Why Is your Aloe Plant Turning Brown & How To Fix This

Architecturally stunning, with blooms that can even last for months and, let’s not forget, many healing and medical properties, it is no surprise that aloe is spreading from garden to garden all over the world, and with small varieties like Aloe dorotheae, Aloe ‘Guido’ and Aloe aristata, it has made the leap from sunny Mediterranean yards to indoor spaces as well.

It is an easy to grow succulent, with very few needs, however, sometimes, you will see that its leaves turn brown? Why Is your Aloe Vera plant turning brown?

One of the most common causes for an aloe plant’s leaves turning brown is overwatering. Overwatering will lead to root rot, which in turn can cause its’ leaves to be wilted or even completely fall off. If your aloe vera plants are suffering from a case of root rot, repotting into fresh new potting media should resolve this issue and set it on the path toward recovery!

If you have or plan to have an aloe, and if its leaves are turning brown (or you are scared they will), then look no further, because, whichever the cause, you will find the solution in the article you are going to read.

7 reasons why aloe plants turn brown

When your aloe plant starts turning yellow, you may be wondering what’s going on.

A few things can cause your Aloe plant to turn brown including: not enough sunlight, overwatering, or the soil being too dry. Let’s take a look at each of these problems so we can figure out what might be causing this issue with your Aloe plant.

  • Overwatering is the most common cause of a wilting or brown aloe, due, of course, to excess watering.
  • Underwatering; less common and also less dangerous than overwatering, if you keep your plant dry, it may turn brown as well. We will see how to tell the difference.
  • Changes of temperature and climate; this is a more “subtle” cause than the previous two. But remember that aloe plants are very susceptible to changes in temperature.
  • Wind and draughts;especially indoors, even a small draught can result in leaf browning. So, where you place your plant is very important.
  • Excessive cold; these are not plants that like the cold, if they catch it, one of the consequences may be that they turn brown.
  • Feeding mistakes; succulents like aloe like little feeding and general feeding is not very indicated for them; wrong feeding may lead to browning too.
  • Fungal infections; some fungi may also turn the leaves of your aloe brown.

1. Aloe Plant Turning Brown Because Of Overwatering

aloe turning brown because of overwatering

Overwatering is one of the primary causes of yellow leaves on aloe plants. 

Aloe plants have few stomata; this means that they cannot perspire water as effectively as other plants. Excessive water accumulates within the meristem (the “pulp” inside the leaves, which, if we want to define it properly, is a tissue of non specialized cells).

When too much water is compressed within it, the pressure it causes can literally break the structure of the tissue. This will cause not only a change in the texture of the tissue, but also of the color, which will start with yellowing then turn brown in advanced phases.

With all succulents, overwatering is arguably the most common cause of bad health and, in some cases, even death.

It is far too easy to feel “generous” with these plants and give that extra watering “because it’s hot”, but while we think we are helping our plant, in reality we are inflicting damage, and, far too often, even lethal problems.

If your aloe is brown because of overwatering, the chances are that it may already be too late to save the whole plant. Browning is a late symptom of overwatering, so, look out for earlier symptoms including:

  • Softening of your plant’s tissue; if you notice that the leaves are posting their tenure, they are becoming mushy, losing shape and, on touch, they feel like dough or jelly, then you certainly have given it too much water.
  • Yellowing of the leaves or stem; if the plant’s color turns an unhealthy yellow, and the affected part is also softening, again, you have overwatered it.
  • Leaves become transparent; this is a clear sign of overwatering, and it will often be accompanied by the two symptoms above.

Is your aloe turning brown because of overwatering? Two different cases

When the plant turns brown because of overwatering, you may have two cases:

  • Brown soft spots on the leaves; in this case, you have overwatered the aloe plant, but you are still in time to save it; it is an advanced stage of the yellowing we mentioned before.
  • Browning at the base of the stem; in this case, you are most likely faced with a very serious problem, root rot and at an advanced stage. While we are at it, even if you notice yellowing in this area, do take immediate steps.

Curing Aloe Plants With Localized Browning

If the yellowing problem is localized on the leaves, you can take some simple and fairly limited stamps to solve it:

  • Take a sharp knife (or scissors) and sterilize it; wiping it with a cloth you have sprayed with alcohol will do.
  • Hold each leaf that has been affected with one hand in turn and cut all the affected area as neatly as possible. In this case, the Latin saying “melius abundare quam deficere” (better be abundant than scarce) fits like a glove. Don’t be afraid to remove the whole leaf, the idea is to stop any spreading of the rotting.
  • If you wish to cauterize the wound for extra safety, especially if your aloe is in a fairly humid environment, you can do it exposing it briefly to a match, or even the flame of a candle, at close distance (an inch or so) for a short time.
  • Stop watering your plant immediately. Make sure that you only water it when the soil is fully dry, and you may even think about giving it a bit less water in future.

