What Should the Roots of a Healthy Snake Plant Look Like?

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Brock Ingham
Brock Ingham

When you think of a healthy plant, you might envision lush green leaves and vibrant flowers. But the roots of a plant are just as important to its health as the leaves and flowers.

This means that if there is something wrong with your snake plant a plant, it will often show up first in the roots. It’s important to know what healthy plant roots look like, so you can spot problems early on.

What should the roots of a healthy snake plant look like? Read on to find out.

What do snake plant roots look like
What do snake plant roots look like

What Do Snake Plant Roots Look Like?

The root system of snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) is fairly shallow, with most of the plant’s roots located near the surface of the soil.

The roots themselves are thick and fleshy and can range in color from white to pale yellow (preferably light orange, as this is a sign of good health). Your snake plant’s roots should be firm to the touch and show no signs of rotting or decay.

Since snake plants prefer sending new rhizomes (roots) outwards rather than downwards, you may also see some rhizomes above-ground. These are perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.

Plants respond to nutrient deficiency by altering root morphology, recruiting the help of microorganisms, and changing the chemical environment of the rhizosphere.


This outward-growing habit is one of the things that makes snake plants so easy to care for and propagate.

Your main concern should be root rot, which can occur if the roots of your snake plant are sitting in water for too long. Root rot will cause the roots to turn soft and mushy, and they may even start to fall off the plant. If you think your snake plant has root rot, it’s best to consult with a professional.

Snake plant pup roots
Snake plant pup roots

How Deep Do Snake Plant Roots Grow?

Snake plants have a shallow root system that is mostly located near the surface of the soil. This is why they don’t need much space to grow and thrive.

In fact, Snake plants don’t mind being overcrowded in a pot, which means you don’t have to worry about repotting your snake plant too often.

In terms of depth, snake plant roots usually only grow down about 2-4 inches in their pot or container. So, if you’re potting your snake plant in a deep pot, most of that space will likely remain empty.

The unusual growth pattern of snake plants is great for those who don’t have a lot of space to spare, but it can be a bit of a challenge if your snake plant has grown multiple feet tall. This is because the roots are only anchored shallowly in the soil, so the plant can easily topple over if it gets too top-heavy.

If this happens, I recommend replanting your snake plant in a deeper pot or container to give the roots more room to grow. You can also stake up tall snake plants to help prevent them from falling over.

What Are Snake Plant Pups?

You’ve probably noticed those little plantlets that seem to be growing out of the soil near your snake plant. These are called plant pups, and they’re actually new (baby) snake plants that are in the process of growing.

Pups typically form when a snake plant is pot-bound, meaning it has outgrown its current pot or container. When this happens, the plant’s roots start to crowd together, which causes the plant to produce more pups.

Pups can also be produced by division, which is a process where you physically divide the roots of a mature snake plant and replant them in separate pots. This is a great way to propagate snake plants.

If you see pups growing near your snake plant, you can leave them be or pot them up separately. If you decide to pot them up, I recommend doing so in a small pot or container since they’re still quite small. 

Do Snake Plant Roots Grow Out Or Down?

Snake plants have a slightly different root system than most plants. Instead of growing straight down, their roots tend to grow outwards.

This is because snake plants are native to Africa, where they often grow in arid and sandy conditions. In these conditions, it’s more beneficial for the plant to have a shallow root system that can quickly absorb any moisture that may be available.

By having a shallow root system, snake plants can also tolerate being pot-bound better than most plants. In fact, they actually prefer to be pot-bound and will often stop growing once they’ve outgrown their current pot or container.

If your snake plant’s roots are growing out of the pot’s drainage holes, don’t worry. This is normal and signifies that your plant is healthy and thriving.

Just be sure to keep an eye on the roots and make sure they’re not getting too dry or too wet. If you notice the roots starting to turn yellow or brown, it’s a sign that they’re not getting enough water. On the other hand, if the roots are soggy or mushy, it’s a sign that they’re getting too much water.

How to Recognize Unhealthy Roots of Snake Plants

Snake plant orange roots
Snake plant orange roots

I talked a bit about what healthy snake plant roots look like, but it’s also important to know how to recognize unhealthy roots. This way, you can take the right steps to fix the problem.

To recognize unhealthy roots, look for signs such as:

Shriveled Foliage

The foliage of your snake plant may start to look shriveled or withered if the roots are not getting enough water. This is probably one of the first signs of something wrong with your plant’s roots.

You might see this problem during periods of drought or when the plant is pot-bound and not getting enough water. When plants aren’t watered enough, their leaves will often start to turn yellow or brown and eventually drop off.

Droopy Leaves

The signature upright leaves of snake plants are what make them so unique. However, if the roots are not getting enough water, the leaves may start to droop or sag. In some cases, the leaves may even start to curl downwards.

This is caused by a lack of turgidity, which is the ability of plants to maintain their shape. When plants don’t have enough water, they can’t maintain their shape, and the leaves start drooping.

Yellowing Foliage

Yellowing foliage is another common sign that something is wrong with your plant’s roots. Since the roots supply water and nutrients to the rest of the plant, a problem with the roots can often lead to yellowing.

This may be caused by several different problems, such as root rot, nutrient deficiencies, or even pests. If you notice that your plant’s leaves are slowly yellowing, it’s important to take a closer look at the roots to see if they’re healthy.

Poor Smell

If the roots of your snake plant are rotting, you’ll often be able to smell it. This is because root rot is caused by a build-up of bacteria and fungi, which can produce a foul odor.

If you notice a bad smell coming from your plant’s roots (like sewage, vinegar, or rotting meat), it’s a sign that the roots are not healthy. In most cases, this is caused by root rot and should be treated as soon as possible.

Darkened Roots

If the roots of your snake plant are healthy, they should be white or light-colored. However, if the roots are starting to turn brown or black, it’s a sign that they’re not healthy.

This is often caused by root rot, which can cause the roots to decompose. If, while repotting your plant, you notice that the roots are dark and mushy, it’s a sign that root rot has set in, and you’ll need to take action to save your plant.

How To Keep Your Snake Plant’s Roots Healthy

Re potting snake plants
Re-potting snake plants

Now that you know what healthy snake plant roots look like and how to recognize unhealthy roots, it’s important to know how to keep your plant’s roots healthy. Here are a few tips to help you out:

Use The Right Soil

A common mistake that people make when growing snake plants is using the wrong soil — specifically soil from their garden. Garden soil is often too dense and can hold a lot of water, which can lead to problems like root rot.

Instead, you should use light and well-draining potting mix. This will help to ensure that your plant’s roots don’t get too much water and start to rot.

Water Properly

One of the most common reasons that snake plants get root rot is because they’re overwatered or underwatered.

When watering your plant, make sure to only water it when the soil is dry. If you’re not sure whether or not the soil is dry, stick your finger a few inches down the soil. If the soil is dry, you should water your snake plant.

Use The Right Size Pot

Many beginner plant parents make the mistake of using a pot that’s too big for their plant. While it might seem like a large pot will allow optimum growth, using a pot that’s too large can actually lead to problems.

For example, if the pot is too big, the soil will stay wet for too long, leading to root rot. Instead, it’s best to use a pot that’s only somewhat larger than the snake plant. This will help ensure that the plant’s roots don’t get too much water.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what healthy snake plant roots look like is important for keeping your plant happy and healthy. By recognizing the signs of unhealthy roots, you can take the appropriate steps to fix the problem before it’s too late.

If you notice any of the above problems with your plant’s roots, be sure to take a closer look and see if anything can be done to save your plant. With a little bit of care, you can get your snake plant back on track and enjoy its beauty for years to come.

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