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5 Steps to Fix Leggy Aloe Vera (Make It Lush and Bushy)

Aloe vera is valued for its unusual habit of growing straight up with firm foliage that grows closer together.

Keeping your aloe vera from getting long, thin, or leggy is a significant challenge. When combined with a floppy appearance, this is usually a sign that something is wrong with your aloe.

A leggy aloe vera is frequently caused by insufficient light, overwatering, applying too much fertilizer, or using the incorrect pot size.

Trim elongated or droopy stems from your leggy aloe vera to encourage healthier growth and re-establish its proper shape. You can also cut off the top of your aloe vera plant or move it to a bigger pot to enable it to grow. Allowing enough light, lowering temperatures, and avoiding overfertilization will help to prevent leggy growth.

To fix and prevent leggy growth, you must first understand why your aloe vera became stretched, leggy, and floppy.

What Causes My Aloe Vera to Become Leggy?

Under certain conditions, the stems of an aloe vera can grow too quickly for the foliage to catch up.

A rose-like appearance with consistent growth leads to a stretched, leggy structure. This arrangement’s elongated stems are too brittle and could snap.

Stretched stems can become limp and floppy at times, depending on how long they have been.

To prevent it from falling over, they’ve been stretched out further from the plant’s center and are at risk.

Etiolation is the scientific term for this rapid and uneven growth of stems with foliage and other plant parts.

When your plant requires moisture, light, or warmth, etiolation is one of the adaptive measures to “reach” for those supplies.

Aloe vera and other plants can only get to the resources they require by stretching out their limbs, as they cannot move normally.

Let’s look at some of the most common causes of etiolation and leggy growth in aloe vera.

[1] Lack of Light

Insufficient light is the most common cause of leggy aloe vera. Due to the Aloe Vera’s natural adaptive mechanism, it will “reach” toward the light source by growing elongated stems in response to a lack of light.

So, you may notice that the side facing a window, door, etc. tends to have more leggy stems than the other side.

The nodes between the foliage are more likely to elongate and stretch when there is a lack of light.

As a result, your aloe will look unhealthy, spindly, and leggy instead of lush and full.

Furthermore, your aloe’s stems will be thinner, and your plant will be lighter than usual.

The growing tips of stems have a strong affinity for light due to etiolation.

Therefore, your plant’s phytohormones will cause the stems to elongate as a survival mechanism due to the lack of light required for photosynthesis.

The rapid etiolation and leggy growth of aloe vera in a garden under a canopy of trees and other plants can make the difference between extinction and survival.

However, for houseplant aloe vera, the leggy growth isn’t harmful, but it can make your plant look less appealing.

[2] Overwatering Your Aloe Vera

Overwatering can also cause stress and a leggy appearance in your aloe vera. However, drought-resistant succulents such as aloes are well-adapted to arid environments.

They use their succulent stems to conserve water, allowing them to survive during severe droughts.

If you water your aloe vera too frequently, it will absorb too much moisture and grow new stems too quickly to adapt to the changes you’re making to it.

Two telltale signs of an overwatered aloe vera are soft, swollen stems and damp growing medium.

Instead of over-watering your plant, allow the medium to dry out completely before the next irrigation.

If you find it challenging to stick to a regular watering schedule, consider purchasing a three-in-one soil meter or a self-watering pot. (Check the latest price on Amazon here)

Insert the probe into the growing medium, and voila, you have accurate moisture reading every time! As a general rule, you should wait to water until the meter reads 1-2 to avoid overwatering and leggy growth.

[3] Excessive Fertilizer

The excellent news for forgetful gardeners is that aloe vera does not require highly fertile soil. So you should be fine as long as you apply a regular houseplant fertilizer once a year in early spring.

The real problem arises when you over-appreciate your aloe and cause it harm. In addition to “burning” the roots and foliage, over-fertilizing can also give aloe vera a leggy appearance.

Succulents like aloe vera don’t need a lot of fertilizer because they don’t grow very quickly.

A majority of cultivars and varieties can thrive on the nutrients present in the soil. If you feed it regularly, your aloe will grow longer stems due to the extra goodness.

An over-fertilized aloe will also spread to “unoccupied spaces,” searching for new areas to grow. While your plant looks out for itself, its elongated appearance isn’t particularly appealing.

[4] Wrong Pot Size

The roots of aloe veras are relatively shallow, and they prefer to grow close to the surface of the medium.

