Aloe Vera Root Rot (Signs, Causes and Solutions)

Aloe vera root rot is a common problem experiences by plant owners because of its ability to tolerate drought and store moisture in its leaves.

As a result, watering the plant like your other houseplants is not a good idea.

Instead, aloe plants should be treated like other succulents.

But in case your plant develops aloe root rot, it is important to start treatment to try and save it.

Aloe vera root rot causes your lovely succulent to have squishy lower leaves and stems. To verify it, unpot your plant and check the leaves.

Rotten roots will be dark brown in color, stinky and soft. In contrast, the healthy roots will be white, firm and flexible with a very slight earthy smell.

Aloe root rot caused by overwatering and fungal disease. And these will kill the roots rendering them useless. Thus, you’ll need to repot the plant in dry succulent potting mix to try and save it.

Causes of Aloe Root Rot

One of the most important things to know about aloe root rot are what causes this problem. By knowing them, you’ll be able to avoid them as much as possible.

This saves you from all the hassle and stress of trying to save an aloe plant with root rot.

 

Watering Too Often

Watering too frequently is the most common cause of root rot.

That’s because too much water leads to overwatering, which is the number one cause of houseplant death.

Because aloe vera are succulents, they don’t need to be watered often.

Instead, once a week is enough.

Just as importantly, you want to wait until the soil has dried between waterings. Never add more water when the soil is still wet.

Aloe vera live in dry environments. And they’ve adapted by evolving to store water in their leaves.

This is why aloe plants have thick, fleshy leaves. They store moisture there.

So, this makes it prone to overwatering (given that it still has some water reserves).

 

Incorrect Pot Size

Choosing the right container is another very important aspect in avoiding root rot.

A pot that is too big or too small can cause problems as well.

If the pot you use for your aloe plant is too big, there will be lots of excess space which will be filled up by soil.

Upon watering, the soil will stay wet much longer since more soil volume takes longer to drain or dry.

This puts your aloe’s roots in water for long periods of time.

And the longer they drown in lots of water, the more suffocated they get.

Past a certain point, when the roots cannot go without oxygen anymore, they will die then rot.

Similarly, a pot that is too small will make the plant’s roots twist and curl just to fit in the container. As it does this, the roots will get overcrowded in the pot leaving little space for air and moisture.

So, once you water the plant, the moisture will fill up all the remaining air pockets.

In doing so, water pushes out what little oxygen is left there.

Again, this leads to suffocation due to the lack of oxygen for the roots to breathe.

Either way, the suffocation of the roots from oxygen deprivation leads to aloe root rot.

 

Pot Does Not Have Drainage

Pot drainage is another crucial aspect in preventing aloe root rot.

Here, it is best to use a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.

This way, excess water that drains from the soil can easily drip out of the pot through the holes at the bottom.

If not, the liquid will accumulate at the bottom of the pot and keep the soil wet.

In addition to pot drainage, make sure to check the saucer or catch tray if you use one under your pot.

Don’t let water collect in the saucer.

Instead, throw away any excess liquid that collects there.

 

Insufficient Soil Drainage

Soil drainage is likewise very important since it allows excess moisture in the soil to drain.

Lack of soil drainage means that it will retain too much moisture for the aloe.

Since aloe vera are prone to overwatering, this makes it easy for root rot to set in.

As such, it is very important to use well-draining soil for your aloe plants. This way, the excess water will quickly drain to keep the roots from sitting in lots of water for prolonged periods of time.

Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do with aloe vera since you can use a cacti and succulent mix.

 

Temperature is Too Cold

This is a hidden danger that can lead to aloe vera root rot.

Unfortunately, the danger is present every winter.

That’s because during winter, there’s very little sunshine and the weather is cold. This means it takes much longer for soil to dry due to lack of heat and evaporation.

Additionally, your aloe plant will take a breather from growing during this cold period.

Thus, it won’t need a lot of water or fertilizer to sustain it.

So, if you end up water the plant too often or as you would during the warmer months of the year, then you run the risk of overwatering and root rot.

 

Disease

Plant diseases can happen for different reasons.

In the case of aloe root rot, it is often due to fungal diseases.

Here, the most common cause is a wet, damp environment caused by too much water. So, in addition to the risk of root suffocation, the excess water also increase the risk of fungal infection.

These pathogens will feed on the roots of the plant slowly destroying them.

After a while, you get aloe plant root rot that keeps on spreading until nothing is left of the root system.

That said, sometimes, the disease can come from other plants or infected soil or pots as well.

If you cross contaminate your aloe with a plant that already has the pathogens, it will eventually develop root rot as well.

Similarly, soil or pots that harbor these pathogens can lead to the same result.

This is why it is very important to make sure that the pots you use are free of infection. And the soil is sterile.

 

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How to Save an Aloe from Root Rot

The most important part of aloe root rot is to detect it early then immediately treat it. Root rot on aloe plants is a serious issue.

As such, they should be dealt with as soon as possible.

And while it is possible to save an Aloe from root rot, it can only be done so when the problem is identified early enough.

Past a certain point when too many of the roots have rotten, the aloe vera will sadly be beyond saving.

I’m emphasizing this because the steps below are only effective if the root system hasn’t been completely or almost completely destroyed.

