Sooner or later, you’ll want to grow and care for an aloe vera plant. When this happens, you’ll notice how seemingly easy the whole experience is. Until it isn’t anymore.
One of the experience-breaking things that could happen is the aloe plant turning brown. Among the few issues it suffers from, this is the most common. And if you have no experience with this plant, it may seem like the end of the world.
Luckily, it is not. You can always save an aloe vera that’s turning brown. Even when it’s been a long time since it started to brown away, you can find a solution for it. But for that, you’ll have to read what we have to say.
We’ve assembled a list of the most common reasons aloe vera turns brown and the solutions for each. Take a look below and learn!
Why Do Aloe Vera Plants Turn Brown?
Let’s give you a heads-up before going into the nitty-gritty.
First, you have to know many triggers could cause an aloe vera to turn brown. These include overwatering and underwatering, disease, pests, too much sun, extreme colds, and even undesirable soil composition.
Having said that, the plant will only turn brown when a specific chemical reaction occurs. Aloe vera produces phenolic compounds to protect itself. When it senses something wrong in its environment or body, the plant automatically releases these compounds that protect against ultraviolet rays.
This way, the aloe vera won’t get damaged by the sun while it’s sick. Whatever the reason, these phenolic compounds cause the leaves to turn brown.
In short, turning brown is a self-defense mechanism. You could say it starts to enter into an inactive state as it starts to feel unsafe.
So, whenever you see an aloe vera that’s not lush green but instead looks brown or reddish, there’s a high chance the plant doesn’t feel well.
7 Reasons an Aloe Vera Plant Turns Brown + Solutions
To put it simply, an aloe vera starts to turn brown to protect itself. But what is it protecting itself from? What is causing these phenolic compounds to change its color?
Below, we talk about all the causes and how you can fix them. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced plant caretaker, you’ll learn tons from our advice below:
The most common cause of a plant turning brown is a lack of water. For an aloe vera, it is the other way around. It will turn brown if you overwater it.
This is called drowning the aloe vera. As a succulent, the plant is ready to spend weeks without a single drop of water. Its rhizomes store water that could last several weeks, so it doesn’t need too much humidity to thrive.
That’s why overwatering will cause trouble. The rhizomes start to “drown.” Meaning, the roots begin to malfunction, so to say. This could eventually cause problems like root rot and just general infections, making it hard for the aloe vera to absorb the right amount of water.
This will cause small brown spots on the leaves at first. After several days or weeks, the leaves will turn soggy and ultimately brown. This is a clear sign the root is overwatered and needs some intervention.
Here’s how to intervene:
- Start by taking the plant out of the pot or garden where it’s planted. You need to let it dry for about 1-2 days until the roots look dry.
- Check the state of the roots first. If you see anything putrid or rot, cut it off. Be careful not to cut the healthy parts.
- After cutting and drying, you can plant it. Make sure the new soil drains quickly. It should be completely dry, preferably made of sandy potting or garden soil.
- After transplanting, the plant should start recovering over time. During this period, try not to water more than once a week. If you’re in a cold season like winter or fall, water only once every two weeks.
- If you’re transplanting in a garden, keep it away from the rain. Otherwise, try transplanting in a pot instead and keep it indoors.
- Only water until the soil around the main stem turns a bit humid. Don’t overwater as the roots will be recovering.
Sooner than later, the plant will recover its true beauty. The soggy and brown leaves should turn green and solid. That’s a sign you’ve successfully fixed an overwatered aloe vera.
While the usual problem with aloe vera is drowning from too much water, it doesn’t mean the plant needs no water at all. In fact, the second most common reason for an aloe vera to get brown is underwatering.
It’s common to forget watering it consistently. As a succulent, it thrives if you water it once a month. If you live in a rainy place, you may think it needs no watering at all. And it’s probably true.
But in the hotter and drier seasons, the plant will need some water. Otherwise, it will start to dry up like any other plant.
In contrast with overwatering, the leaves shrink away, turning hard and dry instead of soggy. This also comes with a brownish tone, typically starting at the tips of the leaves.
Luckily, fixing this is a lot easier than when it’s overwatered. Here’s what to do:
- You won’t need to transplant at all. But you may need to add extra fertilizer and change the soil a bit around. For that, you may need to get it out of its pot.
- Turn it upside down and check the roots. If you see any drying on the roots, cut it out. Don’t cut away the healthy parts.
- Now you can prepare new soil. Add some light fertilizer, compost, and mulch on top. Then plant the aloe vera as needed.
- Once planted, water it down until the soil feels moist. You’ll have to water again when the soil dries up. Repeat until the plant recovers its lush green.
This process may take anywhere from 2 weeks (if it was lightly affected) to over 3 months (if it was almost dying). Either way, you should stop watering so consistently once the leaves recover. Otherwise, you may cause the opposite issue.
3. Too Much Sun Exposure
You could say that aloe vera is a desert species. Meaning, it will thrive with constant sun exposure and probably withstand a lot more than the typical plant. But that doesn’t mean it will not suffer from scorching sun rays either.
Sunburn is actually pretty common. Combined with little watering, excess sun exposure will slowly damage the leaves.
This will cause the plant to produce more phenolic compounds to protect against the sun rays. Obviously, these compounds will cause a browning effect. Some aloe vera species turn reddish instead, a clear sign it is sunburned.
Once again, the solution is a no-brainer. Follow these tips:
- Bring the aloe vera indoors or place it under shade. It should still receive a bit of sun every day to prevent trumped growth. But keep it at 1 or 2 hours of sunlight max.
- Keep the soil moist while the plant recovers. Water it as soon as it dries up. Don’t water the leaves to prevent unwanted damage.
