How to Revive a Dying Aloe Vera Plant

How to revive a dying aloe vera plant

The reason for dying aloe vera is often because of root rot due to watering too often and slow-draining soils. Aloe vera needs the soil around the roots to dry out between bouts of watering. If the aloe is in damp soil the leaves turn soft and brown or yellow and the aloe vera dies back.

Aloe vera in too much shade causes the leaves to droop and turn light green whilst potted aloe vera that is moved from an area of shade to sun can burn and turn brown with a scorched appearance.

Aloe vera dies when it’s living in conditions that are contrary to the conditions of its natural environment.

To revive an aloe vera it is important to emulate the conditions of low rainfall, partial or full sun, and well-draining gritty soils so the aloe can recover.

Aloe vera is also hardy to zone 9a and can die back in temperatures in cold temperatures, preferring a temperature range of between 55°F-80°F (13°C-27°C) for optimal growth.

Keep reading for how to save your dying aloe vera plant…

Aloe Vera Leaves Turning Brown, Yellow and Soft (Overwatering)

  • Symptoms. Aloe vera leaves turn yellow, brown, or translucent with a soft feel to the leaves.
  • Causes. Watering too often, slow-draining soil, and the use of pots without proper drainage holes in the base can result in root rot,

Aloe vera is a drought-resistant succulent that has adapted to thrive in full sun, gritty, well-draining soil, and infrequent rainfall in its native range of Oman in the Arabian peninsula.

To grow aloe vera successfully and avoid the leaves changing color it is important to recreate some of the conditions of its native environment by using a gritty well-draining potting soil and watering only when the soil has dried out completely.

Watering your aloe too often or planting it is standard potting soil that stays damp for too long can cause too much moisture around the roots for this desert plant to tolerate.

This causes the aloe vera leaves to turn yellow, brown, or translucent with soft leaves as a sign of water stress.

Aloe should only be watered when the soil has dried out completely.

However, it is important to note that aloe vera requires watering less frequently in Summer as they are dormant and stop growing as a strategy to cope with drought.

(Read my article on how to water aloe vera to make sure you are watering your aloe correctly during Summer and Winter as their watering requirements fluctuate throughout the year).

It is also essential that your aloe is planted in a pot that has drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape so that the soil around the roots does not stay damp to avoid root rot.

Revive Overwatered Aloe Vera with Brown, Yellow Leaves That Feel Soft

  • Scale back the watering. If you are watering aloe vera more than once per week you are overwatering. Aloe veras should only be watered when the soil has dried out completely. Typically this takes around 14 days but can vary on your climate, the time of year, and the size of the pot.
  • Replace the potting soil. Even with the right frequency of watering your aloe vera can still turn yellow or brown if it is in slow-draining soil. If your aloe is in conventional potting soil then empty the pot and replace it with specially formulated succulent and cacti soil (link to Amazon) which emulates the well-draining soil characteristics of the aloe vera native environment and reduces the risk of water stress.
Aloe vera potting soil.
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 vera in pots with drainage holes in the base. It is important to plant aloe in any pot or container as long as it has a drainage hole in the base. Terracotta pots are preferred rather than other materials as they are porous and allow the soil to dry out quicker which benefits the aloe requirement for dryer soil conditions. Aloe vera also benefits from being planted in a pot that is proportional to its size as very large pots contain more soil and tend to dry out slower which risks the leaves turning yellow or brown.

To establish when your potting soil is dry, feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole. If the soil is damp then delay watering for a few days. If the soil is dry then this the perfect time to water.

This frequency of watering replicates the natural conditions of a downpour of rain followed by a period of drought, to which aloe is adapted.

Ensure there are no roots or compacted soil that block the drainage holes of your pot and if you are using a saucer or tray underneath the pot, empty it regularly to allow water to escape freely so that the soil can dry out.

Once the aloe’s soil has had a chance to dry out completely and you have adjusted your watering frequency or replaced the soil so it drains suitably quickly for succulents then the aloe has a chance to revive.

The aloe should show signs of recovery over the following weeks.

Once the aloe starts to show signs of recovery resume watering again ensuring that you allow the soil to dry out between each bout of watering.

Some of the more affected leaves turn limp and may drop off and if any individual leaves do not look as though they are recovering you can cut them back to the base with a sterile pair of pruners to reduce overall stress on the plant and promote recovery.

Aloe vera with severe root rot

If the aloe continues to get worse and the leaves get progressively discolored despite best practices of care then root rot is the cause, at which point it can be very difficult to save aloe vera.

The most effective option is to take cuttings of any healthy remaining leaves for propagation.

Aloe vera propagates readily from leaf cuttings and it is likely the only way to save your aloe.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to easily propagate aloe vera from cuttings to produce lots of extra plants at no extra cost:

(Read my article, how to tell if your aloe plant is overwatered or underwatered).

