Protect Your Aloe from Overwatering: Drainage Tips

What is the #1 killer of aloe vera plants? Dun dun dun.

Nope, it’s not fungus..or any disease for that matter.

Not frost either.

So what’s left? Overwatering. Overwatering results in more limp, lifeless aloes than anything else . While fungus or pests can take down your plant, they are (more often than not) not the root of the problem. You see, invading species like these are usually only attracted to aloe plants if they present a moist, very wet environment, as they can then thrive there. Normally, aloes are kept too dry for an insect’s liking. So, don’t blame the bugs: excess water is yet again the underlying cause of death.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of overwatering accounting for the most aloe deaths is that drowning your aloe vera is an easily avoidable crime. Of all the things to go to plant-grower’s jail for, overwatering is not it! Don’t get me wrong: it can be difficult to judge how much hydration your aloe needs due to the plant’s succulent qualities (like cactuses, aloes retain water even when the soil surrounding them is bone dry! Pretty neat, eh?). It can be very challenging to get the amount of water just right. But as difficult as the water-balancing act may seem, there are preventative measures you can take to help your aloe have the longest life possible!

It’s All About Aloe Vera Drainage

The best way to avoid flooding your aloe plant is to make sure any extra water can exit its pot. Even if you overestimate how much water your aloe needs, you can prevent any problems from arising by dealing with what happens to the extra plant water. If the pot does not have a strong drainage system, any leftover water will sit in the pot, becoming stagnant and creating a cesspool of bacteria. Instead of allowing water to oversaturate the soil of your aloe plant, there are a couple of different drainage systems you can (and should) have in place. They will help get that water out of the way!

Holes, Holes, and More Holes!

Flip your aloe vera pot upside down! If you do not see holes in the bottom of the pot, you made a buying boo-boo. But it is an easily fixable mistake. You want to plant your aloe vera (as well as all other houseplants, really) in a pot that has drainage holes, as they give any extra water some place to go–they are not confined to staying in the pot. If you pot can be easily punctured, just go ahead and create some drainage holes yourself. Otherwise, you might want to strongly consider purchasing another pot. It’s for your aloe’s own good!

Choose Your Soil Wisely!

When picking a soil for your aloe vera you want to avoid two things: (1) planting it entirely in sand, and (2) planting it in half potting soil and half sand  as you should–but choosing the wrong sand. Play sand, you know the kind you would find in the local playground’s sand box, is no good. It is too fine for you aloe plant’s needs; fine sand gets compacted when in a pot, keeping water in instead of helping it drain out. Instead of fine sand you want something like builder’s sand. Half of that mixed with half potting soil should be just want your plant wanted!

And there you have it. Draining your plant properly is important to avoiding that deadly aloe killer: overwatering.

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  1. keira G. says

    What if u have a ceramic pot with no holes? Is there any sort of drainage system ideas? The people that live with are trying to get me to not spend money on another pot when I’ve already bought one. :(

  2. Lorrie C. says

    Ceramic pots are NICE! Use your ceramic pots, I do all the time, no need to be prejudiced against them. Just put a nice thick layer of small rocks to evenly cover the entire bottom of the pot so any extra water will stay within the rock layer until it dries up and evaporates. You’ll just need to try to control the amount of water you water the plant with – never over-saturate it. The water in the rock layer will give the plant the opportunity to use up the bottom water with its roots. Common sense, you’ll be fine.

  3. Kat says

    My question is, should the water be poured into the pot? It seems to me it’s presupposed in the article(s). I water mine always into the plate that’s under it. Thus I don’t really know whether it’s moist in the bottom layer or not…. it’s completely dry on the surface but I’ve already seen some of my plants being completely dried up and way too moist (and rotting :///) down. The problem is my Aloe has it’s leaves turning yellow and dying out, so I don’t know if it’s not too much moisture…. Should I start to water it into the pot (after some brake for drying up)?

    And to be sure, I’ve always watered it this way, it had no change of place, no other changes whatsoever…. I have no idea what could cause this yellowing problem, but my gut feeling somehow tell me it’s too much water…. :///

    • KB says

      Hmmm… Yellow leaves sound like a symptom of too little water, but then again you did say some of them were rotting… But to my knowledge, overwatering normally results in soft, limp-looking leaves, not yellowing leaves, so I suspect under-watering in this particular case. That said, I think you should water it into the pot as the aloe root system is shallow and may not be reaching the bottom of the pot.

      • Kat_the_Kat says

        Thanks for your answer.
        In the meantime I repotted the plant into a bigger pot and saw the roots were ok, definitely not rotten, maybe a bit too dried – which I thought at the time is right for this kind of succulent plant but maybe you’re right and the water was too little even for a succulent. And actually the problem occurred at the beginning of summer so maybe it started to need more water and I didn’t react to this. Since then I water it into the pot, with the same frequency (once a week) and there haven’t been any new yellowing leafs. So whatever it was, lets hope it doesn’t reoccur.
        Thanks again for you answer and say my hello to your aloe(s)! :D

  4. Kat_the_Kat says

    Oh and I didn’t mean the aloe leafs were rotting, just generally that often I’ve seen the soil on the surface completely dried and in the bottom the roots were too moist and rotting – with my other plants, like for example a zamioculcas recently, which I managed to kill completely by overwatering. :///
    I have a general tendency to water my plants too much, so with the aloe I really didn’t suspect it could have been the opposite.

  5. Mary says

    I potted my new Aloe plant with fresh top soil dirt (more sandy than bagged bought soil). Used by professional landscape company (delivered in a large dump truck) But it’s really wet (it’s been raining for a couple day). My question is will it be ok bc so wet? I figured it should only take a few days to dry back out (since plant is indoors) and it still has some of the dry soil around roots a little.

  6. Abigail says

    My aloe plant seems pretty healthy. I’ve been watering it twice a week inside a pot with plenty of draining holes. I keep it inside, and I’m getting new growth from it but I recently discovered 2 holes near the top of one of the more mature leaves. I thought there might be a bug or some sort of pest, but as far as I can see, there aren’t any. Should I remove the leaf? And what might be the cause of the small holes?

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