Q. Why are my aloe plants flopping over?
Aloes include hundreds of species of succulent plants with thick, spear-shaped leaves but there are only a limited number of species that stay small enough to be good houseplants for the long term.
Aloe flop is a common problem that can happen for several reasons. Some aloes simply have a growing habit that keeps them low to the ground or sprawling in form in their native habitat and looks like a collapse when it happens to your houseplant. If you are growing Aloe brevifolia (short-leaved aloe) or another aloe with a stem clothed in leaves, you may be seeing your plant's natural form when it grows a foot or so in height and then begins to tumble over the side of the pot.
Clump-forming aloes may stretch over the sides of a pot as the multiple plants outgrow the pot surface. Other aloes become lax in shape as they age and vary from what you may have expected based upon your plant's immature form. It is natural for the older, outer leaves of a mature Aloe vera, for instance, to droop somewhat and sprawl away from the center of the plant. This is how your plant will continue to grow and you should not try to change its habit.
Aloe flop also occurs if your plant is not receiving adequate sun and the leaves or stem do not have the strength to grow in the pleasing upright form you expect. Leaves will appear limp, flattened and elongated.
A third, common reason for an aloe to sag, is over-watering or soggy soil, particularly in winter. In the low-light conditions of winter (October through February), water only as often as is necessary to prevent the soil from drying out completely. Check that you have the correct, fast-draining soil and that your container has an unblocked drainage hole or soggy soil and ensuing root rot can occur despite watering restraint. Over-watered leaves will look bleached and weak.
If your aloe is flopping over, ask yourself:
- Is your plant getting a minimum of six hours of direct, strong sunlight every day?
- are you reducing water in the winter and growing your aloe in loose, free-draining soil, in a container with drainage and not letting it sit in a dish of run off?
- If it has adequate sun and the water routine is correct, is it a type of aloe with leaves covering the stem that grows naturally in this shape after growing about a foot in height? For those plants, as well as many other types of aloe, it is likely that you are simply seeing the mature form of your plant. Only a dwarf aloe species will remain compact throughout its life.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service