Aloe Plant Turning Brown? (How to Save it)


why is my aloe plant turning brown

Aloe plants turn brown because the soil is too damp around the roots due to overwatering or poor drainage. Aloe plants are drought resistant plants that require the soil to dry out between bouts of watering. If the soil is too damp aloe leaves turn brown and soft.

Most common reasons for aloe plants turning brown:

  1. Watering too often causes root rot (Aloe plants need the soil to dry out between each watering).
  2. Potting soil retains too much moisture which results in root rot (Aloe plants require specially formulated ‘succulent and cacti soil’ which recreates the well draining soil conditions of the aloe’s native environment).
  3. Aloe plants planted in pots without drainage holes in the base (Decorative outer pots, saucers and trays cause excess water to pool around the aloe’s roots, causing root rot.
  4. Aloe plant is scorched reddish brown due to sun burn (moving aloes from relative shade to full sun without time for the aloe to adjust to the increase in light intensity causes brown scorched leaves).
  5. Aloe plant leaves turn brown and crispy at the base as the plant matures (this is normal for aloe plants although it can also be causes by a underwatering or not enough sun).
  6. Aloe plants turn brown and soft after repotting due to root rot caused by potting soil that retains too much moisture (Normal potting soil retains too much moisture for aloe plants to tolerate or the pot does not have drainage holes in the base).
  7. Aloe plants leaf tips turn brown due to a sudden contrast in conditions (A sudden increase in light intensity, temperature or lowering of humidity cause the leaf tips to turn brown, underwatering can also be a factor).
  8. Underwatering can cause aloe leaves to turn brown and thin. Aloe plants need the soil to dry out between each buts of watering buy should always be watered with a good soak to ensure the moisture reaches the roots where it is required, or the leaves turn thin and brown as a sign of drought stress).

To save aloe plants turning brown recreate some of the conditions of the aloe plants native environment by reducing how often you water, allowing the potting soil to dry out between each bout of watering placing the aloe in 6 hours of morning sun and ensuring the aloe is planted in a pot with drainage holes in the base.

High temperatures can also contribute to an aloe plant turning brown, if temperatures exceed their usual temperature range of 55°F-80°F (13°C-27°C) for an extended period of time.

Keep reading to learn why your aloe is turning brown and how to implement the solutions to save your brown aloe plant

Aloe Leaves Turning Brown and Soft (Overwatering)

  • Symptoms. Aloe plant turning brown with a soft, mushy texture.
  • Causes. Overwatering, potting soil retains too much moisture, pots without drainage holes in their base and saucers and trays that cause water to pool around the base of the pot.

The most common reason for aloe plants turning brown is because of root rot due to overwatering and poor drainage. Aloe plants are adapted to tolerate drought and and need the soil to dry out between each watering. If the soil is stays saturated, the aloe plant develops root rot which turns the leaves brown and soft.

Aloe plants are drought resistant and have specifically adapted to growing in gritty, well draining soil with infrequent rainfall and high temperatures in their native range parts of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

To grow an aloe plant successfully and to prevent it from turning brown and mushy, it is important to recreate some of the growing conditions of the aloe’s native environment, by planting aloe in well draining, gritty potting soil and allowing to soil to dry out between bouts of watering.

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

As aloe plants are adapted to desert like conditions and suffer in damp soil, watering aloe plants too often or planting them in normal potting soil (which retains too much moisture) are the most common reasons for aloe plants turning brown and soft.

Potting soil can also be damp due to a lack of drainage holes in the base which causes excess water to pool around the roots of the aloe plant.

If you do not empty saucers and trays underneath the aloe plant’s pot, then water can also pool around the base of the pot which prevents the potting soil from drying and promotes the conditions for rot, which turns the aloe plant brown and soft.

