided with enough, this plant tends to shrink its leaves causing the leaves to be thin.
  • Direct Sunlight. A lot of posts on the internet suggest that snake plants do not like direct sunlight. This seems like rubbish to me as I see these plants growing in the wild in 100°F plus temperatures, in direct sunlight. I suspect that in some cases, the effect of a high temperature on a windowsill can give the plants a shock if they are not used to heat. But trust me, these are tough plants. You will more than often not be able to damage them with sunlight.
  • Insufficient Sunlight. This is a far more likely reason that your plants are skinny – the leaves are phototaxic -which means they grow towards the light. If you have weak sunlight, and your plants are craving a bit of sun they will stretch towards the light. Consider a supplemental light.

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  • Poor Soil Conditions.  Your plant may have grown in poor soil conditions.  Poor soil conditions can affect the growth and development of your snake plant.  Soil conditions should be kept in good condition as they affect the health of your plant.
  • Nutrient Deficiency.  A general lack of nutrients in the soil, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. These are just a few of the most common reasons your plants are not growing. I have never seen this cause skinny leaves, but a cursory glance at the internet suggests many people think this can happen. I would be a bit cautious about this as it’s probably just a Google SEO meme. Repotting a snake plant in good soil never hurts though.

How Can You Treat Skinny Snake Plants?

As we have detailed above, correct your light, correct your watering regime – not too much water, once a week or every ten days is fine for snake plants, and correct your soil.

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How Can I Repot Snake Plants?

The snake plant is a tropical houseplant that has a sprawling, upright growth habit. The snake plant is an easy-to-care-for plant that needs low to medium light and mild temperatures to survive.

I have found that these plants grow quite fast if they have optimal conditions and tend to fill a pot up – then they break the pot when you water them and the roots expand. This is why we need to repot them from time to time – break the clumps up and give them space to grow in new pots.

Remove all of the soil from the pot, rinse off the roots with tap water, and drain.

You can use any good garden soil – or buy specially formulated soil. I tend to favor well-drained soils and mix my own out of pearlite, compost, potting soil, and sand. You can buy a similar mix here.

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Growing a Healthy Snake Plant

Growing a healthy snake plant requires little attention and can be grown almost anywhere, indoors or outdoors. Most people grow this plant as an ornamental plant but it has some medicinal properties too – mainly in treating warts and fungal growths on the skin. This is a perennial and will survive for years if given proper care.

If you want to try growing a healthy snake plant, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Location. Snake plants can be grown almost anywhere in the world, from temperate climates to tropical and subtropical regions. They can be planted in pots or on the ground and should be placed in full sun to part shade. Protect from freezing conditions in winter by moving indoors.
  • Watering. This is the most important thing to remember when growing a healthy snake plant. It is best to avoid overwatering. If the soil gets too wet, the roots will rot. Water the snake plant at least once per week during the summer months and once every two or three weeks in winter.
  • Feeding. When you water your snake plant, give it a good drink of water but don’t let it sit in the water for long periods. This will encourage the leaves to develop thick, leathery leaves. If you feed it with fertilizer, use one that has slow-release nitrogen in it.
  • Light. Your snake plant should have full sunlight or part shade to grow properly. During the winter months, put your snake plant under a grow light, and remove it when the plants start to flower in spring.
  • Temperature. Your snake plant needs a temperature between 70°F and 90°F ideally. It can easily tolerate slightly lower temperatures at night, but try to avoid frost and freezing temperatures. It also needs to be kept away from drafts and cold winds.
  • Re-potting. If you want to increase the size of your snake plant, re-pot it every two years or so. This will help to keep the plant healthy and encourage new growth. You can re-pot it by removing the old soil and planting it in a larger pot as discussed earlier.

Conclusion On Skinny Snake Plants

Skinny snake plants are easy to grow in the right growing conditions.  However, poor growing conditions cause snake plants to exhibit thin leaves. The above article gave you tips and tricks on how to transform your long skinny snake plant into a picture-perfect houseplant!


Why is my snake plant growing skinny?

More often than not it is dry (then the leaves are skinny and thin) or it needs more light (then the leaves are long and stretch towards the light).

How do I thin a snake plant?

I just repot them - break up the clumps, place each plant in a new pot. Within no time you will have an army of these plants. They can become a pest.

How do I re-pot my snake plant?  

Turn the pot on its side. Wack it a few times with your hand. Wiggle the plants out of the pot - they will come out as a plug of roots and plant. Break the clumps of plants apart and repot them. Do not feel bad about being brutal. These plants evolved in Africa and there are a lot of big scary animals that do very bad things to the plants and they survive.