The green hue will come back within a couple of weeks if you do this well. You can place it outdoors again, but don’t keep it for too long to prevent sunburn.
4. Too Much Cold
The perfect place for an aloe vera is a dry and warm place. But a fresh environment will also get the job done. In fact, you could even let the plant alone in areas with temperatures as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit for a bit.
With that said, aloe vera is not a plant for cold areas. When it is consistently exposed to extremely low temperatures, it will start to suffer. And when this happens, its leaves will usually turn brown.
This typically happens after a frost or two. It could also occur when in temperatures lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit for several months.
The solution to an aloe vera turning brown due to cold temperatures is easy nonetheless. Do this:
- Place it in a warmer place. We recommend letting it hang around appliances that produce heat, such as water heaters, radiators, room heaters, and even kitchen stoves.
- If you can keep the temperature between 55 and 75 degrees, the plant will start to recover rapidly.
It’s unlikely that too much cold will kill an aloe vera. But it’s still possible. The faster you can place it in a warmer environment, the better.
5. Root & Leaf Disease
There are many types of diseases an aloe vera can suffer from. While the plant is relatively sturdy and rarely gets ill, it’s still possible. And when that happens, you’ll know what to do.
Among the different diseases that could cause brown leaves, you can find aloe rust, anthracnose, basal stem rot, and bacterial soft rot. Each of them happens for different reasons and produce a variety of effects. No matter the problem, however, they almost always start by turning the leaves brown.
For the leaf disease, you’ll find aloe rust and anthracnose. Rust causes brown spots on the leaves, as well as some discoloration. Anthracnose causes a color change, from green to reddish, including several brown spots.
As for root disease, there’s basal stem rot. It happens when the aloe is overwatered, resulting in soggy leaves. And bacteria soft rot is when the plant catches bacteria from water or soil, causing brown spots all around.
The solution to all these diseases is different. But to make it brief and straightforward, we’re going to show you a general fix that should help you with any of these diseases:
- Start by taking the plant out of the soil. Be sure not to handle the plant too harshly from the leaves. Try bringing it up from the base. You should dig a bit close to the root for easy loosening.
- After taking it out, check the roots and leaves. Take anything that looks rotten or putrid. If something feels like it’s about to fall off the plant, cut it off.
- Now leave the plant to dry for 3 days out. If the disease is too advanced, leave it under the sun. This should kill the bacteria.
- Then look for a new container and new healthy soil. Try using sterilized potting soil to prevent any problem. Do the same if you’re planting in a garden.
- You can now plant the aloe vera in the new soil. Make sure it is dry at the moment of planting. Water it once every week afterward.
You should start seeing how the brightness comes back to the leaves within 2 weeks, no matter the type of disease it is suffering from.
One of the most annoying problems plants suffer from is pests. When pests take over a plant, it is likely to die. In the case of aloe vera, it will begin by showing signs of browning.
Among the different insects that love eating aloe vera, you can find flies, mites, aphids, mealybugs, and even fungus gnats. They can infest an entire aloe vera if not adequately safeguarded. Often, this causes black mildew, which eventually turns the green leaves into brown ones.
Luckily, aloe vera is a sturdy and pest-resistant species. And even if the pests take over it, you can help it survive with the right care. Here’s how to take an infested aloe vera back to life:
- Start by pruning off dead leaves that look brown or unhealthy. Soggy and eaten-up leaves will often hold bacteria. They will also attract more pests.
- Use a mild pesticide if possible. Don’t use it directly on the plant, but instead, try applying directly where the bugs are.
- Spray water directly on the leaves. Rub soft cloth or towel with a bit of alcohol. Both should get rid of the remaining pests on the leaves. Make sure it is completely pest-free.
- With the eaten leaves and insects out, you should now try transplanting the aloe vera into a safer place. Use fresh potting soil for the transplantation.
- Finish by checking the surrounding area in search of insects. Kill anything that’s eating other plants as well. Use pesticides to keep them at bay.
For leaves you took out, they won’t grow back soon. You may need to wait several months before you can see them again. Either way, your plant should start recovering within a few weeks, gaining its green brightness back.
7. Excess Salt in Soil
One last problem you may experience with an aloe vera is unwanted nutrients in the soil. This often happens when filled with salt, causing drought-like effects on the plant, burning the roots.
When the roots start to burn due to the excess of salinity, the aloe vera leaf tips will begin turning brown and dry up. Eventually, the whole leaf will turn brown, to the point of being irreversible.
This is not a typical problem, but it’s possible. Sometimes, salinity just prevents the plant from absorbing magnesium and calcium. This could also produce brown leaves over time.
Either way, the solution is simple enough for everyone to try. Here’s what to do:
- Take the aloe vera entirely out of its planting area. Get rid of the soil if possible.
- Clean the roots and leaves. Use only water. Remove any unwanted remains of the salty soil. This will prevent further damage.
- Now get a new soil mix, preferably gritty. If you can’t find this type of mix, blend typical potting soil with tons of sand and pumice to keep salt limited. Otherwise, just use a 50/50 mix of soil and sand.
- Plant the aloe vera again, directly on the soil you just made. This should fix the salinity issue.
The aloe vera should gain its color back in a few weeks after planting. Try to keep the new soil unmixed with the old one and don’t use anything that could increase its salinity.
While an aloe plant turning brown may seem like it’s too late to do anything, you’ve just learned that’s not how it goes.
If you follow our advice above, you can fix any aloe vera that’s gaining an unwanted color. Even if it looks like it’s about to die, it’s never too late.
Just try to be as careful as possible when handling the plant. More importantly, try to prevent the conditions that caused the brown in the first place.
While the aloe vera plant may not recover in some cases, you can solve the problem at least 80% of the time with the advice above. So, want to try and give your aloe vera a new life? Test these solutions now!