How to Save an Aloe Plant that is Turning Brown and Soft

  • Scale back the watering. If you are watering aloe plants more then once per week, then you are overwatering and this is the cause of the aloe plant turning brown and soft. To replicate the typical watering cycle of the aloe’s native environment, allow the potting soil to dry out between each bout of watering. Typically this means watering every 14 days, but this can depend on climate, the size of the pot and the type of potting soil.
  • Repot the aloe plant with ‘succulent and cacti’ potting soil. Even if you water your aloe plant with the right frequency, it can still turn brown and mushy if the soil retains moisture around the roots for too long. Repot the aloe with specially formulated, well draining soil that emulates the soil conditions of the aloe’s natural environment. Well draining soil is the most significant factor in reducing the risk of aloe plants turning brown and soft.
Aloe vera turning brown and soft.
Planting Aloe vera in specially formulated succulent and cacti soil (on the left) significantly reduces the risk of root rot compared to ordinary potting soil.
  • Plant aloe in pots with drainage holes in the base. Aloe plants can grow in any type of pot as long as there are drainage holes in the base and the pot is proportionate to the size of the aloe. Good drainage is essential as the potting soil has to dry out between each watering, to prevent the aloe turning brown.
  • Plant aloe in pots that are proportionate to the size of the plant. The larger the pot the more soil and therefore the greater the capacity for retaining moisture which causes the aloe to turn brown and soft. Plant aloe in a pot that is has around 1.5 inches larger either side of the aloe if your aloe plant is turning brown. This helps the potting soil dry more quickly to prevent root rot and brown, soft aloe plants. (Read my article, best pots for aloe vera).

To establish how often to water your aloe plants, feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage holes in the base. If the soil feels moist, then delay watering for a few days. If the soil feels dry then this is the perfect time to water.

This frequency of watering effectively emulates the -deluge of rainfall, followed by drought- cycle of watering in the aloe plants native environment, to avoid root rot.

(Read my article, how to water aloe vera, to learn how often to water aloe plants at different times of the year.

I must emphasize the importance of emptying saucers, trays before excess water pools around the base of your aloe pot and prevents water from effectively draining.

Once you have allow the aloe’s soil to dry out completely and reduced the frequency of watering, replaced the soil and repotted your aloe, the aloe has a chance to revive with the brown color subsiding over the following weeks.

If the area soft, mushy, brown area of the aloe increases in size then it is imperative to cut that individual part of the aloe back to healthy growth with a sharp, sterile pair of pruners.

Cutting away the soft brown rotting area of the aloe prevents the rot from spreading further.

The resulting wound should callus over in the following days and the aloe plant can then begin to recover. Aloe plants are more hardy then they are often given credit for and cutting away rotting parts of the plant is often the best way to increase the chance of reviving your aloe.

Aloe plants with severe root rot…

If the aloe plant is getting progressively more brown, soft and mushy then another option (which can work in conjunction with cutting way brown, mushy parts of the aloe) is to take cuttings form healthy tissue for propagation.

Aloe plants propagate readily from leaf cuttings (succulents often spread from leaf and offsets in their native environment to form a new plant) which can be an easy, cheap and fun way to save your aloe plants, particularly if the brown soft mushy rot appears to be severe and spreading.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to easily propagate aloe plants from cuttings to produce lots of extra plants at no extra cost (as long as you propagate from any remaining healthy tissue):

Aloe Plant Turning Brown (Sun Burn)

  • Symptoms. Leaves turn a scorched brown/yellow/reddish without any part of the aloe feeling soft and mushy.
  • Causes. Aloe plants can scorch in strong sunlight in Summer. Moving aloe plants from partial shade to full sun without acclimatizing the aloe can result in brown leaves due to sun burn.

The reason for aloe plants turning brown can be because of sun burn. Aloe plants can often tolerate full sun, but the plant can turn brown and scorched if the aloe is moved suddenly from a relatively shaded and cool location, to an area of full sun without a chance to adapt to a higher light intensity.

Most of the aloe plants that are cultivated as house plants (such as Aloe vera) are naive to hot, sunny and dry areas of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and thrive in sunny conditions.

Aloe plants typically prefer at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to grow to their best.

However if you live in a climate with particularly intense sunlight (such as Arizona) then 6 hours of morning sun, followed by afternoon shade is usually best to avoid sun burnt, brown aloe plants.

Aloe plants are very adaptable and adjust to certain light conditions indoors, even if it is lower then their optimal level of light.

However when the aloe plant is moved to a sunnier location or perhaps moved outside during Summer from a more shaded area to intense direct sunlight all day, the aloe plant can scorch a reddish brown color due to the sudden contrast in light intensity.

Aloe plants benefit from more gradual exposure to direct sunlight to prevent been scorched brown so they can acclimate to the higher intensity of light.

How To Save a Aloe Turning Brown due to Sun Burn

Once the aloe has been scorched brown, it does not return to its original appearance.

However there are some best practices to be aware of that can prevent further damage and some solutions to improve the appearance of the aloe.

