9 Reasons For Yellowing Aloe Vera Plants

Does your Aloe Vera plant have yellow leaves? From overwatering to underwatering and other problems, there are many different reasons this can happen. Most of these common issues are treatable if you identify them, and act quickly. In this article, gardening expert Emily Horn takes you through why this happens, and how to stop it!

Aloe Vera plant with yellow leaves that have brown edges

Aloe Vera is a self-sufficient plant. It requires very little maintenance. In fact, it would probably prefer you to leave it alone for the most part. Oftentimes it’s when we are overly caring, doting and coddling our plants with fertilizers, soils and watering,  when we cause the most unintentional trauma

We mean well, but there is no good way for our plants to tell us that they’ve had enough of our good intentions. One way that succulents convey the message of “please stop!” is through the yellowing of their leaves.

But having houseplants and troubleshooting what is wrong is comparable on a certain level to caring for a newborn. A newborn cries to alert you that there is something causing distress. But solving that mystery can be rather daunting. Hunger? Tired? Diaper change? All of the above? It’s up to us as caregivers to use the clues we are given to solve said problem.

Yellowing of leaves can signal that a problem lies within. And we need to figure it out before it’s too late.. Below, you’ll find the top reasons your Aloe Vera plant has yellow leaves and some easy remedies to cure what ails it.

Overwatering

Holding a watering canister about to water a succulent plant. Gardener has a white shirt and is using a white can to water the succulent that is in a black plastic pot.
Overwatering is one of the most common causes for yellowing of leaves.

Aloe Vera are desert plants and, like all plants, need water for survival. But it is important to give the correct amount of water. For some reason, many people adhere to the thought process of ‘if some is good, more is better”.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking is not beneficial when it comes to watering desert and succulent plants, especially aloe. Overwatering is the number one cause of discolored leaves in succulents.

If aloe is overwatered, one of the first signs is the yellowing of leaves. Soil that is overly wet lacks oxygen. Roots that in stagnant soils are incapable of transporting water and nutrients to the leaves of the plant.

Leaves without nutrients will begin to yellow and without undergoing a degree of remediation, begin to die. Signs of permanent leaf damage include leaves that become limp, appear wilted (despite the soil being plenty wet) and become watery/soggy to the touch, almost oozing under the slightest amount of pressure. 

So how do you know when to water? Many factors play into how often you water your aloe. Things like how much sun, the temperature, is the aloe dormant or actively growing, pot size contribute to the frequency of watering.

Depending on the size of your pot, you may be able to pick up the container and see whether or not the pot feels light or heavy. The soil in a pot that feels light is often dry, requiring water.

Heavy feeling pots typically have plenty, if not too much, water. You can also stick your finger down inside the soil to feel how wet or dry the media is. If your finger goes deep inside the pot and feels dry at the tip of your finger, it’s time to water. If it feels wet, wait a few days and feel it again. It’s always better to under water a succulent or desert plant than overwater.

Cold Temperatures

Succulent plants with ice on them in terra cotta pots. The plants have ice at the base, which is freezing them and causing problems.
Freezing temperatures can cause moisture inside the leaves to freeze.

Aloe can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, which is very important when growing in a desert. However, if temperatures dip below 40℉, major tissue damage can happen. Water inside the plant’s cells will freeze, causing cell walls to rupture. Symptoms of cold damage include yellowing, limp, mushy leaves that fall apart when touched.

Even though your aloe is indoors, it can still be damaged by cold temperatures. If your plant is too close to an exterior door that is used frequently, cold air can blast in each time the door is opened and closed.

Plants that sit near a window in the winter can be exposed to cold temperatures too. When the temperatures get very low in the winter, consider moving the plant away from the windows at night.  

Older Leaves

Aging succulent plant has yellow leaves. The leaves are yellow at the center, and green around the base of the plant.
Natural age can cause leaf yellowing as the plant grows new foliage.

If you are doing things correctly with your Aloe Vera plant-not too much water, plenty of indirect sunlight, preventing extreme temperature fluctuations-your aloe should grow; the ultimate goal, right?. So why are the bottom leaves starting to yellow?

When new growth is in abundance, plants will often begin discarding leaves it no longer needs. Most times, the older, lower leaves are the first leaves to yellow and fall off of the plant. This may be the case with the leaf bottoms.

Since they are no longer needed to produce food, you can simply prune the Aloe leaves off your plant. Using a sharp knife, gently cut the leaf at the base near the stem. These older leaves can be used for propagating new aloe plants or for personal use.

Wrong Potting Media

Potted succulent plants in terra cotta pots with green plants and rich soil. The plants sit on a potting table, with a cloth underneath the pots.
Incorrect potting mediums can cause problems with leaf discoloration and growth.

Aloe Vera needs a very well-drained soil for healthy growth. If using a basic potting soil with little to no additions to it, like sand, gravel, pumice or perlite, the soil will be too heavy, or wet. If you have the wrong type of soil and you tend to overwater, you’ve pretty much sentenced your aloe to a certain, soggy death.

