Bending aloe leaves may mean that the plant is receiving poor care, but there may be other reasons that will indicate that the succulent is unhealthy. Leaves can become limp with signs of wilting or even swollen with too much water, which can mean the solutions will vary. So, what causes drooping aloe vera leaves and how do you fix them?
Drooping aloe vera leaves are a sign of overwatering, poor drainage, underwatering, heat shock, and diseases. Bending leaves may also be mushy due to too much water. Improve the pot’s drainage and water the aloe only when the top half of the soil feels dry to fix the limp, bending leaves.
You can reverse all these signs if you’re able to identify exactly what is causing the leaves to bend in half.
Why are my aloe leaves bending?
The most common cause of limp and bending leaves in succulents is too much water. However, some diseases that threaten the plant can cause weakened leaf tissue, leading to droopiness and bending.
Here are the reasons why your aloe vera plant is bending and appearing limp:
When an aloe plant is overwatered, chances are it will develop water-soaked spots that may later droop due to gravity. With time, its leaves turn into mush, compromising its gel potency.
A droopy leaf due to overwatering is easy to identify because it feels soft and water-soaked. The pot will also feel heavier than usual to indicate there’s a waterlogging problem. It’s more like differentiating a wet cloth from a dry one. Obviously, the former is saturated with water, making it feel heavy and soft.
Further signs of overwatering in aloe plants include leaves turning yellow, stunted growth, and eventual ill-health due to root rot disease within the root zone.
An aloe plant can survive for days without water but underwatering the succulent can easily lead to a floppy aloe plant with evident signs of bending leaves. The difference between underwatering and overwatering in aloe vera is that drought stress starts with droopiness which later progresses to wilting. On the other hand, overwatering will not show signs of wilting even though the leaves will be limp and bending.
To know if your aloe leaves are bending due to insufficient watering, take a look at the soil. If it’s totally dry, it means your plant has used up all the moisture and the soil is too dry.
It is easier for a potted plant with poor drainage to have droopy leaves. Normally, an aloe plant can’t thrive in a waterlogged environment. While putting pebbles at the bottom of the pot might be an easy fix for poor drainage, it actually aggravates the problem.
As water flows downwards to reach the pebbles, it develops a water table. When an aloe’s root zone is saturated with water, it can easily suffocate the plant due to insufficient oxygen. The result is droopy leaves as the plant is unable to absorb water, oxygen, and nutrients.
Potted plants in rooms that don’t receive enough sunlight may develop droopy and faded leaves. Ideally, an aloe vera and similar succulents thrive best in areas with direct sunlight because they depend on it sunlight for photosynthesis. This makes it easier for the succulent to adapt to open areas with sufficient sun. Too much direct sunlight may cause its leaves to redden and start drooping.
The plant loses too much water that’s required to keep its cells turgid for support. If you leave the aloe vera in scorching sunlight for too long, the leaves may start to bend in half and wilt. You might want to moderate sun exposure.
The first sign of a fungal attack is weakening and bending leaves. Bending is a sign of dry rot disease which starts from the roots, gradually progressing to the leaves. First, your plant’s leaves turn yellow and bent. In later stages of the disease, the plant may dry out and turn brown. At this point, your aloe plant is in a critical condition and it’s time to start over with a new plant.
Drooping aloe plants can also be a sign of bacterial infection that mostly affects young aloe vera plants because their immune systems haven’t fully developed. Due to the damage the bacteria do to the leaves, the plant may start to droop, with the affected leaves bending critically to a point of almost breaking.
To determine if your aloe plant is not standing upright due to bacteria, check out its leaves’ colors. If some, if not all, leaves are darker and appear swollen with gas inside them, it is a sign of a bacterial infection that’s already severe and can kill the succulent.
Small-sized and shallow pots
While aloes don’t need relatively big and deep pots, a small-sized pot can deny it the breathing room it deserves. A suffocated aloe may compensate its lack of space by bending its leaves. As long as its roots feel crowded, its leaves may start weakening and drooping.
How to revive a limp, bending aloe plant
After identifying the main cause of a bending aloe plant, determining if it is worth reviving, is the next step. For example, if it is bent but is showing signs of improvement, there is still hope. But if it’s wilted and has dark-colored leaves, it’s time to say goodbye.
Here’s how to fix and revive a bending aloe plant:
1. Get a larger pot with holes for easy drainage
A limp aloe plant due to poor drainage can heal pretty fast if you repot it in a pot with holes for easy drainage. You can buy a new pot with holes or customize your own. If it’s a plastic pot, you can poke holes in it using a hot metallic rod.
In terms of planter size, an adult aloe vera can grow up to 24 inches tall regardless of whether it is planted indoors or outdoors. While you might be unable to predict how large your plant will grow to maturity, it’s safer to transplant it into a bigger pot once it matures.
2. Provide the aloe with 6-12 hours of direct sunlight
Exposure to direct sun solves two problems: stopping the drooping and stretching out and appearing thin. Depending on your climate and season, on average, an aloe should bask in the sun for 6-12 hours. You want an ornate-shaped aloe plant, not a stretchy one.
During summer when the sun’s intensity is at its highest, expose the plant to direct sunlight for 6 hours – preferably in the morning. You can increase the hours of exposure during spring and some parts of autumn.
3. Treat bacterial and fungal diseases
If you’ve tried to do everything right but your plant still looks limp and yellow, it’s time to check if the plant is diseased. The most common diseases that may attack an aloe are bacterial soft rot or basal stem root.
You can treat bacterial soft rot in aloe vera to stop the bending leaves by removing the rotten parts to ensure it doesn’t spread to any adjacent plants.
Basal stem rot, on the other hand, attacks the base then moves upwards, which is why the plant may appear limp and bending. Your plant may appear discolored and mushy too.
Remove the infected roots by cutting them off with clean shears, then treat them with a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution. I’d also recommend potting the aloe plant with a new potting soil placed in a clean, sterilized planter to prevent further infection and droopiness.
4. Water aloe vera when the soil dries out
Succulents like aloes tend to store water in their leaves which means they don’t need daily watering. Therefore, you should water your aloe vera at least twice a week during spring and autumn. During hot temperatures in summer, you can make it three times every week.
Overwatering and underwatering not only cause aloes to limp, but they also aggravate wilting. Avoid giving the plant too much water than it requires or too little to leave it in drought.
Should I cut bent aloe leaves?
You can cut off aloe vera leaves that are bent because they may not recover easily. It is also best to prune any infected and old, yellowing leaves especially those at the base of the succulent because they’re permanently damaged. This will revive your aloe and even stimulate new foliage to grow.
Cutting bent aloe leaves also helps the plant return to its normal ornate shape.
When cutting, ensure to sterilize the shears or pruners with alcohol. Start cutting from the base instead of halfway down, as the plant might not heal from the wound. This applies to plants that bend due to insufficient light and watering malpractices.