  • Always move aloe plants into full sun by gradually exposing them to more direct sunlight over 2 weeks. Move the aloe into the sunny area for 20 minutes longer each day over the course of two weeks to give the aloe chance to adjust to the higher levels of light intensity. Once the have acclimatized to more sun, the potting soil may also dry out much quicker so ensure you test the soil to detect when it is dry and give the potting soil a good soak once the soil has dried out.
  • If the aloe has turned brown from sun burn, move it to a location with morning sun followed by afternoon shade for protection. Do not deprive the aloe of sun completely as this can also cause problems. Morning sun is less intense and the temperatures are lower which should help to revive the aloe.
  • Brown aloe plants that have been scorched do not recover in appearance but the plant should still live. Whilst the aloe is not necessarily in imminent danger, the sun burn section or leaf may dry out and fall off as it can no longer photosynthesize. Cut any parts of the aloe that appear to dry out, back to healthy growth which can help stimulate more growth.

If the majority of the aloe plant shows signs of sun burn to some degree then I would recommend leaving the plant for a time to see if any new growth develops and then cut back any parts of the aloe plant that do not recover with a sharp sterile pair of pruners, back to either healthy undamaged grow or the base or wherever is practical.

If possible taking a cutting from any remaining healthy tissue to propagate if the rest of the plant cannot be saved…

Aloe Plant Turning Brown at the Base

Aloe plant with brown leaf at the base develop naturally as the plant matures.
Aloe plant with brown leaf at the base develop naturally as the plant matures.
  • Symptoms. Leaves at the base of the aloe plant turning brown and crispy.
  • Causes. Part of the life cycle of aloe plants, lack of water or lack or sunlight can contribute to leaves turning brown at the base.

The reason for aloe leaves turning brown at the base is because the leaves naturally turn brown and crispy as the plant matures. The aloe redirects energy from supporting the older, lower leaves to promoting new growth further up the plant which causes leaves at the base to turn brown and dry out.

This is a natural part of the aloe plants life cycle as the plant grows larger.

The older leaves at the base aloe often get shaded out as the plant grows larger which means they have less available light for photosynthesize and therefore cost the aloe plant more in energy then it contributes.

The lower leaves of the aloe plant usually turn brown, crispy and either fall off or can be gently pulled from the plant.

If the brown leaves still put up any resistance, I recommend leaving it for a few weeks rather then use force which could damage the plant.

If the aloe plant is leggy (growing very tall and spindly) and the leaves at the base are turning brown and dying, then this is because the aloe does not have enough light.

Aloe plants typically require around 6 hours of direct light per day. In shaded areas the aloe plant sacrifices the lower leaves and promotes growth to search for more light, which results in a leggy appearance.

Underwatering can also be a contributing factor.

Even though aloe plants are adapted to tolerate drought, they still require a really good soak, so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot (to ensure the water reaches the roots) when it is time to water.

If you water too lightly then only the top inch or so of the soil is moistened and the water does not actually reach the aloe’s roots resulting in dry brown leaves.

How to Save Aloe Plants with Brown Leaves at the Base

  • If the aloe occasionally has brown, crispy leaves at the base of the plant, then there is nothing to worry about. As the aloe plant grows, the lower leaves turn brown and crispy. Just gently remove any crispy brown leaves at the bottom of the plant but do not force any off as this can damage the aloe unnecessarily.
  • If the aloe is leggy and the leaves are turning brown then it needs more light. Relocate your aloe plant to a sunnier location over the course of 2 weeks. Aloe plants need time to acclimatize to more intense light (otherwise they can scorch) so move the plant to a sunny spot for 20 or so minutes longer each day. After about 2 weeks the aloe should have acclimated to the sunnier location without burning. If the aloe is very leggy, consider taking cuttings for propagation as aloe propagates easily.
  • Always water aloe plants with a generous soak. Watering aloe thoroughly, so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot, ensures that the potting soil is evenly moist and the water has infiltrated the soil. This prevents the drought stress that can contribute to dry crispy leaves. Water generously when the soil feels dry at the base of the pot. Feel the soil through the drainage hole in the base of the pot to detect when the soil is dry, then give it a thorough watering.

Aloe Turning Brown After Repotting

  • Symptoms. Aloe leaves turning brown and soft.
  • Causes. Root rot due to repotting aloe in potting soil that retains too much moisture, pots without drainage holes in the base or water pooling around the base of the pot.

