Overwatered vs Underwatered Aloe plant: What’s Better & Why?

Watering an Aloe plant can almost be considered a balancing act. One of the most confusing issues growers have is reading the plants’ signs as to whether they are receiving too much or too little water.

In this article, I will be discussing overwatered vs underwatered aloe plant, and help you understand how to adopt a balanced approach for the same.

It’s easy to water an Aloe and notice it hasn’t received any moisture. The base is dry, and the plant looks the same as it always does.

So you give it some more, and suddenly, it’s showing signs of overwatering. The leaves look soggy and soft and almost turn to mush.

Overwatered vs Underwatered Aloe plant (A Detail Comparison)

What a nightmare! To end the confusion, we’ve created this article to help spot when there is too much or too little water and how to correct any issues that may arise from watering your Aloe plant.

Why Do People Confuse Between Overwatered and Underwatered Aloe Plants?

Aloe plants are used to growing in dry environments. They can usually go for extended periods without water.

When they gain access to moisture, they store it within their stem and their leaves for when it becomes scarce again. This concept can make growing an aloe plant at home tricky, and here’s why.

Why Do People Confuse Between Overwatered and Underwatered Aloe Plants

In general, we water aloe plants just enough so the soil is moist, then allow it to dry completely before watering again. The problem is, though, the water doesn’t always get soaked up straight away.

This can depend on the soil characteristics, climate, etc. The soil may remain moist for longer than expected.

It might even seem underwatered. So what do we do? We go ahead and water it again. Only this time, the leaves become mushy, meaning there is suddenly too much water surrounding the roots, and many problems occur. 

Overwatered Vs Underwatered Aloe Plant: The differences in sign

Overwatering and underwatering an Aloe plant can change its characteristics of it dramatically. These changes can happen extremely fast or slowly and gradually, depending on other factors, including soil composition, weather conditions, etc.

Let’s look at how the Aloe plant alters in appearance as it begins its decline due to an excess or lack of moisture. 


Watering an Aloe plant is one of the worst things you can do. When too much water is present around the root system, the roots effectively drown in the pooled water, and they will rot as a result. The rot will eventually spread up through the plant and kill it.

Not only that, the rotting plant will attract insects which suck the life out of it even further, making it almost impossible for them to recover. Some of the earlier warning signs include soggy, mushy leaves and a rotting smell from the soil. 


On the other hand, underwatering an Aloe plant can also have a dire outcome. With minimal moisture stores in the soil and around the root system, the aloe plant will draw its water from its stores.

As it attempts to keep itself hydrated, the plant will shrink in size, become noticeably thinner, and curl towards the center.

If left for too long in this condition, the plant will slowly dry out and die. The drying will begin at the leaf tips, work towards the stem, and finally at the roots. 

How to Tell If Aloe Plant is Overwatered?

Overwatering an Aloe plant can cause much bigger problems if not dealt with as soon as the condition is discovered. The roots can rot and spread up through the plant, ultimately killing it.

Luckily, there are some prominent visual signs that you can look out for to distinguish whether or not excess amounts of moisture are present. 

How to Tell If Aloe Plant is Overwatered
  • Leaves become droopy and begin to sag.
  • Soggy, soft spots or even whole leaves turning mushy.
  • Blistering cells over the whole plant from roots to stems to leaves.
  • Brown leaf tips.
  • Fading color.
  • Dark spots on leaves.
  • The rotting, moldy smell wafting up from the soil.
  • Wet, soggy soil.
  • The root ball is brown and oft instead of white and firm.

How to Revive an Overwatered Aloe Plant?

As long as the problem concerning overwatering is spotted early enough, there’s usually still hope to correct it. The key to reviving a water damaged Aloe is to act fast. Let’s look at what it takes to save an injured Aloe plant.

*Tip – Always sterilize any old or new growing containers and tools and equipment before use. This will prevent the plants from becoming infected by other diseases.

  1. Remove the Aloe from its growing container. Gently shake away and remove as much loose growing material from the plant and its roots as possible. Rinse the bottom third of the plant under lukewarm water to clean it up completely. 
  2. Allow it to dry out for 2-3 days in a cool (not freezing) location with access to indirect sunlight. 
  3. Gently prune away any brown, mushy, rotting roots.
  4. Continue cleaning up the root system, working your way from out to in until you reach a cleaner healthy, looking root that is both white and firm.
  5. Remove any mushy, soggy, brown leaves as well. It’s unlikely they can be saved, and the plant will stop focusing its energy on reviving them. 
  6. Apply a good quality fungicide to the root system.
  7. Repot the plant in a fresh, good quality potting mix. We advise a 1:1 ratio of a cacti or succulent mix: stones, gravel, or perlite. The coarse materials will assist with drainage. 
  8. Choose a porous container such as terracotta with adequate drainage holes. 
  9. Place the newly potted Aloe somewhere that receives at least 7 hours of indirect sunlight per day.  
  10. Water lightly. Wait until the moisture has completely dried out before applying any more water. You can test this by sticking your finger or a chopstick/knife down into the soil beside the stem. When it comes up dry, it’s ok to add water. 
  11. Keep the plant indoors during colder months or in locations that may subject the plant to extremely cold temperatures.

