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How to Reduce Aloe Vera Transplant Shock

When you repot your aloe vera, it can be very stressful for the plant, and the roots may stop working. Further, your aloe vera may show stunted growth, including the leaves turning a spectacular shade of yellow and wilting dramatically.

To avoid transplant shock, you should repot your aloe vera in the spring or late summer, not in the winter when the plant is dormant. Keep the roots manageable as you pull out as many as possible. Root growth hormone, cutting away diseased or dead branches, and a good soaking in water are all techniques that can aid in this situation.

How to Minimize or Prevent Aloe Vera Transplant Shock

[1] Know When to Transplant your Aloe Vera

Due to their rapid development, aloe vera plants require a new container every 2-5 years (depending on the type, age, and environment). They have shallow, vast root systems close to the soil’s surface.

As with most plants, spring is the best time to repot your aloe vera.

The conditions for growth are just right, and the roots that are still growing will have plenty of time to re-establish themselves and get used to their new home. Instead of going up a size in a deeper pot, it would be better to use a wider one.

Anytime from early spring to late summer is fine for repotting your aloe. Yet, the sooner this is done, the better.

During this busy growing season, your recently replanted or repotted aloe will benefit the most from a fresh supply of nutrients and more room.

Still, there are times when you may have to repot your aloe vera even though it’s not the best time:

– When Your Aloe Has Become Pot-Bound

A heavily potted aloe vera isn’t the eye candy you’re looking for in a succulent. While experiencing a gradual slowing of growth, it may appear ill and unsightly.

If you notice any of the following symptoms of a root-bound aloe vera, you should repot your plant as soon as possible:

  • Slowed growth –Your aloe vera is probably pot-bound if it grows much slower than usual, especially during the growing season. Remove your succulent from the pot gently and inspect the root ball for overcrowded roots.
  • Leaf yellowing – The bottom leaves of your root-bound aloe will begin to yellow. They will eventually turn brown if left untreated, starting at the edges.
  • Needing frequent watering – Aloe roots in a pot have taken up most of the soil and space. Water drains through when you water your plant, and the potting soil dries out faster than usual.
  • Cracked or bulging container – Even though it’s rare, a root-bound aloe pot may start to crack, swell, or get pushed out of shape because of the pressure of the roots.
  • Roots coming out of the pot – The roots of a severely root-bound aloe will protrude from the soil surface. Some may come out of the drainage holes. Because of the shallow root system, they may push your aloe up and nearly out of the container in the worst-case scenario.

– Aloe Vera Has Become Overcrowded

Slight overcrowding will not harm your aloe’s health. Aloe plants prefer to be tightly packed on top.

If the leaves of your aloe become too large for the container, you should consider transplanting it. However, your plant will eventually become pot-bound, so repotting it soon is the best option.

– Your Aloe Has Become Top-Heavy

Top Heavy Aloe Plant

When your aloe becomes too top-heavy, it will need to be replanted. Consider removing old leaves before repotting if it has collapsed and disengaged.

– Your Aloe Has Too Many Plantlets (Pups)

Another pressing reason to repot an aloe vera is when it produces excessive plantlets. If the offshoots aren’t transplanted, they’ll crowd the container and make it top-heavy.

  1. Unpot the parent aloe and its pups gently. Take extra precautions not to break or damage the leaves.
  2. Cut or pull the plantlets from the parent, ensuring each has enough roots.
  3. Allow the pots to dry before replanting them one at a time.
  4. Repot the parent aloe in a larger container with the succulent mix. Ascertain that the soil line extends directly beneath the central crown and that all roots are covered.
  5. Irrigate thoroughly all newly transplanted aloe plants. Allow the potting soil to dry completely between waterings.

– Due to Poor Aloe Potting Mix

You must repot your aloe if the potting medium has been depleted of nutrients, broken down, or degraded. 

Then, switch to a proper cactus mix (Amazon link).

