Root rot is the no.1 problem people experience with Aloe Vera, and also a no. 1 reason why your Aloe may die. It isn’t surprising though, since Aloe is a succulent, and succulents are native to very dry areas. Inexperienced growers, or simply people who give their plants too much love and attention (more than they need), may often over-water their Aloe (the most common reason for root rot), or over-fertilize it (in fact Aloe needs no fertilizers, it actually thrives in neglect), or make one on the other mistakes leading to root rot.
In this article we will analyze the problem in detail. First of all I will show you how you can identify root rot in your Aloe. Then we will look at most common causes, and what you can do to minimize the chances of your Aloe rotting. Last but not least, we will also discuss what can still be done in different stages of root rot, and how can you save your Aloe plant. If you have any more questions after reading this article, do not hesitate to contact us for help.
Look, smell, and secondary symptoms can all help you identify root rot
Roots are hidden under the surface, and many people think it is hard identifying any problem with them. In fact you have several ways of making sure that root rot is to blame, and that it is the problem your plant faces. Below are just some of the symptoms you can watch for, primary (considering the roots of Aloe), and secondary (considering other parts of the plants that are affected as a result of ongoing root rotting).
- Color and firmness of the roots. You do not need pull the entire Aloe plant out of the pot to inspect the roots. You can just dig a small hole and try to get a hold of couple of roots. Clean them from soil with a wet cloth and inspect the color and structure. Healthy Aloe roots are white and firm. If the roots are brownish and relatively soft, or even have a yellowish color, you can be almost sure some rotting is going on in the pot.
- Smell of the root area or even of the soil. Rotten things do smell badly, and roots of plants are no exception to the rule. Normally they should have no smell, or a sort of “earthy smell”, if you know what I mean. If they smell badly, however, like rotten food or rotten apple, you can be sure some decay is going on. In more severe cases you can smell the rot even at the base of the plant, without a need to uncover the roots.
- Plant is wilting for no apparent reason, the soil is always wet. If the Aloe plant is wilting or acting strangely for no apparent reason (such as changing color), you can be almost sure the roots are rotting down there. Aloe is a versatile plant, and it isn’t commonly struggling with pests or other issues. Hence if something is wrong and the plant is dying, you likely over-watered it and the roots are rotting. Checking the moisture of the soil isn’t a bad idea either. If it is super wet though you haven’t watered your plant in a week or two, you likely have a problem with bad soil type or bad drainage, the roots remain constantly wet and logically rot.
Most common causes of root rot in Aloe Vera
Once you inspect the plant for the symptoms above, and are certain you face root rot, you may wonder what happened, what you did wrong. In my experience, 95% of cases of root rot in Aloe Vera are a result of over-watering the plant. Hence that’s the first thing you should focus on. What many people do not realize though is that over-watering isn’t necessarily caused only by too frequent watering of your Aloe. Drainage system also matters, as well as the soil type you use (whether it is compact or not, the level of aeration it provides, whether it holds moisture or not, etc).
What I try to say here is that someone may water their Aloe once a week, but, picking the right soil, using the soak and dry watering method, and having a right-fit terracotta pot with drainage hole, their Aloe may be just fine and roots may be completely healthy. Whereas someone else may water their Aloe just once in every two weeks. Yet the pot has no drainage hole, the soil retains too much moisture, the roots are always vet, and they will rot. I hope you got my point now, and will think about all the factors that impact the moisture of the soil of your pot with Aloe (type and size of pot, type of soil, drainage or not).
In some rare cases over-fertilization, or some strange infection of the roots (fungi) can also cause root rot in Aloe. You should consider these causes though only when you rule out over-watering, since as I’ve said, over-watering is the reason for root rot in 95% of all cases with Aloe.
Saving an Aloe Vera plant with rotten roots
I am not sure if I have good news for you here. When the root rot progresses to certain stage, with vast majority of the rooting system rotten to the core, you won’t save your Aloe anymore. If you still see some healthy leaves on the plant you can try to propagate it, but that’s about it. At the end of the day Aloe Very isn’t a rare or expensive household plant. In many cases the best thing you can do is to cry a little for your old plant, and buy a new Aloe in the shop. This time around though you will pay more attention to it, and make sure to avoid the mistakes that caused the root rot to your original plant.
Having said that, if you spot the problem early, you may still save the plant. Early means that just a part of the root system is rotten, not the entire system. In such a case, follow the steps outlined below:
- Remove the plant from the original pot and carefully clean the roots from all soil, in order to clearly distinguish the healthy parts from the rotten ones.
- Cut away all rotten parts of the root system, leaving just the healthy roots on the plant (even if it is just few roots).
- Plant the Aloe in a new pot, making sure to use the right soil mix and a pot with drainage hole.
- Wait. In many cases the plant will recover and grow new roots, but in some cases it won’t. At this stage there’s not much you can do except of waiting, and making sure you do not water your Aloe in a way that can cause a new round of root rotting.
Root rot is the no. 1 problem Aloe growers experience. In vast majority of cases it is caused by over-watering. If you identify the problem early enough, you may still save your plant. But if the roots are rotten throughout, there’s not much you can do except of getting a new plant. I hope this article helped you understand all nuances of root rot in Aloe, how to prevent it, identify it, and handle it. Thank you for reading, and I wish you good luck with your plants!
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