Aloe plants can be a versatile addition to any plant lover’s collection, whether it’s outside or indoors. As a succulent, aloes have a reputation for being an easy-going, hardy plant so it can be concerning when these beloved plants take a turn and become discolored, so you might wonder why did your aloe plant turn brown? As with any health issue in plants, this can be from a multitude of reasons, some more concerning than others. For the most part, the troublesome trigger can be identified and resolved to improve the health and look of your aloe vera plant. Keep reading to learn more about possible causes for your aloe vera turning brown and the steps you can take to eliminate or avoid this issue altogether.
All Reasons Why Aloe Plant Is Turning Brown
Excess moisture, too much fertilizer, poor or improper lighting, and old age are the most common reasons why aloe vera plants can turn brown, however, there are many nuances to a browning aloe vera plant that can be caused by many different issues. Due to their succulent leaves that hold moisture, excessive watering is the most likely reason plant lovers see their aloe turning brown. Too much light can cause your aloe to become limp and pale in color, whereas too much may cause sunburned damage to the leaves. While there are many different things that can cause brown aloe vera, looking deeper into the pattern and location of discoloration can help determine what the root problem (or problems) may be.
Brown Spots on Aloe Plant Leaves
An aloe vera plant turning brown can happen without notice, so it’s important to be able to figure out how you can narrow down what might be causing the aloe vera browning to develop so you can put an end to that issue quickly and without further damage to your plant.
Browned, dried tips will occur on the aloe vera stalks of a dehydrated plant. Aloe plant brown tips can’t be rehydrated once they’ve browned, though if you catch the issue in time you can hydrate your plant so more discolored tips don’t develop. Water only when the soil has dried completely, and hydrate the soil well to ensure the entire root system is able to get a drink. Generally, if you struggle with watering at the right time, err on the side of underwatering, especially for succulent plants, as this is much easier for you to help your plant recover from than overwatering, which can easily be a death sentence for water-holding plants.
Too much sun can lead to aloe vera leaves turning brown or even a bleach-like color. If the leaves have begun to brown due to a lot of sun, this normally isn’t an issue; you may even notice a more reddish hue to the color, indicating your plant is producing more anthocyanins and carotenoids under the intense heat than chlorophyll. If nothing else about your plant is off (such as weak, softened leaves or drying leaves) then there isn’t much to worry about here, and you can move your plant to a less sunny location if you prefer the green color.
Sunburn will appear as a dark brown or bleached color in spots on the leaves. This can be remedied by moving your plant to a less sunny location, or by providing it with shade from the afternoon sun every day for the spring and summer months. No further action is needed for sunburnt aloes; the leaves will not heal but new growth will emerge undamaged if not exposed to excess sun any longer.
Aloe plant brown spots are often a sign of a pathogen or disease. Diseases such as anthracnose can cause spotty brown coloration on your aloe, though other diseases such as rust can be ruled out as this isn’t common for aloe plants and also has a more reddish-orange coloration than other fungal diseases. This can be easily fixed using a fungicidal product, applied according to the manufacturer’s label. Prevention for diseases usually starts with proper plant hygiene and ensuring your plant has sufficient air circulation so excess humidity and moisture don’t get trapped between the aloe’s leaves.
Like diseases, pests can cause brown or spotty discoloration to the leaves. Pests will often infest plants that are already declining in health, so if your plant hasn’t been doing too hot and then you see a severe downturn, pests (or disease) are likely the issue. To get rid of pests on an aloe plant, you’ll have to try to dislodge as many pests as you can (under a heavy infestation) before applying a treatment spray, like neem oil, on your plant following the manufacturer’s directions on the label. Prevention of pests starts with keeping your plant healthy and maintaining good plant hygiene: prompt removal of dead or diseased leaves, keeping your plant well-hydrated as needed, and ensuring your plant has proper drainage are all good steps in keeping your plant healthy and pest and disease free!
