Aloes are some of the most popular succulents in the world because of how hardy they are and how easy they are to grow and care for.
But while aloes are great low-maintenance starter plants, that does not mean they do not have their fair share of common problems.
One of the most common aloe problems is when they turn white.
The different causes of an aloe turning white include a lack of sunlight, too much sunlight, too much water, temperature changes, too many minerals, using the wrong kind of soil, and pests.
In this article, we will discuss all of the possible reasons your aloe plant is turning white, and what you can do to fix it.
So, if you are currently experiencing this problem and you wish to learn more, just keep reading.
Why is my aloe plant turning white?
Lack of sunlight
Aloes are succulents that are native to some of the driest, most arid places on earth, so they are used to getting plenty of bright, direct sunlight on a daily basis. In fact, they thrive in these environments.
If you are keeping your aloe indoors away from a window, or under the shade of a large tree that only allows dappled sunlight to pass through, your aloe will become weak and start to get paler in color.
The discoloration is often first observed in the center of the plant, and you may also notice the leaves growing longer and thinner as well. This is a phenomenon called etiolation, which happens when a plant gets so little light that it starts to concentrate its remaining resources on growing longer leaves to try to reach the nearest source of light.
Essentially, the plant is so desperate for light that it is physically reaching out to it.
Etiolation does not harm the plant, but it does change its overall aesthetic because it upsetsets the usual symmetry of the leaf rosette.
Aloes like to have six hours of sunlight every day, so if you keep your plant indoors, it is best to keep it near a window.
If your plant is turning white because of a lack of sunlight, transfer it to a different location as soon as possible. Simply move it to where it will get at least six hours of sunlight every day.
If you are keeping it indoors, move it to a north-east facing window. Refrain from placing it near a south-facing window because those tend to let in very harsh sunlight. If the only available windows in your home are letting in harsh light, you can place a sheer curtain over the window to diffuse the light.
If you put the plant outdoors, you can place it on a porch or a patio so that it still gets a few hours of shade each day.
If you live in an apartment that does not get much natural light, or if you live in a place where sunlight is scarce during winter, this may also cause the plant to turn white, and you can help it out by using a grow light.
Plants cannot really differentiate between artificial light and natural light; it is all the same to them and both can keep them alive. Of course, natural sunlight is still best, but a grow light will do just fine as an alternative.
Too much light
If the white discoloration looks more like patches on the leaves, it might be because the plant is getting too much sunlight.
Yes, aloes do like to get some sunlight because this is how it is in their natural habitat, but that does not mean you can leave them under bright, direct sunlight the entire day.
Sunburn can be common in aloes that have spent their lives indoors and are suddenly transferred to the outdoors without being properly acclimatized.
The same can happen to a plant that was growing in a colder climate and is suddenly moved to a place with a significantly hotter climate.
Such drastic changes in light exposure can be too much for your aloe’s foliage, resulting in the white patches on its leaves.
If you have been keeping the plant in a spot where it is getting too much sunlight, you need to transfer it to a shadier spot immediately.
Partial shade is ideal, so that the plant can still get the light it needs. Indoors near a window will work, to help the plant recover while also not depriving it of the light it needs to survive.
Remember not to place it near a south-facing window unless you place a sheer curtain over the window.
If you are planning to transfer an indoor plant to your outdoor garden, make the move gradual. On the first day, place the plant outdoors for one hour and then bring it back to its original spot. The following day, try leaving the plant outdoors for one-and-a-half hours. Continue adding a half hour every day to introduce the plant to the outdoors.
After a few weeks of acclimatizing the plant, it should have adjusted sufficiently to its new lighting conditions and you can then leave it outdoors for good without worrying about it.
Too much water
Another reason your aloe is turning white could be that it is overwatered. Overwatering can happen if you give the plant too much water every time you water it, if you water it more often than you need to, if the soil in the pot is too dense and poorly-draining, or if the pot you are using does not have drainage holes at the bottom.
Remember that aloes are succulents that are used to living in the driest environments, and they can absorb and store plenty of water in their leaves for use in the event of drought. This is why they do not need to be watered as often as other types of houseplants.
When an aloe is overwatered, its leaves will take in too much water and will start to become paler, eventually turning yellow, soft and mushy. The white spots may develop due to the ruptured cells in the leaves. The spots start out white, but become brown and will spread if the problem is not resolved in time.
Another serious consequence of overwatering is root rot. Root rot happens when the plant’s soil is constantly wet, so that the roots are never able to dry out properly. Plants’ roots need to be able to dry out between waterings so that they can have access to oxygen.
If the roots stand in wet soil for extended periods of time, they will drown and die, and the dead roots will be susceptible to opportunistic pathogens.
These pathogens, mostly fungi and bacteria, will infect the plant and make the rot spread more aggressively throughout the plant. This can lead to the death of your aloe if you are unable to catch the root rot in its early stages.
