9 Reasons Your Aloe Vera is Drooping and Falling Over
If your aloe vera plant is drooping or falling over, there could be many different reasons why. While aloe vera is somewhat hands-off when it comes to care, there are still some things that can cause drooping leaves. In this article, gardening expert Emily Horn walks through the most common causes of droopy leaves and how to fix it!
So, you’ve decided to add Aloe vera to your indoor plant collection. However, after a while, your start to notice a common Aloe vera problem. The leaves are becoming limp, almost lifeless. When you are in between waterings, the plant topples over, creating a mess of broken leaves and soil scattered on the floor. What is happening to your beloved aloe?
Take a breath and realize that you are not the first, nor the last, person to have issues with growing an Aloe vera plant indoors, despite its minimal maintenance reputation. I mean, you probably don’t live in a desert, correct? The answer is most likely no, you don’t live in a desert, especially inside your home. So, your plant will have to meet you in the middle when it comes to adapting to your living conditions.
Below we will look at the top 9 reasons Aloe vera may droop or fall over, and the best techniques to getting your aloe back in top shape. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!
Needs a New Container
Aloe vera is a slow growing plant. It may take upwards of 3-4 years for aloe to reach a mature plant size. Over the course of growing, your aloe may have outgrown its container. Depending on the materials the pot is made from, the weight of the top portion of the plant exceeds the weight of the pot and soil, causing the pot to tip over.
Pick the correct size, shape and material composition when repotting. The #1 thing is drainage holes for sure, but then consider what materials the pot is made from.
Terracotta or clay pots are heavy compared to plastic pots, providing a sturdier base to counterbalance the weight of the plant. Tall, deep pots are well suited for top heavy aloe plants. The depth allows for the plant roots to spread out and downward creating a stronger base for supporting the heavier plant.
After transplanting your aloe into its new pot, you may consider staking or tying the leaves together to support the top portion while the new roots establish in the fresh potting mix. Once the roots have taken hold, you can remove the exterior support system.
Weighted Down from Pups
Babies. Who doesn’t love babies especially when they’re plant babies? At maturity, it is common for Aloe vera to bear pups, or little plants, as small side shoots from the base of the large plant.
Despite their miniature size, the weight of these new pups can cause tipping of the entire aloe plant. I currently have a small aloe in a 2” plastic pot that has sported a pup recently and I cannot get the small pot to stay upright to save my life.
Even when watering, I prop the plant up against a heavier object so that the bottom of the pot can stay in the water long enough to be absorbed.
What I should do is 1) remove the pup and pot it up separately from the mother plant and 2) repot the mother plant in a heavier pot to keep both from falling over all the time.
To remove the pup, try to cut the pup at the base of its stem, where it is attached to the mother plant. Sometimes, the pup will break off the mother plant on its own, and that is fine. Let the pup’s stem end dry out for a few days to a week to allow a callus to form.
Once the callus is formed, you can stick the pup, stem side down is a small pot containing a cactus mix type soil and water in well. In 2-3 weeks, new roots will form on your pup and now you’ve got another aloe plant. Both the pup and the mother plant will be better balanced now and able to stay upright better.
It’s Gotten Too Hot
If this succulent could talk, it would strongly suggest that it live in air temperatures right around 80°F. Honestly, how can you blame it. Granted, in a desert, temperatures do often exceed that 80°F mark.
But due to its size, it’s considered an understory type plant, living in the filtered sunlight from taller cacti and succulents towering above. Being out of direct sunlight helps keep the aloe at a more desirable temperature.
So how could my non-desert dwelling plant get too hot at home? If your plant is sitting in direct sunlight, either inside or outdoors, the air temperature can easily reach above 80°F causing leaves to scorch.
Direct sun can also increase the rate of transpiration of water from the aloe’s leaves. When a plant is losing water through its leaves faster than it is replacing water, the leaf will begin to wilt. Too much water loss and the stem will also begin to fold over and droop.
Keep your plant under indirect lighting conditions and out of full sun to keep a more optimum growth temperature.
It’s Just Too Cold
If temperatures dip below 50°F, they will begin to show symptoms of cold damage. Below 40°F and aloe is subject to certain death.
Ideally, keep your plant in a location free of draughts from windows and doors, especially in the winter months. Also, if it sits too close to a window, during lower night temperatures, the plant tissue closest to the window will be exposed to the cold glass windowpane.
This can also cause cold damage. When we’ve hit the deep cold of January here in Ohio, I will remove all my plants from the windowsill and place them in the sink or on the kitchen table overnight. Once the frigid temperatures have passed, I will return them to their rightful spot.
Symptoms of cold damage in aloe include limp leaves that are translucent-if you’ve ever had lettuce freeze in the refrigerator you know it gets that semi see-through look once it has frozen. Aloe will look the same. Leaves can also turn black and any tissue that has gotten too cold will collapse and fall.
Too Much Moisture
Watering every week on a regular basis should keep your aloe healthy and thriving, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Although your intentions are good, it is extremely easy to make the mistake of overwatering these popular succulents.
These plants are tough desert natives that prefer to stay on the dry side of life. When you get in the habit of watering every week, it’s possible that your plant does not even need watering.
Many factors play into whether your aloe actually needs to be watered. Variables such as temperature, humidity, draughts, light level, size of the pot, soil type and size of the plant itself combine to create a unique, customized watering schedule.
