You love your aloe vera when its long, succulent foliage is plump and lush green. However, when your aloe is wobbly, you might realize that it has no roots at all! Should you go into panic mode, or is there something you can do?
Poor watering habits (overwatering and inconsistent watering) are the common causes of aloe without roots. You must also rule out potential causes like hypothermia, soil issues, root pests, and physical damage. If your aloe has no roots, propagate using cuttings or offshoots to save it.
Of course, your aloe is beautiful and a décor piece. However, when you find no roots on the base of your aloe, you may feel that certain botanical doom has befallen your precious plant.
Well, don’t worry – you can regrow the roots and save your aloe. However, you must identify the reasons why your aloe vera had no roots in the first place. Lucky for you, I am some sort of an aloe guru, so I’ll help you probe and fix the underlying problem.
Why Does My Aloe Have No Roots?
– Root Rot
Root rot, a fungal infection, is one of the most dangerous diseases that can inflict your aloe vera plant. If not treated on time, it can cause total system collapse and your aloe will eventually die.
In most cases, root rot occurs when the soil is waterlogged, causing the roots to suffocate from a lack of oxygen. You see, aloe is native to warm, arid, and semi-arid regions with well-aerated sandy and light soil.
If you don’t act promptly, root rot will gradually destroy the entire root system. What will remain is a mushy, black, or dark brown ball of soil-slime. That means your aloe will have no roots when you lift it, especially if the root rot is severe.
In a lot of cases, root rot is accompanied by soil dampness which invites other fungal growths. These include mildew, mold, and other growths that are easy to spot. The foliage will also become weak, droopy, and wilt.
If root rot is the causative problem, you’ll also see yellowed leaves, brown spots, brown edges, and water-soaked blotches on the foliage. This will give you the wake-up call to rescue your plant before the entire root system is a goner.
Before you treat root rot, make sure to trim off infected roots (usually black, soft, and slimy). Don’t forget to gently wash the soil off the remaining healthy roots before repotting it with fresh soil. You can use a commercial fungicide, hydrogen peroxide, or homemade remedies like cinnamon, charcoal, and chamomile.
Your aloe will survive for long without water. However, when you give it an overdose of water, it’ll likely die. This is especially true when the root system hasn’t been established yet.
During the normal growth phase, you should water your aloe once around every one week. It loves to stay on the dry side of moist. So, wait until the top 1-2 inches of the soil have dried out before reaching for the watering can.
If your aloe vera is overwatered, you’re welcoming a host of problems. The first and most obvious one is waterlogging. This, in turn, invites root rot that destroys the root system over time.
Waterlogging in and of itself kills roots because it lets water fill up air spaces in the soil. As such, the roots will drown and die, leaving your aloe with no roots. I must admit that it’s rare for aloe to lose each root from overwatering unless this goes on for months and months.
Cold drafts are another big problem for your aloe vera. They will run your plant’s temperature down, resulting in hypothermia. Overwatering or humid conditions can worsen this condition.
Even more devastating, cold and wet soil, especially during winter, is the most conducive environment for the rapid growth of root rot fungi. In both cases, the root system will bear the brunt of cold drafts.
– Transplant, Repotting or Propagating Shock
If you have recently repotted, transplanted, or otherwise propagated your aloe vera, this may take some time for roots to establish or reestablish.
If you’re planning to grow your aloe from leaves, you must leave the cutting in a warm place to develop a film on the cut end. This may take 2-14 weeks to happen. If you pot the leaf before the film covers the wound, the roots won’t grow – even worse, it’ll be attacked by fungal rot.
The roots may also take several days before they start growing when you repot or transplant your aloe vera. You’ll notice no roots are developing, especially after a stint of overwatering, temperature stress, or low light.
– Physical Damage
Aloe vera roots are delicate during formative days. If you pull the plant with a sudden force, the foliage (aka the stem + leaves) will rip from the root system. This leaves you with an aloe without roots.
– Soil Issues
Aloe thrives in light, well-drained (mostly sandy or loamy mix) soils. Avoid huge chunks of pebbles or materials that will keep the soil soggy and wet for long.
If no new roots are emerging, the soil nutrient content could be off. In particular, check for potassium and phosphorus deficiencies.
Remember aloe prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soil in the 7.0-8.5 pH range. If the soil is too acidic, this will hinder the growth of new roots.
– Root Pests
If you can’t seem to pinpoint the reason, check the soil for slugs, bugs, and root insects that may eat away the roots. Specifically, inspect for root weevils, root maggots, fungus gnat larvae, root aphids, and root mealybugs.
Can an Aloe Plant Regrow Roots?
Yes, aloe vera can easily regrow roots. This is possible if the parent plant still has some roots left to keep it going until new roots emerge. Even if it doesn’t have any roots, you can propagate the plant and grow new roots.
How Do You Save an Aloe Plant Without Roots?
Propagation is your best shot at saving your aloe plant without roots. You can propagate your aloe from either cuttings or offshoots (also called offsets). I’ll walk you through the steps of each method:
– Option A: Propagation by Cuttings
Your aloe vera is a close cousin to cactus, which means it’s succulent. That also means you can propagate it from cuttings, both leaves, and stems. Stem cuttings are preferred, though.