Therefore, you will need to replant your aloe in a larger pot as it matures, meaning you will need a larger container.

Unfortunately, the compact appearance of aloe vera is so appealing that most gardeners will confine it to small-sized containers.

Aloe veras, like all succulents, are known for their ability to adapt. They will expand their territory in search of additional growing space and additional food and water sources.

If the rest of the plant doesn’t fill out correctly, it can lead to leggy growth because the stems are overgrown.

[5] Improper Temperature

Other houseplants are unable to withstand the desert-like conditions that aloe vera can.

However, they can even withstand the high temperatures that come with direct sunlight if they get the proper care and conditions, like a lot of air movement and moisture.

Aloe veras prefer daytime temperatures of 55-85°F (13-29°C) and nighttime temperatures of 50-60°F (10-15°C).

However, they prefer warm or hot weather, which allows them to grow faster than usual. Therefore, they spread their stems and leaves outwards to avoid overheating and keep themselves cool.

[6] Overcrowding the Pot

A leggy growth in aloe vera can occur due to being pot bound or overcrowding on the pot in some cases.

Because there isn’t enough space for your plant to thrive, it grows elongated, leggy stems. Then, they spread out their branches until there was enough room to develop.

Having leggy leaves and stems allows your plant’s roots to spread out in different directions.

Due to overcrowding, it may need a larger or broader container if it looks droopy, leggy, and grows sideways.

You can remove some of the roots and leggy stems by pruning or repotting them in a larger container.

How to Fix Leggy Aloe Vera 

As long as your aloe vera is healthy and doesn’t tip over, a leggy aloe vera isn’t much of an issue.

It’s a natural defense mechanism that aloe plants employ when their environments change.

So it may not be harmful to your aloe, but it could reduce its aesthetic appeal. Most of the time, leggy growth cannot be stopped.

No matter how hard you try, your aloe plant will remain elongated and lean, and its leaves may fail to fill in the empty spaces.

Therefore, I recommend taking corrective measures to fix your leggy aloe vera.

Pruning Your Leggy Aloe Vera

Pruning aloe vera stems that are too long is the best way to fix it. Aloe vera will grow thicker and bushier due to this action, even though it may seem counterintuitive.

Changing its pot or location is unnecessary to prune your leggy aloe; this is a quick and easy fix.

Remove any plant material that appears mushy, dead, or infected during this time.

The advantage of succulents like aloe is that you don’t need to provide ideal lighting because regular pruning can compensate for this.

As a result, your plant will remain lush and bushy and not become leggy.

Things You Will Need:

  • A pair of sharp, sterilized bonsai pruning shears, scissors, or snips. 
  • You can also use a clean, sharp pocket knife. Disinfect it in a 10% bleach solution.
  • An optional garden spade or trowel

Here’s a step by step process to pruning a leggy aloe vera:

Step 1: Have a Closer Look at Your Leggy Aloe Vera

It would be best to think about how you want your aloe plant to look. For example, is it leggy on one side? Are there any extra-long stems you’d like to keep for aesthetic purposes?

Consider what you want to remove from your aloe and what you need to keep in mind as you prune it.

Because you can only cut once, think about what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of.

Step 2: Trim Off Leggy Growths or Unwanted Plant Parts

Any stems that are floppy or leggy should be cut back. Snip off any brown or pinkish-brown parts of the leaves and any brown or pinkish-brown tips.

Browning foliage will not regrow, so removing it assists your plant in regaining its lush greenery and remaining healthy.

For larger stems and foliage, use pruning shears. Use your sharp pocket knife to cut small to medium-sized aloes.

Even though the wounds will heal themselves, you can use cinnamon to keep pathogens out of overly moist areas.

Step 3: Clean Up Your Plant

The wounds should not be exposed to dirt, soil, or water. If the damage becomes soft and dark, this could be an early sign of rot.

To clean up your plant, snip off any aloe offshoots. Recovering plants are going to be drained by these plantlets.

You can use the garden trowel to loosen them from the parent to propagate them by cutting them off the parent.

Step 4: Remove Old Stems and Depleted Flowers

Also, removing any dead or dying flowers and stems is a good idea. Make a clean cut at the base of the stem, just like you would if you were removing the leaves.

Aloes can benefit from this strategy because it will direct more nutrients toward new, healthy stems and leaves. Indoor aloe plants rarely produce flowers, so you won’t have to deal with them regularly.

Check out this article to learn how to make aloe vera bloom.

