How to Save a Drooping Aloe Plant


Why is my aloe drooping

I love aloe plants, and I always recommend them to beginner indoor gardeners. But I often find that people tell me their plant is drooping 3 or 4 months after they bought it. I have worked in a nursery that grows aloe plants to supply garden centers, and I know their optimal growing conditions indoors (through a little trial and error!), and I’ve learned from the experts why they droop and how you can save them…

In this article, I share with you how to pinpoint exactly what is causing your aloe plants to droop and how you can save them.

Most often, I see aloe plants with drooping leaves because the aloe is in too much shade. Aloe plants need bright light with some direct sunlight. Aloe plant leaves turn brown and droop due to root rot as a result of overwatering and slow-draining soils.

Another common problem I see is the aloe plant leaves can droop after re-potting if they are repotted into a much larger pot, as larger pots retain more moisture. Aloe plants require the soil to dry out between each watering to avoid drooping leaves.

To save your aloe plant with drooping leaves, I would move the aloe to an area with more sunlight, repot in a pot that is proportional to the size of the aloe plant with well-draining soil, and prune back any drooping leaves that turn brown and mushy.

Keep reading for all my tips and tricks…

Why are My Leaves Drooping? (Lack of Sunlight)

The most common culprit is a lack of sunlight. Aloe plants are adapted to grow in bright light with some direct sunlight. If your aloe is in too much shade, the leaves grow long and droopy in search of more light, which causes the leaves to grow weak and droop under their own weight.

To understand why your aloe leaves droop, I find it helpful to learn how they grow in the wild so we can emulate some of these conditions in our homes…

Aloe plants are native to hot and dry climates in Africa and the Arabian peninsula, where they are adapted to growing in bright light with ideally 6 hours of direct sunlight and high temperatures with infrequent rainfall and well-draining soils.

Pro tip: Always grow your aloes on a bright window sill, ideally with at least 4 hours of morning sun.

Your aloe plants stay smaller, more compact, and healthier with thick, stronger leaves if they are grown in more sunlight.

If your plant is grown in relative shade, then the aloe prioritizes its energy to growing the leaves towards the strongest sources of light, which results in a leggy appearance with weak drooping leaves that eventually droop down under their own weight.

Nine times out of ten, I find this to be the problem.

Aloe Plants also can also droop if they are not turned regularly. Aloe plants grow in the direction of the strongest source of light, which can cause them to grow lopsided and topple or droop to one side.

How I Save it…

This drooping aloe vera leaf, due to a lack of light, did not recover from its drooping appearance, so can be pruned back.
This is my friend’s aloe plant. The drooping leaf is because it was grown in the shade.
  • I always move the drooping aloe plant to an area of bright light, with some direct sunlight, if the aloe had been in the shade. Brighter light ensures the aloe plant has more energy and resources to grow and support its leaves. Bright light incentivizes the aloe plant to stay compact and to grow thicker, stronger leaves.
  • I caution that you should be careful about moving drooping aloe plants to full sun if they have been shaded. I discovered that the contrast of being moved from the shade to full sun all day is likely to scorch the aloe plant brown, particularly if it is moved during Summer. Therefore, I gave the aloe some time to adapt to higher levels of light by exposing it to direct sunlight for more time each day over the course of 2 weeks. (Read more about sunburnt aloe plants in my article, why is my aloe plant turning brown).
  • I turn my aloe plant around 1/4 each time you water the plant. Turning the aloe every time you water it ensures that each side of the plant receives enough light to prevent the aloe from drooping over to one side to the strongest sources of light. We do this at work in commercial greenhouses to ensure the aloe plant is nice and even before sale.

Typically, if the aloe is drooping because it has been slightly too shaded, then locating the aloe in a bright area can help to revive the plant, and it can largely restore its appearance.

However, I must warn you that if the aloe has been in the shade for too long and some of the individual leaves are particularly drooping, then these leaves do not stand up again properly, regardless of how much sunlight they have.

If it has been more than a few weeks during active growth (Spring and Summer) and the leaves are still drooping, I recommend cutting the individual drooping leaves back with a sharp pair of pruners back to the base of the plant.

The point at which the aloe has been cut should be callous over 2 days, and the aloe can now prioritize its energy to grow new leaves and support the healthy leaves that are not drooping.

