Dried, Brown Leaves? You May Have a Sunburnt Aloe on Your Hands

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What happens when you lose track of how much time you’ve spent outside, forget to reapply that sunscreen or just overestimate your tolerance to sunlight? You burn. But this reaction to the sun is not unique to humans: if overexposed to light, plants can burn too. When an aloe gets too much sun, its symptoms will resemble those of a typical sunburn: it becomes dry and turns a nice crispy color. Although an aloe is most susceptible to burning when placed under artificial light and not positioned far enough away from the hot bulb, your aloe can also soak up too many natural rays and start to shrivel when placed on a windowsill in direct sunlight. Who knew an aloe plant, being native to hot Africa, could get too much sun! And no matter why your plant begins to burn, it is important to recognize the symptoms of sun poisoning so you can do something about it. Your aloe’s life depends on it!

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Aloe Vera and Sun: Symptoms of Sunburn

If you think your aloe might be getting too much sun, here are some things to be on the lookout for:

  • leaves turning red or brown (especially the tips)
  • brown spots on the leaves (sunspots!)
  • faded, pale green color of the leaves
  • dry soil that requires watering more than once a week

Too Much Sun? How to Recover Your Plant 

When you realize your aloe is suffering from too much sun, your first instincts are probably the right ones: get it out of the sun! To be more specific, you’ll want to

  • remove your aloe from direct sunlight.

To do this, move your aloe away from the window–if that’s where it has been living. Sit it on a tabletop in the middle of a room for a few days. If your aloe has been growing under artificial lights, however, you need to take different steps to get it growing green again. First, you can approach the situation by creating a greater distance between your aloe and the lightbulb. If your plant continue to brown, give it a break from artificial lighting; it might be too intense for its needs. Let it soak up some natural light instead!

Another action you should take when you notice your aloe with sunburn symptoms is to

  • give your plant some H2O!

Chances are, if your aloe has been getting too much sunlight it is also low on water. Although aloes do not usually need to be watered a ton (no more than once a week, normally), pay attention to its water needs when you suspect it is getting too much sun. It might need a bit more than usual to get back on the right foot. Removing it from direct sunlight might not be enough!

If It’s Not Too Much Sun, It Could Be…

If you try removing your plant from direct sunlight and it still looks brown and sickly, you might have a different problem on your hands. Underwatering is another big reason your aloe could be drying out. Because water reaches the tip of leaves last, it will be the first to go bad–or brown, in this case. So if you try treating your aloe for a sun overdose, but fail to see adequate results, try giving it some water.

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  1. shelley says

    I have some old aloe plants one has created a long stalk that contains small yellow banana looking petals that fall off. Is this normal? Can I cut the stalk or should I leave alone? I can send a picture if you send me the email. Thanks

    • mick says

      i was given a alo vera plant about 11 years ago when i first moved id here, it was about 30cm high and the garden lady said to plant it on my veranda in the sun..i had a mid sized pot there so i planted it and promptly forgot about it..then 2 weeks ago i got some more empty pots and thought, hmm, this little plant had grown to a monster, a metre in hight and having 14 branches growing down the bottom, i filled them all up and gave 2 away and cut 5 branches away for the pots on my balcony, ,that was about 2 weeks ago and i think there doing ok, the mother plant had a fully tight root mass and i moved it into a bigger pot with richer soil, i couldnt pull it apart, but the thing is , the tips of the leaves are going yellow and dieing, about 80%..i live next to a beach..and have been told they need sandy soil, is this right?

      • jacob says

        Hello Mick, it is that if you ever shift a plant from gound or some other bigger or smaller pot a new one, one golden thumb rule must never be forgotten..
        1. Never water newly transplanted plant if the soil is moist. And let the roots adjust its roots in the new pot.
        Now the question is why ?
        Why should we give a plant a time to adjust its roots in the new pot?

        The Answer is that the roots of the plant in the previous pot was settled as the planted wanted them to its own choice and need, therefore, when it is uprooted/ transplanted , the whole setting of roots & the sructure is disturbed, that’s why newly transplanted plant requires 4-5 days before watering…
        Always keep in mind that soil should be a little moist and not too dry…..
        2. After repoting don’t place it in extreme weather; that is to say that the plant shouldnt be put in extreme sun direct sun for at least 3-4 days. After that slowly acclimatise to direct sun.
        3. Newly transplanted plants dont need high rich soil. Just give them normal soil….
        Why not give rich soil mix to newly transplanted plant ?
        The Answer is that, as the newly transplanted plant’s roots are not yet settled , they are disturbed and dont know how to manage as the roots are still not properly adjusted , they are not ready to consume lots of energy we by mistake mix in the soil.
        Golden thumb rule is that 80% soil and 20% peat moss/ cow manure/ goat/ manure. But as you are in cold climate I would recommend cow manure…
        If still you a question pls do ask