Step 5: Stay on Top of Your Plant’s Aftercare

Give your aloe an excellent drink to replenish the lost fluids stored in the pruned stems. Make sure that the soil does not become soggy.

It is best to keep your plant in an area with temperatures between 55-85°F (13-29°C).

Allow the growing medium to dry out before your plant has recovered. This is because bone-dry soil causes the leaves to pucker and shrivel.

Can I Cut the Top Off My Aloe Vera?

While it is not the best remedy, you can cut the top of your aloe vera plant just below the rosette. Then, using aloe vera plant will emerge from the cut stump.

Repotting Leggy Aloe Vera

After removing any leggy stems or poor growths, the best next step is to repot your aloe vera.

It is an excellent method for either repairing a leggy aloe vera or preventing it from becoming leggy in the first place.

Here are some critical steps to take when repotting your lanky aloe plant:

  1. First, remove your leggy aloe plant’s pot and expose the root system.
  2. Brush away as much soil as possible from the roots.
  3. Remove any overgrown roots, especially those that protrude from the drainage holes. Remove any dead, diseased, or infected roots as well.
  4. Make a cactus or aloe vera-specific potting mix. To improve the drainage quality of the growing medium, I frequently add sand, vermiculite, perlite, or pumice. If you’re making your mix, combine two parts potting soil, 1 part sand, and 1 part vermiculite or perlite, then thoroughly mix them.
  5. Replant your aloe vera in a slightly larger container (not necessarily deeper). Terracotta pots are my favorite because they drain well.
  6. Before planting, fill the new container nearly two-thirds of the way. Remember that aloe vera has shallow root systems, so plant it deep in the medium.
  7. Fill the pot with fresh medium (if you’re reusing it, I do not recommend making sure the soil is sterilized).
  8. Give your newly repotted aloe vera proper attention. Indoors provide plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. Don’t forget to prune and water regularly, but never let the soil become soggy.

Using Suitable Pot Size

As with any plant transplant, you’ll want to choose an aloe vera container at least one size more expansive than the previous one. An inch of soil between the root ball and container wall should be ideal.

Use a wider container rather than a deeper one as your aloe vera matures and requires repotting.

Provide Enough Light

Aloe vera is prone to becoming leggy, sickly, and floppy due to a lack of adequate light exposure.

You’ll need to provide this plant with six to eight hours of bright but filtered light each day.

Avoid exposing your plant to too much direct sunlight, as this will cause it to burn and scorch.

Aloes need a lot of sunlight to stay healthy and robust without getting lanky. Place your aloe plant in a window with sheer curtains facing south.

If you don’t have a window with southern exposure, a draped west-facing window can work in its place.

Maintain Low Temperature Around Leggy Aloe Vera

As previously stated, high temperatures stimulate aloe vera growth, causing stems to grow quickly and leggy growth.

They do well in average room temperature, day temperatures ranging from 55-85°F (13-29°C), and nighttime temperatures ranging from 50-60°F (10-15°C).

They can easily withstand temperatures above 90°F (32°C), but your aloe vera will begin to stretch out to avoid overheating, sending you back to the drawing board.

It is important to note that your aloe plant will not tolerate cold drafts, frost, or freezing temperatures below 40°F (4°C).

Propagating your Aloe Vera

While seeds can be used to propagate aloe vera, stem cuttings and offsets from the parent plant are more convenient.

Here’s how to grow aloe vera from leaf/stem cuttings:

  1. Take a healthy leaf or stem cutting and cut it off. It does not need to be the entire stem or leaf. You can remove a few inches from the top of the leaf or the whole thing. Using a sharp, sterilized cutting tool, ensure the cut is neat and clean.
  2. Allow the cutting to dry out and scab over for 2-3 days before propagation to prevent rotting.
  3. Prepare the propagation pot: Fill the container halfway with well-drained potting soil. Insert your cuttings into the soil upright, with the cut end protruding from the soil.
  4. Rooting hormone is not required for the cuttings to develop roots.
  5. Take care when cutting. You should keep the soil moist but not wet. Think about misting the cuttings.

How Do You Grow Aloe Vera Leaves Thicker?

  • Provide adequate light: At a minimum, provide your aloe with 6-8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day.
  • Use correct pot size: Use a wider pot when repotting.
  • Pinch the tips of the leaves to encourage thicker growth
  • Prune your aloe plant regularly to prevent leggy, thin growth
  • Irrigate your aloe vera as soon as the first inch of the soil is dry to the touch.

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