My aloe plant has no roots? What’s up with that?
The first reaction of plant owners is shock and fear once they discover this. After all, we all know how important roots are for a plant’s survival.
As such, when your aloe plant looks a bit unstable.
And the moment you unpot it, you immediately realize it has no roots. What now?
Overwatering, waterlogged soil and root rot are the most common causes of aloe plants with no roots. The damage from these conditions is what cause the loss or absence or roots.
Similarly, excessive cold and root pests are known for aloe plants losing their roots as well.
So, if you notice this, the best solution is to propagate your aloe plant.
Why Does My Aloe Have No Roots?
Root rot is something that every plant owner dreads. That’s because it is dangerous and can be fatal to your plant if not treated soon enough.
In almost all cases, root rot is caused by overwatering or waterlogging.
As such, wet soil and a damp environment is what puts the roots in danger.
And this can be the reason why your aloe plant has no roots.
Root rot is generally described as dead roots that have rotten. What happens is that the healthy roots, which are normally white, or light brown in color turn black or dark brown.
They also lose their firm texture and feel mushy and soft.
Often, touching or tugging them when you take the plant out of its pot is enough to break or tear the rotten roots.
But don’t worry if this happens. The roots are useless already at this point.
That’s because rotten aloe roots have been dead for a while.
And dead or rotten roots do not recover. Nor will they heal.
What’s worse is that they don’t function anymore.
The other telltale sign of aloe root rot is a foul, rotten odor. In contrast, healthy roots don’t have this smell. At most they have a slight earthy smell due to the soil they’ve been in.
The reason why plant owners hate or fear root rot is that once roots have rotted, they cease to function. Also, they spread causing the problem to get worse if you don’t detect it and treat it.
As a result, when too many of the roots die and rot, the plant won’t be able to absorb the same amount of moisture and nutrients from the soil.
This makes it weaker, grow slower and start to show discoloration and deficiencies.
More importantly, there will come a point where too many of the roots or all of the roots have rotten. At this point, your aloe plant cannot be saved anymore.
That’s because even if you repot it or take it out of the overwatered soil, there are no more healthy roots to support the plant.
Without sustenance (water and nutrients), your aloe plant will deteriorate and eventually die.
Therefore, you always want to watch out for root rot.
That said, it is easier said that done.
Aloe Root Rot Symptoms
That’s because all the damage and changes to the roots are happening under the soil. So, you cannot see them.
Your only signs of potential root rot are the wilting plant, yellowing leaves, brown spots and water-soaked patches or blisters on the leaves.
Therefore, it is always important to check on the soil regularly.
If you notice the soil feels wet even after it has been few days since you last watered, you may want to investigate why this is happening.
Roots will suffocate or succumb of fungal growth when the soil stays wet for prolonged periods of time. So, you always want to be wary of this.
Treating Root Rot in Aloe Plants
If your aloe plant has no roots and you’ve confirmed that root rot is the cause, it is important to immediately treat it.
This gives you a chance of saving the plant.
Doing so will allow new roots to slowly grow over time.
To treat aloe root rot, start by taking the plant out of the pot.
If there are still some rotten roots around, make sure to remove them all. Pruning them using a sterilized knife, pair of scissors or pruning shears works.
You want to remove every bit of these rotten roots since they will spread.
You’ll also need to disinfect the entire root system.
Doing this ensures that you eliminate any fungal pathogens that may remain. You can soak the root system in fungicide or hydrogen peroxide solution.
Make sure to let the root system dry before you repot the plant.
Also, before you repot the plant, make sure to throw away the used soil. These particles may still harbor some of the pathogens.
Additionally, you’ll need to disinfect the pot as well for the same reason.
You can use a bleach solution or the same hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the pot.
Once the plant has dried, you can now repot it.
Do so in a new pot. The new pot will likely be smaller since you removed some of the rotten roots. Additionally, use fresh, dry well-draining soil.
