Do snake plants like to be root bound? If you have grown other plant varieties, like the spider plant that becomes root-bound, growing snake plants can create similar concerns.

Snake Plants with Root Bound

The aesthetic indoor plant can become root bound, but do they like it? Read on to understand how to identify a root bounded plant, the benefits, repotting, and challenges.

Do Snake Plants Like to Be Root Bound?

No, snake plants don’t like being root bound, they will result in stunted growth, wilting and yellowing of leaves, the roots will get above the soil and through the draining holes. Additionally, the pot will crack, and the drainage will be faster, insects will infest, and the plant will age fast. 

Although, remember that snake plants can survive in small pots. They like to be root-bound, which happens quickly in small pots. However, as the plant grows taller, ensure you repot it in a larger container. 

Which would mean that they can tolerate just a little, but it is generally recommended to repot them when it becomes too crowded. You can quickly identify whether root bounding has occurred in your snake plant through these root bound snake plant symptoms.

The sansevieria trifasciata or mother-in-law’s tongue, is a tough, low-maintenance plant that is relatively forgiving when it comes to pot size and soil conditions, which would be in a corrupted manner.

– Stunted Growth

A snake plant is a vibrant and fast grower that often produces rhizomes from the mother plant called pups. However, you may notice signs of slow or stunted growth, where it will not be prosperous any longer, this type of growth would refer to a slowed or halted increase in size or height, which means it will stay the same. 

When your snake plant is not healthy, one of the signs it exhibits is stunted and slowed growth. Despite the efforts to provide excellent care to support optimal growth, it remains the same. 

This can occur when the plant’s roots are densely packed in the pot and do not have enough room to spread out and absorb nutrients and water effectively. As a result, the plant may struggle to grow and appear tinier and weaker than it should be, given its age and care.

– Wilting and Yellowing Leaves

If a snake plant is root bound, its roots may be too crowded and unable to absorb enough water and nutrients to support the plant, leading to wilting, which progresses to yellow leaves.

Wilting and Yellowing Leaves

Root-bound snake plants are prone to over-watering or under-watering, which causes the leaves to wilt and turn yellow as the chlorophyll in the plant leaves will start to dilute. These plants are drought-tolerant and do not need frequent watering, but they need to be quenched when the soil gets dry to a depth of about one inch, instead, the roots can make the soil dry out too much or keep it constantly moist.

On another note, when they are root bound, it would even cause the plant to be nutrient deficient, which can also lead to wilting and yellowing leaves in this plant. Compact roots can prevent the plant from getting enough nutrients from the soil, showing signs of distress. 

– Roots Above Soil and Out of Drainage Holes

When the roots of your plant become severely root-bound, they start looking for spaces to allow them to continue growing. Because the current pot is no longer sustainable and does not provide this space, the roots start growing above the soil. If you do not repot snake plant, these roots can overgrow to resemble draping plants. You wouldn’t like the sight of these, because the roots that have to be below the ground are starting to come out of the soil and this is beyond a normal act.

Other than noticing the plant’s roots growing above the soil, they can also start growing through the drainage holes. These roots are also finding ways to expand here as the pot is too small for them.

– Pot Starts Cracking

If your potting plant is clay or ceramic, it can start having side cracks from the sides. These cracks result from the roots becoming too compact and heavy, and it is due to the strength of the roots. The latter would begin pressing the walls’ sides as they try to find space for expansion. The result is cracked pots that may eventually break, dropping their contents, as it needs a way out of it.

– Water Drains Too Quickly

When the roots become bounded or clustered, they displace the soil content, mostly leaving the inorganic matter used while preparing the soil mix. As a result, the water drains too quickly since there is no soil to hold it. 

Since the plant does not get enough time to absorb the water, it starts showing signs of dehydration, such as wilting and leaf discoloration. The water will drain, and you will start adding more water, which means that it will have a higher chance to be overwatered.

– Insect Infestation

When snake plants have crowded roots, they become more susceptible to insects and pests. The plant gets stressed, reducing its ability to defend itself from pests.

Insect Infestation

At the same time, remember that the insects feed on the foliage, reducing food production for the plant. This can lead to its death. 

– Nutrient Deficiency

The snake plant requires nutrients to maintain healthy foliage and to continue growing, however, when the roots of the plant are clustered in a small pot, it will not be able to spread its nutrients up to the leaves. Instead, the nutrients stored in the rhizomes act as a fallback plan. The plant uses them to produce new growth that ensures its survival.

Sometimes, natural calamities such as fire and drought can destroy vegetation. Because this plant is resilient, it does not entirely die. 

– Aging of Plant

The best snake plant care guide is being sure that you repot them after three to five years. It is because they are characterized by the vigorous production of the pups that also start producing their roots. These plants grow slowly and require little maintenance, which is why repotting takes time, or else the plant will start to age, and as it does so, the plant will become weaker, because it isn’t growing to its utmost potential.

