There is a bit of a myth that Aloe Vera Plants are the easiest houseplant to take care of. If placed in the right environment, they will definitely thrive without much care. However, sometimes the smallest mistakes or changes in the environment can mean it is game-over. The main causes why your Aloe Vera has brown leaves are overwatering, underwatering, temperature and light issues and pest infestation.
Overwatering can cause brown Aloe Vera leaves
If you notice that your Aloe Vera’s leaves are turning brown and mushy, it is most likely due to overwatering. This tends to be the most common reason why plant will die, and we will hold our hands up and say this has happened to us in the past. It can be difficult to leave your plant alone, but too much love can very quickly be harmful to your plant. They don’t need to be watered very often, we go for once every 10-14 days in summer and even less in winter. They prefer dry soil so it is better to steer on the cautious side when watering, making sure that it definitely needs a top up.
Overwatering can very quickly lead to root rot which is very harmful to your Aloe Vera, causing brown leaves quite easily. Not only does it cause the leaves to turn brown, but it will also mean that the plant is unable to take up water or nutrients meaning your plant may begin to die pretty quickly. If you think that you may have overwatered your plant it is best to replace the soil straight away rather than just sit and wait for it to dry up over time.
There are two really easy ways to make sure that it definitely needs water. First check the moisture at the top of the soil, if it is still damp then wait at least a week before watering. You can also lift up your plant to check the weight of the plant before and after watering. You will then start to be able to gauge how heavy the soil is when it is in need of water.
Your watering schedule should change throughout the year depending on the growing seasons. Aloe Vera really don’t need much water at all during autumn and winter, once every month or two should be plenty and will help you avoid brown leaves!
Brown leaves can indicate poor drainage
Sometimes it may not be your watering schedule that is killing your plant and causing brown leaves on your Aloe Vera, but the poor draining of the soil and pot. You can very easily increase the amount of drainage in your plant’s soil 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 (you should also check to make sure your pots have drainage holes and punch some in/replace the pot if it doesn’t). Another easy step is to add a few small stones/pebbles to bottom of your pots, this helps in making sure that the drainage holes are never blocked by soil.
Although clay or terracotta pots can be a little bit more expensive or 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 instead 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 are not sitting in too much moisture.
Underwatering can also lead to brown Aloe Vera leaves
Like overwatering, too little water can also be harmful to your Aloe Vera. Although it won’t die on you suddenly if you forget to water it every once in a while, or make it go a little longer without water whilst you are on holiday, consistent underwatering will start to have an impact on your plant’s health and cause brown leaves. If you notice that you plant’s leaves are turning try and crispy (usually starting from the tips) it may be due to underwatering, as it prioritises new healthy growth over its older leaves.
Stick a finger in the top few centimetres of the soil to check the moisture. You can also try lifting your Aloe as we mentioned earlier to see it if feels particularly light. If you find that your plant feels very dry, water it a little every other few days over the course of a few weeks. Your first instinct might be to give it loads of water straight away but this can actually be harmful to your plant if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Instead, you want to reintroduce frequent watering for a few weeks and this should solve the problem.
Make sure your Aloe Vera isn’t exposed to cold air
Cold temperatures and drafts can also be very harmful to your Aloe Vera. Make sure your plant is not placed near doors or windows that may be drafty. Even though the temperature of your home may be perfect for your plant and it is receiving a lot of sunlight, the drafts coming in from outside may be colder and harm your plant’s health and cause the leaves to turn slightly brown. You can always pick up a digital thermometer to keep track of the different temperatures in your home.
It may also be experiencing heat shock if moved to a new spot. Make sure that you do not move your plant to a particularly sunny spot, if it was previously in a more shady area of the room. This intense heat for longer periods of the day can cause browning of the leaves.
Intense sunlight can cause brown leaves
Your Aloe Vera may also be turning brown due to it getting too much direct sunlight. Aloe Vera plants do like areas with bright light, but it needs to be indirect. South-facing windows can give your plant too much direct light so try moving them to a different window. You need to also watch out a little more in summer when the sun is a lot stronger for more of the day. It is best to move your plants a little further away from the window in warmer months to avoid any leaf burn.
You can tell if your Aloe Vera is receiving too much sunlight if it is showing sights of sunspots. These are brown spots that start to show up across each leaf. Unfortunately, once the leaves have been burnt by the sun, there is no going back. Relocating your plant should however mean it starts to produce healthy new growth.
You might be over-fertilising your Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera Plants don’t need regular fertilisation, in fact they don’t need fertilising at all if you don’t want to. Once a year, in Springtime, is around what we recommend if you do want to fertilise your plant. Make sure that you don’t at all during the dormant months.
If you are fertilising your plant more regularly, it may be causing damage to the main root system which over time could kill your plant. As well as reducing the frequency of fertilisation, try to use a diluted water-soluble fertiliser on your plant to ensure that it does not cause any shock or damage to the plant. Remember you can also skip the fertiliser part altogether, we don’t tend to add anything to the water for our Aloe Vera and they still produce a lot of healthy growth whilst avoiding brown leaves.
Check for a pest infestation on your Aloe
A slightly less common reason why your Aloe Vera may be turning brown is a pest infestation. It can happen that pests such as mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects take hold of your plant.
If you find pests on your plant we recommend giving the whole plant a shower. Keep the shower pressure quite low so not to damage the leaves any further. Alternatively, wash down each leaf with soapy warm water and replace all of the soil to get rid of the pests. You should also treat your plant with an organic insecticide to fight the infestation.
Make sure to check over your other plants in the room to see if any other plants have pests. Keep your Aloe Vera (and other infected plants) a good distance away from any of your other houseplants as you don’t want the pests to spread. if the leaves are quite close then they can jump and crawl between the leaves and infest your entire urban jungle.
Aloe Vera plants can be quite sensitive to their environment and care and are by no means the ‘easiest’ houseplant. Whilst overwatering is usually the main issue, it is important to go through the list and double-check nothing else is causing your Aloe Vera to get brown leaves. Once you have found the perfect spot for your plant, and get into a good watering routine, you should have no problems keeping it alive!
Those are the most common reasons why Aloe Vera plants develop brown leaves. It’s important to diagnose the issue as soon as you spot the warning signs as if not treated, it could lead to your Aloe Vera being unsavable.
You might choose to propagate your Aloe Vera just to make sure that you can save at least some of the healthy parts.
Check out our Aloe Vera care guide for more information on how to keep your plants thriving.
Written by Billy Dawson