There are commercially available succulent and desert mixes that have a balanced ratio of both organic, like peat moss, coir or humus and inorganic soil components, such as sand, pumice, or turface.

If you choose to make your own custom potting mix, keep the ratio of organic:inorganic ingredients to 1 part organic to 2 parts combination of inorganic materials. The organic materials will hold the necessary water and nutrients. The inorganic materials will provide pore space and drainage.

Incorrect Pot Size or Type

Potted succulent plant that is dying in a gray pot. The leaves are yellow and dying off. The pot is made of gray ceramic.
An incorrectly sized pot can cause leaf discoloration due to excess moisture.

Container size and drainage are important in growing Aloe Vera. If you pot is too large, the amount of soil used to fill the pot will be more than what your aloe needs.

A small aloe in a pot that is too big will be sitting in soil that stays too wet for too long. The plant simply cannot use the water supplied fast enough, and the excess water can cause aloe leaves to yellow.

Before planting in a new container, check the bottom of the pot to see if it has holes. Containers without holes will not be able to drain away extra water. And to sound like a broken record, extra water can cause premature yellowing in aloe leaves.

Nutrient Deficiency

Plant with yellow leaves in a terra cotta pot held by gardener. The plant doesn't have the right nutrient balance.
Nutrient deficiencies can also cause leaf discoloration.

It is true that nutrient deficiencies can cause yellowing in plant leaves. Lack of nitrogen and/or iron will cause leaves to yellow. Usually its the older, lower leaves of a plant turning yellow indicate a nitrogen deficiency. New growth that is yellow, with the veins remaining green, is often a sign of low iron. 

Though aloe does well in low nutrient soils. If you use a high quality potting mix and repot your aloe every 2-3 years, there should be enough nutrients in that soil for proper growth. So it’s possible that you have a nutrient deficiency if you see yellowing in the leaves, but it is not highly probable.

Incorrect Light Intensity

Plant in the sunlight with yellowing leaves in pots. The leaves are bright yellow and the pot is a white colored plastic.
Too much or too little sun can also cause leaf discoloration.

If you were to find aloe in the desert, it would be growing underneath a larger plant, or even in areas where native grasses grow taller than it.

Aloe Vera likes to have bright, indirect light. If the light intensity is too low, leaves will begin to discolor from green to yellow, with signs of the stem bending and stretching desperately trying to reach proper light levels.

Aloe growing in low light areas cannot be thrust into brighter locations though. Even indoors, a slow acclimation to a better lit spot must be gradual, usually over the course of 7-10 days.

Every 2-3 days, move the aloe plant closer to the new location, with the final destination being reached by day 10. By slowly relocating your plant, you decrease the likelihood of sunburn from occurring, which is usually demonstrated by reddish leaf coloration.

New Growth

Aloe vera plant with new growth in garden. The plant is healthy and has lots of green fronds.
Plants that have new growth can sometimes appear yellow as the new leaves begin to show.

Depending on where new growth is occurring on your aloe plant, the new leaves may appear a yellow to very light green color. Typically, if the foliage is dense, there is not a lot of light that gets down deep inside the interior of the plant.

If new growth is originating from the middle, it may stay this yellow/light green color until it gets tall enough to receive a higher level of light.

If new growth is happening on the exterior of the main plant, these leaves will appear greener than the more interior growth. As this outside growth matures, the tissues will become greener in color.

Sudden Environment Changes

Plant outdoors in white ceramic pot sitting on potting table. The interior of the leaves are yellow, and they are sitting in potting medium that is made for succulents.
Moving your potted plant outside or transplanting them into the ground can cause environmental changes.

You’ve had your aloe plant growing indoors all year long. Now that summer is approaching, you decide to take it outdoors. It’s a desert plant, so you should be able to place it outside without any problems, right? I mean, the sun is hot and bright with little to no shade in the desert, so it should be fine. Uh, nope.

If your little coddled plant goes from its nice, comfy house straight to the harsh reality of your outside garden, no doubt it will cause some stress on your plant. And one of the most common ways plants show stress is by yellowing.

You can prevent this stress response by acclimating the plant to the outdoor environment gradually over the course of 7-10 days. Initially, your aloe should be in a shaded location for the first few days.

Gradually increase the light exposure every couple days, until the plant is in a spot with intense, indirect sunlight. This slow exposure will harden it off and decrease its stress response to being moved outside. 

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why your Aloe Vera plant could be turning yellow.  But if you look at the list above, 7 of the 9 reasons we listed are well within our control. Sufficiently watering, but not overwatering, providing indirect, but not too intense, light, as well as maintaining a moderate indoor temperature, can prevent yellowing from happening in the first place 75% of the time.

The other listed reasons are the nature of most plants in general. There is nothing we can do to keep new leaves from growing and old leaves from dying. Your aloe plant knows what to do as long as you provide its basic needs in accordance with its preferences.

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