Aged plant is one of the signs to repot snake plant, but some gardeners do not track their plants’ age. When your plants are old, they can have the roots compact; sometimes, getting them out of the pot can be challenging.

Snake plants like to be root bound because they like small pots. However, leaving the roots severely crowded makes it harder for them to absorb water and nutrients, leading to problems like yellow leaves. This reduces food production in the plant due to low amounts of chlorophyll, which can lead to the death of the plant. 

How To Manage Root-Bound Snake Plants?

To manage root bound in snake plant, you should repot the plant, and trim the weak roots. Make sure you divide the plant and inspect it. Moreover, you can check for the rotten roots, and also start to propagate it to have a fresh plant.

– Repotting Snake Plant

Snake plants are slow growers, and you don’t have to worry about repotting them yearly. However, repotting root-bound snake plant every three to five years is essential as it helps prevent the roots from becoming compact.

Repotting Snake Plant

The first sign your snake plant needs repotting is slow or stunted growth. It happens when the roots are too many in the pot, crowding the container. The overcrowding causes less transportation of water and nutrients to the leaves, inhibiting new foliage growth. 

Another sign to repot your snake plant is if it cannot hold water. It happens because the roots occupy most pot parts, making little room for soil. You should also consider repotting snake plants if the leaves are wilting and discolored. If the plant’s roots have overgrown your pot, changing it becomes necessary to gather care tips when repotting it.

  • Choosing the pot: having compacted roots indicates that your plant has overgrown its current pot. Decide a pot size one or two times larger than the plant you want to transfer. Small pots are not viable as they cannot hold the contents of the previous one. Ensure the container has features such as drainage holes and durable material to help support your plant’s growth.
  • Soil preparation: with bounded roots, chances are your pot snake plant has replaced the soil from the pot. If the plant still has some old soil, shake it to get rid of much of it. Get quality potting soil mix from your local store. Often, gardeners get tempted to use their garden soil for pot planting. This soil is unsuitable because it can contain diseases, weeds, and pest eggs that can be transferred to the repotted plant. It can also have poor drainage due to its compactness and can affect root health.
  • Uproot the plant: Once the soil and plant pot are ready, remove the plant from the last jar. Well, the practice is not as easy as just pulling the plant. If you do so, you damage and cut the top foliage while the roots remain inside the container. Instead, tip the pot on the table and gently pat the sides. When uprooting, allow the soil to dry out for a few days to make it easier. Once the plant starts feeling loose, gently pull it from the container.
  • Inspect the roots: check your plant for any sign of root rot and diseased roots. Because the plant is old, look out for dead roots too. Use a disinfected tool such as a sharp knife or scissors to eliminate sick and damaged parts. Once you finish, gently spread the roots with your fingers to straighten them from the root ball
  • Get rid of the pups: you can identify these by looking for the shoots growing from the mother plant. They often look healthy and can easily tempt you to keep them. But keeping them means frequent repotting, which can be expensive and tedious. Consider cutting them off and planting them in separate pots.
  • Plant: Transfer the plant to the new pot, pressing the soil enough to hold the plant firm. Water it thoroughly to protect it from getting dehydrated.

– Trimming the Roots

Root trimming is an excellent option when you want to use the same pots you have. Before putting the plant back in the container, ensure to disinfect it to eliminate bacteria or fungi that can be developing. 

Remove your plant from the pot by gently patting the container to loosen the roots. Once the plant is out, shake gently to remove excess soil and have a good view of the root. Use scissors or a sharp knife to trim the roots. Consider removing at least 30% of the root and cutting the old roots off.

If the entanglement in the roots is severe, consider using a fork or stick to loosen them up before trimming. Once you finish trimming, plant them back in your disinfected pot. Of course, you should use fresh, high-quality potting soil and water the plant to ensure it recovers quickly.

– Dividing the Plant

If you want to maintain the consistency of the same-size pot plant collection, consider dividing your snake plant. Ensure the plant is adequately hydrated; you can do this by watering it a few days prior. Watering also helps loosen the soil so you can easily cut through.

Place your plant on a flat surface, such as a table, and start working on the plant. Divide it into several equal parts using a sharp, disinfected knife. Once the parts are ready, plant them in separate pots and water and enjoy having a broader collection.

Note that this plant has some newly forms of little fresh roots, which are called the roots pups. The pups are small offsets that grow from the roots of the main plant. They appear as small, rounded shoots that emerge from the soil around the base of the main plant. 

They are usually a few inches tall and have a cluster of small, tightly packed leaves at the top. The leaves of a root pup are pale green, much smaller, and more delicate than the main plants.

As the root pups grow, they eventually produce their roots and become fully independent plants. You can carefully separate them from the main plant and repot them into their containers if you like.

New gardeners may think the pups are a problem since they can make the plant look untidy. As a result, they cut the shoots, which does not solve their problem since they develop new ones. 

