How to Revive an Unhealthy Aloe Vera Plant in 7 Easy Steps

Is your Aloe Vera plant looking a little rugged? If your plant looks a bit unhealthy or is on the verge of dying, there are some steps you can take to revive your plant. In this article, gardening expert Emily Horn shares her top tips for reviving an Aloe Vera plant that might be almost out of time.

You may have noticed that your aloe plant looks a bit on the rough side. Perhaps the leaves may look droopy, despite being adequately watered. Or the color is now something other than the vibrant green it used to be. Maybe some of the leaves are literally falling off at the slightest touch. So, what happened?

It’s important to figure out why your Aloe Vera is unhealthy, or possibly even dying. Learning from mistakes is often a hard lesson. But I’ve learned from mistakes, either of my own mistakes or from others and those lessons tend to stick with you for a very long time. If you determine what happened to your aloe plant in the first place, you are less likely to repeat your mistakes in the future.

So, get out your detective hat and magnifying glass and narrow down the suspects in your aloe’s downfall. There could be a number of factors that are negatively impacting your plant.

Once you’ve identified the culprit, you’ll be on your way to reviving your plant and restoring it to its former vibrant green state. Follow the steps below to assist in reviving your Aloe Vera plant, regardless of the reason behind its decline.

Contents

Step 1: Check Your Container

A close-up of an succulent plant lying on a table in a large pot with soil. The plant has long, thick, succulent leaves, gray-green in color, with white small sharp spikes along the edges. There is another potted plant, red gardening gloves, and small aloe sprouts on the table.
The container should be slightly larger than your Aloe and have drainage holes.

It can be difficult to resist a pretty container. Maybe the color fits your living space decor. Maybe the size is perfect for the space that “just needs something”.

Or, perhaps it reminds you of a pot your grandmother had on her back porch when you were a child. Whatever the reason, pots and containers have great visual appeal. However, even if it’s pretty, it may not be practical for your aloe plant.

Container Size

Succulent plant in a very small white pot sitting on table. The plant is green and healthy, and there are white stones surrounding the base.
Make sure you pick a container that’s the right size.

The size of the container needs to be slightly larger than your plant; roughly 1-2” bigger in diameter. If its smaller, the roots will not be able to expand into the soil and will not only be unable to anchor into the soil but cannot absorb adequate amounts of water for the aloe to grow. To the contrary, a pot that is too big has its own set of problems for your plant.

Oversized containers often hold more water than what your plant needs. This is an issue because aloe, being a desert plant, does not like having excess water. Waterlogged soils have their own host of problems and can cause your aloe plant to rapidly decline.

Drainage

Succulent plant in a container with drainage holes. The plant is growing with long and thin green leaves sitting in a terra cotta pot on a window ledge.
Without adequate drainage, you’ll be opening your plant up to potential sickness and disease.

Drainage holes are a must for houseplants, regardless of their watering needs. Without drainage, the soil will stay too wet, become stagnant. It can be a contributing factor to root rot in aloe plants.

If you simply must have a container for its decorative interest, consider using it as a catch pot rather than planting your aloe directly inside. This creates a win-win for both you and your plant.

Reusing Old Containers

Old Containers Together Sitting in a Group. They are stacked on top of each other, and all of them have been used in the past.
While you can reuse old potting containers, you’ll need to make sure they are properly sanitized.

If you have a container that you’d like to reuse, whether your aloe was previously planted in it or a different plant, be sure to clean and sanitize the pot prior to reusing. With a stiff brush, remove all remaining plant and soil debris from the inside of the pot.

Next clean the pot with some mild dish soap and water to thoroughly clean the pot surfaces, rinsing with clean water when finished. After the container is clean, you will want to sanitize the container. You can sanitize the pot by wiping with 70% rubbing alcohol or soaking the container in a 10% bleach solution.

Step 2: New Potting Soil

Close-up, pouring fresh soil to a succulent plant in a beige decorative pot. The plant is a beautiful rosette of long, succulent, fleshy leaves, gray-green in color with white spots on the surface. They have sharp spikes around the edges. The soil is poured with a blue spatula.
Replace the potting mix with a fresh one to nourish your plant with nutrients.

Since your aloe is on the decline, you will want to replace the current potting mix with fresh media. A high-quality desert potting mix is best suited for your succulents and cacti.

The combination of organic and inorganic materials provides necessary nutrients as well as required drainage for your aloe to thrive.

Step 3: Prune Roots Before Repotting

Close-up of female hands in white gloves removing the damaged roots of a succulent plant, on a wooden table. The plant has a rosette of thick, fleshy, long gray-green leaves with white spots on the surface. A withered damaged leaf, black thin roots, a large flower pot and a knife are on the table.
Inspect the roots of your Aloe and remove any roots that are brown or black in color, and have a soft texture.

If you can invert your aloe without causing damage to the leaves, do so over a trash can and gently remove any soil from around the root system. Examine the roots for any brown/black discoloration or mushy texture. Healthy aloe roots are thick, somewhat rigid and appear tan/orange/yellow in color.