Aloes are not very hungry or thirsty plants, so if you find yourself fertilizing it regularly, this can be the cause of your aloe vera browning. Damage done by excess fertilizer is in the form of salt formation around the roots, which can hinder your plant’s ability to uptake and transport water, leading to browning. Leaching the soil using distilled or rainwater in twice the volume of your pot, but in water, can help dislodge some of these build-ups and flush them out the drainage hole of your plant’s pot. Refrain from using fertilizer, or if you do, use only once a year during the growing season in a dilute amount. Alternatively, instead of fertilizing consider just repotting once every two years to replenish the nutrients your plant receives from its soil. This will benefit your aloe by giving it more room to grow as well as the nutrients it needs to do so, and will also help you narrow down potential issues by knowing it’s not due to nutrition or your plant being root bound.
Aloe Vera Browning Stems
If your aloe turned brown along the stems then this could raise an alarm bell and lead you to troubleshoot the possible reasons. Fortunately, there’s a lot that can be told by looking at your plant and becoming your own plant detective:
Browning stems are typically more concerning to see in a plant like aloe, as this often indicates an overwatering issue, especially if it’s accompanied by a mushy texture. This can be fixed by adjusting watering, or in severe cases, removing any rotted roots and squishy leaves from the plant before repotting in a fresh soil mix. Always use sterile tools when removing rotting or dead tissue and sanitize between cuts. If your plant’s main stem is soft, this is a sign the rot has spread completely throughout your plant and is unfortunately not salvageable. You can start over again with a new aloe, ensuring you’ve got it in the right soil, and be a bit less frequent with the waterings.
Poor light for a plant that thrives in direct, bright light can lead to yellow or pale leaf coloration as well as thin or spindly leaf development, as this indicates your plant is reaching out for the light. Fixing this issue and preventing it are done the same way: be sure your plant has access to bright, direct light for at least 6 hours per day. South-facing windows are good for this, though you can also give it some intense afternoon light by putting it a few feet away from a west-facing window.
Poorly Draining Soil or Lack of Drainage Hole
If all other parameters are in place but you’re still seeing discoloration, the answer to “why is my aloe plant turning brown” could be poor soil or a lack of adequate drainage. Roots need airflow and oxygen to breathe, so if the soil isn’t allowing for the water to be effectively wicked up by the roots, you might find that the aloe’s roots aren’t getting the air they need, and are suffocating. This is the same mechanism that happens with overwatering: suffocation of plant roots will lead to foliage damage. To fix this, repot your plant in a well-draining soil mix and ensure your pot has a drainage hole. Cactus/succulent mixes added in coarse sand are a good soil mix for aloes. Use this type of soil and pots with drainage holes to prevent the lack of drainage issues in the first place.
An aloe turning brown after a cold night is not unheard of. unfortunately. This can come on suddenly if you’re not prepared, as aloes are usually only hardy to around 40℉. Unprotected plants will look dark brown or black and have softened, mushy leaves that will often flop over completely. The cold damage cannot be repaired, but plants that have been exposed should be brought inside to a warm area immediately. A completely frozen plant is unlikely to be revived, though frost-damaged plants can be pruned of their wilting leaves and be tended to with patience. To prevent this type of damage, bring potted aloe plants indoors during the winter, or protect in-ground plants heavily with horticultural fleece or blankets when the weather is below 50∘F (10∘C).
If you find yourself concerned over an aloe leaf turning brown, you may find comfort in knowing it could be from old age. The lower (older) leaves will turn yellow or brown and dry out completely when they’ve served for as long as the plant needed, and will naturally be used and then shed to make way for new growth. This will occur throughout the life of the plant, so if it’s older leaves only and there are no other issues that seem to be going on with your aloe, you can be confident it’s just your plant’s natural aging process.
Can Brown Aloe Turn Green Again?
