Why Are My Snake Plant Leaves Skinny, Thin & Small?

skinny snake plant leaves

Your snake plant’s leaves may be skinny due to the following:

  • Low light
  • Lack of nutrition
  • Overcrowding 
  • Lack of water
  • Unhealthy roots 
  • Pests, diseases, or fungal infections.

Keep reading to learn more about what causes skinny snake plants and what you can do to nurse your plant back to health.

1. Low Light and Thin Leaves

One reason that snake plants are so popular is that they can survive in low light. Interestingly enough, snake plants perform their photosynthesis at night as well as during the day.

Although your snake plant can photosynthesize at night, it still needs sunlight to complete its photosynthesis during the day.

Like all plants, snake plants need sunlight to survive and thrive.

If your snake plant is not getting enough sunlight, it will try to grow toward the sun. This results in long, skinny leaves.

Because your plant is searching for sunlight, it is not focusing on creating broad, lush leaves.

If you want your snake plant to grow thicker, broader leaves, place it in medium to bright indirect light. 

For more about your snake plant’s light needs, please read “How Much Light Does Your Snake Plant Need? (Bonus Care Tips).”

2. Lack of Nutrition Leads to Skinny Snake Plant Leaves

Most plants need soil to survive, and snake plants are no exception.

Outside, the soil is constantly replenished with organic matter, which provides nutrients to outdoor plants.

For example, the rosemary bush in my backyard is consistently nourished by falling, decaying leaves from the tree next to it; and animals like birds, ground squirrels, and rabbits leave their waste behind.

Inside, snake plants can deplete the soil they are planted in. When this happens, they cannot grow big and strong. As a result, indoor snake plants may develop thin leaves, especially because they will be searching for even more nutrients from the sun.

To help your snake plant get nutrients from both above and below, you can give them fertilize one every 2 months in growing season or add worm castings or organic compost to your soil. 

3. Overcrowding: Skinny Leaves May be a Sign

Soil depletion can occur easily when your snake plant does not have enough room in its pot. If your pot is too small, your snake plant can also become rootbound.

When a snake plant is overcrowded, it cannot absorb enough water, get the nutrients it needs, or grow correctly. Thus, skinny leaves may occur.

The solution is repotting your snake plant in a larger pot with fresh, nutrient-rich soil. 

Read our guide to choose the best possible pot for your snake plant.

4. Lack of Water Leads to a Thin Snake Plant

If your snake plant looks thin, it may be underwatered, especially if the leaves are skinny and droopy. 

Most people are afraid that they will overwater & kill their snake plant so that they rarely water it. It can lead to underwatered & your snake plant doesn’t have enough water to grow big & strong.

Check if your snake plant soil dries out too fast. If so, consider watering your snake plant more often or add some moisture components into current soil (such as: coco coir, cocopeat, peat moss, potting soil).

Water your snake plant until it drains and get rid of excess water. Repeat this process the next time your snake plant is completely dry. 

FURTHER READING: “3 Ways To Tell If A Snake Plant Needs Water.

5. Skinny Leaves Caused by Unhealthy Roots

With unhealthy roots, your snake plant cannot get the nutrition it needs properly, so it cannot grow thick, healthy new leaves.

Damaged, unhealthy roots can be caused by pets knock down your plants, improperly repot, soil is too moist, root disease or even root rot.

Check on the roots if you notice skinny leaves and you’re sure your plant is getting enough water and sunlight.

If you notice damage roots, trim them off & repot your plant. Don’t worry, as long as the rhizome is healthy, your snake plant will regrow new, strong roots.

If the soil looks wet or soggy, hold off watering for a while. You can add perlite, pumice, or pine bark to aerate the soil. Or consider repotting with homemade snake plant soil mix.

6. Pests, Diseases, and Fungal Infections Can Cause Skinny Leaves

Pests, diseases, and fungal infections can weaken your snake plant, which may result in skinny leaves. 

Mealybugs, for example, feed on snake plant sap and create minor wounds on your snake plant’s leaves. To make the sap more accessible, these insects also inject toxins that can weaken your snake plant’s leaves.

Because mealybugs also absorb your plant’s vital nutrients, you could have weakened old leaves and stunted growth in new leaves.

Fungal infections can also damage snake plants by killing vital cells and causing stress. With a fungal infection, your snake plant will not grow properly and may emit skinny leaves.

Worse, some fungi can kill a snake plant within 7 to 10 days!

Fungus Stunting Growth – a Personal Anecdote

Last year, my snake plant grew a mushroom! While the mushroom was a cute addition to my pot, I removed it because I didn’t want it to hurt my plant.

Little did I know that the damage was already done because my snake plant had a widespread fungal infection. The fungus circled one of the leaves, and the leaf never recovered. 

Fortunately, I treated the fungal infection. While new growth is slow, my leaves look thick and healthy (aside from the one most affected by the infection).

Take a look at your snake plant. If any of your leaves look deformed or misshapen, you could have a pest or fungus infestation. Failure to address this infestation could result in stunted growth (skinny leaves) – or even death.

Sick Snake Plants Can Recover

When pests and fungi steal your snake plant’s nutrition and stunt its growth, new leaves can be smaller and skinnier. 

Fortunately, snake plants can recover from serious diseases.

While the damage won’t go away, caring for your plant properly and eliminating infestations with a combination of pruning, pest oils, and fungicide sprays can get your plant back on track.

Once your snake plant is healthy, it can start shooting bigger leaves.

FURTHER READING: How To Grown & Care For Indoor Snake Plant (Complete Guide)

Other FAQs About Skinny Snake Plant Leaves

Why Are My New Snake Plant Leaves Skinny?

If your snake plant looks healthy overall, but your new leaves are skinnier than usual, your plant is probably overcrowded or looking for more sunlight.

Check to make sure your plant has enough space and repot it if necessary.

Then, move it to a place with slightly more sunlight. Remember, snake plants prefer medium to bright indirect sunlight.

Why Is My Snake Plant Skinny at the Bottom?

If your snake plant is skinny at the bottom; or has weak, skinny leaves and rhizomes (underground stems), it is likely going through a process called etiolation

This means your snake plant is growing in the dark or has too much shade.

If you notice etiolation, move your snake plant to a new spot with more sunlight.  

Don’t forget to rotate your plant regularly so it can begin to rebuild its strength.

How to Make Snake Plant Leaves Wider?

Once skinny snake plant leaves appear, they usually don’t get wider. Some hobbyists choose to prune the thin leaves, and others use the discarded leaves to propagate new, smaller plants!

After you address the current skinny leaves, you can focus on new growth

The best way to get the most out of your snake plant (and any houseplant) is to recreate the conditions it experiences in the wild.

Snake plants live in the desert, so they need bright light, occasional watering, soil with earthworms, and plenty of room.

Keep your snake plant sunny and dry – and provide it with enough space and nutrients – and it will be a happy camper.

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