Question: My aloe plant has brown, oval spots on it and the tips of the leaves are shriveling and dying. I am also seeing new growth with discolored leaves. Can you tell me what might be wrong with it and if the plant can be saved?
Answer: Aloe is a succulent plant, meaning water is stored in its stems and leaves. It has a very short stem, with thick, fleshy, greenish leaves fanning out from it. It usually grows in a rosette form and depending on the species, can grow from 1 to 15 feet. They are generally very hardy plants in zones 7 through 11, though they should be kept indoors during the winter months in most of our area.
Most of the issues we receive calls about at the extension office are related to the care of the aloe plant. With proper care, an aloe plant can last many years. They should be planted in a pot with a drainage hole in well-draining potting mix that consists of perlite, lava rock, coarse sand, or all three. Do not use the same soil you would use with other plants as it is too heavy and may hold too much water leading to root rot. Place your aloe in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. Aloes that are kept in low light often grow leggy. They prefer temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees. They should be watered deeply, but infrequently, allowing the top inch or two of soil to dry before watering to discourage bacterial and fungal growth.
Bacterial and fungal diseases can spell trouble for an aloe plant. Overwatering and poor drainage are the most common issues that lead to decline. Common diseases in these plants include root rot, fungal stem rot, soft rot and leaf rot. Leaf spots usually result from too much water. Aloe rust causes black spots. The blackened area oxidizes and seals itself from the rest of the plant, and the discoloration does not spread. Fungi, including those from the Phytophthora and Pythium genera, cause root rot in aloe plants. Root rot symptoms generally include dark brown, mushy root tips and dark, mushy lower leaves. Soft rot is a bacterial disease that causes water-soaked spots in aloe leaves. As decay spreads through the insides of the plant, the leaves turn mushy and collapse. The spots may enlarge and merge together. Alternaria spp. has recently been identified as a cause of leaf spots on aloe. Tip die back can occur in poorly drained, over-watered soil. Water-soaked spots appear on the leaf tips, and the tips eventually turn brown and shrivel while the rest of the leaf remains healthy and green. Insect pests such as mealy bugs, aphids, scale and mites also attack aloe and can cause leaf spots.
Seeing brown spots in the new growth is an unfortunate sign. The first thing you can try if you want to save the plant would be to see if there is a pup (a new offshoot from the plant) that does not show signs of the disease. Remove the pup as close to the stem as possible and replant it in new potting mix. If an older plant has new growth that does not have brown spots, remove the leaves that are showing signs of the disease and destroy them. Cut back on watering and watch the new growth to see if the problem is reduced.
For more information on aloe and other succulents contact your local extension office. Atlantic County residents can contact 609-625-0056. Cape May County Residents can call 609-465-5115, ext.3607.
Interested in becoming a Rutgers Certified Master Gardener? Classes in Atlantic County are forming now. Please call 609-625-0056 for more information. Cape May County residents welcome.
Do you have a gardening-related question you would like answered here? Please forward your questions to Belinda Chester, Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office, 6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. You can also submit questions at Rutgers-atlantic.org/garden or email them to [email protected]; please include “garden question” in the subject line.
Aloe there! Get it?
Aloe vera, commonly referred to as the savior of sunburnt skin, has a plethora of classifications including perennial, succulent and xerophytic. Aloe plants can be grown indoors and outdoors, part of how they’re versatile and low maintenance. This makes aloe vera a common household plant.
Many people keep aloe vera plants in their kitchens for design and medicinal uses. In fact, snapping an aloe leaf, splitting it open and placing it on sunburnt skin can speed up your skin’s healing time.
Convenient right? Now keeping your aloe vera plant alive is a responsibility in itself. Here’s the good news: aloe vera plant care can be minimal compared to the great benefits of the aloe plant. The not-so-good news: you might have to sit through more corny puns in this aloe vera plant care guide.
- Aloe Vera Plant Overview
- Aloe Vera Plant Types
- Aloe Vera Care
- Aloe Vera FAQs
- Aloe Vera Plant Overview
- Types of Aloe Vera Plants
- How to Care for an Aloe Vera Plant
- Common Aloe Vera Plant Questions and Concerns
- Did I Kill My Aloe Vera Plant?
