Aloe vera leaves turn limp if they are in too much shade or due to stress from overwatering. If the aloe vera is not in direct sun, the leaves weaken and grow towards the direction of most light which causes a limp appearance to the leaves.
Slow draining soils and pots without good drainage also retain too much moisture around the roots of this drought tolerant plant which can cause the leaves to turn limp, and perhaps yellow, brown or translucent as a sign of stress.
Keep reading for why aloe vera leaves turn limp and how to save it…
Not Enough Direct Sunlight
Aloe vera plants are native to Oman in the Arabian peninsula and grow in hot and sunny desert conditions.
Aloe vera have specifically adapted to growing in open areas with full sun.
Therefore when growing aloe vera plants you should locate them in an area of at least 4 hours of direct sun in a South facing window or outdoors to recreate the sunny conditions of its native range.
If your aloe vera is in too much shade then the leaves tend to go a pale color and grow leggy as they grow in the direction of the strongest source of light.
As the leaves grow they tend to get weaker and eventually droop under their own weight with a limp appearance and the bottom leaves of your aloe vera can have a dying appearance.
If your aloe has been in the shade for a significant amount of time then the lower leaves can even go brown and die back as the aloe redirects its limited energy into growing the newer, younger central leaves towards the strongest source of sun.
Aloe veras require at least 4 hours of direct sun to maintain a compact appearance.
- Gradually expose the aloe vera to more direct sun. It is very important that you gradually expose a shaded limp aloe vera to the sun rather then just locate it in full sun suddenly. Aloe vera leaves turn a lighter color as a sign of stress due to a lack of sun. If they are then put in intense sun the leaves suffer sun burn and turn brown. Moving the aloe vera from shade to more sun over the course of 4 weeks with more time in direct sun each day prevents sun burn as the aloe has the opportunity to adjust.
- The weaker outer leaves that have turned limp often do not stand back up even with exposure to more sun. If there some leaves in the center that are standing upright then cut back the outer leaves back to the base of the plant. This tidies up the appearance of the aloe vera and encourages more growth, giving it a chance to recover to a normal shape. Always cut the individual limp leaves back the base (with a sterile pair of pruners) rather half way down as the leaves do not regrow from a wound.
- If the aloe has been in the shade for too long and all the leaves are limp then no amount of sunlight or careful treatment can properly restore it to its normal appearance. The only way to save it is to take cutting from the healthiest looking leaves from propagating. Aloe veras, like all succulents are very easy to propagate and you can produce several strong new plants without buying a new aloe vera.
Watch this YouTube Video for how to propagate an aloe vera from leaf cuttings:
Watering Too Often Causes Limp Leaves
Aloe veras are drought resistant plants that grow in arid climates with infrequent rainfall.
Aloe vera are specifically adapted to grow in climates with frequent drought and are very susceptible to over watering when cared for by gardeners as many people treat them as regular houseplants.
If you water your aloe vera more often then once per week then you are over watering your aloe vera.
(If your aloe vera leaves are turning yellow, brown, translucent or soft and mushy read my article how to revive a dying aloe vera plant).
Aloe vera should only be watered when the soil around the roots has dried out completely.
Aloe vera most often go limp in the Winter as the aloe vera enters a state of dormancy (read my article why is my aloe vera not growing). in reaction to lower levels of light and less hours of sun which reduces their demand for water.
To save your limp aloe vera it is important to recreate the conditions in its native environment by watering less often.
- Scale back the watering. Aloe vera should only be watered when the soil in their pot has dried out completely. Typically this takes around 14 days but this can vary on your climate, the conditions in your home and the size of your pot.
- To establish when the potting soil is dry, feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole. If the soil is still damp then delay watering for a few days. If the soil feels dry then this is the perfect time to water your aloe vera.
This frequency of watering replicates the natural conditions of a down pour of rain followed by a period of drought, that is typical in the native climate where the aloe vera grows.
In Winter when growth slows down in reaction to less light,aloe vera typically prefers watering once every 3 weeks or so to meet the moisture requirements and to avoid root rot or limp leaves.
However this can depend on the temperature of your home in Winter which can vary significant due to heating, so keep monitoring the soil to feel how quickly it dries out and adjust your watering accordingly.
(For more information read my article, how to water aloe vera).
Whilst knowing how often to water is important, it is equally important to plant aloe vera in the right potting soil to prevent the leaves turning limp…
Slow Draining Soils
Aloe vera is adapted to growing in gritty soils that are very porous, well draining and do not retain much moisture in its natural habitat.
Therefore to grow aloe vera successfully without leaves that go limp, it is important to emulate the draining characteristics of its native environment by potting your aloe very in well draining soil.
If you have planted aloe vera in conventional potting soil then this retains too much moisture and is probably the reason your aloe vera is turning limp as a sign of stress.
Slow draining soils essential have the same effect on aloe vera as watering too often.
Aloe vera should be planted in potting soil that is specially formulated for succulents and cactus (which is available at garden centers or on Amazon).
This special soil contains a higher proportion of inorganic material (sand, grit and stone) to promote soil drainage and mimic the soil conditions preferred by aloe vera to avoid root rot and prevent the leaves turning limp as a sign of stress.
Ensure Pots Drain Freely to Prevent Leaves Turning Limp
Aloe vera is a drought resistant succulent that is particularly sensitive to water around the roots, so it is essential that the aloe vera is planted in a pot with drainage holes in the base so water can escape freely to avoid the leaves turning limp and turning brown or yellow.
In pots and container without drainage holes, excess water pools around the roots which causes stress and the aloe vera leaves can turn limp and eventually suffer from root rot.
There are several more reasons that water could be draining too slowly from your pot despite drainage holes in the base.
- Saucer or tray underneath your pot. Often saucers and trays are placed beneath pots to prevent watering spilling in your home. It is important that the saucer is emptied regularly, rather then allowing water to pool around the bottom of the pot as this keeps the soil around the roots too damp for the aloe to tolerate causing the aloe to turn limp.
- Roots or compacted soil can block drainage holes. If you notice the soil draining slowly then check the base of the pot to ensure that excess water can escape freely.
- Decorative outer pots can prevent water escaping. Aloe vera sold in shops are sometimes are planted in a pots with drainage holes then displayed in a decorative outer pot that does not have drainage holes which causes excess water to pool around the roots which can cause the leaves to turn limp.
Once the aloe vera is in a well draining pot, with good watering practices and the soil can dry out properly between watering the limp aloe vera leaves can start to recover.
- The reason aloe vera leaves turn limp is due to a lack direct sun. Aloe vera leaves are weaker in the shade and grow towards the direction of strongest light which can result in limp leaves. Too much moisture around the roots because of over watering and slow draining soils can also cause limp aloe vera leaves.
- Limp leaves caused by a lack of sun often do not recover so should be cut back if the central leaves are still intact or propagated to save the plant.
- Overwatering causes too much moisture around the roots which causes the leaves to turn limp and potentially turn brow or yellow as a sign of stress.
- Slow draining soils and pots without drainage holes can also retain too much moisture around the roots and be the cause of your aloe vera leaves turn limp. Use specifically formulated succulent soil and plant in pots with drainage holes in the base to prevent limp leaves and root rot.