The only instance a browned aloe vera may turn green again is if the brown or reddish color is due to sun stress. Other forms of damage from overwatering or burn damage kill off cells and tissue entirely, so there is no reversing a brown aloe vera leaf back to green if the damage was caused by anything other than natural sunstress. You can improve the appearance of an aloe vera plant with browned leaves by removing the leaves and addressing the issue that caused it to brown in the first place. Once these parameters are in check (water, light, and proper drainage) your aloe should have no issue putting out healthy, green new growth.
Keep in mind sunburn and sun stress are different: sunburn usually looks brownish or bleached in appearance, and will wind up looking dry and crisp. Sun stress often results in reddish or reddish-brown coloration; there will not be any severe drying or crisping in this case, and the color will fade back to green over time when placed under less bright, direct light. Although “stress” is in the name, it doesn’t cause any damage to your plant; when exposed to lots of bright light, plants will produce different pigments than chlorophyll to produce different shades.
How to Get Your Aloe Vera Green Again?
You can get your aloe vera back to its natural green shade again if the plant has been under a lot of bright, direct light recently or if it’s been dehydrated or sick with a pest or disease, though if you find your aloe vera plant turning brown and soft, there is likely not much that can be done to save it. Otherwise, here’s what you can do to help:
For Sun-Stressed Plants
You can remove your plant from the area where it gets a lot of bright, direct light and relocate it to a more indirectly lit location, or somewhere that gets shade in the afternoon. For plants in the ground, you can use an umbrella to shade your plant during the hottest, brightest parts of the day. Or, since this type of stress isn’t causing harm to your plant, you can embrace its warm summer colors and look forward to it turning green later in the fall season.
For Underwatered Plants
Browning, drying leaves and tips of aloe plants will not revert back to green, though you can help your plant not turn brown again by hydrating it as needed, which is typical once the soil has dried completely through and the leaves begin to show the slightest sign of wrinkling. In severe cases, completely dried leaves can be removed from the base of the plant, either by gently tugging on the dried leaf or by removing it with clean scissors. Maintain a good watering routine with your plant and new leaves will emerge green and healthy.
For Plants with Pest Issues or Diseases
As is the case with dehydrated plants, damaged, browned leaves won’t revert back to green, but treating the issue (pest or disease) and removing the damaged leaves can help improve the appearance of your plant, making it look much healthier and green!
How Can You Revive a Dying Aloe Vera Plant?
The issue can be treated if no long-term damage is done to your aloe (root system should be at least 50% intact and healthy, with a firm central stem) already. Reviving a dying aloe can consist of moving to a better area for light or conditions, treating diseases if applicable, and adjusting watering to a more appropriate interval for your plant.
Brown is not a bad color… Unless we're talking about leaves! Keep a close eye on your leafy friends and take good care of them. Now you know how.
Can We Revive a Brown Aloe Vera Plant?
It depends on the reason your plant turned brown: sunburn, underwatering, and sometimes overwatering can be caught in time to revive your browning aloe vera, though the browned parts will not heal. Sun-stressed plants will reduce their color when put into lower light conditions over time, or if they’re outdoors, their color will fade during the autumn season.
Should We Cut off Brown Aloe Vera Leaves?
Aloe leaves that have been browned due to disease or being overwatered can be removed; browned or bleached leaves from sun damage can be kept on to help protect your plant from further damage. Additionally, sunburnt leaves will usually fall off the plant by themselves or with minimal effort on the gardener’s part.
Does Aloe Vera Need Direct Sunlight?
Aloe vera plants can handle days in full sun and will be most productive under at least 6 hours of bright, direct sunlight. Insufficient light can lead to paleness and wilting of the leaves, as well as leggy growth.
Can Aloe Turn Brown from too Much Sun?
Aloe plants can turn different colors due to sun exposure, though mostly it is a deep reddish brown color. If your plant otherwise looks fine and feels healthy (for example, the leaves are not drying or squishy) then it’s likely just showing off its colors from all the sun it’s been getting.