This, in case the problem is limited to a few leaves, should normally do the trick

Curing Aloe Plants With Browning At The Base Of The Stem (Root Rot)

aloe plants with browning at the base of the stem (root rot)

However, if the browsing (or yellowing) is at the base of the stem, the risk is that you may lose your plant. Your action, therefore, will have to be much more drastic.

  • Take the plant out of the pot.
  • Clean the roots with a soft brush.
  • Inspect the roots carefully; if they are white, linear and hard(ish), they are healthy. If they are brown, either soggy or misshapen, then they have rot.
  • Inspect the base of the stem for the same symptoms.
  • Take a sharp knife (a grafting knife or pruning knife) and sterilize it.
  • With a sharp and near cut, remove all the damaged part of the plant. This must include any part that has yellowed and discolored as well as any part that has lesions or any damage.
  • Sprinkle some organic sulphur powder on the wound. This is to prevent the bacteria that were rotting the roots from spreading any further.
  • Leave the wound to heal. Place the plant somewhere dry, well ventilated and not in full sunlight for two days. This will allow the wound to dry and heal.
  • Prepare a new pot with good drainage and new and dry cactus potting soil. Do not recycle the old potting soil, as it will have the bacteria that were thriving in the roots of your plant.
  • Mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a bowl of water and dip the stem of your plant in it. This is a natural rooting agent.
  • Repot your aloe.
  • Start watering after about one week.

In case you have only saved some leaves, you can try propagating your plants with leaf cuttings following exactly the same steps above.

However, you are less likely to succeed than if you have saved part of the stem.

2: Aloe Plant Turning Brown Because Of Underwatering Or Excessive Sunlight

Aloe plant turning brown because of underwatering or excessive sunlight (1)

When leaves dry up, the chloroplasts start losing chlorophyll, which as you know, is green; this of course, causes a change in the coloring of the leaves of your aloe plant which will, in their last stage, turn brown.

Your aloe may turn brown also if it becomes dry; this is most likely due to excessive sunlight, heat or underwatering. Yes! Aloes like very warm places, but they prefer temperatures between 55 and 80oF (13 to 27oC); when the temperature goes above that range, their leaves can start getting spots of brown color on them and even whole dried-out leaves will be present on your plant.

However, the browning will be different from that due to overwatering.

  • It will tend to start at the tips of the leaves, certainly not at the base of the stem.
  • The affected part will be dry, hard and shriveled.
  • It will be light brown (while root rot will produce a dark brown coloring).
  • It will spread slowly (root rot can spread fairly fast).

If this is the case with your plant, check the soil. If it is dry, then you will be sure about the cause of the browning.

  • Water the plant with room temperature water.
  • If your aloe is in a pot, water from the saucer and not from above.
  • Do not be tempted to overwater your plant; this may do more harm than good. Just give it the usual amount of water.
  • After about 30 minutes, empty the saucer from any excess water.
  • Wait for at least a week, and make sure the soil has dried completely before watering again. It will take your plant about one week to send the water from the roots to the tip of its beautiful leaves. So, wait, you will not see results immediately.

The dry leaves will not be a health hazard for your plant. Aesthetically, though, they may not look great. If you wish, you can cut them with a sharp and sterile blade.

Now, however, there is another thing you should do if you can:

  • If the browning is due to overheating and excessive sunlight, move your aloe to a place where there is less light and heat. Especially indoors, having them just in front of a window (even more so if South facing), can often cause edge burn (browning at the edge of the leaves) and similar problems. Place your plant where life is plenty but diffuse and indirect.
  • If you have it outdoors (maybe on your balcony), you may put a little shading net on top of it for the very hot summer days, maybe only for the hottest hours of the day.

3: Sudden Changes In Temperature And Climate

Even a sudden change in temperature can cause a browning leaves on a aloe plant. The plant’s cells may not withstand the sudden shift and die, in doing this, they will change color.

Many of us like to keep houseplants indoors in winter and then take them out during the summer months, especially with succulents like aloe plants. 

In fact, plants do like a bit of fresh air, and they welcome those days in the open air.

However, every place has its own characteristics, both indoor and in the open air.

If the conditions indoor are very different from those outdoor, you may cause stress to your aloe when moving it from your sitting room to your terrace.