Step #1: Select your Cuttings
Due to ultra-high moisture content in aloe succulent leaves, they may not be viable for propagation. They often result in shriveled or rotten leaves without a feasible root system. However, if your only option is a leaf cutting, pick one that’s at least 3.15 inches (8 cm) long.
Step #2: Cutting and Curing
Cut the select stem or leaf at an angle sloping downwards. For the leaf cuttings, let them lie on a warm mat for 3-14 days so they can develop a film on the cut portion. This film will help stave off infections.
Step #3: Select a Proper Pot
It’s simple: find a container with drainage holes in the bottom. Like most succulents, your aloe doesn’t love sitting in water sludge or soggy soil. The holes will let excess water percolate through the soil and out of the pot, preventing root rot.
Step #4: Prepare Potting Mix
Cactus soil is usually ideal for propagating and growing your aloe. If you can get a hold of some cactus soil, you can prep your own by mixing:
- Three (3) parts standard potting mix
- One (1) part perlite, and
- Two (2) parts small pebbles or stones. You can add a pop of color with a multicolored selection of stones.
You may also want to fill the bottom of the container with gravel. The large size of gravel will help improve drainage capacity and let the soil dry out efficiently. Ensure the soil mix is neutral to slightly alkaline (7-8.5 pH). Add water to moisten the soil.
Step #5: Plant your Cuttings
Stick your cuttings into the soil mix with the cut side facing down. Around 1/3 of the cutting should be in the potting mix. I advise you to add rooting hormone to the cut base before planting.
If you’d rather skip commercial hormones, try honey, ground cinnamon, or a mixture of both. In either case, this will stimulate root growth and development.
Step #6: Care for Propagate Aloe
Park your recently propagated aloe in a warm, sunny spot. This can be a south-facing or west-facing window away from frost or cold drafts. Keep temperatures in the ideal range of 55-80 °F (13-27 °C).
Make sure the soil remains consistently moist for the first 4 weeks. You shouldn’t worry if the cutting dries, shrinks, or shrivels while establishing roots. Once the transplant has established itself, wait until the top 1-inch of the soil has completely dried out before watering again.
– Option B: Propagation by Offshoots
I highly recommend growing your aloe from rescued offshoots (also called pups or offsets). They are easy to propagate and will develop healthier roots sooner and faster. You can say adieu to root rot when propagating your aloe!
Step #1: Select the Right Offshoots
Pups develop from the main plant. You can miss them – they’re typically brighter in color and smaller, with their own roots jutting from below. You can find these roots along the base.
Ideal offshoots should be at least 1/5 the size of the parent plant. You must pick ones that possess 4 or more leaves and are several inches long.
Step #2: Remove Offshoots from the Main Plant
Pry the offsets away from the parent plant. Make sure the root ball remains as intact as possible. If it’s difficult to pry it out, use a sharp, sterile razor or knife to cut it off the plant.
Step #3: Choose the Perfect Pot
A terra-cotta pot is the most ideal for aloe plants because it’ll enable the soil to dry thoroughly in between irrigations. Glazed or plastic containers may do, but not ideal.
The pot should have at least one hole in the bottom. The more drainage holes the better. A good pot is almost as deep as it is wide
Step #4: Choose Right Potting Mix
Find an excellent potting mix meant for succulents and cacti. Never opt for gardening soil. It should contain chunks of bark, lava rock, perlite, and a few pebbles. Avoid clay like the plague. The soil PH should stay in the 7.0-8.5 range, although it can tolerate up to 6.0.
Step #5: Plant the Offshoots
Use a stick to make a small hole for each offset. It should be deep enough to accommodate the root ball and at least 1/4th of the upper part. Most experts, including me, recommend that you dip the roots in rooting hormone, ground cinnamon, or honey.
Pat the topsoil to cover the root system and water until the soil is moist but not soggy.
Step #6: Care for Aloe
Place your potted offshoots in a warm, sunny spot. Ensure ideal humidity (roughly 40%), temperature 65-75°F (18-24°C), and light (bright, indirect) conditions. Wait one week before you water again.
Will an Aloe Plant Root in Water?
Yes and No. While aloe can root in water, root rot will most definitely catch up with it before the plant becomes healthy enough.
How Do I Know If My Aloe Plant Has Root Rot?
- You’ll first notice soft rot, which appears as watery spots on the leaves.
- Leaf yellowing
- Leaves turn mushy, wilt, and collapse
- Brown spots on leaves, edges, and tips
- Black roots that feel soft, mushy, and give off a rotten stench
- The plant will look generally weak, sickly, and droopy
If you check the soil, it’ll likely be soggy and topped with mildew, mold, or other fungal growths.
If you lift your aloe and it has no roots, your first thing to check is overwatering. It can also be caused by pests, underwatering, soil issues, and root rot. Your best course of action is to propagate your aloe using cuttings or offshoots.