Aloe vera is one of those staple plants everyone seems to have in their homes. We do our homework to find out the best ways to care for our aloe plants, but sometimes we get it wrong. And instead of healthy, upright leaves, your aloe might have taken on a bent appearance, leaving you asking, “Why is my aloe plant drooping?”
The most common reasons for aloe plants to droop include watering too much or too little, lighting problems, diseases, cold exposure, pest attacks, transplant shock and needing to be repotted. Aloe vera is a resilient plant, and it often recovers well from many causes for drooping or bending.
Today you’ll learn more about the 8 most common reasons for an aloe plant drooping and what you can do about each one. We’ll also talk about how to give your plant a little more support if needed, and how to prevent future drooping before it happens.
Let’s get to it!
Of all the reasons for a droopy aloe plant on today’s list, overwatering is by far the most common culprit.
Aloe vera naturally grows in dry, desert-like regions, so they don’t need (or appreciate) a lot of moisture. In their natural habitat, aloe can go weeks within rainfall. When it does rain, the roots quickly absorb as much moisture as possible, and the plant stashes away extra water in its fleshly leaves to use later.
But if you water your aloe plant too often or the water can’t drain away efficiently, the soil stays continually moist. Since this is in direct contrast to its natural habitat, your plant becomes stressed and loses tone in its leaves, leading to drooping.
Also, your plant may try to absorb more water than it can safely accommodate, and the leaf surface may split or become weak, resulting in drooping or bending.
How to Fix Overwatering
The first thing you need to do is feel your aloe’s soil right now. Does it feel damp to your touch? Unless you’ve just given your plant a watering, at least the top 2 inches should feel dry.
If you’re feeling any lingering dampness, it’s likely that you’re overwatering. The good news is that there are a few pretty easy fixes:
- Give water only when aloe needs it; the soil should be fully dry throughout the pot before you give a watering. Check this weekly by sticking your finger into the soil as far as you can. If you feel any moisture at all, don’t add water!
- Placing a drainage saucer under your pot when watering is a good idea to protect your furniture. However, don’t leave the saucer underneath the aloe pot for more than a few minutes. If allowed to sit in the puddle, the soil will absorb too much moisture and get over-saturated.
- Make sure your aloe vera is in fast-draining soil (I use this organic soil from Espoma for my aloe plant). And always use a pot with good drainage, meaning that there’s at least one large drainage hole.
This one can creep up on you! I too have been guilty of not watering my aloe vera plants enough, because they’re succulents and don’t need that much, right?
While it’s true that aloe vera (and all succulents) have low watering needs, they do still need moisture on an appropriate basis.
An aloe vera’s fleshy leaves are designed to hold lots of water reserves. If your aloe plant leaves are getting flat and drooping, it’s a sign that those reserves are getting depleted.
How to Fix Under-Watering
Fortunately, this one is an easy fix: Give your plant some water!
Pour water onto the soil surface, taking care not to splash the leaves. Give water until it starts to run out the pot’s lower drainage holes.
Then observe your plant; it should start to regain a firm leaf texture in a couple of hours. If there’s no change by the next day, give another watering.
Another way to water is bottom watering:
This method allows your plant to soak up as much water as it needs through the pot’s drainage. It’s a great strategy when you need to do an emergency rehydration since the bottom layers of soil gets water fast.
And it’s easy:
- Get a bowl that’s larger than your aloe pot.
- Add a few inches of cool water.
- Set the entire aloe pot into the bowl.
- Let your plant soak for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the pot and set it on a saucer to drain.
The only caution here is to not forget about your plant and leave it in the water for too long, which can oversaturate the soil. Setting a timer is a fantastic idea!
3. Not Enough Light
All plants need sunlight to some degree to produce sugar (their food!) through photosynthesis. Aloe vera is no different, and as a desert native, this is a plant that has adapted to need plenty of bright sunlight.
If your aloe doesn’t get the light exposure it needs, sugar production drops off. This can manifest in the form of color fading or white spots forming (although white spots are perfectly normal on some aloe species).
And of course, a sugar deficit can also result in aloe vera plant leaves bending and drooping.
How to Fix Insufficient Lighting
Aloe vera needs at least 3 hours daily of bright, indirect sunlight.
If you’ve got your aloe outdoors, move it to a sunnier location if it’s currently in the shade.
For indoor aloe plants, a sunny east or west facing window is usually a great location. These areas provide abundant bright light but spare your plant from too much direct, harsh sunshine.
What if you don’t have a sunny window available? Not to worry: A plant grow light makes a fantastic stand-in. This model from Juhefa is a good option, and it has handy clips for attaching to a table edge.
One note of caution: Be careful not to keep an aloe plant in too much direct sunlight as it can cause the leaves to turn yellow. Typically, more than 4-6 hours of full-on sunshine is too much.
4. Exposure to Cold Temperatures
Aloe vera plants do best in room temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Since they naturally grow in warm climates, it’s not too surprising to learn that aloe doesn’t tolerate cooler temperatures very well.