- Solving Watering Problems
- Aloe Has Sticky Leaves – Reasons For A Sticky Aloe Plant
- Why is Aloe Sticky?
- Sticky Aloe Plant Bugs
- Treatment When Leaves are Sticky on Aloe
Aloe Vera Plant Overview
Aloe vera originated in the tropical climates of Africa and established its popularity around the world for its health benefits. Some basic examples of aloe vera benefits include anti-inflammatory action, laxative effects, anti-aging effects and wound healing.
Similar to the plant’s benefits, aloe vera can grow quite large. The aloe vera plant can grow up to three feet in height, but average height is one to two feet tall. Many people recognize an aloe plant for its long, spiny leaves that shoot out from the center. These green leaves give the plant dramatic height. Green plants like aloe vera can bring life into any space, making them the perfect gift for any occasion.
One of the most well-liked characteristics of the aloe plant is its drought tolerance. A University of Florida report advises to only water your aloe vera plant when the top inch of soil is dry. Actively growing aloe plants also thrive in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees, which makes the average room temperatures favorable for growth. If you are forgetful when it comes to plant care, the aloe vera plant may be the best fit for you.
Types of Aloe Vera Plants
Now that we know some general facts about aloe vera, let’s discuss different types of aloe vera plants. Aloe vera plants come in a variety of textures and heights. Some types include tiger aloe, lace aloe and blue aloe.
Tiger or Partridge-Breasted Aloe (Aloe variegata)
Aloe variegata is a small succulent that grows up to a foot tall with leaves as long as six inches. This aloe plant’s leaves have a green and white striped texture to them, hence the “tiger” nickname. In comparison to the tiger plant’s leaf size, the flower tends to be the largest part of the partridge-breasted aloe, reaching up to 18 inches.
Lace Aloe (Aloe aristata)
Lace aloe, like tiger aloe, is a stemless plant with dark green leaves that reach up to four inches long. During fall months, lace aloe can develop terminal panicles, which reach 20 inches in height, and a few inch-long orange flowers. Their petite size can make them a good fit for the indoors.
Blue Elf Aloe (Aloe ‘Blue Elf’)
Blue aloe, like the name reveals, has a bluish-white pigment and stretches up to 24 inches wide. This type of aloe is native to South Africa and requires sufficient draining to grow strong. Salmon colored flowers bloom in late winter and spring months and attract hummingbirds.
How to Care for an Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe vera plant care can be quite easy for first-time plant owners or for those who tend to neglect plants. In general, aloe vera plants need plenty of sunlight, minimal regular watering and warm temperatures.
Light: Aloe vera plants need to be housed in a bright location with some direct sun in winter months. An odd fact about aloe vera is it can sunburn just like us. If you move an aloe vera into direct sunlight from a relatively shady location, the sun can do harm.
Water: Aloe vera plants are drought resistant, so they can survive with minimal watering. However, not watering your aloe vera plant will shorten its lifespan. An appropriate way to water an aloe vera plant is to water thoroughly and let the excess water drain. Then, water again when the top inch of soil is dry. This allows for optimal aloe vera growth.
An indication that your aloe vera plant is not receiving enough water is brown leaf tips. However, a more common indication of improper watering is black spots on the leaves due to overwatering. Overwatering can be more dangerous than under watering because it could lead to root rot.
Temperatures: The aloe vera plant can live in temperatures from 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When growing aloe vera indoors, room temperatures of 60–75 degrees Fahrenheit are preferred for optimal plant growth.
Toxicity: Aloe plants are poisonous to dogs and cats. Common symptoms that indicate poisoning are vomiting, depression, anorexia and changes in urine color. The aloe vera plant carries anthraquinone glycosides which increase bowel movements commonly resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. If you have a furry friend at home, consider purchasing aloe vera and other small indoor plants that fit on table tops.
Pests: Aloe can occasionally be infested with Aceria aloinis, commonly referred to as aloe mite. These mites are nearly invisible to the human eye. Under a microscope, people can identify this scheming mite as worm-like.
