5 Most Common Problems With Aloe Plants (How to Solve Them)

Common problems with aloe plants

The most common problem when growing aloe plants is to do with overwatering and moisture retentive soils.

Aloe plants are drought resistant and need the potting soil to dry out between each watering. If the soil is consistently damp from overwatering then the aloe’s leaves turn yellow or brown with a soft squishy texture and drooping appearance.

Whist overwatering is the most common problem with growing aloes, here is a table summarizing the other common problems and their causes…

Common Problems with Aloe Plants:Most Common Causes:
1. Aloe Plants Turning Yellow, Brown with a Soft Squishy Texture.Overwatering, potting soils that retain moisture too long for the aloe to tolerate.
2.Aloe Plant Turning Brown at The Ends:Too much direct sunlight, underwatering and high temperatures.
3. Aloe Plant Drooping Leaves:Most often overwatering or poor drainage. Not enough light also causes drooping leaves. Underwatering can also contribute to drooping leaves.
4. Aloe Plant Leaves Turning Red:The red is a pigment known as carotenoids which is a stress response to too much direct sunlight and high temperatures.
5. Aloe Plant Turning White:White leaves is most often caused by a lack of sunlight, but can also be due to sun burn. Epicuticular wax is a white powder produced by some aloe plants to cope with bright sunlight. Powdery mildew is a white fuzzy fungus which can occur in room in high humidity.

Keep reading to learn how to implement the solutions to save your aloe plant…

1. Aloe Plant Leaves Turning Yellow or Brown, Soft and Squishy

  • Symptoms: The leaves turn brown with a squishy texture which can also cause them to droop.
  • Causes: Overwatering, too much moisture around the roots.

Aloe plants are native to hot and dry regions of the middle east where they grow in sandy or gritty soil that does not hold onto moisture for very long and has an open porous structure allowing excess water to drain quickly.

Aloe plants typically experience a cycle of a deluge of rainfall, followed by a period of drought.

Therefore aloe plants have significant adaptions to dry conditions and can cope with underwatering but they do not tolerate overwatering and moisture retentive soils.

It is important to let the soil dry out completely between each bout of watering. If you are watering aloe plants more often the once per week then you are likely to be overwatering and this is the reason for the brown, soft leaves.

Keep in mind that aloe is usually dormant in Winter which decreases the demand for water. This decrease in demand for water can mean that the potting soil stay moist for longer as the roots are not actively uptaking moisture at the same rate.

Therefore you should decrease how often you water the aloe in Winter Compared with Summer.

Ordinary houseplant potting soil holds onto moisture for too long which promotes the conditions for root rot, stem rot and basal stem disease, all of which cause the aloe’s leaves to turn brown and squishy.

How to Save it…

The key to saving an aloe plant with brown, soft leaves is to emulate the growing conditions of the aloe plants native environment with well draining gritty soil and by allowing the soil to dry out between each bout of watering.

  1. Repot the aloe plant in specially made ‘succulent and cacti’ soil as this accurately replicates the typical well draining, porous soil conditions that aloes need.
  2. Ideally repot the aloe into an unglazed clay or terracotta pot, rather the plastic or ceramic pots. Terracotta and clay are porous in structure which means that the soil dries out more evenly after watering. This helps to mitigate the risk of root rot. (Read my article, best pots for aloe vera).
  3. Always ensure that the pot has a drainage hole in the base and empty any saucers, trays or decorative outer pots of excess water regularly to ensure good drainage.
  4. Reduce how often you water the aloe plant ensuring that the soil feels dry before watering. To do this you can pick the pot up periodically to assess the weight as it should feel much lighter as the soil dries. You can also use a wooden skewer that you can push to the bottom of the pot to see if the soil around the base still feels damp.
  5. My personal preferred method is to feel the soil at the bottom through the drainage hole in the base of the pot. This way you can definitively tell whether the soil is still moist or dry.
  6. Cut any soft brown leaves back to the base of the plant with a sharp pruning tool to prevent the rot from spreading throughout the plant. Wipe the blade with a cloth soaked in disinfectant between each but to prevent spreading fungal pathogens from diseased parts of the plant to healthy parts.

If the aloe vera’s conditions continues to decline with brown, squidgy rot spreading through the plant then the best option is to take a leaf cutting or part of an offset for propagation. Aloe plants create off sets and propagate very easily.

The process of propagation is best explained visually so watch this helpful YouTube video on how to propagate aloe plants…

(To learn how often to water aloe vera at different times of the year to avoid root rot, read my article, how often to water aloe vera plants).

2. Aloe Plant Turning Brown at The Ends

Aloe plant turning brown at the ends due to too much sun and high temperatures from indoor heating, which dried out the soil.
Aloe plant turning brown at the ends due to too much sun and high temperatures from indoor heating, which dried out the soil.