You will want to remove any decaying roots prior to replanting your aloe. Depending on the level of rot, the roots may fall off the plant when you turned it over to do your initial inspection. Roots may also fall off with the slightest touch.  That’s okay. Any remaining roots that are not healthy will need to be removed through pruning.

Using sanitized pruners, gently prune away any dead roots, wiping the pruning blades in between cuts with a paper towel that has been moistened with 70% rubbing alcohol. This may seem tedious, wiping between cuts, but this will help prevent the spread of disease.

After removing the dead/damaged roots, you may have little to no roots remaining. Don’t worry. If the top portion of the plant is still viable, new roots will begin to grow soon after replanting.

Step 4: Prune The Top

Close-up of female hands with black secateurs cutting damaged leaves. The plant has many, juicy, fleshy, long leaves, green in color, covered with white spots and sharp thorns along the edges. The leaves have brownish-red and yellow spots.
It is recommended to remove damaged leaves and side shoots, which can cause plants to topple.

It may be necessary to prune the top of your aloe plant, especially if there is no root system remaining.

Observe the plant from a distance to determine which leaves or shoots need to be removed in order to prevent the plant from toppling over.

Remove the leaves as close to the base as possible, to avoid any stump like projection from occurring at the stem. Any stems or side shoots you prune off should be made near the soil surface as well.

After pruning, your aloe may look a bit awkward. You can do one of two things. Wait it out for new growth to happen or utilize the cuttings you took to begin new plants.

Step 5: Take & Plant Cuttings

Top view, close-up planting cuttings of Aloe Vera in a beige flower pot. A woman in a green T-shirt and yellow gloves pours the soil with a purple spatula into a pot with planted aloe cuttings. On the table, there is a white bag of fresh potting mix. There are also two small black pots with small cacti, an Aloe mother plant, and tweezers on the table. The cuttings are long, thin, juicy leaves, bright green in color with small spikes along the edges.
You can take stem cuttings from the plant and place them in the soil to propagate your Aloe.

After going through the above steps, your aloe may be a lost cause. Too much damage may have happened to the root system, or if the leaves were getting mushy, you may have to discard the mother plant. But that doesn’t mean you cannot attempt to take a cutting from your plant before throwing it out.

Leaf cuttings are literally what the name implies, a cutting from a single leaf. Locate a healthy leaf on the plant. Healthy leaves are thick, squish only slightly when pressed and are green in color. With a clean, sharp knife cut the leaf near the base where it attaches to the stem.

Stem cuttings are cuttings that are of the entire stem. Propagating stem cuttings is a good option when an aloe has lopsided growth or has stretched out from inadequate light levels. 

Cut the stem near the base of the plant using a clean, sharp knife. You will want to remove any lower leaves on the stem so that there is a leafless stem of about 2-3” in length.

Callusing & Potting

Repotting Cuttings into white plastic bucket. The gardener is taking the cuttings from a tan colored bucket on the left side and placing them into a new container.
Make sure the leaves have callused over, and then repot.

The next steps apply to both leaf and stem cuttings. After taking your cutting, you will need to allow it to dry out a few days prior to placing it in soil. This drying out of the cut end is referred to as callusing over.

This callusing over is the process of the cutting creating a sort of scab over the open end. The callus helps prevent the tissue from being infected by pathogens that may be in the soil.

After a callus has formed, fill your container with desert mix and water thoroughly. Insert either your leaf cutting or stem cutting into the prepared pot, buying at least 2” of plant into the soil. Gently tamp the soil around the aloe to make sure the plant is making direct contact with the media. Place the pot near a window that receives bright light.

You will need to check for water more frequently with an aloe cutting than an established potted aloe.

The cutting doesn’t have any roots yet to absorb needed water and will dry out faster than a rooted plant. Once roots have formed, decrease your rate of watering to prevent overwatering from happening.

Step 6: Thoroughly Water

Succulent in a white ceramic flower pot and a white watering can with a thin golden handle on a wooden shelf, indoors. The plant has long, fleshy leaves, dark green in color with white spots on the surface.
Water your Aloe thoroughly, but don’t over-water to avoid root rot.

Once you have repotted your aloe or aloe cutting, you will want to water it thoroughly. Thorough watering is when the water runs all the way through the pot and exits via the drainage holes at the bottom.

Thorough watering wets the entire soil profile. When the entire soil profile is wet, all of the plant roots will have adequate access to water, not just the top 1” or so. Thorough watering decreases the frequency of watering, which is one way to prevent overwatering too.

Step 7: Provide Proper Lighting

Close-up of a lush succulent  plant in a large blue flower pot on a light windowsill. The plant has juicy long leaves arranged in rosettes. The leaves are long, pointed-tipped, bright green in color, with white spots on the surface and small, sharp spines along the edges.
This popular succulent grows well in bright, indirect light.

Aloe vera prefers light that is bright, but not directly shining on them. This can be accomplished by placing your aloe near a south or west facing window, but not on the sill directly.

Eastern exposure will also suffice as long as the plant receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight over the course of the day.

Final Thoughts

As devastating as it may seem when you see your aloe rapidly decline, have no fear. More times than not, your plant is indeed salvageable. Plants have an innate drive to live. As long as you can identify the source of the problem and how to correct it, your plant will do the rest. And you both will live happily ever after.

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