Several issues can cause black or dark spots on an aloe vera plant, and insects secreting honeydew—a sugary substance—are the most common culprits. These insects draw in others, such as ants, which feast on the honeydew. The feasting process damages the plant, eventually resulting in black spots. Furthermore, a fungal infection known as leaf spot disease can also lead to these dark spots.
I’m also going to share some less-obvious causes of these spots. These might not immediately come to mind, but they’re issues that those growing aloe vera as a houseplant frequently encounter.
1- Honeydew Secreting Insects on Aloe vera
Insects such as mealybugs, scales, and aphids, are notorious for causing damage to aloe vera plants. They have a pesky habit of sucking sap from these succulents and secreting a sugary byproduct known as honeydew as part of their physiological functions.
This honeydew, identifiable by its silvery sheen, stays on the leaves of the aloe vera, which attracts other insects looking for a sweet treat. As they come to feast on the honeydew, they inadvertently scratch the leaf surface, inflicting damage to the aloe vera.
When the aloe vera’s leaf surface is compromised, the plant initiates a defensive mechanism. The aloe vera secretes latex, a sticky substance that eventually hardens and darkens, turning into what appears to be black spots on the leaves.
To put this to the test, I used a toothpick to lightly scratch the leaves of an aloe vera plant, prompting it to release its latex. After a few days, this latex indeed turned into black spots, mirroring the damage caused by the honeydew-secreting insects.
Hence, whether the damage is a result of insect activity or a mechanical intervention, it’s evident that both can lead to the formation of black spots on your aloe vera plant.
How to get Rid of Sucking Insects on Aloe vera
If you discover that your aloe vera plant is infested by pests, particularly stubborn ones like scale bugs or mealybugs, it’s crucial to act immediately. Move your aloe away from other plants and assemble your anti-pest arsenal to defend against these invaders.
But be forewarned: complete eradication is a must. If you leave even a single mealybug behind, it can lay up to 2,000 eggs, causing a re-infestation of your plant.
In dealing with these pests, I’ve found great success by gently wiping the entire aloe vera plant with salt and isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol).
This is an effective way to remove stubborn insects like scales and mealybugs. A simple cotton swab dipped in soapy alcohol can eliminate them quite effortlessly.
However, it’s crucial to remember that after wiping your plant with alcohol, you shouldn’t place it in direct sunlight. This can cause scorching or sunburn damage to the leaves. Instead, position it in a bright, shady area with ample ventilation.
I typically carry out this cleaning process in the early morning, giving the plant plenty of time to dry before the sun’s rays become intense.
To further safeguard your aloe vera, consider spraying the plant with a neem oil solution. This natural pesticide can effectively eradicate any remaining eggs or tiny insects that may have survived the initial alcohol cleaning.
After treating your plant, don’t just leave it alone. Make it a point to check it daily in the days following the treatment. This will ensure no new insects have arrived to wreak havoc on your aloe vera plant.
Taking these proactive measures will help safeguard all your hard work from going to waste, keeping your aloe vera plant healthy and thriving.
2- Overgrown and Clumped Aloe Vera Without Proper Spacing
If you’ve been nurturing an aloe vera plant for a while, you may have noticed that it can easily become overgrown. Its tangled leaves, complete with prickly edges, can even cause damage to the plant’s surface.
Just like us, aloe vera has a defensive mechanism – it secretes latex to protect itself. However, these protective efforts can result in unsightly black spots on the plant.
Particularly, two varieties, Aloe vera barbadensis and Aloe vera chinensis, possess sharp spines that can puncture or scratch the plant’s surface. They’re more susceptible to such damage due to their structure.
Here’s a handy solution to keep your aloe vera from getting damaged by its own spines – harvest the leaves regularly.
This not only helps maintain a neat shape but also keeps your plant healthy and well-managed. By doing this, you’ll effectively minimize the risk of damage and help your aloe vera thrive.
3- Fungal Infections Causing Black Spots on Aloe Vera
The presence of black spots on your aloe vera plant often indicates a fungal infection, commonly known as sooty mold (caused by Capnodium citri). This ailment manifests as a dark substance on the surface of the aloe vera leaves.
The fungus thrives on the carbohydrate-rich surface of aloe vera leaves, proliferating and spreading rapidly. The infection begins subtly, with tiny black spots appearing on the leaves.
However, if unchecked, these spots grow larger, and the plant becomes visibly infested. If you fail to intervene, the infection can engulf the entire plant, resulting in an extensive black coating that is difficult to eliminate.
You may be wondering what causes this fungal infection, particularly on indoor aloe vera plants. Often, the culprit is pests such as mites and mealybugs.
These pests carry fungal spores and deposit them on the undersurface of the leaves while feeding on the plant’s sap, thereby infecting the aloe vera.
The most alarming aspect of this fungus is its impact on the plant’s chlorophyll – the substance responsible for food production via photosynthesis.
By damaging the chlorophyll, the fungus inhibits the plant’s photosynthesis process, causing it to produce insufficient food.
This nutrient deficiency affects the plant’s overall health, the plant weakens, its growth slows down, and its leaves display sickly-looking black spots.
Therefore, effectively managing pests is a crucial part of preventing sooty mold on aloe vera plants. Implementing a robust pest treatment process can help keep this damaging fungus at bay.
To combat a sooty mold infection effectively, it’s vital to act swiftly and decisively. Start by removing all infected leaves, as this fungus spreads rapidly to other parts of the plant.
In other words, don’t hesitate to prune your aloe vera rigorously, eliminating all infected leaves and sections to halt the infection’s spread.
Once you’ve pruned your plant, wash the remaining leaves with potassium soap (commonly known as dish soap). After cleaning, place the plant in a well-ventilated area to dry out quickly and deter further fungal infection. To speed up the drying process, you can also use a blow-dryer on a cool setting or just a dry cloth.
If you wish to be extra cautious in ensuring all fungal spores are eliminated, consider applying a copper-based fungicide. This can effectively remove any residual spores and significantly reduce the risk of a sooty mold resurgence.
4- Chickens Damaging Aloe Leaves While Hunting Bugs
Here’s an intriguing cause of black spots on aloe vera that you might not have considered: chickens. For those who grow aloe vera outdoors and also raise chickens in their backyard, this can be a frequent issue.
Chickens, while searching for bugs to eat, can damage the leaf surfaces of your aloe vera with their sharp beaks. And aloe vera deploys the same defense mechanism secreting latex to protect and heal the scars which turn into black spots later on.
This fascinating connection serves as a reminder to keep your aloe vera plants out of reach from your chickens. By doing so, you can prevent any physical damage to the leaves, maintaining the health and aesthetics of your aloe vera plants.
In the first one or two years, it can be difficult to distinguish between diseases, pests, and physiological disorders.
However, as you progress, you’ll be able to identify the issues and implement your own countermeasures.
- Honeydew-secreting insects like mealybugs and scales can cause black spots on aloe vera plants, so it’s crucial to eliminate these pests promptly and thoroughly.
- Overgrown aloe vera plants can damage their own leaves, leading to black spots, hence regular pruning helps maintain plant health.
- Fungal infections, such as sooty mold, can create black spots on aloe vera, emphasizing the need for regular pest control and maintenance.
- Chickens searching for bugs can harm aloe vera leaves, resulting in black spots, so keep plants out of their reach if you’re raising both in your backyard.
- Treating black spot infections requires prompt action, including thorough cleaning, proper drying, and application of fungicides, if necessary.