Why Plant Leaves Fold

folded leaf spider nest by mycocortex

TheGardenLady received this question from Jim.

I believe my snake plant is underwatered. The leaves are folding in half length-wise. I have probably underwatered in fear of overwatering. Any suggestions for bringing my snake plant back without overwatering it?

Snake plant or Sansevieria is a tough plant that has few pests. But it does have some pests. My guess, and it can only be a guess because I cannot examine your plant, is that you are not under watering your plant but that your plant may have some pests.

When you have plants indoors, the environment is not what the plant is used to; so a plant can be stressed much more than it would be if it were growing outside in its natural environment. The stress might be from your not giving the plant the minimum amount of water that it needs. I water my  Sansevieria plants just a few times when it is indoors during cold weather and they are perfectly healthy. However, if I felt the plant were under watered, I would give it a drink- which I hope you have done for your plants.  Whatever is stressing your plant and whenever your plant gets stressed, it becomes less resistant to problems. Therefore your plant might become vulnerable to some insects pests. The three main insect pests of the Sansevieria plant are 1) the Vine Weevil grub, 2) mealy bugs or 3) spider mites.

How can you tell if your plant suffers from any of these problems? You will have to look at your plant very carefully, perhaps using a magnifying lens.

Check the inside of the folded leaf. See if the leaves have yellow stippling (stippling means you will see tiny dots on the leaves) or the leaves are turning yellow and brittle or are dying. This could mean that you have Spider Mites. This is the problem TheGardenLady suspects your plant has. Since I can not see your plant you will have to determine if this is what you see on your plant.

If you do have Spider mites, these pests are tricky to get rid of. First you should separate the suspected plant from others. Then raise the humidity in the area where your plant is. You can spray the plant with a 1:1 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. And last, if you really have the problem, an insecticide might be your final recourse.  See here.

If you do not think your plant has Spider Mites, it might have Mealy Bugs. Again check your plant carefully because mealy bugs might look like small scales or like small brown oval spots attached to your plant. If you rub your finger nail and can rub these scales or spots off, then you have mealy bugs.These are tough to get rid of.

If there aren’t a lot of spots and you can scrape the spots off, do so and keep a close eye on the plants to keep scraping off any new spots. You can deposit the scale you have scraped off in a closed container with some alcohol in it. And you can also try dabbing the spots with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol; the alcohol will probably not penetrate the tough shell but it may kill the newer made shells. Also, you can swab the location of the spot after you have scraped it off. If you have a lot of scale on your leaves, it is sometimes best to cut out infested leaves and discard them in your trash. If the plant is really badly infected with scale, it is recommended to throw the entire plant out.

The last major insect problem that your Sansevieria plant might have is the Vine Weevil. Your description did not fit Vine weevil infestation because your didn’t describe your plant  as being chewed up or falling over.

If you have watered your plant and it hasn’t revived or you don’t see any of the above pests even with your magnifying lens but your plant leaves are still folding in a strange way for the plant, take it to your local Master Gardener office or Ag. Extension office for them to look at the plant. They will advise you on what to do.

If your plant was underwatered, by watering it now will revive it. And if you can take it outdoors in the summer it will reward you with happier growth.

One Reply to “Why Plant Leaves Fold”

  1. Hi GardenLady: What can we do to prevent our Sansevierias from getting mealy bugs (scales)?
    Is there any insecticide that we could use to prevent our sansevierias from getting infested with these bugs?
    thanks in advance


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