Aloe Vera plants are a great, easy-to-keep succulent that needs very little attention. But this doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own set of unique problems and sensitivities. Soft, mushy and drooping Aloe Veras is quite a common issue among plant parents and it can be pretty heartbreaking. But don’t worry, we have looked into what you can do to help your Aloe Vera get back to full health, as well as prevent it from going soft again in future.
Overwatering is the most common cause of soft Aloe Veras
Aloe Vera’s are a species of succulent that is very used to desert conditions. They store water in their roots and leaves so don’t require frequent watering at all. Too much water can cause the leaves and roots to rot which you’ll notice in the form of soft mushy leaves. This is because your plant is trying to store too much water and the leaves can sometimes even burst. Overwatering is the first place to start when diagnosing a soft Aloe Vera plant because it’s very easy to do (even by the most experienced plant parents). We recommend watering your Aloe Vera once every 3-4 weeks in summer and every other month during the cooler darker months.
Regardless of the time of year, you must let your Aloe Vera’s potting mix dry out fully before watering again. There are a few simple ways to figure out if it’s time to water your Aloe Vera or if there is still some moisture in the pot:
Stick a finger into the soil to see how much moisture is still in the potting mix. If there is still moisture, you’ll notice soil sticking to your finger when you take it out. If the soil is bone dry then it will just be like dust which will fall off your finger. This is when you know it’s safe for you to water your Aloe Vera again and reduce the risk of root rot and soft leaves. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty then you can also use a chopstick where the same rule applies. If the chopstick comes out clean then it’s time for you to water.
Do I risk damaging the root system if I stick my finger in the soil?
As long as you are careful and don’t prod around too much, then you shouldn’t cause too many issues. If you notice a large root in your way, try and pick a different spot rather than forcing the chopstick in as this will break the root and can harm your plant.
Picking up your Aloe Vera
Another way you can check the moisture levels in the soil is by regularly picking up your Aloe Vera (before and after watering). This is a great method to get to know your plants and over time you’ll have a really clear gauge as to when they need watering. The lighter the plant is, the less water there is in the soil – pretty simple! Luckily, Aloe Vera plants are very light as they don’t have thick stems or roots but don’t try this with bigger plants as you don’t want to cause injury.
Use a moisture meter
If you don’t want to rely on estimations and want to know for certain if your Aloe Vera needs watering, then a moisture meter is the way to go. You simply pop it in the soil and it will give you a reading of the moisture in the soil. They are super affordable little gadgets that are a great investment for every budding plant parent!
Take your Aloe Vera out of its pot
If your Aloe Vera is really suffering from soft leaves all over, then the potting mix is probably very waterlogged. In this case, you want to take the plant out of its pot to inspect the root system and replace the potting mix entirely. This isn’t a great method for checking moisture levels each and every time you water but is useful for checking for any major issues.
Drainage issues can also cause soft leaves
Sometimes it may not be your watering schedule that is killing your Aloe Vera, but poor (or a lack of) drainage in the pot. But don’t worry, this is a really simple problem to fix and there are a few great ways to do it:
Add perlite into the potting mix
You can very easily increase the amount of drainage for your Aloe Vera by mixing in a small amount of perlite, this will make it far easier for water to flow through and out of the drainage holes of your pots. Perlite is a lightweight, white material that not only helps drainage but also allows for more aeration in the soil which delivers more oxygen to your plants.
Ensure your pot has drainage holes
It’s very important that all of your plant pots have drainage holes so that any excess water can flow out of the pot into either the planter or onto the saucer. This is a great step to preventing root rot and soft Aloe Vera leaves as your plant won’t be sat in waterlogged soil.
Add pebbles to the bottom of your pot
Another easy step to help with drainage is to add a few small stones or pebbles to the bottom of your pots, this helps to make sure that the drainage holes are never blocked by soil or any loose debris which may stop excess water flowing out.
Use clay/ terracotta pots
Although clay or terracotta pots can be a little bit more expensive and breakable, their upsides are much more than just the aesthetic. The clay they’re made of is permeable which means that some of the water in your soil can evaporate through the sides of the pot. This isn’t the case for the plastic pots that most use, which just hold in all of that moisture. So sometimes it is worth investing a little more to make sure that the roots of your Aloe Vera aren’t sitting in too much moisture as this will help avoid soft mushy leaves.
Incorrect watering technique can lead to soft Aloe leaves
Watering the right amount, and making sure your pot has good drainage will only stop soft leaves if you are actually watering in the right way. You can choose to water your Aloe Vera from the top or bottom, but it’s really important that if you are watering from the top down that you don’t get the leaves wet. Soggy leaves can cause leaf rot, especially if they are still damp overnight when temperatures drop. When watering, make sure you water as close to the soil as possible, avoiding the leaves.
Not enough light can cause mushy leaves
As we’ve mentioned before, Aloe Vera plants are made for the desert so can struggle sometimes indoors. With that in mind, it’s important that they get enough bright sunlight during the day. If you notice that your Aloe Vera’s leaves are bending in half, folding or wrinkling in places and generally becoming quite soft, then a lack of light may be the cause. If you can’t spot any issues with the potting mix/watering routine, and your Aloe Vera is sat in a fairly dark spot then your plant may need more light.
To solve this issue, place your Aloe Vera nearer to a bright window. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, this is preferably a south facing window (and the reverse if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). This will mean your Aloe Vera is getting a good amount of light each day. During winter, when the sun is weaker and the days are shorter, you should place your Aloe Vera right up to the window. There is a reduced risk of sunburn during winter so maximise on the sunlight during these months.
If you aren’t sure about what light levels are best for your plant, or even how much light there is in different areas of your home, then we recommend getting a light meter. These affordable gadgets are life-savers when it comes to worrying about a lack of / or too much sunlight and are also great for finding what new plants will fit into your space. We couldn’t recommend them enough!
Sunburn is also a possible cause of soft Aloe leaves
Although Aloe Vera plants do love high levels of sunlight, there is such thing as too much light – especially in summer! The moisture in the leaves can actually make them quite susceptible to burning when exposed to intense direct light for long periods of time. This is especially common when the plants are on window sills and are maybe touching the hot glass as it’s been heated throughout the day.
Sunburn will show up as large soft patches which are sometimes brown or discoloured. It will show up as quite patchy on your plant, starting with the leaves closest to the light. If you suspect sunburn is the cause of your Aloe Vera’s soft, mushy leaves then we recommend moving your plant a little further away from the window or to a slightly shadier spot. It’s all about getting the right balance as too little light isn’t good for your plant either.
Should I trim off my Aloe Vera’s soft, mushy leaves?
We do recommend trimming away the worst affected soft leaves on your Aloe Vera as this will encourage your plant to produce new healthy growth. If you keep them attached, your plant will waste a lot of energy trying to keep these dying leaves alive. So prune off the soft leaves and roots to give your plant the best shot at survival!
Those are the most common reasons why your Aloe Vera has soft and mushy leaves. If you have caught the problem early and adjusted its environment/care there is no reason why you can’t bring your plant back to full health. If the problem has spread widely across the plant then propagation may be a good way to save some of the healthy plant. However, if your whole Aloe Vera has turned soft/ mushy then there may not be a way you can save it at this stage.
To find out more about general care, other common problems and propagation methods, visit our complete Aloe Vera care guide.
Written by Joanna Turner