The reason for aloe plants turning brown after repotting is often because they are repotted in soil that retains too much moisture. Aloe plants are drought resistant and need the soil dry out between each watering. Potting soil that stays damp for too long results in root rot which causes brown and soft aloe leaves.

Aloe plants grow naturally in well draining, gravelly soils that are particularly porous and do not hold onto much moisture with infrequent rainfall.

Aloe plants require the potting soil to dry out between bouts of watering.

A frequent problem when repotting aloe plants is to use ordinary potting soil (rather then specially formulated succulent and cacti soil), as it stays moist for too long for the aloe plant to tolerate.

This promotes the conditions for root rot and causes the aloe plant to turn brown and soft.

Another common causes of aloe plants turn brown after repotting is due to the new pot, not having drainage holes in their base which causes water to pool around the roots and causes root rot.

Aloe plants are adapted to growing in well draining soil conditions and do not tolerate consistently damp soil.

Saucer and trays underneath aloe pots can also cause excess water to pool around the bottom of the pot and cause the aloe to turn brown and soft.

How to Revive an Aloe Plant Turning Brown After Repotting

  • Scale back the watering. Aloe plants require the soil to dry out between bouts of watering, so any additional water is going to exacerbate the problem. After replacing the potting soil with ‘succulent and cacti’ soil, let the soil dry completely before watering again.
  • Repot the aloe with ‘succulent and cacti’ potting soil. Specially formulated succulent and cacti soil is made specifically for succulents such as aloe plants. The specially formulated soil recreates the soil conditions of the aloe plants native environment with good drainage and retains less moisture then ordinary potting soil.
  • Repot the aloe to a pot with drainage holes in the base. Aloe plants should be in a pot that is proportionate to the size of the aloe (very large pots contain more soil and can hold too much moisture for aloe plants). Un-glazed ceramic, terracotta pots are porous which allows the soil to dry out more evenly. Drainage holes in the base of the pot are essential to allow water to drain freely to avoid root rot.
  • Empty saucers and trays of water regularly. As soon as you see any water pooling around the base of the pot in a saucer or tray, empty it so that water can drain properly from the pot and the soil can dry out properly between bouts of watering.

How long it takes for the aloe to revive depends on how long it has been stressed, due to too much water, but you should start to see improvements in the following weeks.

Once the soil has had a chance to dry out and the aloe is in the right soil, the brown mushy section should decrease in size and the aloe can recover.

If the brown, mushy area of the aloe increases in size, then cut the rotten section out with a sharp sterile pair of pruners, back to healthy growth or back to the base of the plant to prevent the rot spreading further.

The wound should callus over in a few days and the aloe can start to recover.

Consider taking cuttings of stems or leaves for propagation from any healthy tissue as this is a great way to save an aloe plant if it has been significantly affected by water stress and the aloe does not appear to be improving in condition.

Aloe Plant with Leaf Tips Turning Brown

  • Symptoms. Aloe plants leaf tips turn brown and crispy. Sometimes the leaf tips turn brown
  • Causes. Increase in temperature, decrease in humidity, increase in light intensity and underwatering.

The reason for aloe plant leaf tips turning brown is usually because of a sudden increase in temperature, sunlight, a decrease in humidity and underwatering. Aloe plants tolerate high temperatures, full sun and low humidity but it is when conditions contrast suddenly that causes the leaf tips to turn brown.

Aloe plants are adapted to living in to dry, hot and sunny climates, so they often grow well in our homes which tend to have low humidity and high temperatures due to central heating.

However aloe plants can adapt somewhat to the conditions they are living in, even if the conditions are not optimal with less light, some humidity and average temperatures which are outside the typical preferred range of the aloe plant.

Brown tips on aloe plants occur because of a sudden change in conditions which can cause the aloe to lose more moisture from the leaves (transpiration) then they are used to.

It is usually a combination of a sudden increase in heat, intense sunlight and low humidity that cause the brown leaf tips which can be exacerbated by underwatering.

This typically happens if the aloe plant has been moved outdoors for the Summer or because the aloe has been moved to a different area of the house with full sun or next to indoor heating, which can sap moisture from the air and dry the soil very quickly.

A sudden heat wave can also be the cause of leaf tips turning brown.

Aloe plants are hardy in the face of hot and dry conditions but typically need some time to acclimatize to a different set of climatic conditions rather then a sudden and drastic change.