 

Unpot the Plant

The first step to saving an aloe vera with root rot is to unpot the plant. Carefully take the plant out of its pot.

Try not to jerk it out if it is stuck or stubborn.

That’s because doing so can damage some healthy roots. At this point, don’t worry if any of the rotten roots tear or break. They’re useless anyways since they don’t work anymore.

However, you want to preserver each and every healthy root there is.

Taking the plant out of the pot will also allow you to see the extent of the damage.

Ideally, there’s very little root rot.

That is, only a small portion of the root system has rotted.

The more rotted roots there are, the more challenging saving and reviving the plant will be.

 

Check the Roots for Rotting

Remove the excess soil from the roots. Try to get all the soil out.

But be careful when removing the soil.

If there is root rot, it is possible that the rotting was caused by fungal diseases.

Should this be the case, you do not want any of the soil coming into contact with any of your healthy houseplants.

So, try to keep the soil in a certain spot to make it easy to collect later on and discard.

Removing all the soil will allow you to get a better view of all the roots.

Here, the goal is to identify the healthy roots, which are white in color and firm to the touch. They are also flexible and pliable.

You want to keep all of these as much as possible since your aloe plant will rely on them for recovery later on.

Additionally, it is important to identify all the rotten roots. These are the brown and black roots that feel soft and mushy.

You want to remove all the rotten roots.

 

Prune Rotten Roots

To remove the rotten roots, sterilize a pair of scissors or pruning shears. Then start cutting all the brown or black roots.

Try to keep track of how much of the root system you trimmed off.

It does not have to be precise, just a general amount like half, a third or a quarter of the entire root system will do.

If you pruned more than a third of the root system, it is a good idea to prune the corresponding amount of leaves on top as well.

Start with the damaged roots which are yellow, brown or wilting.

This is important since roots support the entire plant. And a smaller root system will have a better chance of saving the plant and recovering from root rot if they are not overwhelmed by the size of the plant.

Since you reduced the size of the root system, reducing the size of the plant in the same amount will give your aloe a better shot at reviving and recovering from root rot.

Make sure to sanitize the cutting tool after you cut off the rotten roots and before you start trimming off any damaged leaves.

 

Disinfect the Root System

In case fungal diseases was the cause of the aloe vera root rot, it is important to disinfect the root system, so the problem does not repeat itself after you repot and save the plant.

To do so, soak the entire root system in a hydrogen peroxide solution or fungicide solution.

This will make sure that the fungal pathogens are eliminated no matter where they are in the root system.

After that, place the aloe plant on a few sheets of old newspapers to dry.

It will take a few hours for the roots to dry.

 

Sanitize the Pot

In addition to sanitizing the root system of your aloe vera plant with root rot, also make sure to disinfect the pot it was in.

This ensures that no remnants of the fungal infection are left.

You can use a hydrogen peroxide solution or a bleach solution to do this.

Again, soak the pot to get all the areas of the container disinfected. This way you can reuse the pot later on with other plants safely.

After soaking, leave the pot under the sun to dry.

 

Throw Away the Potting Soil

The last part of your disinfecting tasks involves throwing away the soil. This includes the soil that you took out of the root system and also the remaining soil in the pot.

Again, this is important since if the cause of the problems of your aloe plant was fungal root rot, then reusing the soil would eventually damage the next plant in the same way.

Note that you can likewise sanitize the soil then dry them under the sun.

However, this is a more tedious process.

 

Choose a New, Clean Pot

Once all the pruning and disinfecting tasks are done, it is time to select a new pot.

In all likelihood, you’ll be using a smaller container.

That’s because you just pruned part of the root system.

To measure the size, find a pot that is 2 inches wider than the aloe’s current root system. This will give the plant some space to grow after it recovers.

Avoid using a very small pot or an overly large pot.

Just as importantly, choose a container with sufficient drainage.

You can go with either a plastic or a terracotta pot. However, since aloe plants don’t like sitting in lots of water, clay or terracotta pots are a better option because they’re made from porous material.

 

Use the Right Potting Mix

In addition to picking out the right kind of pot for your aloe plant, it is also important to use the right kind of potting soil.

Aloe vera is a succulent. As such, it needs well-draining soil.

It stores moisture in its leaves which is why they are thick and fleshy.

As such, this makes it prone to overwatering.

Additionally, since it is used to dry environments, the plant does not like sitting in lots of water for long periods of time.

So, it is very important to ensure that you use a potting soil with good drainage to avoid waterlogging and overwatering.

The good news is that you can just pick up a cacti and succulent soil mix from your local nursery or garden center. This will work very well for the plant.

Avoid using garden soil if you’re growing your aloe vera in a pot.

Also, don’t use regular houseplant potting soil as well. This will hold a bit too much moisture for the plant.

 

Repot Your Aloe

The final step is to repot your aloe plant.

Once the root system has dried, fill the new pot with succulent soil up to about a third of the way. Then place the aloe vera in the pot and fill the remaining space with more succulent soil.

Don’t water the plant for a few days to week or so.

The goal is to try and let it recover.

At this point, you’ve done all you can to save the aloe plant from root rot. And it is up to the plant to recover and get back to health.

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