Snake plants are affected a great deal by the environment they are subjected to. They don’t require much care but you should ensure they are getting the required lighting to prevent their leaves from growing narrow.
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 plants (Dracaena trifasciata) can struggle with a range of issues including overwatering, underwatering, infrequent watering, transplant shock, or low sunlight.
In this guide, we have discussed in detail how both low or bright sunlight can hinder the proper growth of your snake plants and what you can do to fix it.
What Causes Snake Plant Leaves To Become Narrow and Skinny?
If you have placed your snake plant in an area where no light or very low light is present, you would most probably notice your snake plant growing longer, thinner leaves.
People often manage to mess up a snake plant when they have just started growing it, especially about the light and water requirements.
Both low and high sunlight intensity can dramatically affect the growth and health of a snake plant.
Most people believe that a snake plant is one of the tropical ornamental foliage plants which need low light intensity to grow safely. However, snake plants are succulents that need moderate to bright indirect sunlight to thrive.
NOTE: Until 2015, botanical scientists believed that the snake plant is a species of Sansevieria (low light houseplant). But in 2015, they came to realize that the snake plant is actually a species of Dracaena (sun-loving succulent).
However, many commercial shops still use them as low-light houseplants. Therefore, people still mistakenly place their snake plants in a dim or low-light area, causing the plants to suffer.
When I know my plants are receiving less light than they require I use an 80W Full Spectrum Plant Light from amazon which is energy efficient and comes at a great price.
How does Lack of Light Cause Snake Plant’s Leaves To Become Narrow or Skinny?
Sunlight plays a crucial role in the proper growth of plants. Interestingly, plants have many photosensory receptors to detect the source of sunlight.
As a result, plants adjust their growth pattern and development strategies according to sunlight presence. Depending on the response to shading by leaves, all plants fall into two types – shade avoiding or shade-tolerant.
Snake plants fall into the shade-tolerant type. A distinct characteristic of the snake plant is its ability to grow in low-light areas. It can tolerate low-light areas.
When your snake plant does not get enough sunlight for photosynthesis, it starts growing longer, narrow leaves in hope of reaching sunlight.
Your snake plants will probably try to stretch and lean towards the source of sunlight if not placed in bright indirect sunlight. See our article on why do plants grow sideways.
Although they can survive in low sunlight, that does not necessitate that they will thrive vigorously.
Your snake plant will only grow normally when provided an optimum environment and sunlight. Otherwise, it’s just being tolerant and fighting for its survival.
You can see our article for more detailed information on how plants survive without light.
How To Correct The Problem?
Similar to all other plants, sunlight is crucial for snake plants to produce food (photosynthesis) as well. Snake plants like more sunlight than commonly believed.
Move your snake plant to a brighter room or area and it will start growing thicker straight leaves. Cut off all the skinny, narrow leaves of your snake plant during late autumn. Hopefully, new thinker leaves will shoot up in no time.
Place your snake plant in a south-facing window where it can get at least four to five hours of bright indirect sunlight.
To prevent leaves from leaning or bending toward the source of sunlight, keep rotating your snake plant regularly so that all leaves get an equal amount of sunlight.
Rotating the Plant
Phototropism is a natural process where a plant grows towards the light source in order to get as much light as possible for photosynthesis – a plant’s way of generating energy.
A plant’s auxin molecules gather on the side that doesn’t receive much light, causing it to lengthen the cells on that side more which makes the plant bend towards the light, therefore making it look twisted and narrow.
See our detailed article on how to rotate houseplants to ensure they are growing healthy in low light situations.
If you want to make the rotation process easy you might want to check out this Rotating Swivel from amazon which is cost effective and reduces the stress on your back when rotating plants.
How Light Affects Plant Growth?
Whether in a house or nurseries, indoor plants require an optimum environment for proper growth and development.