If you think your aloe is overwatered, stop watering it immediately and let the soil dry out completely before you water it again.
If you want to check whether the plant has root rot, remove it from its pot and wash off as much of the old soil as you can. Inspect the roots and look for sections that have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and will have to be removed.
Use a sterile pair of scissors to cut off the rotten roots until only healthy, white roots remain.
Place the plant on a dry paper towel to allow the roots to dry out for several hours.
Prepare a new pot that has sufficient drainage holes, fill it two-thirds of the way with well-draining succulent potting mix, place the plant in the middle of the pot, and cover the roots with the rest of the potting mix.
Make sure that none of the leaves get buried in the potting mix because they will decompose under the soil.
Avoid overwatering the plant by understanding when it needs water. You can tell this by touching the top two inches of soil in the pot. If the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still a bit damp, wait one or two days before checking it again. There is no set number of days to wait before watering the plant, because factors like climate and season can affect its need for water.
Another possible reason your aloe is turning white is due to changes in temperature.
If you are keeping your plant outdoors and the temperature suddenly dips below freezing, it can damage your plant.
Unfortunately, leaves that are damaged by temperature changes are permanently discolored and will need to be removed. Before pruning the plant, take it inside the house where the temperature is more stable and constant. Use a sterile pair of scissors or a knife to remove the damaged leaves.
If you keep your plant outdoors, make sure you are monitoring the temperature so that you know when to take it inside. In this case, it is also important to gradually acclimatize the plant by slowly increasing the time it spends indoors every day, so that it does not get transplant stress.
And, as much as frost and cold weather can dry out and kill your plant, so can hot air. Do not keep your indoor plant near a radiator or a heater, because the hot air will dehydrate it.
Also keep it out of the path of air conditioners, because the cold air from these can also dry the plant out.
Do not place your indoor aloe near windows or doors, because these are another source of cold drafts that can dry the plant out.
Too many minerals
If you are fertilizing your aloe more than you need to, it can cause a buildup of salt on the top layer of the soil.
Potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen are essential to the life processes of the plant, but these minerals can become mineral salts due to chemical activity caused by soil microbes that can also come from the fertilizer.
The white buildup that you might have seen on top of the roots is the crusty salt buildup from too much fertilizer use.
Tap water can also be a source of unwanted minerals in the soil. It contains chlorine and fluoride.
A lack of nitrogen in the soil can also result in low chlorophyll, which is another reason your aloe may turn white.
The first thing you need to do is to scrape off the salt buildup with your fingernails or with an old spoon.
To remove the built-up salt in the potting mix, the best thing to do is flush the soil with an amount of water five times the volume of your pot. This will wash out any excess minerals that might be in the soil.
The best way to avoid a salt build-up in the future is to fertilize the plant only when absolutely necessary. Succulents do not really need to be fertilized because all the nutrients they need are in their potting mix. Only fertilize your aloe if its growth is stunted and you want to help it out. Once a year in the spring is ideal, because this is when the plant is actively growing.
If you have access to rainwater, this is the best water to use on your plants, but if not, you can use filtered or distilled water.
Using the wrong kind of soil
If you have ruled out all the causes listed above and still do not know what is causing your aloe to turn white, the problem may be your potting mix.
Aloes, being succulents, do not do well in regular potting soil. They need to be planted in a succulent potting mix that is well-draining, airy and porous.
The best thing to do in this case is to replace the potting mix.
Two days before you repot the plant, water the soil so that the plant is happy and the soil is loose and moist.
Remove the plant from the old pot and shake off the old potting soil. Inspect the roots and prune off any sections that have turned brown or black.
Repot the aloe in a pot that has drainage holes and use a succulent potting mix that is specially designed for these types of plants.
You can also make your own succulent mix by combining three parts regular potting soil with one part perlite and one part coarse sand.
Succulents do not normally attract pests, but if they are overwatered, bugs might take up residence on the plant because the damp soil is a source of drinking water for them and also a great place to reproduce.
The most common pests observed on aloes are spider mites, scale insects and mealybugs.
These bugs also feed on the sap inside the leaves of the plant, causing spots to appear on it.
Some of these bugs also appear white from afar, especially when they are clustered together under the leaves.
Before treating the plant, take it far away from your healthy plants. This will quarantine the plant and help avoid the spread of the pests.
You can use a strong stream of water from a garden hose to knock the pests off the plant, or you can spray them with rubbing alcohol or a mixture of water and neem oil.
Repeat the process once a week for as long as there are still pests on the plant.
Aloes are some of the most popular houseplants in the world because they are low-maintenance and very easy to grow and care for. They are extremely hardy and have very few problems, which makes them great starter plants.
One of the most common aloe problems is when they turn white.
The possible reasons your aloe is turning white include a lack of sunlight, too much sunlight, too much water, temperature changes, too many minerals, using the wrong kind of soil, or pests.
Image: istockphoto.com / Owner