Your plant probably won’t suffer lasting harm if the room temperature gets down to about 40 degrees for a short while. But prolonged exposure to cold will soon result in leaves that lose their normal upright shape and take on a floppy, droopy one.
And even if you have your thermostat set between 55 and 85 degrees F, that doesn’t mean that there are no cold spots in your rooms.
In the winter, windowsills can quickly become a chilly place. And in the summer, an air conditioner on full blast can create a cold micro-climate around the vent.
How to Fix Exposure to Cold Temperatures
During the cold winter months, make sure your aloe plant is in a warm room and away from any drafty windows. And don’t be afraid to move your plant to a different window if need be. In my home, some windows become much sunnier over the winter when the trees outside have dropped their leaves.
And in the summer, use an air deflector to keep the cold blast from the air conditioning off your plant. This set from Frost King is nice because it’s magnetic and easily adjustable.
5. Fungal and Bacterial Diseases
According to Penn State University’s Plant Village, these are three of the most common aloe vera diseases that can cause drooping:
- Aloe rust
- Basal stem rot
- Bacterial soft rot
Aloe rust is a fungal infection that can develop when there is a combination of extra humidity and cool temperatures. This fungus begins as small yellow spots, eventually taking on a darker, brownish hue and growing in size.
Basal stem rot is another fungal infection that causes the base of your plant to turn reddish brown or even black when conditions are moist and cool.
Bacterial soft rot occurs when heat and moisture combine, creating favorable conditions for bacterial growth in soil and on the aloe vera leaves.
If your aloe has bacterial soft rot, you’ll see these symptoms:
- Dark leaf discoloration
- Leaves drooping or bending
- Infected spots bulging and turning watery
How to Fix Fungal and Bacterial Leaf Diseases
Aloe rust is mainly a cosmetic issue that won’t spread from one leaf to another. (But if conditions for fungal growth are favorable, multiple leaves can be affected at once.)
The plant will likely drop the rust-infected leaf on its own, but you can cut it off at the plant base if you’d like to speed the process up a bit. Just be sure to clean your scissors or pruners with alcohol afterwards!
Basal stem rot is a more serious condition, and once it sets in, it will kill your plant. The best approach is to take a leaf or stem cutting from the healthiest area and propagate a new plant from that. Then throw the mother plant out.
Bacterial soft rot is another fatal condition. Unfortunately, it spreads throughout the entire plant, and you’ll have to discard your aloe if it gets infected.
For each of these conditions, excessive moisture is a common culprit. Make sure to only water your aloe plant when it needs it, and maintain temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees F.
6. Environmental Shock
Shock is when your plant suddenly gets exposed to conditions that are different than what it’s become acclimated to. It often results in wilting, droopy leaves and aloe plants are no different.
A couple of examples of situations that might bring on some shock include:
- Moving your plant indoors after being outdoors for the summer
How to Fix Environmental Shock
Repotting gives aloe a new environment that it will need to adjust to, and a bit of patience is the best strategy in this case. Resist the urge to give any extra water in an attempt to help your plant perk up, and make sure you’re providing enough sunlight and a comfortable temperature.
If your plant is suffering from shock after moving indoors for the fall/winter, it’s likely that you made the move too quickly. If you can, move your plant into an area that matches its outdoor light exposure as closely as possible. As with repotting, make sure to give your plant only the water it needs and provide a comfortable temperature.
When moving your plant indoors in the future, make the transition in stages to help prevent shock. For instance, move your aloe into shade from sun for a couple of days, then into a warmer room indoors for another couple of days. Once it has adapted, you can then move your aloe into the desired spot in your home.
In the cases of both repotting and moving indoors, your plant should recover from any shock and be back to its perky self within 2 weeks.
Aloe is pretty resistant to insect attacks, but if you spot these symptoms, you may have a pest problem:
- A single leaf or multiple leaves are bending or drooping
- Leaves are turning brown and rolling
- You see tiny white spots on the leaves
- Strange growths on the leaves or stem
Pests that affect aloe vera include aloe mites, aphids and mealybugs.
Aloe mites are actually members of the arachnid family and are not true insects at all. They’re too small to be seen with the naked eye, but you’ll certainly see the damage they leave behind: oddly-shaped growths, known as galls or even aloe cancers.
There’s a fascinating article on Dave’s Garden that shows what aloe mites look like under the microscope and how growths appear on various plants.
On the other hand, aphids and mealybugs are much larger and you’ll easily be able to spot them. Here’s what they look like:
How to Fix Problems with Pests
Pick off aphids and mealybugs by hand or wipe them away with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol.
Then apply a generous spray-down with insecticidal soap. This formula from Safer Brand is a good option. You may have to repeat this process a few times to make sure you fully eradicate the pests.
If any of the leaves are very damaged, trim them off at the base of the plant.
Aloe mites are another story, and you may not be able to save your plant if it becomes infected.