If the aloe is turning brown at the ends then this is usually due to a combination of too much sun and not enough moisture.

Aloe plants typically prefer 4-6 hours of morning sun. If they are in the full glare of the sun all day with high temperatures during Summer then this can cause them to turn brown as a sign of stress.

In full sun, the aloes pot may also heat up and dry out too quickly for the roots to draw up the moisture, which further exacerbates the stress that turns the leaf ends brown, dried out and crispy.

How to Save it…

The key is to find a window sill that has only about 4-6 hours of sunlight.

If you are in a particularly hot climate then try to locate your aloe in an area of bright indirect in the afternoon as the combination of high temperature and intense sun is too much for the aloe to tolerate.

If the aloe is fairly mature, the roots may be pot bound and it is a good idea to repot your aloe to a larger pot.

Choose a pot that is at most 2 inches wider in diameter then the previous pot.

If you choose a pot that is too large then the aloe can suffer from overpotting which is when a larger pot dries out much more slowly which can promote the conditions for root rot.

A pot that is larger, yet proportionate to the size of the aloe can contain more soil and therefore

3. Aloe Plant Leaves Drooping

Why is my aloe drooping
Aloe Plant Leaf Drooping.
  • Symptoms. The aloe’s leaves are drooping down, with a limp appearance. Some leaves may even form a crease where they are bent.
  • Causes. Not enough sunlight, the pot may be too small and drying out too quickly or watering too lightly. Overwatering can also cause drooping leaves.

By far the most common reason for aloe leaves bending and drooping is that they are not in enough sunlight.

Aloe plants naturally grow in bright areas with some direct sunlight.

If the aloe does not have any direct sunlight indoors then it does not have enough energy to support the leaves which causes them to grow weak and droop downwards.

The aloe’s leaves grow long and leggy often towards the strongest source of light which causes it to weaken.

It is possible that the aloe plant is drooping due to a lack of water. Overwatering is more often the reason for problems with aloe vera due to their sensitivity to excess moisture.

However it should be noted that aloe plants draw moisture from the soil to store in their leaves causing them to be thick and plump. If their is not enough moisture the leaves turn thinner and curl inwards of ten with a drooping appearance.

People occasionally misinterpret the advice that ‘aloe plants do not need much water’ to mean that aloe plants do not need a great quantity of water.

However aloe plants should be watered thoroughly to the extent that excess water trickles out the base of the pot.

It can aloe be problematic if the aloe is planted in soil containing peat moss as peat turns hydrophobic when it dries out which means it repels water off the surface without soaking in and infiltrating the soil properly to reach the roots.

If you water aloe plants more then once a week then the drooping may be due to overwatering. Feel the leaves to see if they are squishy, turning brown or yellow and follow the instructions at the top of the article.

How to Save it…

If the aloe’s leaf has drooped over and has a crease or bend in the leaf then this individual leaf will not perk up again.

The leaf it wont necessarily die as such but live its life in a droopy state.

In which case cut this leaf back to the base. I would highly recommend watching the YouTube video above as I have personally, cut and propagated these drooping leaves in soil and created a new healthy new aloe plant.

If the aloe leaves are drooping but not necessarily bent, then move the aloe to a room with brighter light.

It is important to not move the aloe into full sun straight away as it is likely to burn in the sun as the skin has acclimated to the shade.

Move the aloe into some direct light for 20 minutes or so longer each day over the course of 2 weeks. Morning sun is best and more forgiving then afternoon sun.

To prevent the aloe falling, leaning or drooping in one direction, it is best practice to rotate the aloe plant by 90 degrees every time you water. This ensures that each side of the aloe is more evenly exposed to the sun which should create even healthy growth that does not droop.

If the aloe leaves appear thinner, and perhaps brown at the tips as well as drooping then underwatering is a more likely cause.

Always give the aloe a good soak, to the extent that excess water trickles out the base of the pot to ensure the soil is evenly moist. A good ‘succulent and cacti’ soil contains enough grit to maintain a porous structure even when the soil has dried out completely which prevents a lot of problems with watering.

(Read my article, best potting soil for aloe vera plants indoors).

4. Aloe Plant Leaves Turning Red (Too Much Sun)

Aloe plants turning red at the tips due to high temperatures and too much sunlight.
Aloe plants turning red at the tips due to high temperatures and too much sunlight.

Aloe plants are native to hot and dry climates with blazing sunshine and turn red as a way of protecting themselves from sunburn.

Aloe plants produce carotenoids which is an antioxidant and displays as a red pigment and acts as a sunscreen in reaction to sun and heat.

Red leaves is a sign that your aloe is in too much sunlight and perhaps too much heat.

This may also be due to the pot. Keep in mind that dark colored pots absorb more light and heat which can contribute to the heat stress.

Whilst aloe are capable of tolerating heat and sun, it can sometimes be too much at the height of Summer if the aloe is in full sun.