– Your Aloe Vera Has Become Overwatered (or has Root Rot)

Nothing is worse for your aloe vera than root rot caused by poor drainage or overwatering. If your aloe is suffering from the effects of overwatering, you should repot it immediately.

Replace wet soil with a fresh batch of well-drained potting medium. Then, check out my in-depth, step-by-step guide to identifying and treating an overwatered aloe.

[2] Don’t Try to Disturb the Roots

You can reduce repotting shock by minimizing root disturbance during transplanting.

Before transplanting a pot-bound aloe, you may be tempted to loosen its roots. That is a huge mistake because it causes more harm than good.

Instead, gently brush away as much old soil as you can from the root ball without disturbing the root system.

Your aloe roots are your plant’s primary source of nutrition. Although the foliage is beautiful, the root system absorbs and supplies nutrients and water.

If the roots are damaged during repotting or transplanting, your aloe will struggle to obtain the resources it needs to re-establish and grow. Unfortunately, root damage promotes root rot and infections.

Only remove dead or decaying roots caused by root rot. Use sharp, sterile cutting tools, not injuring the healthy ones.

[3] Take as Many Roots as Possible

This is an obvious choice. During the transplanting process, you should take as many roots as possible. It always pays to be gentle with the root system.

  • Root Rot-Affected Roots – This is especially true if you are repotting an overwatered aloe vera or a specimen with root rot. Wash the soil off the root ball with water, split the root masses, check the root system, and snip off damaged or rotted roots.
  • Pup Roots – Ensure each pup has as many roots as possible when transplanting; they’ll help the aloe establish and grow faster.

[4] Remove the Dead Parts of the Plant

Repotting or transplanting provides the best opportunity to assess the health of your aloe. However, you only sometimes get the chance to inspect your plant from top to bottom thoroughly.

More importantly, now is the time to eliminate dead, diseased, or unwanted plant parts. Remove everything, including rotten roots, dying leaves, and dead stems!

Some dead plant matter may harbor pathogens that cause disease. They can also cause rot points. Snip them off with a sharp pair of sterilized pruning shears or scissors.

After each cut, clean it with rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution.

[5] Do Not Transplant Your Aloe During Dormant Period

Aloe vera goes into dormancy in winter, barely photosynthesizes, and can’t overcome transplant shock and re-establish roots.

Bring your aloe inside for the winter and repot or transplant it in the spring if you live in a cold climate.

Meanwhile, if you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a, 12b, and 12a, you can leave your outdoor aloe vera to overwinter in the ground.

[6] If Roots Are Removed, Remove Top Growth

Even if it isn’t ideal, pruning off roots can be a lifesaver for your aloe. For example, you’ll have to cut off all roots affected by root rot, resulting in an unavoidable loss of roots.

To compensate for root loss, you should remove top growth (or at least some leaves). Most energy will be directed toward healing and re-establishing the root system rather than maintaining the foliage.

[7] Apply a Root Growth Promoter

Although it is optional, you should use a root growth promoter to help your aloe survive this stressful period.

A good root growth booster (Amazon link) is an excellent substitute for regular fertilizer.

It will not burn the already damaged roots. Still, it will promote new root development and provide nutrients to assist your aloe in adjusting to its new environment and overcoming transplant shock.

[8] Water Thoroughly After Transplanting

Thoroughly watering your aloe vera before and after transplanting can help reduce transplant shock.

For starters, moist soil (rather than compacted dry medium) is easier to work with during transplanting.

Next, soak your newly repotted aloe thoroughly so the roots can absorb all the moisture and nutrients your plant requires to recover and grow.

[9] Keep an Eye on Transplanted Aloe Vera

Although transplant shock is sometimes unavoidable, keeping a close eye on your newly repotted or transplanted aloe is essential. Wilting is normal, but it should not last for weeks.

Fortunately, aloe vera plants are tough and usually start growing after a week or two. Allow the potting mix to dry completely before watering it again.

Give it plenty of bright, indirect light, and avoid direct sunlight to aid recovery.