  2. Leah says

    Hi, My Great Grandmother gave me her Aloe Vera plant, and i re-potted it because it was top heavy and i assumed root bound, Reading this and by looking at my Aloe Vera plant i realized i made some mistakes, and i need help correcting them, because this plant means so much to me since it was my Great Grandmothers and she would be so disappointed in me if she saw the state it was in. So i took it home and i re-potted the Aloe Vera plant since it was top heavy and growing in a tiny pot. i put fresh moisture control potting soil in it and lightly water the plant once it the root ball was covered, i know some of the roots fell off when i re-potted it, but not a lot. then i put it on the banister where it get lots of sun for about 1/2 to 3/4 the day then it rained but it soaked it up fast and now it is pale and the tips are brown and a few are curled in half ways. i don’t know what to do to make it right, i have moved it closer to the house so it doesn’t get as much sun, it looks some better but now all the way, it still looks pretty sick, i would love to post a picture or before and after, but don’t know how, please advise me on what to do? i was thinking about re-potting in a terracotta pot with cacti and succulent soil if i could find it around here, i looked before but couldn’t find it, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank You, Leah i am super good at plants but this aloes got me beat, i think its in shock from the move aswell, from inside to outside, worst part is i followed directions on replanting aloe vera and it turned into a horrible mess:(

    • says

      I repotted my aloe a few weeks ago.. It was in a small pot and had 13 off spring from the mother. I did read up on repotting before taking on this task. Aloe plants are not good mothering plants. The roots from the small offspring will wrap around the mothers roots and strangle that plant. I did notice when I was repotting there was tons of roots and they were all wrapped in a circle. When I untangled them they were as long as my daughters hair. Second thing about repotting is they need sand mixed in with the dirt. Once you repot water then really good but don’t water anymore for 3 weeks so the roots will settle in and start looking for the water so that will spread out. They have received good morning sun but the rest of the day they have been in the shade. I was really nervous about repotting these aloe plants since I have killed so many of them I was pretty sure I might lead them down that path to but if I didn’t they were headed that way anyway since they had overgrown their living space. I now have 13 still living aloe plants. I’m so proud of myself for doing my homework before repotting. It’s getting cold outside down to 50 at night, I’m getting a little worried about taking them in, they are still newbies to their home 5 weeks out but inside seems to always bring death. I haven’t really found any good sites on taking care of them inside. If anyone has any suggestions or they have figured it out please let me know. Thanks happy aloe growing

      • Jocelyn says

        When I bring my aloe in for the winter, I probably only water them 2 or 3 times until they come back out for the summer. As long as there isn’t a frost at night they will be fine to stay outside.

    • Marissa says

      I know I’m too late for the original poster, but for anyone else with this issue, as the article says, you need to take your aloe out of direct sunlight. It might even be best indoors near a window but not directly in the sunlight. If the leaves are so shriveled that they are dead, it’s best to trim those so they don’t wear down the rest of the plant. I usually trim all the way down to the base of the leaf unless the dried part is less than an inch at the top of the leaf. Also, make sure the pot and soil are cacti-friendly. You need soil that drains easy and a pot that does the same.

  3. Olivia says

    My Grandma just gave me her old aloe plant. (it’s a big one). A lot of the outer leaves (we’re talking pretty much the entire plant at this point…) are brown, with a few curled up dried bits on the ends. She cut me an outer leaf once and it was yellow oozy gel that smelled so weird. It has always sat outside her house in the blazing and unshaded sun. What should I do about all these brown leaves?? I don’t want to over-prune and kill it, but I’m concerned about its overall health. Any advice? Please help me bring this plant back to life!

    • Jocelyn says

      Cut off all of the bad leaves and trim the roots when you repot. Give it more shade and tmit will come back. Aloe is a remarkably resilient plant. I will repot mine soon….and probably have 20 new pots!!! They are growing like crazy!

  4. Dina says

    Have a great time
    I have alovera greenhouse,i recently face brown leaf in some line planted,i cant understand why all of alvora dont became brown and only number of them in line are brown although conidition is same for all of them, can you guid me for solving this problem?

  5. Clint says

    Ok I bought an aloe vera plant it and put it in my flower bed/garden and now it has jus one leaf left what can I do to bring it back to life

  6. Hannah says

    ive an aloe which had a few orange spots on a leaf but now the leaf is covered in brown soil-coloured spots on the leaf. the leaf also looks kinda swollen. is it sunburnt? can I save it? Or is it past repair?
    this is the only leaf on the whole plant that is affected. a couple of leafs are shrivelled.
    Many thanks

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