If your Aloe Vera plant is turning brown at the tips of its leaves, you might be wondering if you should cut them off. Brown tips on an Aloe Vera plant are a sign of a bigger problem, so it’s a good idea to find out the cause as soon as you can.
If the tips of your Aloe Vera plant are turning brown, you can cut them off without harming your plant. If dehydration is the cause, it’ll do no harm to leave the brown tips on your plant. If a fungal infection is a problem, you should remove them.
In this article, I’ll explore what causes the tips of your Aloe Vera plant to turn brown. I’ll also explain what you can do about it and whether it’s safe to cut off the brown tips.
Why Aloe Plant Tips Turn Brown
There are several reasons why the tips of your Aloe Vera plant might be turning brown. Let’s investigate these issues in detail.
Overwatering or Under-Watering
Aloe Vera plants are succulents. This means that they have evolved to survive in hot, arid climates. They store water in special thin-walled cells called parenchyma cells. These are what give Aloe Vera leaves their distinctive gel-like center.
Because they don’t need much water to survive, it’s easy to overwater an Aloe Vera plant. Overwatering causes several severe problems – it’s the easiest way to kill tough Aloe Vera plants!
When you overwater your Aloe Vera plant, the potting mix becomes waterlogged. This stops the plant from absorbing oxygen through its roots – essentially causing it to drown.
Waterlogged soil also encourages root rot. Several fungal organisms cause root rot, and they thrive in wet environments. Root rot eats away at the plant’s roots and can kill even tough Aloe Vera plants.
When a plant’s roots can’t take in water and nutrients, it becomes dehydrated. Dry, brown tips are a symptom of dehydration. Adding more water at this stage will make the problem worse.
On the flip side, Aloe Vera plants do need some water to survive! If you don’t give an Aloe Vera plant enough water, you’ll notice that the tips of its leaves start to become dry and brown. This dryness begins at the tip and will gradually spread throughout the leaf. Eventually, the leaf will curl up and drop off.
This process takes a long time. Aloe Vera plants are very drought-tolerant, and the plant will perk up when you give it some water. The damaged part of the leaf won’t restore itself, but your plant will produce new foliage to replace the damaged parts.
To make sure that you don’t over or underwater an Aloe Vera plant, follow these tips:
- Only water your Aloe Vera plant when its potting mix is completely dry. Once a month or so in spring and summer, every couple of months or less in winter should be fine
- Use your finger or a moisture probe to check the moisture content of your plant’s potting mix
- Never water your Aloe Vera plant to a schedule
- Water your plant from below, not above
- If in doubt, don’t water!
If you’re sure that the brown tips on your Aloe Vera plant are down to lack of water, give it a deep drink. Your plant will be fine! The brown parts won’t recover, but the affected leaves won’t get any worse.
Leaves with a large proportion of brown areas might continue to die off. Don’t worry, though; your plant will quickly produce new, healthy growth.
If you’ve overwatered and now have a waterlogged plant on your hands, you should re-pot it. Here’s how to re-pot a waterlogged plant:
- Gently remove your Aloe Vera plant from its pot. Be careful not to break the delicate stem!
- Throw away the old potting mix. Don’t re-use it!
- Use sharp, clean scissors to cut away any damaged roots. They’ll be black or brown and mushy
- Re-pot your plant in a shallow pot. Aloe Vera roots spread out near the surface of the soil rather than growing deep
- Use a slightly moist, very well-draining potting mix to re-pot your plant.
- Use succulent/cactus potting medium or general-purpose compost
- Mix general-purpose with two-thirds perlite or vermiculite for drainage
- Do not water your Aloe Vera plant for at least two weeks
Chlorine and Fluoride in Tap Water
Tap water contains many different substances such as chlorine, fluoride, and calcium, which can build up in potting mix over time. These substances collect around plant roots and stop them from absorbing water and nutrients.
Because the plant can’t absorb water, it becomes dehydrated. The plant’s leaves gradually turn brown, then dry up and drop off.
You might see a white, crusty substance forming on the top of your plant’s potting mix. If you notice this, it’s a sign that chemicals have built up in your Aloe Vera’s container, and you should take action.
If you think that tap water is causing your Aloe Vera plant problems, try watering it with rainwater. You could also filter your tap water before using it to water your plant. You could also use bottled water.
Too Much Sun Exposure
Although Aloe Vera plants are well-adapted to hot, dry environments, they are happiest when they get some shade during the hottest part of the day.
Too much direct sunlight on the plant’s leaves will burn them, causing their bright green color to fade and eventually turn brown.
This probably won’t kill your plant, but it will make it look less attractive and slow its growth.
Windows can intensify the sun’s rays. Although many people think that a sunny windowsill is a great place to keep their Aloe Vera plant, this is not the case!
Keep your Aloe Vera plant in a position where it gets protection from direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day.
Your plant will appreciate some direct sunlight but keep it well away from the window so that the intensified rays do not burn its leaves. A position where your plant gets plenty of bright, indirect light is best.
Aloe Vera plants are very forgiving, so you’ll have plenty of time to move your plant if you notice its leaves starting to change color.