For example, the light in its indoor place may be fairly dim or diffuse, it may be sheltered from winds and maybe the humidity is fairly high, while your terrace is south facing, and in a windy spot.

When the move happens, plants that find the difference a bit stark may respond with:

  • Stunted growth
  • Lack of bloom
  • Browning of leaves (if the new place is too hot and sunny)

What can you do about it? If it has already happened:

  • Shade your plant from excessive heat, sunlight and even wind. Using a shading net or any makeshift shade you can find is fine.
  • Move your plant somewhere less sunny and windy.
  • Don’t think you can solve this with excessive watering. If the main cause is the heat, then you may increase watering slightly. Still, you will need to allow the soil to go dry before watering and you should only increase it by a small amount.

Nevertheless, the best solution is prevention. Plan your plant’s “change of home” and allow it to acclimatize to the new place:

  • Move the plant in stages.
  • Each new place should be a bit sunnier and warmer than the one before (or darker and cooler if you are taking it back in).
  • Leave the plant in each new place for at least one week (two is better).

4: Aloe Turning Brown Because Of Wind And Draughts

Wind has a drying effect; when tissue dries up, it turns brown. And this also happens with aloe pants. Aloe is better sheltered from wind, especially strong wind.

In fact, sometimes, plants can suffer from wind scorch, which is when the leaves dry up and, in fact, go brown, because of draughts and wind. To avoid this:

  • Keep your aloe plants away from draughts indoors.
  • If you have them or move them outdoors, choose a sheltered position.
  • In case you want to keep them in the open air but have no place which is sheltered from the wind, use wind breaks, which can also be hedges as well as Human-mad-structures, but make sure the hedge or bush is well grown before you put your plant under its protection.

5: Aloe Turning Brown Because Of Excessive Cold

Brown in aloe plants that have suffered excessive cold is a bad sign indeed; it is a result of tissue decay and death and, in some cases (when accompanied by softening and jellification of the tissue) it shows that the tissue of your plant has started rotting.

Aloe is a plant that loves warm weather; in fact, this succulent hails from Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and some islands in the Indian Ocean, though it has become naturalized around the Mediterranean Basin.

Still, you don’t associate its tongued leaves with Greenland, do you?

While some specimens (adult and healthy) and species may withstand temperatures as low as 32oF (around 0oC), when the temperature drops under 40oF (about 5oC), these plants will suffer and won’t do well at all.

In fact, you should always try to keep it above 55oF (or 13oC).

Still, the odd cold day happens, and, in these cases, you may notice a change in the coloring of your plant’s leaves:

  • If your aloe turns reddish brown or from red to brown, then it is due to a cold spell.
  • Excessive cold will actually cause the leaves to become mushy and even transparent.

Depending on the severity of the problem, you may or may not be able to save your plant.

  • Move the plant somewhere warm and sunny.
  • Reduce watering; your plant is in shock, and it will have lost part (even most) of the tissue where it can store water.
  • Take a sharp blade and sterilize it.
  • Prune off any softened tissue; here, again, do not be afraid to cut; the ruined tissue may rot and this may spread to the rest of the plant.
  • If necessary, cauterize the wounds, with a light flame (match or better a candle) passed near the wound (about one inch) for a short time.

6: You’re Feeding Your Aloe Plant Wrong 

If your aloe receives excessive nutrients, some of its tissue may die. This, of course, will result in a change in the color of the tissue that, when dead, turns brown.

Don’t confuse love with abundance when it comes to feeding your aloe plant; in fact, you should only feed it very sparingly, never more than once a month, and only from spring to summer. Then, suspend feeding altogether.

Like most succulents, aloe does not like soil that is too rich in nutrients, and over feeding may be a problem. If you use a general fertilizer, make sure you only give it half dose.

Of course, organic fertilizers are better because they do not pollute, do not impoverish the soil in the long run and they release nutrients slowly.

If you give your aloe too much fertilizer, the salts accumulate in the soil and you can witness what gardeners call fertilizer burn, or tip burn, as it manifests itself as a browning of the tips of the leaves.

You may have seen this fairly often… Healthy looking plants with tips that appear to be dry, brown and burnt…

If you only see one or a row tips, then the solution is simple:

Suspend fertilizing immediately, even for a full season, and start again the following spring.

If, however, the problem is widespread, you may wish to change the soil, so:

Repot your aloe in new, light and well drained potting soil. This, of course, on top of suspending feeding.

7: Aloe Turning Brown… Is It A Fungus?

But maybe the browning can be due to fungi; in this case, the change of coloring may be due to either the color of the fungus (or its spores), or lacerations caused by it in the tissue of the plant.