The leaves may also turn red at the tips if you have moved the aloe from a comparatively shadier location to full sun.

Aloes take time to acclimatize to their surroundings and a sudden increase in light intensity is likely to trigger a stress response.

If the conditions of high temperatures and intense sunlight persists then the ends can turn brown crispy.

How to Save it…

The leaves turning red is usually just a sign of stress rather then a serious problem and almost all succulent have a similar reaction to excess heat and light.

Just move the aloe to a cooler location to alleviate the stress.

Aloe plants do prefer some direct sunlight but the optimal balance is around 4-6 hours of morning sun with some shade in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day, so find a room in the house the fits this criteria.

Once the sun and heat stress has been alleviated the aloe can return to its green coloration.

5. Aloe Plant Turning White (Not Enough Sun and Nutrients)

Epicuticular wax is a natural sunscreen which gives the aloe leaf a white appearance in direct sunlight.
Epicuticular wax is a natural sunscreen which gives the aloe leaf a white appearance in direct sunlight.

If the aloe plants leaves are turning white this can be due to a lack of sunlight, sunburn, a substance known as Epicuticular wax or farina or a lack of nutrients. Powdery mildew (a white furry fungus on the surface of the aloe) can occasionally be a problem in rooms with high humidity and not enough light.

Epicuticular wax is a white powdery substance that reflects ultraviolet light effectively acting as a sunscreen and reduces water loss form the leaves, which are both adaptations to living in hot and dry climates.

Some varieties of aloe plants exude more Epicuticular wax then others, and it is best to not touch your succulents leaves too often if it is excluding the wax as it can come on off your fingers.

Whilst it isn’t harmful to yourself, it can remove the succulents sunscreen which can cause it to burn or lose too much moisture in Summer.

If the aloe plant’s leaves are turning white it may be Etiolation (a lack of sunlight) or because of a sudden increase in light intensity.

Etiolation can also cause the leaves to start to droop as the leaves grow leggy looking for more light.

If the succulent has been moved from shade to intense direct sunlight this can scorch them a white or turn the leaves red depending on how severe the contrast of shade to sun is for the aloe without having time to acclimate to the new conditions..

Another possible reason is that the aloe plant has matured to a good size and has been in the same pot for a very long time. In which case the roots can exhaust the potting medium of nutrients which causes the chlorophyll to degrade (chlorophyll is responsible for the green color) turning the aloe yellow or white.

How to save it…

If the aloe is turning white and it does not have any direct sunlight then it is advisable to move the aloe to a sunnier location, ideally with 4-6 hours of morning sun.

A grow light can be a good alternative if you do not have a room with enough direct light.

Avoid moving it to full sun as this contrast is likely to cause the aloe to burn. Instead move the aloe to a sunnier location for 20 minutes longer each day for around 2 weeks to allow the aloe to adjust gradually to the increase in light intensity.

If you aloe is in direct sunlight and turning white and you suspect it could be sun burn then find an area with morning sun as morning sun is less intense then midday and afternoon sun.

Aloe plants that have turned white can turn green again if the cause was a lack of sunlight. However if the aloe has burnt in the sun then this individual scorched white patches do not recover their appearance.

Aloe’s do not typically need much fertilizer as they are adapted to growing in low nutrients soil, but if your mature aloe plant is turning white then apply a specialized ‘succulent and cacti’ fertilizer (available in garden centers or online) in the Spring and Summer can remedy the problem. A specialized fertilizer contains all the nutrients the aloe needs at the right concentration, whereas a general plant fertilizer if likely to burn the roots of an aloe plant.

For aloe suffering from powdery mildew move the aloe to a less humid room (from a bathroom to a living room for example) mix a table spoon of baking soda with a pint of water and a table spoon of soap (which helps the formula stick to the mildew) into a spray bottle and spray any affected areas.

Once you move the aloe to a less humid room then the lack of humidity is often enough to tackle powdery mildew on its own without spraying with baking soda solution.

Key Takeaways:

  • The most common problem with aloe plants are associated with overwatering and damp soil. Aloe plants need the soil to dry out before watering. Excess moisture around the roots causes leaves to turn brown, soft with a drooping appearance due to root rot.
  • A trifecta of too much heat, too much sunlight and dry soil causes aloe plants to turn brown at the ends.
  • Aloe leaves start to droop due to stem rot which is caused by overwatering. A lack of sunlight can lead to etiolation which causes the leaves to grow weak and limo resulting in a drooping appearance.
  • Aloe plants produce carotenoids which displays a red pigment in reaction to stress from high temperatures and too much sunlight. The carotenoids act as a sunscreen protecting the aloe from sun damage.
  • Aloe plants can turn white due to not enough sunlight, sun burn a lack of nutrients, powdery mildew or because of epicuticular wax which is a reflective substance used as a sunscreen.

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