Aloe plants don’t need a lot of water. If you overwater it, it can easily deteriorate, get root rot or even die.
Overwatering may likewise be one of the reasons why your aloe plant has no roots.
In general, aloe plants are native to hot, dry climates.
As a result, it has evolved into storing moisture in its leaves. This allows it to go on for long periods of time without watering.
This is why you don’t need to water it daily or every other day.
Instead, aloe plants usually only need watering once every 2-3 weeks.
Although, this will depend on how hot the weather gets.
From my experience, the best way to water to water aloe plants is to do so infrequently. But when you do, water thoroughly.
The latter ensures that the roots get the drink they need so the plant can store the excess moisture to use over time.
How often should you water your aloe?
The best way to tell is to wait until the top 2 inches of soil has dried. Never water the plant before then. You can also wait until the top half of the soil has dried before you water.
The latter is a safer, more conservative way to avoid overwatering.
Because aloe plants store moisture in their leaves, they easily become prone to overwatering. That’s because they still have water when you add more water to the soil.
A bigger problem is that many issues will result from overwatering. One if waterlogged soil where the roots end up swimming in too much water.
If this lasts for long periods of time, the excessive wet environment will suffocate the roots or promote the development of fungal diseases.
Either way, both are bad as they can lead to root rot as the roots die.
In the former, the roots will die from suffocation as they are deprived of oxygen by too much water in the soil.
In the latter, some fungi destroy roots by eating through them.
As such, the roots will eventually die of you do not eradicate the fungal disease early enough. After roots die, the rot as well.
Aloe plants enjoy moderate to warm conditions. They thrive when temperature is kept at 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Again, this has to do with the native environment.
As such, they’ve become accustomed to it.
While the plant can tolerate hotter environments, they have low tolerance to colder weather.
In some cases, your aloe plant may have no roots because they roots have been damaged by hypothermia or excess cold.
This can happen if you leave the plant somewhere that has cold drafts.
It can likewise occur during winter when the weather gets cold.
For this reason, never leave your aloe outdoors during winter. Instead, bring it inside and keep it in a warm spot.
Watering the plant during the cold winters can also be dangerous.
For one, the cold means it takes much longer for soil to dry. This can lead to overwatering if you do not scale back on watering frequency.
Another problem is that wet soil makes it even colder when the temperature is already very low. This increases the risk of hypothermia which can damage the leaves.
And the damp conditions also increase the risk of fungal growth which can lead to root rot.
Either way, as the roots sustain damage and die, your aloe will lose roots as well.
As more and more people become aware of fungal and bacterial diseases that can damage roots, something that many are still unaware of are root pests.
Yes, there may be times when pests will infest roots.
Bugs like slugs and other root insects can eat through the roots as they do the leaves.
And these include root maggots, weevils, larvae of fungus gnats and even root aphids and mealybugs.
Therefore, if you’ve checked the other possible causes and you cannot seem to figure out why your aloe plant has no roots, check for any of these pests.
Their presence may be the reason why your plant’s roots are getting destroyed.
If there are, this calls for an emergency. And you need to treat the pests as soon as possible.
In case they’ve turned into a infestation, that would be harder to treat.
And you’ll likely need to soak or rinse the roots to get rid of the pests. Repotting the plant in fresh soil is also a good idea as the old soil may contain more insects.
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Can an Aloe Plant Regrow Roots?
The good news is that aloe plants can regrow roots they’ve lost. As such, if your aloe plant has no roots, it is not a death sentence yet.
In most cases, the plant can still grow roots. Although, this can take a while for the new roots to emerge.
However, there are some instances where there are no more roots left.
When this happens, you won’t see new roots emerge no matter how long you wait.
In this case, the best course of action is to propagate your aloe plant. The new plant will eventually grow new roots and grow into a mature aloe that resembles its parent.
How Do You Save an Aloe Plant Without Roots?