One main crucial environmental factor that can dramatically influence indoor houseplants’ growth is light. A wealth of data have shown that light can significantly alter plant length, shape, flower budding, flower abortion.
Not all indoor plants are low-light lovers. Different indoor houseplants require a wide range of light intensity to grow properly. Snake plants are known to favor medium to bright indirect sunlight. But, why indirect sunlight?
Direct and indirect sunlight strongly influence the light-mediated development of plants (aka photomorphogenesis) and resource allocation to structural parts.
Light can affect plant length, flowering process, and lateral branching. Down below, we have discussed in detail how light can affect snake plant growth.
While snake plants greatly favor moderate to bright light, direct hot sunlight can actually burn their leaves.
Therefore, it’s far safer to place your snake plant in an area where sunlight can’t directly reach it.
Some species of snake plants can tolerate direct sunlight more than others. However, they aren’t sun lovers. Also, most snake plant species get sunburn if you place them under direct sunlight.
Your snake plant can get wrinkly anytime you put it behind a window in full sun. Direct sunlight can gravely burn a snake plant.
Your snake plant will thrive best in partial shade rather than under midday bright sunlight.
The sunlight coming through the glass doors or window is actually indirect sunlight. This indirect sunlight can be divided into bright indirect sunlight and medium indirect sunlight.
Indirect sunlight reduces plant size but also affects the allotment of food to particular parts.
Snake plants love to grow in medium to bright indirect sunlight. As we mentioned earlier in the article, snake plants aren’t lovers of direct midday sunlight.
Snake plants thrive best under indirect sunlight.
Placing a snake plant into a medium or low light area can negatively influence plant growth and reproduction. The energy that should be invested in reproduction is given to leaves and stems to capture light.
The leaves of snake plants have special cells that absorb the light they need. When a snake plant is placed in a low-light area, these special cells gather themselves to absorb maximum available sunlight.
Snake plants change their leaves’ position so that these cells can face the light. In a somewhat similar manner of window blinds wide open.
However, when placed in bright sunlight, the position of these special cells is changed to avoid facing the sunlight.
How To Prepare Snake Plants To Face Sunlight Full Time?
If you want to place your snake plant under the midday sun, make sure you first give it enough time to adjust the position of its light-gathering cells.
Otherwise, sudden exposure can gravely burn your docile snake plant.
Ideally, it is better to give your snake plant at least two weeks to adjust its light-gathering cells in leaves before moving it to face the midday sun.
For the first three to four days, place your snake plant under the shade outside. Leave it there to adjust. After three days, move it to a place where it can get one or two hours of the morning sun for at least four to five days.
In two weeks’ time, hopefully, your snake plant would be ready to face the sun full time without getting burnt or damaged.
Other Problems Snake Plants are Affected With:
In addition to skinny narrow leaves, snake plants can also struggle from leaves drooping or falling.
Sometimes, the leaves of snake plants start drooping. A range of different reasons including overwatering, poor drainage, lack of sunlight, or pests can cause your snake plant to start dropping.
If all your leaves are drooping then the most possible culprits are overwatering and poor water drainage.
However, if only one or two leaves are drooping then that means there is a sunlight problem.
When your snake plant is starving for sunlight and is not able to carry on its normal photosynthesis process, some of the leaves may start drooping.
How Drooping Can be Fixed?
In case of overwatering and poor drainage, change the soil to fix the drainage problem and start watering your snake plant only when you see that the soil in the pot has completely dried up. Snake plants don’t really require daily watering.
You only need to lightly water the plant once a week if the plant is placed in a low-light area. In case of bright indirect sunlight, water the plant whenever you notice the potting soil completely dried.
Make repotting a success story with Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting mix. I use this on all my indoor plants which ensure they survive long after repotting.
The Species of Snake Plant –
The species of snake plant you own may have narrow leaves. The Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Craigii’ and Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Nelsoni’ species of snake plant are known for their narrow leaves which differ significantly from the more popular Sansevieria Varieties.