Watering should occur when the plant needs water. It’s fine to CHECK weekly to see if you NEED to water. Stick your finger down in the soil to check for dampness. If you are ever in doubt as to whether to water, err on the side of not watering.
When you water an aloe that doesn’t need watering, often the roots begin to decline. This causes the aloe to become unstable in its pot because the job of the roots is to anchor a plant in its soil. If the roots are gone, the plant becomes top-heavy and will collapse.
Aloe leaves also demonstrate symptoms of overwatering by appearing soft and mushy or overfilled. Leaves can also go from a healthy green hue to a brown or yellow color when too much water is present.
It’s Too Dry
If your plant is too dry, congratulations! You’ve successfully avoided overwatering your plant! The flipside is under watering can be hard on your aloe too, although much more recoverable than overwatering.
When aloe is too dry, the leaves will look dull, leathery, and flat. Because there is not enough water in the plant’s tissues, the cells are deflated-think of a balloon filled with water as an adequately watered plant.
Now imagine that water balloon having been untied and all the water has escaped. What does the balloon look like now? Limp? Floppy? Flaccid? -the same can be said for an under watered plant.
Water your aloe thoroughly in its pot. If top watering, pour water on the top of the soil surface and wait for the water to exit the drainage holes on the bottom of the container. If bottom watering, submerging the bottom of the pot in a container of water-like 1”-2” of water should be sufficient.
Allow the water to enter the drainage holes and work its way up the soil profile-water always goes from the highest concentration to the lowest concentration so it will defy gravity very easily. Once you notice the top soil surface is damp, the soil has been thoroughly watered.
Give your plant a day or two to recover from underwatering. You may notice the leaves are filling back up with water. Depending on how dry the plant was prior to watering, you may need to water a second time in order to “fill” the leaves back up to its happy place.
If you have thoroughly watered your plant and it still looks droopy, you may want to check the roots to be sure they haven’t dried up and shriveled. If they are brown, dry, or crunchy feeling, the roots may have died.
At this point, if the top half of the plant is healthy, you can try to take a stem cutting and restart from a single leaf in a new pot. Otherwise, head to the garden center and start fresh with a new plant.
You Have Pests
Aloe vera is relatively pest free. But sap sucking insects, such as scale insects, aphids and mealybugs can literally suck the life out of your aloe. The mechanisms on how these pests obtain their food is by either only sucking, or piercing first, then sucking, the sugars from the plant’s sap.
Since the plant’s cells are damaged, the cells can no longer hold the vital liquid food the aloe needs to survive. Depending on how bad the insect infestation is, the plant may begin appearing wilted or droopy.
Unfortunately, if the insect damage is extensive, the leaf cannot be salvaged. Carefully prune off the affected leaves and treat the remaining plant with a pesticide labeled to treat your specific pest issue.
Typically, pesticides like insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, Neem oil are highly effective in controlling soft bodied insects like scale, aphid, and mealybugs, with very low toxicity to humans and other mammals.
As always, check the pesticide label to ensure the product is safe to use on cacti and succulents. The label will also guide you to the frequency the pesticide needs to be applied.
Another treatment method for pest insects would be using rubbing alcohol. Dab a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and then lightly swab the insects while they are attached to the plant. Change the swab as needed and continue to treat the plant until each location of the pest has been treated.
Some insects like mealybugs show symptoms of exposure to alcohol almost instantly. They go from being fuzzy and white to yellow/orange and without its protective fuzziness. After 2-3 hours, you can rinse off any remaining alcohol with water via a spray bottle, the sink, or even wipe the areas with a clean, wet, paper towel.
Not Enough Sunlight
While Aloe vera is considered a hardy houseplant, they don’t do well without bright, indirect sunlight. Aloes are innately desert plants, so instinctively they require bright light, and will actively seek it should they not receive enough.
Many times, Aloe vera will begin growing towards whatever light source is available, usually a window. This is known as etiolation. The process of etiolation often is seen as a stretching of stems, making the stems structurally weaker.
Because the stems are weak, they cannot support the weight of the leaves and the plant will begin to droop.
The best way to prevent etiolation from happening is to place your aloe in a brightly lit, full sun location. Full sun is considered a spot that receives 6 or more hours of sunlight a day. But the sun cannot directly shine on the plant, or else you run the risk of the leaves getting sunburn.
So, indirect, full sun is ideal. To receive indirect, full sun, place your aloe NEAR a south or west facing window. Indirect light, or filtered light, usually passes through something before reaching your plant-like sheer curtains, window blinds, leaves of another plant.
Let’s face it. Root rot is not good. Overwatering is the main cause of root rot in aloe plants. Roots need air pockets around them. If they are constantly submerged in water, the root tissues begin to disintegrate and decompose.
Healthy roots are firm, usually white in color and will even have little root ‘hairs’ on them. Plant roots that have started to rot will be brown, black or have completely vanished. Any remaining roots will feel slimy and gooey.
And then there is the distinctive smell of stagnant water coming from the pot. Since there are no roots to anchor your aloe in the soil, the top portion will flop over because it has no stable base.
There are three things you can do to help prevent root rot from happening. The combination of proper watering techniques, the correct soil type as well as a container that has drainage will virtually eliminate root rot.
Although unsightly, a drooping Aloe vera plant or a plant that falls over isn’t necessarily a major problem. Most of the time, it’s just one of the ways your plant is telling you “Hey! I need some help!”. Listen to your plant! Now that you are familiar with the most common reasons for the limp appearance or constant tipping, you can properly care for your aloe plant and address any potential issues you may see!