There are hundreds of different types of aloe plants that grow all over the world. They are all succulents, but their growth patterns, size, shape, and flowers vary incredibly, from the stately, single-stemmed Aloe africana and shrub-like Aloe arborescens, to the relatively small, stemless Aloe maculata. The two aloe species best known for their medicinal and cosmetic applications are Aloe Vera and Aloe Ferox.
One thing that all aloes have in common is that they don’t like to be overwatered. If you find that your aloe leaves are turning yellow or getting soft, take action, or the plant will die. By identifying an overwatered aloe plant early on, it might be enough to simply reduce your watering schedule. If not, you’ll have to prune any rotted roots and repot them.
What will happen if you overwater aloe vera?
Often called medicinal aloe, Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is a stemless aloe that generally grows no higher than 2-3 feet. It probably originated from the Arabian Peninsula, but today it is cultivated worldwide, and it is a very popular indoor plant.
Aloe vera plants, like most other aloes, store water in their leaves. But if you cut the aloe vera leaves you will see that they are filled with a pulpy gel. This is what people have used for thousands of years to treat skin problems, burns, and help heal wounds.
It is important to know how to correctly water aloe plants. While they need to be watered during the growing season if you overwater aloe vera you can kill it.
Another common effect of overwatering aloe vera is root rot. If you remove the plant from the pot, you will immediately see the state of the root system.
If there are lots of healthy roots and just a small section of dark, mushy roots, you can probably save your aloe plant. But if most of the roots are damaged, it’s going to be a challenge that may or may not succeed.
Signs of Overwatered Aloe Plant
An overwatered Aloe Vera is easy to identify. Most of the evidence is in the leaves.
Sign 1: The Leaves
The plant will start to droop, the aloe leaves will begin to feel soft, and the plant will turn yellow as it starts to die. You might also notice blistered cells in the aloe leaves.
On the other hand, if your aloe leaves look puckered or transparent, and they start dropping off, you are probably not giving the plant enough water.
Sign 2: Fungal & Bacterial Diseases
There are several fungal and bacterial diseases that are caused by overwatering aloe plants.
The Pennsylvania State University’s Plant Village Extension states that the most common fungal diseases are aloe rust, anthracnose disease, and basal stem rot. The most common bacterial disease is bacterial soft rot.
Basal stem rot forms in cold, damp conditions, and it is often fatal. You might be able to take cuttings above the part that has rotted, but it’s unlikely you will be able to save your plant.
Bacterial soft rot is commonly caused by overwatering and can also be fatal.
Sign 3: The Roots
You won’t be able to confirm root rot unless you take the plant out of the soil. But, darky watery leaves or wilting leaves may indicate a damaged root system that is probably caused by root rot.
As mentioned above, if you remove the plant from its pot you will immediately be able to see if the roots are damaged or rotten.
How to save AN overwatered aloe vera plant
Saving your plant may be a challenge, but it can be done. Before you start, it’s a good idea to remove any pups that have formed at the base of the plant.
While they initially live off the parent plant’s root system, once these baby plants grow, they develop their own roots. But, even when they don’t have roots, they will quickly grow their own and will soon be forming their own offshoots.
Replant the pups in a suitably sized pot in a new potting mix that will drain well.
Then, remove any damaged parts of the parent aloe, including badly discolored leaves. You can cut back on watering and wait to see if it recovers and starts growing.
But, a better idea is to check the root system for root rot, because this is a very common cause of aloes dying. If you are intent on saving your plant, this is a sensible course of action.
Step 1: Remove the aloe from the pot
Tip the pot upside down and tap it firmly but carefully. If the soil is wet, you may have to prise the plant out with a small spade.
Step 2: Check the roots
Tease the roots apart and remove as much of the soil as you can. Remove any rotten or mushy roots using sharp secateurs or garden scissors.
Step 3: Prepare the pot for planting
If the aloe hasn’t outgrown its pot, clean it thoroughly before repotting the plant. Otherwise use a new and/or clean pot.