Aloe is a very strong and usually disease free plant. However, even they can get fungal infections every now and then.

This does not usually happen when in the wild or places with dry winters, but indoor spaces are not always ideal for them to spend their winters. This is usually due to:

  • High humidity in the air; to be safe, keep the humidity under 60%. This plant can stand very dry air, but humid air is not ideal.
  • Soil moisture; this too can cause fungal infections; as we have seen, you need to let it dry completely before watering.
  • Excessive fertilization; yes, apart from causing tip burn, excessive nitrogen can set the plant off balance and make it more susceptible to fungal infections.

There are three main fungi that can find your aloe a good place to live, and they do not respond equally to treatment:

Gray Mold (Botrytis Cinerea)

It is called gray but it appears gray brownish, and what you see is actually clusters of spores. These will appear as a thin layer on top of the leaves and stem, forming like a veneer or patina.

This is quite an insistent fungus; if you take it soon, you can try to stop it with organic fungicides like copper soap, but that won’t be enough.

  • First, cut all the affected leaves with a sharp and sterilized blade.
  • Do not compost them; instead, you will have to burn them, as the spores would spread otherwise.
  • Then, mix between 0.5 and 2.0 oz of organic copper soap per gallon of water in a spray bottle and spray. Do repeat after 2 weeks.

You could try using neem oil at a very early stage, but it is fairly weak with gray mold and you will in any case need to repeat the treatment (and still burn the leaves).

Keep an eye out for gray mold especially in spring and in early summer, when it is more likely to occur.

Anthracnose (Colletotrichum)

This is a particular fungal infection caused by a genus of fungi called Colletotrichum. It looks a bit like rust, which is brown at fist sight but close by it is more of a red-orange shade, along the lines of of cherry wood.

These start as small spots but they multiply and grow fairly fast. In this case, you should:

  • Cut the affected leaves with a sharp and sterile blade.
  • Spray neem oil on the affected parts left. You will need to repeat this after 14 days.
  • Burn all the cut leaves.
  • Repot the plant in a new pot and new soil. This fungus will actually spread through pots.
  • Do not recycle the pot and soil.
  • Sterilize all the tools you have used with neem oil. This is because this fungus will also leave spores on your tools.

Root And Crown Rots (Phytophthora)

This fungus is bad news. There are no actual treatments that work well with this mold, and your best chance is to prevent it.

It starts from the roots, which will lose feeder roots (those tiny little “hairs” that grow alongside main roots).

Then, it will move up, and maybe only then you will start to notice it as a series of brown lesions.

With many plants, it then affects the leaves, making them turn first yellow, then wilt and then, usually, they remain brown and dry attached to the stem.

To avoid it:

  • Give your aloe perfect drainage; troublesome though this fungus is, it needs humid soil to get started. Good drainage and light and sparing watering should keep the fungus at bay.
  • Keep the plant in a dry and ventilated place.

If you your plant catches the fungus, this is what you can do:

  • Take the plant out of the soil and inspect the roots.
  • If you find the symptoms, cut all the affected leaves and roots with a sharp and sterile blade.

Now, we did say that this fungus does not respond well to treatment, however, recent studies show that three species can be controlled by using some simple mixes.

For Phytophthora nicotians, using a mix of clove oil, neem oil and pepper extract on roots, stem, leaves and (in case you can’t uproot it) even the soil can reduce the fungus significantly.

With Phytophthora capsici, spraying water with drops of red thyme, oregano and palmarosa essential oils can have good results.

With Phytophthora nicotianae, extracts of clove and cassia sprayed onto the plant can reduce it very significantly, by 99.6 and 99.2% respectively.

Fortunately, Phytophthora is not a common problem with aloe plants, it tends to attack other plants, especially some like raspberries etc. that we tend to grow outdoors as crops instead.

Brown aloe problems and their solutions

As you can see, there are many reasons why an aloe may turn brown, some are fairly common (overwatering, heat, over-feeding, even underwatering…) and some are less common (some fungi, for example).

Most have fairly simple and straightforward solutions, and nothing that requires a degree in botany or extremely laborious processes.

Still, your best chance is to avoid these problems so… Find it a good, dry and ventilated place, give it a light and very well drained soil, do not overwater at any stage nor underwater for long and be stingy with feeding.

If you do these things consistently, and you keep an eye out for many signs of bad health in your plant, you are very likely to have a very happy, very healthy and very green aloe indeed!

Or red… silver… dotted… even pink, depending on the variety of course, but not brown!

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