Many aloe vera plant owners don’t recognize their plant has mites until damage is visible. Some indicators of aloe mites include warty growth on leaves and stems. Once infested with these lumps, they are nearly impossible to reverse. Complete removal of the plant is recommended to avoid further damage to other plants because these mites travel in the wind.
Problems: While problems are rare because they are an easy going plant, overwatering is one of the most common sources of improper aloe vera plant care. Signs an aloe vera plant is overwatered include brown, droopy leaves and soft spots. Repotting the plant in half soil and half sand could return the plant back to its strong, green color.
Repotting: Repotting aloe vera plants is more important for young plants as they outgrow their spaces. The repotting process is simple and carefree. First, take note of any offsets, remove them and save them for propagation purposes. Once out of the old pot, repot the aloe plant in cactus potting mix.
Propagation: Seasons best for the propagation of aloe vera are summer and spring. Remove any offsets by cutting them and drying for one to two days. This helps prevent the sap from escaping. Unlike repotting a growing aloe plant, propagation requires a sandy potting mix. This can be made at home with all-purpose potting mix and sand split equally.
Common Aloe Vera Plant Questions and Concerns
Aloe vera plant care isn’t always easy for everyone, especially if you’re a first-time plant owner. Here are some quick answers to frequently asked questions about aloe vera plants.
Do aloe plants need direct sunlight?
Aloe plants need about six hours of direct sunlight; however, be cautious because immediately moving an aloe plant from a shady area to direct sun can cause an aloe plant to sunburn.
Do aloe vera plants clean the air?
Aloe vera plants clean the air of formaldehyde and benzene, products found in chemical-based cleaners. This makes them a great indoor plant for kitchens and bedrooms. Furthermore, more pure air results in easier breathing and a better night’s sleep.
Should I fertilize my aloe plant?
Fertilizing your aloe plant is not always necessary. Aloe vera plants are classified as succulents, so they can salvage nutrients in harsh soil. Some recommend fertilizing aloe plants one to two times a year.
Why are the tips of my aloe plant turning yellow?
Tips of aloe plants turning yellow could be due to improper watering or too much direct light. Refer to the section above on aloe plant care for best practices.
What is aloe vera good for?
Aloe vera is good for fighting cavities and healing burns. The FDA approved of aloe vera as an over-the-counter medication for skin burns in 1959. In addition, aloe vera was found to be effective in fighting cavities in a ScienceDaily report.
What is aloe vera juice good for?
Aloe vera juice is good for aiding digestion. The compound anthraquinones increases intestinal water which can relieve constipation. Proceed with caution because consumption of aloe vera by your pet can lead to moderate poisoning.
Say “aloe” to your little plant and browse our pre-planted succulents and cactuses. These make great displays for kitchen window sills and help bring the outdoors inside. Aloe vera and other succulents are great first plants to adopt due to their low maintenance and self-sufficiency.
Pop them in a light-exposed room and watch your little friends grow!
Sources: PetPoisonHotline | World of Succulents (1,2,3) | PlantsRescue | MotherNatureNetwork | OrganicFacts
Good news for black thumbs: Aloe has won over many home gardeners for its hardiness and tolerance of forgetful waterers. To keep it happy, plant aloe in a terra cotta pot with well-drained dirt. Your best bet is to mix equal parts sand and potting soil or buy a special succulent mix. The terra cotta also dries faster than other plastic or glazed containers.
Repot your aloe if the weight of the plant causes tipping, but otherwise don’t worry about giving it lots of space. This plant thrives in snug conditions.
Place your aloe in a bright, sunny place. Otherwise it will go dormant and stop growing. Water the plant heavily about once every two weeks, waiting until the soil dries out fully. Since this is a desert species, keeping the dirt moist will cause the roots to rot. Limp or brown leaves also signal you’ve overdone the H20.
If you like, you can move your potted plant outdoors for the summer, but don’t put it in direct sunlight right away. Gradually place it in a brighter spot every few days to prevent overexposure.
What You’ll Need:
Aloe Plants: 3 Mature Aloe Plants From JM Bamboo ($31, amazon.com)
Special Soil: Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix ($11 for 4 quarts, amazon.com)
Perfect Pots: Goodman and Wife Round Terra Cotta Garden Planters With Individual Trays ($23 for 2, amazon.com)
Did I Kill My Aloe Vera Plant?
