Why is My Aloe Vera Limp? (How to Solve it)

Why is my aloe vera limp

Have you ever turned around to see your once thriving aloe vera plant looking rather limp, and you’re not sure why?

I have grown aloe vera indoors for years and encountered almost every problem they can have along the way! Through this, I have gained lots of first hand experience for how to identify the cause of limp leaves and I have done testing, experiments and research to find the best solutions to revive limp aloe vera!

In this article, I share with you a step-by-step guide with all my best tips and tricks to save a limp aloe vera…

Let’s cut to the chase!

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 sunlight, the leaves weaken and grow in the direction of most light, which causes a limp appearance to the leaves.

I must caution that 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

Why is my aloe drooping
This is an aloe vera that I saw that was drooping due to insufficient light.

To understand why your aloe plant is drooping, it always helps if we undertsand how aloe vera grows in its native habitat…

Aloe vera plants are native to Oman in the Arabian peninsula and grow in hot and sunny desert conditions.

Therefore, our aloe vera has specifically adapted to growing in open areas with lots of sun.

I spoke to some specialist growers to verify this and they assured me that 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.

I found that when I lived in Southern California, my aloe vera grew best in 4 hours of morning sun as the midday sun could start to scorch the leaves.

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.

This happened to me when I moved to my much darker apartment. I didn’t have a south-facing window, so my aloe vera struggled and became limp.

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 to grow the newer, younger central leaves towards the strongest source of sun.

From my observations, aloe veras require at least 4 hours of direct sun to maintain a compact appearance.

My Tips for Saving Limp Aloe Vera

  • Gradually expose the aloe vera to more direct sun. You must gradually expose a shaded limp aloe vera to the sun rather than just locate it in full sun suddenly. This is a common mistake I see people make. 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 sunburn and turn brown. My tried and tested method is to move the aloe vera from shade to more sun over the course of 4 weeks with more time in the direct sun each day to prevent sunburn 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 some leaves in the center are standing upright, then I recommend cutting back the outer leaves 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. I always cut the individual limp leaves back to the base (with a sterile pair of pruners) rather than halfway 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 cuttings 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.
  • To prevent this problem, I recommend using a grow light. As I mentioned earlier, this really worked for me when I lived in an apartment without much sunlight. I would use it to supplement the natural sunlight which kept my aloe vera compact and healthy.

Watch this YouTube Video for how to propagate an aloe vera from leaf cuttings:

Watering Too Often Causes Limp Leaves

This may seem somewhat paradoxical at first that watering actually causes the plant to go limp as it did to me but as we know Aloe veras are drought-resistant plants that grow in arid climates with infrequent rainfall.

Aloe vera is specifically adapted to grow in climates with frequent drought and is very susceptible to overwatering when cared for by gardeners as many people treat them as regular houseplants. Lots of us have been guilty of this!

If you water your aloe vera more often than once per week, then you are overwatering it.

Other symptoms of overwatering to look out for include leaves that turn brown or yellow and turn soft.

(If your aloe vera leaves are turning yellow, brown, translucent, or soft and mushy, read my article on how to revive a dying aloe vera plant).

Our aloe vera should only be watered when the soil around the roots has dried out completely to avoid the leaves going limp.

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 fewer hours of sun, which reduces their demand for water. This then increases its risk of root rot.

My Tips for Saving it

To save your limp aloe vera we need 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 the pot has dried out completely. Typically, for my aloe vera in my climate, I’ve found that 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, I feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole. If the soil is still damp, I 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 downpour of rain followed by a period of drought, which is typical in the native climate where the aloe vera grows.

I spoke to a specialist succulent grower, and she explained to me that 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, I have personally found that this can depend on the temperature of your home in Winter, which can vary significantly due to heating, so keep monitoring the soil to feel how quickly it dries out and adjust your watering accordingly.

I had to move my aloe plants away from my radiator as this was baking the soil dry in the evenings.

(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 from turning limp…

Slow Draining Soils

As I mentioned earlier, 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,what we have to do is emulate the draining characteristics of its native environment by potting your aloe 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 essentially 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).

A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing aloe vera plants.
A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing aloe vera plants.

I have experimented with planting succulents in soil that I have amended myself with amendments such as grit or perlite but I had greater success with store bought ‘succulent and cacti soi’

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 from turning limp as a sign of stress.

It was recommended to me by a specialist grower and I have used it on all my succulents ever since, and none of them have gone limp. The right soil can really help mitigate the effects of overwatering, so I think it’s a savvy purchase.

Ensure Pots Drain Freely to Prevent Leaves from Turning Limp

As we discussed, our Aloe vera is a drought-resistant succulent that is particularly sensitive to water around the roots, so the aloe vera must be planted in a pot with drainage holes in the base so water can escape freely to avoid the leaves turning limp and brown or yellow.

In pots and containers 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 that I often see…

  • Saucer or tray underneath your pot. Often saucers and trays are placed beneath pots to prevent watering spilling in your home. The saucer must be emptied regularly, rather than 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 from escaping. Aloe vera sold in shops are sometimes planted in a pot with drainage holes and 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.

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason aloe vera leaves turn limp is due to a lack of direct sun. Aloe vera leaves are weaker in the shade and grow towards the direction of the 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 brown 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 cause your aloe vera leaves to turn limp. Use specifically formulated succulent soil and plant in pots with drainage holes in the base to prevent limp leaves and root rot.

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