Despite their stunning foliage, Rattlesnake plants are sometimes described as more trouble than they are worth. On the contrary, the plant owners who have found the proper care routine for their rattlesnakes report them being fairly easy to maintain. While it’s true that they can be particular about certain living conditions, once you figure out how to address their basic needs, rattlesnake plants can thrive as houseplants. I will discuss many of the problems people have with their rattlesnake plants and how to troubleshoot them.
What You'll Learn Today
Why Is My Rattlesnake Plant Turning Brown?
Many rattlesnake plant owners have dealt with leaf edges turning brown on their plants. Most of the time, humidity is the culprit.
The rattlesnake plant, or Goeppertia insignis, is part of the Marantaceae family. Along with many of its relatives, the plant needs higher than average humidity levels to avoid brown, crispy leaf edges.
If your home has an average humidity level below 50%, you may want to consider supplementing with a humidifier. Enclosing your rattlesnake plant in a glass terrarium will also increase its humidity exposure.
Unfortunately, once the leaves begin to brown, the damage to that leaf cannot be reversed. But if humidity is indeed the problem, after you’ve remedied the issue, its new leaves should emerge unscathed.
Why Is My Rattlesnake Plant Turning Yellow?
Rattlesnake plants are one of the many tropical plants whose leaves naturally age and fall off. After growing a certain amount of new leaves, you may notice that the oldest leaves start to yellow and eventually drop off of the plant.
The aging process of the leaves is entirely normal, and no action is required. If you see a leaf start to yellow, and you know that it is an older leaf, you can remove it if you wish so that the plant can focus its energy on growing healthy new leaves instead.
If your rattlesnake plant has many yellowing leaves, including less mature foliage, this could be a red flag. One of the most common causes of multiple leaves yellowing is overwatering.
Overwatering refers to the frequency of a plant being watered, not the amount of water it receives. If your plant consistently sits in more water than the roots can take in, the roots may rot.
If your rattlesnake’s leaves are yellowing and you suspect overwatering, check the moisture level in the soil. If it’s soggy, you can gently remove the plant from its pot and replace the soil with a fresh, well-draining potting mix.
While you have the plant out of the pot, check for mushy, black roots. Unfortunately, if most of the plant’s roots are mushy and fall off easily, the plant might not survive.
If only some of the roots have rotted, but you also see healthy, light-colored roots, just remove the dead roots and place the plant in the pot with fresh soil. Going forward, be sure to only water your plant if the soil is dry at least an inch deep.
Why Is My Rattlesnake Plant Drooping?
One of the tricky parts about diagnosing a sick plant is that many symptoms of different issues overlap. Droopy leaves are a good example of a sign that could have many potential causes.
Some of the problems that could lead to droopy, limp stems and leaves include:
- Overwatering: Check for other signs of overwatering, such as yellow leaves and wet soil.
- Underwatering: If the soil is very dry, give it a thorough watering and see if the problem improves over the next couple of days.
- Cold temperatures: Rattlesnake plants prefer warmer temperatures and should not be kept in an area where temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Why Are My Rattlesnake Plant Leaves Curling?
The two most likely causes of curling leaves for rattlesnake plants are inadequate humidity and underwatering. Many botanists agree that by curling the edges of its leaves, your plant is attempting to conserve moisture by decreasing the surface area exposed to the environment.
Check the soil with your finger, and if the potting mix is dry at a depth greater than an inch, water it thoroughly until it trickles out of the drainage hole. Curled leaves usually bounce back within 1-2 days after watering.
If the soil moisture is adequate, or if watering your rattlesnake plant did not solve the problem, then your plant may need more humidity. Brown, crispy leaf edges are sometimes present as well.
Check out this YouTube video to get a visual idea of the most common rattlesnake problems:
Although no longer classified as a calathea, the rattlesnake plant shares many common issues.
How Can I Keep My Rattlesnake Plant Happy?
Once you have identified and fixed the plant’s problem, the next step is to maintain ideal growing conditions. Here’s how to make sure your rattlesnake plant thrives:
- Water: Keep the soil evenly moist but not soaked. Let the potting mix dry out at least an inch below the surface. Rattlesnake plants are also sensitive to many of the chemicals found in tap water, so distilled is best.
- Light: Rattlesnake plants prefer to be in lower light. Place your plant in any window where the sun’s rays won’t be directly on it. You can also move it a few feet from the window or place a sheer curtain in front of the window to filter the light.
- Soil: Any all-purpose potting mix should be fine for rattlesnake plants, but be sure that it drains well. An easy way to accomplish this is by adding drainage amendments like perlite or orchid bark to the soil.
- Container: Rattlesnake plants should be in a pot where the diameter is only slightly bigger than the root ball by no more than 2 inches. Oversized pots cause plants to sit in more water than they need, leading to root rot.
- Fertilizer: Fertilize with an all-purpose houseplant food every 3-4 weeks during active growth.
Another great way to figure out what a plant needs is to find out its native habitat. Rattlesnake plants are native to Brazilian rainforests, where temperatures are warm, humidity is high, and they receive filtered light through tree canopies.
The journey of plant parenting can be extremely rewarding, but also frustrating at times. It’s important to remember that even the most experienced gardeners have plants that struggle occasionally.
As long as you’re watching for the signs your plant is communicating and trying to interpret them, your trials and errors will become valuable learning experiences. Here is our guide as to why your rattlesnake plant is moving.