Aloe vera plants are unique and fascinating houseplants—their succulent-like leaves are actually filled with the gel-like substance you see in sunburn lotion. Like most succulents, they need very well-drained soil and should be planted in pots with drainage holes or pebbles in the bottom. If your aloe plant’s long leaves start to droop and get mushy, you may be having a watering issue.
When an aloe plant is being overwatered, the leaves develop what are called water-soaked spots. They look like what you describe: soggy and soft. It is almost as though the entire leaf becomes saturated and gel-like, then it turns to mush. Eventually, the entire plant dies. This is just one way that aloe plants can become waterlogged.
Your plant can also experience a waterlogged condition because the pot you put it in lacks a drainage hole. Avoid planting in a pot without a drainage hole. Adding a layer of pebbles in the bottom of a pot, although often offered as a simple solution, actually compounds the problem. As moisture moves down through the soil, it forms what is called a perched water table over the pebbles. Not until the soil above is saturated will the water move down into the pebbles. That means your aloe’s roots are constantly saturated. The soil is waterlogged, and the plant’s roots are dying from lack of oxygen.
Solving Watering Problems
Dry It Out
You might be able to save your plant if you dig it up and let it dry out for a day or two. Remove any leaves or tissue that appear to be dead. Then dust the dry base of the plant with rooting powder and replant it in a pot with a drainage hole. Give aloe bright light, and keep it on the dry side.
Add Drainage Holes
If you want to use a beautiful pot that has no drainage hole, drill a hole for drainage, or use it as a cachepot. Tuck your plant into a plain plastic pot that can fit inside the eye-catching container. Elevate the inner pot on 1/2 inch of pea gravel.
Aloe Has Sticky Leaves – Reasons For A Sticky Aloe Plant
Aloe plants are common indoor succulents due to their ease of care or warm season outdoor plants. The plants need sun, heat and moderate water, but can survive brief periods of neglect. A sticky aloe plant is likely a symptom of some type of insect infestation, unless you grow it under a sappy plant. Why is aloe sticky? It’s the result of honeydew, and I don’t mean the melon. If your aloe has sticky leaves, first find out which insect is causing the problem, then proceed with treatment.
Aloes look spectacular alone or in an arrangement with other succulents. The thick, serrated leaves make an excellent foil for softer rounder plants with similar cultivation needs. Aloes need little supplemental care as long they are grown in well drained, slightly gritty soil with adequate sun exposure and occasional water. Insects affect plants that are not well cared for or are in stressful conditions.
Why is Aloe Sticky?
Once you rule out exposure to
chemical residue or another plant’s sap, the logical conclusion is honeydew. Honeydew is the waste of several insect pests, among them aphids, scale and mealybugs. These three insects commonly infest succulents and other plants and spread in closely grown specimens. They secrete a sticky by-product that gets on foliage and leaves a tacky film.
When leaves are sticky on aloe, it’s time to have a good look at the undersides of leaves and in the crown. Each insect has a different appearance so it’s good to know each insect’s appearance.
Sticky Aloe Plant Bugs
Aphids are soft-bodied insects with small wings. They are usually black or brown but also come in red, spotted and even white.
Scale on succulents is generally soft scale and will appear as small bumps on the leaves and stems of the aloe. They attach to the plant and suck the juice, damaging the vitality of the succulent and causing discoloration and stippling.
Your aloe has sticky leaves when infested by mealybugs. You can identify them from the fuzzy white to pinkish substance that surrounds these tiny soft bodied bugs.
Treatment When Leaves are Sticky on Aloe
The residue itself may be rinsed off with clean water. Some portion of the insects will be removed during this process as well, but many remain hidden in small scars and crevasses.
Make a homemade bug killer with 8 parts water, 1 part rubbing alcohol and a squirt of liquid dish soap (without bleach). Mix the ingredients up and pour into a spray bottle. Use weekly for at least a month by thoroughly soaking both the upper and lower parts of the leaves.
You can also purchase a horticultural soap or neem oil for effective, non-toxic treatment. Consistent treatment and good plant management should prevent a sticky aloe plant.