Because Aloe vera roots grow horizontally (not vertically), it is best to grow them in wide pots. Also, make sure that there are plenty of drainage holes to prevent excess water from keeping the soil unnecessarily moist.
Step 4: Replant your ailing aloe
You can grow aloes in ordinary potting soil, but a succulent mix is preferable. Put large stones or even broken pits of pottery over the drainage holes to stop them from getting blocked with soil.
Then add soil to the pot, to a level that will allow you to position the plant, roots, and all. Fill around the roots and base of the plant, pressing the soil down firmly.
Ideally, the soil should be a little moist and not totally dry. Don’t water the plant for about a week after repotting.
The secret then is to ensure you don’t overwater it ever again.
Tips to avoid overwatering your aloe vera
A careful watering regime will usually prevent overwatering. In fact, it’s no secret that many people say watering aloe vera is the most difficult part of maintaining a nice, healthy plant indoors.
Tip 1: Water Infrequently But Deeply
The soak and dry method of watering is a good one that works well for many succulents, including aloes. You want to water the plant deeply, so the moisture seeps right the way through the soil.
Then, wait until the soil is dry before you water the plant again. Remember that constantly moist soil is a recipe for root rot.
Tip 2: Let the Top Third of Soil Dry Out Before Watering
You don’t need to be 100% precise, but a good rule of thumb is to let the top third of the potting soil dry out completely between watering. So, if you have 6 inches of soil in the pot, make sure that the top 2 inches dry out thoroughly.
The best way to check this is by pushing your finger into the soil past the top 2 inches. You’ll quickly get the hang of it.
Tip 3: Water More Often in the Warm Seasons
Aloes need more water when it is hot than they do in the cooler seasons. But you need to be careful not to overwater in areas that get high summer rainfall.
Tip 4: Remove Excess Water After You Water Your Plants
Bearing in mind that you need to moisten the solid thoroughly when you water, there is bound to be some excess water. Most of it should run out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
It’s fine to let the pot sit in this excess water for a short while but don’t leave it indefinitely. After about 10-15 minutes lift the pot and get rid of any remaining water.
Tip 5: Overhead Watering is Preferred
When you plant aloes in the garden, overhead watering is the best option. There is a caveat, though. In areas where the salt content of the water is high, the salt tends to leave unsightly white crusts on the leaves. Then, drip irritation is a better option.
Tip 6: Mist Aloes In Between watering Them
All aloes benefit from an occasional light misting. It keeps their leaves free of dust and raises the humidity in the air, which aloes like.
Tip 7: Repot Your Pots in a Succulent Potting Mix
The University of New Hampshire Extension advises repotting aloes in well-draining soil made by adding sand and/or perlite to good quality potting soil. Alternatively, buy a commercially made cactus or succulent mix.
Just make sure that the pot is deep enough to accommodate the width and length of the roots. Also, be sure that there are adequate drainage holes for any excess water.
Can aloe vera recover from overwatering?
Aloe Vera certainly can recover from overwatering, but only if you pick up the problem in time and are proactive.
We have mentioned all the steps you need to take to help your overwatered Aloe vera or other aloe species plant recover. In addition to correct watering, you need to ensure that the growing conditions are good.
Aloes thrive in a dry environment that gets some full sun but also lots of indirect light. Be aware that the leaves sometimes droop in low-light settings.
While you should repot an overwatered aloe plant, you should also repot aloes that have become root-bound because the pot is too small.
You can repot them at any time of the year, but try not to repot when they are flowering. The shock and disturbance of the roots will be likely to halt all flowering for the season.
Watering aloe vera and other aloe plants can be a challenge. But don’t let this put you off growing aloes in your home or garden.
You can buy many different aloes, including Aloe vera, from farmers’ markets, garden centers, and even online from an affiliate advertising program designed to promote aloe and aloe products.
A warning: Growing aloes can be addictive! There is nothing quite as heartening as an aloe in full flower.