If all the leaves are drooping, I recommend cutting the leaves or offshooting for propagation. The drooping leaves can propagate very easily, giving a healthy non drooping plant.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to propagate aloe vera plants from offshoot cuttings:

https://youtu.be/coZVzOWe92Y?t=217

Why is My Aloe Plant Drooping and Turning Brown?

The reason for drooping, brown leaves is usually because of overwatering and slow-draining soils. Aloe plants are adapted to gritty, well-draining soils and infrequent rainfall in their native environment. The aloe leaves droop and turn brown if the potting soil is too damp from overwatering or poor drainage.

Aloe plants grow naturally in gritty soils that do not retain much moisture and drain relatively quickly, with a -deluge of rainfall followed by a period of drought- cycle of watering.

For this reason, your aloe plants are far more sensitive to overwatering and damp soil than most plants.

To keep aloe plants healthy, I recreate these conditions of the aloe’s natural habitat with well-draining potting soil, and I only water when the soil is dry.

A common mistake I see people make is planting aloe plants in ordinary potting soil, which retains too much moisture, and watering the aloe too often.

Damp conditions around the aloe’s roots cause sections of the aloe plant to turn brown and mushy while drooping.

(If you are unsure, read my article on how to tell whether my aloe plant is over or underwatered).

Consider that damp soil can also be caused by pots without drainage holes in the base or due to not emptying saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots of excess water.

Cold temperatures below 50°F are unfavorable for aloe plants and can also increase the risk of root rot and contribute to aloe leaves turning mushy and drooping.

Follow These Steps to Learn How I Save it…

  • I reduce how often I water your drooping aloe plant. According to the experts that I spoke to, the best way to water aloe plants is to wait till the soil has dried out before watering. I ensure the soil has dried by feeling the potting soil at the top and at the base of the pot, through the drainage hole, to detect any moisture. If the soil is still moist, I wait a few days before I water until the soil feels dry.
  • I change the potting soil to succulent and cacti soil. The right watering schedule has to be in conjunction with the right potting soil to avoid aloe plants drooping. Succulent and cacti soil mimics the soil type of the aloe plant’s native environment with its well-draining, gritty, porous structure that significantly mitigates the risks associated with overwatering, such as root rot and drooping leaves. (Read my article, best potting soil for aloe plants).
  • Ideally, I encourage you to pot your aloe plant in a terracotta or clay pot with drainage holes in the base. Aloe plants can grow in any pot as long as it has drainage holes, but in my experience, terracotta and unglazed clay pots are better than ceramic or plastic pots as they have a porous structure that allows the potting soil to dry out evenly, which also mitigates the risk of drooping leaves due to overwatering. (Read my article, best pots for aloe plants).
  • I always choose a pot that is only 2 inches or so wider than the aloe plant. If the pot is very large and out of proportion to the aloe plant, the soil takes much longer to dry between each watering bout. If the soil takes too long to dry out, then this increases the risk of the aloe drooping and turning brown due to root rot.
  • I cut away any soft, brown, mushy parts of the aloe. If the leaves appear brown and feel mushy, I cut away the rotten section of the plant and bring it back to healthy growth with a pair of pruners to prevent the rot from spreading and protect the rest of the plant. The wound from the cut should callus over in a day or so.

Important tip: How often you should water your aloe plants can vary according to climate, time of year, and whether the aloe is indoors or outdoors.

Read my article on how often to water aloe plants so you can establish the optimal watering schedule for your aloe plant according to your conditions.

Aloe plants are a lot more hardy than most people think and can tolerate a big leaf being cut back without a problem, particularly if the aloe leaf is drooping, brown, soft, and rotten. You can cut the leaf all the way back to the base of the plant or back to healthy, firm growth.

I find new leaves emerge during active growth in the Spring and Summer.

If significant parts of the aloe plant are drooping and brown and the aloe does not appear to get any better, I recommend propagating the aloe leaf from a cutting to save the plant.

(Read my article, why is my aloe plant dying?).

Why is My Aloe Plant Drooping After Repotting?

Aloe plants droop after repotting often because the soil retains too much moisture around the aloe’s roots. Aloe plants need well-draining soil that mimics the soil conditions of their native environment. Regular potting soil retains too much moisture and causes the aloe to droop due to stress.

As I previously stated, aloe plants are drought-resistant and grow naturally in gritty, well-draining, porous soil that does not retain much moisture and allows oxygen around the roots for respiration.