If your aloe plant has no roots, your best bet to save the plant is to propagate it.
Doing so will allow you to grow a new aloe which will eventually develop new roots.
The reason that propagation is your best option is that you cannot tell if the parent plant still has some potential roots it can grow.
That said, propagating an aloe is easier said than done especially in times of emergency.
Your best options here are to propagate via offsets or baby plants and taking cuttings and allowing them to root.
As you’ll see below, both are easier said than done.
Propagating Aloe Plant from Cuttings
In theory, it would seem that cuttings should be a very viable method to propagate aloe plants.
And while it still works, it is not as easy as it looks.
That’s because aloe are succulents. As such, their leaves have lots of moisture.
This makes it harder to propagate them via leaf cuttings.
There’s a high likelihood of rotting and shriveling leaves due to the moisture content in the leaves.
As such, if you go with this method, it is important to hedge your bets.
It is also why I try to look for offsets first (see the method below). And propagate from cuttings if the aloe does not have any pups available.
When you propagate via cuttings, try to get several leaf cuttings. This will give you better odds of at least one succeeding.
The challenge here give the urgency of the situation is the problems the mother plant has is that you may not have many healthy leaves to choose from.
Only pick healthy leaves with no discoloration, damage or any other issues.
To propagate the aloe from cuttings,
Choose healthy cuttings. The cuttings also need to be at least 3 inches long.
Then let the cut end dry. This takes anywhere from a couple of days to 2 weeks. Again, this is due to the moisture content of the leaves.
Then plant the cuttings into soil.
Choose soil that is made for cacti and succulents.
Put the lower third of the cutting into the soil. You can dip the end in rooting hormone before planting as well to speed up the rooting process.
Propagating Aloe Plant from Offshoots
The most reliable way of propagate aloe plants is via their offshoots.
Offshoots are baby aloe plants that will grow at the base of the mother plant. These offshoots are sometimes called offsets or pups.
What’s great is that you can remove these offsets and plant them on their own.
From there, they will quickly grow into a new aloe plants.
Unfortunately, the downside is that offsets or pups are not always present. Sometimes they’re there, sometimes the mother plant has not produced them.
In short, timing can vary considerably.
As such, if it so happens at the moment you need the offsets and they are not present, then you cannot propagate the plant using this method.
And since you do not have the luxury of waiting weeks or months for new pups to emerge due to the urgency of the situation, it can be difficult to use this method to save your aloe plant.
However, if it so happens you get lucky and offsets are present, here’s how to propagate your aloe from offsets or pups.
Check the base of the plant. You’ll see baby plants or pups.
Some will still be very small. You do not want those. They have a lower chance of surviving away from their parent. And they’ll need more time to develop.
Instead, look for offsets that are a few inches in size.
Some gardeners will choose pups that are 1/4 or 1/5 the size of the parent. Ideally, these pups also have several leaves already.
Remove the larger offsets from the mother plant.
Carefully take them off. They will detach as you pry them out. Don’t jerk them or aggressively pull.
In case they’re hard to take out, sterilize a knife or blade and cut them off near the base.
Plant the Offsets or Pups in the right kind of pot and soil mix.
Once you’ve remove the offsets, take a small pot and fill it with well-draining potting mix. Choose a soil that is designed for cacti and succulents.
This will be perfect for aloe plants.
When selecting a pot, try to go for a clay or terracotta pot. Don’t overpot the pups as well. instead choose that is slightly bigger than the space needed to plant the pups.
If you have several pups, separate them so their roots will have space to grow. You can repot each one later as they grow.
Also, don’t forget to pick a container with drainage holes at the bottom.
Finally, plant the offsets.
I like to dip the offsets into rooting hormone to help with the rooting process. You don’t need to if you don’t have rooting hormone at home.
Then plant the offsets into the soil and pat down the soil.
Add water until the soil is moist. Never overwater the soil.
It won’t take long for offsets to develop roots and then start growing.