Not watering often enough or watering too lightly, can also cause the aloe leaves to turn thin and brown.

The leaves turn thin as the aloe draws moisture reserves that are stored in the succulent leaves, with the brown leaf tips indicating drought stress.

The good news is aloe plants often recover from brown leaf tips once they have had a chance to adjust, but there are some best practices and solutions to be aware of…

How to Revive an Aloe Plant with Brown Leaf Tips

  • Give the aloe a generous soak. If the aloe plants has brown leaf tips, it is often because of higher temperatures, more sunlight and lower humidity, all of which increases a plants demand for water so you may have to water the aloe more often. Give the aloe plants a generous soak, so that excess water tickles from the base of the pot. This ensures that the moisture has reached the roots where it is required. Check to see when the soil dries by feeling the soil through the drainage holes at the base. If the soil is still damp, delay watering (to avoid root rot). When the soil is dry give the aloe a thorough watering.
  • Gradually expose the aloe to a high intensity of sunlight. Move the aloe to a sunnier location for 20 minutes more each day for about 2 week to give the aloe a chance to adjust to the higher light intensity. This prevents the aloe scorching and decreases the stress that contributes to the leaf tips turning brown.
  • In particularly sunny climates, locate aloe plants in 6 hours of morning sun followed by afternoon shade. This way the aloe can benefit from the sun whilst the temperatures are cooler without having to tolerate higher temperatures at midday and the afternoon.
  • Move the aloe away from any sources of indoor heat to alleviate brown tips. Indoor heat decreases humidity and can dry out the soil too quickly which can contribute to the aloe leaf tips turning brown.

Should I Cut the Brown Leaf Tips off my Aloe Plant?

As a general rule, do not cut brown leaf tips off an aloe plant. The brown leaf tips are a reaction to a sudden contrast in conditions such as light and temperature. Once the aloe as adjusts to the new conditions the brown leaf tips often restore their green appearance.

Once you have addressed any problems or adverse conditions of the aloe’s environment, the leaf tips often turn green again of their own accord without having to remove them.

If the conditions are favorable It should take several weeks for the leaf tips to restore to their appearance. It is also worth noting brown leaf tips tend to recover quicker when the aloe is in active growth and much more slowly if the aloe is dormant (due to low light levels in Winter).

Dormancy of aloe plants can also occur in Summer, if the temperatures are particularly high and the aloe often stops growing as a way to conserve moisture.

Cutting back the brown tips of your aloe plant with sharp, sterile pair of pruners does not necessarily harm the plant and can be a way to improve the appearance of the aloe quickly.

If the leaf tips are brown and mushy, then this is usually a result of overwatering, in which case you should remove the leaf back to healthy growth with a sharp, sterile pair of pruners.

(To learn more about how to save aloe plants, read article, why is my aloe plant dying?)

Key Takeaways:

  • Aloe plants turn brown and soft because of root rot due to overwatering and poor drainage. Aloe plants need the soil to dry out between each outs of watering. Soil that is consistently saturated, promotes the conditions for root rot and fungal disease which turns the aloe leaves turn brown with a mushy texture.
  • Aloe plants can turn brown due to intense sunlight. Aloe plants can often grow in full sun, however they need time to adjust an increase in light intensity. If an aloe plant is moved from partial light to full sun without enough time to acclimatize, the aloe leaves can scorch a reddish brown.
  • Aloe leaves turn brown and crispy at the base naturally, as the plant matures. This is a normal process and does not indicate the plant is dying. Sometimes the leaves at the base can turn brown due to underwatering or a lack of light.
  • The reason aloe plants turn brown after repotting is usually because the aloe is repotted into potting soil that retains too much moisture the aloe to tolerate. Aloe plants require the soil to dry out between each watering. If the potting soil remains damp, the aloe plant leaves turn brown and soft due to root rot.
  • The reason aloe plant leaves turn brown at the tips is because of a sudden contrast in light, temperature, humidity or due to underwatering. If aloe plants are moved into full sun, or the temperature suddenly increases or the humidity lowers significantly, the aloe leaf tips turn brown as a reaction to the sudden change in conditions. Underwatering can also cause aloe leaf tips to turn brown.
  • To save an aloe with brown, soft leaves use a sterile pair of pruners to cut the affected leaf back to healthy growth, to prevent the brown rot from spreading. Scale back the watering and allow the soil to dry out between bouts of watering to increase the chance of the aloe reviving.

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