The snake plant is one of the world’s most popular succulents, and also one of the easiest to grow. It is quite difficult to kill, even when neglected.
However, they are still susceptible to problems if the neglect goes too far, and one such problem encountered by snake plant owners is the plant losing all of its roots.
The most probable reason your snake plant has no roots is that its roots have been damaged by overwatering and root rot.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons your snake plant has no roots, and what you can do to remedy the situation. So, if you are currently dealing with this very problem and you want to know how to save your snake plant, just keep reading.
The snake plant’s root system
Before we dive into the reasons your snake plant has no roots, let us first talk about the plant’s root system.
Snake plants have shallow roots called rhizomes. Let us say your snake plant is in a pot that is two feet tall: its roots will probably grow down about a foot deep into the pot. Snake plants are simply not deep-rooting succulents.
This plant prefers to grow its roots out to the side as opposed to growing them downward.
If you try to water your plant from the base of a tall pot, the plant will not be watered very effectively because the roots will not reach the water at the bottom of the pot.
The plant does not like to be dried out for long periods of time but also does not like its soil to be too wet. However, between the two evils, it would much prefer drying out than always being wet, because it will have a bigger chance of surviving.
The ideal watering schedule should be consistent and neither too dry nor too wet.
Why does my snake plant not have any roots?
The most likely reason your snake plant does not have roots is because they have rotted away due to overwatering and root rot.
The snake plant has long, pointy leaves that stand straight up which is what gives the plant its name. One of the first signs that there is something wrong with the plant’s roots is when the leaves are floppy instead of rigid and upright. Even if just a few leaves are floppy, this is enough to be a cause for concern when it comes to your snake plant.
Although these plants are hardy and can tolerate a certain level of neglect and mishandling, do try not to put your plant under undue stress. At some point, you will reach the plant’s limits and this could lead to its death. One of the ways a snake plant can get stressed is by overwatering.
An overwatered snake plant’s soil will be perpetually waterlogged, and this means that the roots will be standing in soggy soil and will be unable to dry out.
If the roots cannot dry out between waterings, they will not be able to absorb oxygen. Soggy soil does not allow oxygen to reach the roots and this will cause the roots to drown and die.
The dead roots will begin to rot, and the rot will attract opportunistic pathogens such as fungi and bacteria. These pathogens will cause the rot to spread faster throughout the roots and into the stems of the plant until eventually all of the roots are afflicted with rot.
When the rot reaches the leaves, this is when they turn mushy and floppy. The rot and all of the excess water flooding the soil is enough to ruin the structural integrity of the succulent’s leaves and, before you know it, the entire plant can be compromised and may even die.
The plant’s roots will disintegrate because of the root rot, leaving the plant with no roots.
What do I do if my snake plant has no roots?
Unfortunately, if you have reached the point where your snake plant has lost all of its roots, you can no longer save the entire plant.
Thankfully, there are other steps that you can take to continue the plant’s legacy by propagating the afflicted plant.
First, you need to remove the dead leaves from your plant. Use a sterile pair of scissors and remove the leaves carefully, one by one. As you remove them, inspect each one closely and remove sections that are brown or black because those sections are rotten. They will also feel soft and mushy to the touch. You will need to discard the rotten parts properly.
Once you have collected the remaining healthy-looking leaves from your snake plant, you now need to treat them for any possible fungal infection. Such infection can remain on the leaf and will go on to infect the new plant.
Lay the snake plant leaves on a dry paper towel, sprinkle some cinnamon over them, and leave it for 24 hours. Cinnamon is a natural antifungal substance and this is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make sure that your snake plant leaves are not carrying any fungi.
While you are waiting for the cinnamon to work its magic, you can go ahead and prepare a soil mix for your new plants.
Mix one part perlite, one part peat moss, and about three parts regular potting soil. The peat moss will help keep the soil moist so that you do not need to water the plant as much.
The perlite will make the soil mix more porous and airy, thereby allowing the roots to dry out faster than normal and letting oxygen reach the roots to keep the plant happy.
Fill the new pot up to about two-thirds with the potting mix, and then place the leaf cuttings upright in the soil. Pat the soil around the leaf cuttings to make sure they are stable and will not easily fall over.
Now all you have to do is to be patient and wait for the leaf cuttings to grow. You can help your plants out by making sure they are getting their daily light requirements.
If you keep your snake plants indoors, place them next to a north-facing window because these let in lots of indirect light.
Only water the cuttings when the soil in the pot is dry to the touch. Poke your finger into the top two inches of the soil to check, and if it is dry, it is time to water the plant. If the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking again. Remember not to wait until all of the soil is bone dry; only wait until the top two inches are dry. Underwatering can also cause the newly-growing roots to shrivel up if you deprive them of water for too long.
If you are taking good care of your cuttings, they should be able to form roots after four to six weeks. If you want to check the roots’ integrity, give the plant a gentle tug. If there is resistance, that means that the plant has established roots and you can now start caring for it as you would a normal plant.
The most likely reason your snake plant has no roots is that it has been overwatered for too long and has developed root rot. Root rot can eat away most, if not all, of the roots, and this is why the roots have seemingly disappeared.
If your snake plant has lost its roots, you might not be able to salvage the entire plant, but you can still use any healthy leaves to propagate it and create new plants as replacements.
The best way to avoid losing the roots of your snake plant is to water it correctly. Avoid overwatering by making sure you only water it when the top two inches of soil in the pot are dry to the touch.
Image: istockphoto.com / SeventyFour