I dsicovered a common problem is that the potting soil is firmed around the aloe’s roots when it is repotted, then it could be too compacted for the aloe to tolerate, which restricts the amount of oxygen in the soil and slows down the rate at which the soil drains after watering, both of which are unfavorable for the aloe plant and can cause the leaves to droop.

Prop tip: I must emphasize that aloe plants should only be repotted into pots one size up from the previous pot.

This is because larger pots have a greater capacity for soil and, therefore, a greater capacity to hold moisture around the aloe plant’s roots. Larger pots cause the potting soil to dry out much more slowly than the aloe’s previous pot, which promotes the conditions for root rot, which can cause the aloe to turn brown and droop.

Water pooling in the base of the pot due to a lack of drainage holes or saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots also causes root rot, which causes the aloe’s leaves to turn brown and droop.

How I Save Drooping Aloe Plants After Repotting

  • I always pot aloe plants in pots that are 2 inches wider on either side of the aloe plant to prevent drooping. Repotting aloe plants into pots that are proportional in size to the plant prevents the soil from staying damp for too long after watering, reducing the risks associated with overwatering, such as drooping leaves that turn brown and mushy.
  • Ideally, re-pot your aloe plant in an unglazed clay or terracotta pot. Clay and terracotta pots are my favorites as they are porous, so they dry out evenly after watering, creating more favorable conditions for aloe plants.
  • Re-pot aloe plants in pots with drainage holes in the base and empty any saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots after watering. It is important that excess water can escape efficiently from the pot after watering your aloe plants so that the soil can dry out before the next bouts of watering.
  • I always re-pot the aloe in ‘succulent and cacti soil’ rather than regular potting soil. Succulent and cacti soil replicates the soil conditions of the aloe plant’s native environment. The soil structure is porous and well-draining, which mitigates the risk of overwatering. I discovered regular potting soil retains too much moisture for the aloe plant to tolerate.
  • I always allow the aloe’s soil to dry out between each bout of watering. With the aloe repotted in a new pot and potting soil, the rate at which the soil dries out changes, which means you should adjust the watering frequency for the aloe plant to prevent drooping due to root rot. I recommend feeling the potting soil at the top of the pot and at the bottom through the drainage hole in the base to detect moisture. If the potting soil still feels moist, then I wait until the soil has dried out before watering again, with a thorough watering.

Once you have repotted the aloe plant to the right pot, with well-draining soil, and established the optimal watering frequency for the new conditions, the aloe plant should show signs of recovery in the next few weeks.

If the aloe leaves continue to droop and develop brown, mushy areas, then consider propagating the aloe leaves from cuttings or any offsets, as brown, mushy areas indicate root rot.

(Read my article on how to revive a dying aloe vera plant).

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason for a drooping aloe plant is usually because of a lack of sunlight. Aloe plants need direct sunlight. If the aloe is in too much shade, the leaves grow weak and long towards the direction of the brightest light. The aloe’s leaves then droop down under their own weight.
  • Aloe leaves turn brown and droopy due to overwatering. Aloe plants need the soil to dry out between each watering. If the aloe’s potting soil is consistently damp, then the aloe develops root rot, which turns the leaves brown and mushy with a drooping appearance.
  • Usually, aloe leaves droop after repotting because the pot is too big, which causes the soil to dry out at a slower rate and causes root rot. Larger pots contain more soil and, therefore, retain more moisture. The aloe plant leaves droop if the roots are in damp soil for too long.
  • To fix a drooping aloe, locate the aloe in some direct sunlight, re-pot the aloe in well-draining potting, reduce watering frequency so that the aloe’s soil dries out between each watering, and cut away any drooping leaves that do not recover with a sharp pair of pruners.

2 thoughts on “How to Save a Drooping Aloe Plant

  1. Your articles are quite refreshing. So many articles cover flowering plants, bushes and arbors, and yours is compelling to plant any or all of the succulents and aloe plants. Thank you for all of your insights and troubleshooting hints. I’m excited to see what I can do with this information, eventhough I’m a trial and error gardener, but enjoy a challenge that you put on our plates. Thanks again, Rich Schaefer, Blue Springs, Mo.

  2. Where does one start the supply chain to purchase the not-so-standard aloes? Most of our garden shops supply a lot of standard plants, but not special ones like ales that you mentioned.

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