Some people have reported success with cutting away damaged leaves and treating their plant with a systemic insecticide, like this one from Bonide. Other growers have reported no or little success when treating their plant for aloe mites. And even if they can manage to save the plant, it’s often disfigured or develops odd growth patterns.
The real problem is that since aloe mites are so small, you can’t tell for certain if other leaves are already infected. And the infection can easily spread to other plants.
So the most reliable course of action to prevent further damage is to discard aloe mite-infested plants.
But if you want to try to save your plant, isolate it from any other aloes and try the treatment method. If you do, be sure to thoroughly clean any tools you used to cut your infected plant, using diluted bleach or alcohol.
8. Root Constriction
If you’ve ruled out all other causes and you’re still wondering why is my aloe plant drooping, your plant may have simply outgrown its current pot.
When the roots run out of space to spread and absorb moisture and nutrients, they don’t have enough resources to keep the leaves healthy and firm. So when aloe leaves are bending or drooping and even changing to lighter shades of green or yellow, it may be root-bound.
How to Fix Root Constriction
It’s time to repot!
But although it’s pretty clear that your aloe needs a little more room to spread out, do not go overboard and repot in a planter that’s too large. Oversized pots hold more soil and therefore more moisture, so you run the risk of overwatering. So choose a pot that’s 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than the pot your aloe is currently in.
We’ve covered this topic in detail in our post on how to repot succulents, but here’s a brief rundown of the basic steps:
- Add a couple of inches of fresh soil to the pot.
- Remove your aloe plant gently from its current pot, being careful not to pull on your plant.
- Remove as much of the soil as possible from the root system.
- Carefully work any sections of clumpy roots free.
- Settle your aloe into its new home.
- Fill in the sides of the pot with fresh soil.
- Wait a couple of days before watering.
Should You Cut Off Drooping Aloe Leaves?
If you’ve got aloe plant leaves getting flat and bending, you’re probably wondering if you should cut them off.
The general answer here is no. If the only thing affected is the leaf texture and you can fix the underlying problem, your plant should recover.
However, if the leaves turn brown and soft or there are any brown/crispy-looking parts, these leaves will usually not recover. Your plant may shed them naturally, but that can take some time and may look unattractive in the meantime.
So you can safely cut them off at the base of the aloe plant. But before cutting, be sure to clean off your scissors or pruning shear blades with isopropyl alcohol to avoid introducing any harmful microbes.
How to Support a Droopy Aloe Plant
Aloe vera plants can grow up to 3 feet across, and with its chunky, water-laden leaves, even a perfectly healthy plant can start to droop under its own weight.
There are some ways to help support a droopy aloe plant, whether it’s the whole plant or just one struggling leaf:
Use plant stakes. Plant stakes are awesome for providing some external support for a single leaf or even your whole plant. You’ll find stakes in a variety of materials, but bamboo and fiberglass are going to be best for our purposes here.
These bamboo stakes from Garsum are a great choice, and you can pick one of 3 sizes that best matches your plant’s height. And these fiberglass stakes from Galen Panamerica also come in plenty of sizes.
Insert a stake several inches into the soil and use some loosely-tied garden twine to support a single droopy leaf.
If you’re looking to help your entire plant stay upright, surround the base of the aloe plant with three to four bamboo stakes. Then tie garden twine around the whole aloe plant about halfway up and again near the top of the shortest leaf.
Strategically place decorative stones. If one of the outer leaves of your aloe plant starts drooping down, adding an appropriately-sized stone close to the plant’s base can help prop it more upright.
Be gentle, though! What you want is for the leaf to rest softly on the stone. If you push the stone underneath the leaf too aggressively, it can cause excessive pressure or friction.
Repurpose household items. You can also put your creativity-cap on to transform household objects into supports for individual droopy leaves.
I have a friend who has a small (about 6 inches tall) indoor aloe plant with one droopy leaf. She thought outside the box and stuck a plastic knife in the soil near the base. Then she attached a binder clip and propped the droopy leaf between the metal rings of the clip to support it.
Hey- whatever works!
Prevention of problems is the best way to keep your aloe vera plant from drooping and bending.
Use the following steps to keep your aloe plant healthy.
- Water on an as-needed basis and prevent excessive moisture. Check soil moisture levels before each watering.
- Use pots with good drainage, and empty any drainage saucers of water within a few minutes.
- Use the right succulent or aloe plant soil.
- Make sure your aloe plant gets at least 3 hours of bright, indirect light daily.
- Maintain temperatures between 55 and 85 F.
- Inspect your aloe regularly to spot any early signs of pests. It’s always easier to treat a small problem before it spirals out of control!
- Make environmental changes as gradual as possible.
It can be scary to find your aloe plant drooping, but aloe is a hardy plant, and the problem is often pretty easy to fix. So you stand a great chance of getting your plant back in shape pretty quickly.
Have you learned any other helpful strategies for dealing with a droopy aloe plant? Were there things that you thought would work, but didn’t? Share your experiences or ask more questions in the comments!