Low Humidity Levels
Aloe Vera plants are very tolerant of low-humidity environments. They can thrive in situations that would kill other houseplants! They do need some humidity to survive, though, at least 30%. When the humidity level is too low, the plant loses more water from its leaves than it can replace. This causes rapid dehydration, and in very severe cases, death.
Suppose the leaves of your Aloe Vera plant are starting to dry up and turn brown, and you’ve eliminated the other possible causes in this article. In that case, low humidity could be the problem.
The simplest way to check the humidity level in your home is with a hygrometer. These are cheap and easy to find in drugstores or garden centers. You can also use a ‘DIY’ technique using two thermometers.
If you find that the humidity level in your home is below 30-40%, you should try to increase it for the sake of your plant’s and your own health.
It’s quite simple to raise the humidity level in your home. You could buy a humidifier, or you could try placing ‘humidity trays’ around your home and underneath your Aloe Vera plant’s pot.
To make a humidity tray, place several large pebbles in a tray of water, and place your plant’s pot on top. As the water evaporates into the air, the humidity level will rise.
Plants release water from pores in their leaves which evaporates into the air, raising the humidity. This means that the more plants you have in your home, the more humid it will be. If you ever needed an excuse to buy more plants, this is it!
Salts Build Up Due to Overfertilizing
Chemical fertilizers contain nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and other nutrients, which are necessary for all plants to thrive. If you add too much fertilizer to your plant’s soil, though, these substances build up and cause problems for your plant.
As chemicals build up around your plant’s roots, it won’t be able to take in water and nutrients from the soil. This causes dehydration in a similar way to root rot and causes the plant’s leaves to dry out.
These chemicals can also burn your plant roots, wrecking them completely.
Aloe Vera plants are incredibly tough and are used to living in low-nutrient environments. Even when kept in containers, they don’t need fertilizer.
However, a single application of general-purpose houseplant fertilizer in the spring will give your plant a boost and keep it happy all year.
If you think you’ve overfertilized your plant, re-pot it in fresh potting mix. Brush away as much of the old potting mix as you can from the plant’s roots, or rinse them with water.
If the roots are dead (they’ll be dark brown or black), cut them off with sharp, clean scissors.
Aloe Vera plants are not prone to pests or diseases, but as with all houseplants, fungal infection is possible.
If the brown tips on your Aloe Vera plant are wet and mushy rather than dry, a fungal infection could be the cause. The spots could also look red. The cause of fungal infections is nearly always the same – too much moisture.
Some types of fungal infections look like sooty dirt. This type of infection results from insects such as aphids, which leave a sticky substance on the plant called honeydew. Mold spores stick to this and then begin to grow on the plant.
If you think that your Aloe Vera plant is suffering from a fungal disease, it is vital to deal with the problem that is encouraging fungal growth.
Fungal diseases in Aloe Vera plants are almost always due to too much moisture. Please follow the tips described in the section on overwatering to prevent your plant from becoming waterlogged.
If your plant has a fungal infection, cut off the infected parts with clean scissors, then re-pot it straight away in fresh potting mix.
Throw the old potting mix away as it will contain fungal spores. Treat the new potting mix with a houseplant fungicide to prevent a new infection.
Never water an Aloe Vera plant from above, as this can cause stem rot. Fungi settle in the water sitting on the stem or leaves of the plant and destroy the plant’s cells – causing the mushy brown or black spots.
Why You Should Cut Off Dying Leaves
Pruning the dying leaves off an Aloe Vera plant will encourage it to develop new, healthy growth.
Leaves that have started to die off are unlikely to improve. Damaged leaves are less able to hold water or to harness light to photosynthesize – so they stop being much use to the plant. It’s often better to remove these leaves and let your Aloe Vera plant replace them.
When to Trim Dying Leaves
Once you’ve worked out what is causing the leaves of your Aloe Vera plant to turn brown, you can decide whether to cut them off. If your plant has only a few areas of damage, you might choose to leave them be.
You can prune your Aloe Vera plant at any time of year. It will grow much faster in spring and summer, though, so these are the best times to prune if you want to encourage new growth.
How to Trim Brown Leaf Tips
Cutting off the damaged leaves will improve the look of an Aloe Vera plant and encourage new growth. Use sharp, clean scissors to remove the leaves at the base, near the stem.
You can remove just the brown tip, but be aware the cut will go brown as it heals. This method is also less likely to encourage new growth as most of the leaf stays on the plant. It is usually better to remove the whole leaf.
Tips to Prevent Your Aloe Vera Plant’s Leaves from Turning Brown
Aloe Vera plants are one of the easiest houseplants to look after. Once you know the basics, They pretty much look after themselves! If you want to keep your Aloe Vera plant in tip-top shape, with healthy, bright green foliage and no brown tips, just follow these simple steps:
- Keep your plant in a bright location, not too close to the window but where it receives some direct light
- Your plant’s pot should be relatively small and shallow to discourage root rot
- Water your plant only when the potting mix is completely dry
- Use filtered or rainwater to water your plant if possible
- Feed your plant once a year at most
- Remove dying leaves at the base to encourage new growth
(Source: University of Florida)