How to Tell If Aloe Plant is Underwatered?

Aloe plants can go for long periods without water, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be watered. Unlike overwatering, the visual signs are much easier to spot when an Aloe plant doesn’t receive enough water.

Intriguingly, nitrogen toxicity can present similar characteristics.

Fertilizing the plant without adequate water won’t allow the plant to be able to soak up the nitrogen, which causes an overload. Luckily, the issue that underwatering threatens is much less severe and can be adjusted relatively easily.

Some of the most common symptoms of a lack of water include the following:

How to Tell If Aloe Plant is Underwatered
  • Drooping leaves that can look almost limp or lifeless.
  • Leaves will start to thin out and turn a faded yellow color.
  • Leaves will curl inwards toward the drying stem.
  • The leaf tips and edges will dry out and turn brown.
  • Brown Spots on the dry, desiccated leaves.
  • The growing medium becomes dry and almost powdery.
  • The root system is fragile and brittle to touch.

How to Rescue an Underwatered Aloe Plant?

The first action to take is to find out why the water isn’t being soaked up by the plant or, more so, where the water is going if the plant isn’t receiving it. There are a few different reasons that these issues may occur.

Identify The Cause of Underwatered Aloe Plant

Aloe likes well draining soil, but sometimes, when the ratio of cacti or succulent mix to coarse gravel or perlite is out, the water can drain away too fast. The cacti mix retains water while the coarse materials drain water. Too much coarse material will drain away the water, so getting the ratio right is important. 

Another reason that the issue can arise is irregular watering. Balancing an Aloe plant’s water frequency can be tricky, so it is common to hold back if you’re unsure that it has enough water. Stopping and starting like this leads to the plant drying out. 

Lastly, warmer climates and subsequent air temperatures will dry out these types of plants a lot faster. These conditions may make the grower underestimate the amount of water required.

Although an underwatered Aloe can have serious ramifications, the signs are much easier to spot. This makes correcting the issue a lot easier and, therefore, faster.

Let’s look at how to rescue an underwatered Aloe plant in the simplest way possible. The process requires a good soaking, and that’s pretty much it.

  1. Starting from above the soil, gently prune away any severely affected parts. This includes visibly decayed or dead leaves.
  2. Place the whole Aloe plant (leave it in its container) in a basin or bath of water for at least 10 minutes. Make sure that all of the plants soil, as well as the root system, is completely submerged. Keep everything above the soil above the water. This will allow the plant to receive water through the soil and deep into the roots without missing any affected areas. 
  3. Remove the plant from the water and allow the container and any saucers or trays, to drain away any excess water. 
  4. At this point, it’s important to wait until the growing material is dry before adding any new water to avoid overwatering. 
  5. Once you are satisfied that the plant is dry, continue to water again. Ensure that you wait until the soil completely dries out before each time you water again. 
  6. By now, you should be able to assess whether any adjustments need to be made with the container or soil in which the Aloe is growing. If these 2 conditions are adequately met, any excess water should trickle out the pot’s base without any obstruction. 
  7. If the plant begins to dry out again, repeat the submerging process or remove all potting soil and add some new fresh soil and repot. 

How often should aloe be watered?

Like most plants, Aloe will show you when it needs to be watered. Simply stick your finger or something long and skinny such as a chopstick, down the side of the stem into the soil.

When you pull it out, observe the moisture content of the soil. If it is bone dry, then you should apply some water.

How often should aloe be watered

If it is still slightly moist, wait a little longer before testing again, then watering accordingly. Many factors can alter the watering frequency of an Aloe plant. These include the type of soil and/or pot used, the climate or season (heat drying them out and cold freezing them), humidity and light exposure. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should you mist aloe vera?

Aloe plants don’t need to be misted, but doing so is not dangerous. Especially if the conditions are dry; in this case, the leaves may benefit from a light misting to help raise the humidity. Avoid misting, though; once every week or 2 is ample. 

Should you bottom water aloe?

Watering an Aloe plant at the base is always best. It will allow the water and nutrients faster access to the root system. Watering from the top can be beneficial in allowing toxins to run off the leaves and away from the plant. The latter should only be done every so often.

How long can aloe go without water?

Aloe can be without water for months when growing in their natural environments. However, a number of factors can determine the length of time they can go without water; these include growing location, weather, exposure to sunlight, etc. In saying that, 3-4 weeks without water for a homegrown Aloe plant is fine.


As confusing as it may be, there are some easily distinguishable visual signs that you can look out for to know if your Aloe is over or underwatered.

This article on overwatered vs underwatered aloe plant goes through each of them in thorough detail and the ways they can be corrected. We hope it has been helpful, and we look forward to seeing you at the next one. Happy growing!

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