Aloe Vera Plant Drooping and Leaves Dying at the Base

  • Symptoms. Aloe vera with drooping leaves and a leggy appearance.
  • Causes. Not enough direct light. Aloe vera prefers some sun to grow compact and not to droop.

(Drooping can also indicate overwatering but this is usually accompanied by yellow or brown leaves).

The most common reason for aloe vera leaves drooping is because they are not in enough sun.

Aloe vera have specifically adapted to growing in open areas with around 4-6 hours of sun per day with a preference for morning sun followed by bright indirect light in the afternoon.

If your aloe vera is in the shade then the leaves can grow very long and weak with lighter green colors with the leaves eventually drooping down under their own weight.

The lower leaves of the plant often turn brown and die back as the aloe redirects its energy to grow the leaves closer to the center towards light.

The aloe leaves grow initially in the direction of the strongest source of light but usually droop downwards before they reach any direct sun.

With 4-6 hours of direct sun, the aloe stays more compact and the leaves remain upright.

(If your aloe vera leaves are curling inwards read my article Aloe vera leaves Curling for how to save it).

How to Revive Drooping Aloe Vera

Aloe vera stretched out leaves.
Aloe vera with drooping leaves looking for direct sunlight.
  • Gradually expose your aloe vera to more sun. Find an area with around 4-6 hours of direct sunlight for your aloe but move the pot back and forth from shade to more sun over the course of 4 weeks. If you move aloe vera suddenly from shade to intense direct sun without a chance to acclimatize then the aloe leaves burn due to the drastic contrast in light intensity. Moving aloe from shade to sun over 4 weeks with more time in direct sunlight each day prevents sunburn as the aloe has the opportunity to adjust.
  • If the center leaves of the aloe are still upright but the outer leaves are drooping, cut back the drooping outer leaves to the base. Do not trim down individual leaves to halfway as they do not regrow from the wound. Severely weakened drooping leaves often do not stand back up so remove any growth that is very light green and too weak to stand, leaving the remaining center leaves. Cutting back encourages more aloe leaves to grow and the plant can recover.
  • For aloes that have been in the shade for too long, the leaves are too weakened to stand back up again and no amount of sunlight can fix it. The only way to revive it is to take cuttings from the healthiest-looking leaves for propagation. Aloe can propagate from drooping leaves and produce a strong new plant.

Revive Sun Burnt Aloe Vera

Aloe vera thrives when it is located in 4-6 hours of direct sun.

However, aloe vera leaves can turn brown due to sunburn if they are moved from an area of shade to full sun.

This most commonly happens when aloe vera comes from a store and has been shaded for a period of time whilst on display.

The aloe vera then does its best to adapt to the lower level of light when indoors and the leaves turn to a lighter green rather than their characteristic dark green.

Then when the aloe is brought home and planted in a pot or in the garden it is located in full sun.

The contrast in light intensity causes the more light-sensitive leaves to burn and commonly turn brown.

Aloe veras require a slow introduction to more light by exposing the aloe vera to more sun every day over the course of 4 weeks to avoid sunburn.

Once the aloe leaves are brown and burnt they do not return to a healthy color (the aloe does not die back necessarily) but the aloe vera can carry on living.

To revive the aloe for aesthetic reasons, you can cut individual leaves back down to the stem or base to encourage new growth or propagate from any remaining healthy green growth if there is extensive sunburn.

Revive Aloe Vera Not Growing

If your aloe vera does not appear to be growing then this does not mean that it is dying and it is part of its seasonal cycle.

Aloe vera enters a state of dormancy in the Summer, typically when the temperature consistently exceeds 80°F (27°F)

At this point, aloe vera stops growing as a survival strategy to conserve water during times of intense heat and drought.

The aloe vera resumes growing in cooler temperatures in the Fall and Spring but growth should also slow down in the Winter as a reaction to fewer hours of sun.

In the Summer and the Winter, aloe vera is more susceptible to overwatering as the demand for water is lower in Summer due to dormancy and in Winter the soil tends to dry out more slowly so scale back the watering in Summer and Winter.

For more on why aloes stop growing and the best practices for caring for them read my article, Why has my aloe vera stopped growing?

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason for aloe vera dying is because of overwatering and slow-draining soils. Aloe vera is drought-resistant and requires the soil to dry out between watering. In consistently damp soil aloe vera develops root rot, with leaves turning brown or yellow and dying back.
  • Aloe vera leaves droop when they are in the shade as they grow longer and weaken looking for more light. Grow aloe vera in 6 hours of sun to prevent drooping.
  • Aloe vera can suffer sunburn leaves when moved from an area of shade to full sun. Aloe veras require time to acclimatize to intense direct sunlight
  • Revive aloe vera plants by replicating their natural environments with full sun, gritty well-draining soil, and only water the aloe vera when the soil has dried out completely around the roots.

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