What to Do With a Frozen Aloe

Inside the leaves of your aloe plant is a clear, gel-like substance made almost entirely of water. Although this aloe gel contains other things such as glycoproteins and polysaccharides, approximately 99% is made up of that stuff that runs out of your kitchen faucet. Water, water, and more water! Although this is an interesting fact all on its own, knowing the chemical content of your aloe vera plant also comes in handy when the winter months approach. Caring for your aloe during the summer might have seemed like a piece of cake (its flowers were blooming left and right!), but it’s a whole new ball game when the freezing temperatures and frost hits–especially if your aloe is outside. Left outside when temperatures dip, your aloe can suffer from something like frostbite. Remember all that water your aloe contains? Well, what happens to water when it is in the extreme cold? It freezes. Therefore, you could end up with a frozen aloe if you do not take the proper precautions to keep your plant warm, its insides a gel-like consistency. If you aloe has already taken a winter beating, the question changes: is your frozen aloe dead, or can it be revived? ‘Tis the season to hope for a winter miracle!

Is Your Aloe Frostbitten?

First things first: how do you even know if the cold weather is the culprit of your sick aloe plant? Here are some symptoms of a frozen aloe:

  • brownish or yellow leaves
  • squishy leaves

You will usually first see these symptoms on the outer leaves of your aloe plant (they are the first to go!). The inside leaves are more likely to remain a nice green color, as the cold takes a bit longer to get to them. If the core of your aloe is still intact, you are in luck! It’s chances of survival have just gone up!

How To Revive A Frozen Aloe

If your aloe is entirely brown and squishy, you may have to accept the loss of your plant. Cold temperatures are usually the last nail in the coffin.  But if have some green leaves peaking through the brown mess, there are steps you can take to make the odds ever in the favor of your aloe!

Step One: To begin, you need to figure out what to do with the squishy, brown leaves of your frozen aloe. The leaves of your aloe have turned that funky color and consistency because the leaf tissue has died. Because there is no way of bringing dead cells back to life, there is no hope of recovery for those parts of your plant. So, here’s what you do:

You Will Need:  A sharp knife or razor will work best for getting those brown leaves outta there without damaging the healthy part of your plant.

  • Cut (do not just pull) the squishy, brown leaves off as far down as you can
  • Trim further than just the damaged tissue to ensure a clean slate
  • Optional: dust the cuts with agricultural sulfur (open wounds aren’t any fun!)

All the brown leaves are too far gone. As you are snipping away, relax, and realize you can’t save them all.

Step Two: Now on to your plant’s green interior. Although cold weather takes a toll of an aloe vera, you can still try to save this part of your plant. Not all is lost! Cutting away the dead parts will help you focus on what is still living; if you leave them attached to your plant, it may only drain it, taking energy away from the plant’s recovery. So, here’s what you do after your cut and trim:

  • Do not water for a week, or until the soil has become dry (you want to prevent adding overwatered to the list of things wrong with your aloe plant)
  • Find a warm spot on a windowsill for your aloe to go (avoid direct sunlight)

Although taking these steps will not guarantee that your plant will live, it will surely give it a better chance of survival. And here’s some more comforting news: even if this plant does not make it, there is a chance it will sprout “pups” (new plants that form at the root of the main “mother” plant) that you can then propagate and make a new aloe plant out of!

How to Avoid A Frozen Aloe

As a succulent, the aloe vera is a thick-skinned plant, meaning it sure can weather a lot. But when the weather turns cold and nippy, you need to help it out a little to prevent it from becoming a popsicle! Here’s the best ways to avoid having to bring a frozen aloe back to life:

If you aloe is outside in a pot:

  • bring your aloe plant inside if the temperature outside falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit

If your aloe is in the ground outside:

  • if you aloe cannot be brought inside for the winter, put stakes in the ground around your aloe and lay a blanket on top of them; finish by securing the edges with something heavy (may I suggest bricks or large rocks?) to create a warm space that will shield your from the harsh outdoor conditions

There are so many wonderful things about winter–do not let a frozen aloe ruin your holiday spirits!

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Comments

  1. Selena says

    Thanks for this! We moved into a house (in southern Georgia) that has lots of aloe in the ground. We didn’t know what to do so we left them alone during our winter. The result is just as you say, squishy brown leaves but the tops are green and growing just fine! My question is, do I have to use a sharp razor or knife to cut off the bad leaves? Will a sharp pair of scissors do? Thank you.

    • Danielle Brown says

      Hi Selena,

      A sharp pair of scissors should get the job done just fine! Try to position the aloe leaf you are cutting closest to blade inset rather than the tip, as it is usually the sharpest and will also give you the most precision. And as when using a sharp razor or knife, just be careful not to cut the stem of the aloe or surrounding healthy leaves. Work slow and steady. No need to rush the job!

  2. Maria says

    I accidentally left my aloe Vera out side during a cold week here in Kansas. While nothing is brown, most, if not all, the leaves are squishy. Should I cut them all off? It hasn’t gotten brown since I brought it inside.

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