– Check for Rotten Roots

Next, check for signs of root rot. Check if the leaf tips are brown and wilted or if the roots are flaky. Other symptoms of infected roots are if the roots are gray, turning brown, or black. If you use the shears to remove the unhealthy snake plant roots, ensure you disinfect them. 

Check for Rotten Roots

Look for the parts where the rhizomes connect the pups to the parent plant because it is the point of division. When cutting the plant’s pups, ensure it has a few roots attached to it. You can use a clean knife to separate the pups and replant them in a smaller container. 

Grow snake plants in bright indirect light, so get a sunny corner in the house. Low-light causes slow growth, and direct sunlight can cause leaf scorching. Ensure you water it once every ten days to avoid overwatering and underwatering. The plant will also do well in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and well-draining soil. 

– Propagating

The best way to care for snake plant roots that are still shooting is by propagating them. Separating the pups from the main plant and repotting gives them enough space to thrive. Besides, leaving the new plant to grow from the old leaf segments could give it a different color. Propagating ensures the baby snake plant looks like the parent plant. 

Before you propagate snake plant‘s root pups, get suitable soil. The best soil for snake plants is light loam soil with an acidic pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Make sure that the soil drains well because they are vulnerable to overwatering and under watering.

Use small pots to place the snake plants pups because of their small size. A large pot requires a lot of soil which takes too long to dry if the roots are tiny. Cut the pups using a sterilized garden knife or clean pruning shears. You can disinfect them using isopropyl alcohol or bleach solution. 

Propagating snake plant’s root is easy. Start by uprooting and cleaning the plant. Snake plants have shallow root systems, requiring less effort to uproot. However, if the plant’s roots are firmly bound, loosen the soil by patting the bottom of the pot. Clean the plant’s roots and remove the soil lumps. 

What Are Other Common Problems with Snake Plants?

Other common problems with snake plants would be drooping, scorching, or bending of the leaves, having soft and mushy looking leaves, and lastly brown spots appearing. These concerns would be due to different causes, like overwatering or under watering, bright light exposure, and lack or excess of fertilizer.

– Drooping or Bending Leaves

A significant characteristic of snake plants is succulent upright-shaped leaves. Drooping and bending leaves is a sign of overwatering or under watering, which means that the way that you would irrigate the plant would have an impact on the growth and the issues that would come along. 

Overwatering causes the roots to rot since they are not used to being exposed to lots of water. Which means that root rot causes the ends of the plant to be damaged, making it impossible for the plant to transport water and other nutrients to the leaves, causing them to bend and droop. On the other hand, under watering also causes a lack of water in the leaves, reducing their firmness and leading to a leaf bending. 

– Scorching the Leaves

Another problem would also rise from the heat and how much it is surrounding the plant. Exposing your snake plant to direct sunlight scorches the leaves, reducing their firmness and bending them—water the snake plant at the required times to prevent overwatering and under watering.

Scorching the Leaves

You should also place it in an indirect bright light, so that it will last longer and won’t age any fast. 

– Soft and Mushy Leaves

Snake plants have thick and firm leaves, where they store water. However, overwatering causes too much moisture in the leaves, leading to rot. When snake plant leaves rot, they become soft and mushy because of the disintegration of the leaf. 

Planting the snake plant in soil with poor drainage or pots without drainage holes can also cause soft and mushy leaves. When you notice this concern, repot the plant in well-draining soil and ensure the pot has drainage holes. You must make sure that you would trim the mushy leaves to allow the growth of new ones. 

– Leaves with Brown Spots and Tips

Snake plants are prone to brown leaves and brown leaf tips. It could be due to physical damage that happens from transportation or weather changes. When a part of the leaf gets injured during transportation, it becomes brown.

Another cause for brown spots on leaves is extreme temperatures. Direct sunlight scorches the leaves and causes browning of the tips. Too cold temperatures also kill the plant slowly by freezing its cells in the leaves. 

Your snake plant can also suffer brown spots on the leaves and brown leaf tips due to nutrient problems. Giving it tap water introduces unwanted chemicals, causing root burn and leading to brown tips

Ensure you treat your snake plants carefully during transportation to prevent physical damage. If you notice leaves with brown spots and tips, prune them to allow the growth of fresh ones. Use filtered water to water the plant and avoid introducing unnecessary chemicals


While snake plants can survive in small pots and like to be root bound, excessively crowding the roots can cause them to die.

From the article, you have learned that:

  • Your snake plant will show signs of root bounding. You will notice stunted growth, yellow leaves, cracked pots, and roots growing above the soil.
  • Lack of space in the container reduces the efficiency of the roots to transport nutrients and water to the other plant parts, like leaves.
  • Root pups in snake plants can cause root bounding. These can be propagated and transplanted in a different pot.
  • You can reduce root bounding in snake plants by repotting the plant, trimming the roots, or dividing the plant.

Root bounding can be a positive and negative thing for your snake plants. While the plants prefer crowded pots, ensure you check for signs of root rot and stunted growth to maintain your plant’s growth rate. If the root bounding is in excess, you can divide the plant or prune the roots. 


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