Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Operation: Aloe Rescue

This is a time of year when I like to be proactive with my houseplants, for a number of reasons. First, I really miss the garden at this point but it's too early to start seeds. Second, the holidays are over and thus the houseplants have returned from their annual Christmas-tree-induced exile. Lastly, the days are finally getting longer, even if only by a little. I don't like to do anything like re-potting or fertilizing the houseplants before the winter solstice (or immediately thereafter) because pushing growth in the dead of winter seems antithetical to plants' nature. Even tropicals slow down in the winter--why fight it?

But now it is beginning to stay light past 4 pm, and as usual my neglect followed by guilty overwatering has led to disaster. Ready? Check out this horror show:


This is unacceptable! I have had this aloe for years, and it's grown into a clutch of many aloes, which are clearly languishing.


Want to see the really scary part? Look at these roots...

...you can actually see the root rot taking place!

Not only am I emotionally attached to this plant, I also use it medicinally when I burn myself (all too common since I'm kind of a clutz in the kitchen), and I mix the juice with sweet almond oil to make hand moisturizer when my skin is cracking horribly in the dry winter air. So action had to be taken!

As I've admitted, I have a habit of overwatering. Compounding this was the fact that these aloes were in regular potting soil, or, at least I think that was aggravating the problem. So I finally invested in some cacti/succulent potting soil and I broke apart the tangled mess of rotting roots. After gently cleaning them, I evaluated which ones had semi-decent roots left and then re-potted those that I felt had the best shot of survival. Here they are following surgery:


Another look:


I made a point of not completely drenching the soil when I potted them. I tried to anchor them deep enough to keep them from lolling sideways again.

As for those that I felt were too far gone, I cut open the leaves and extracted as much juice as possible. I'm not sure how long it will keep, but I'm trying to assure that those poor aloes haven't died in vain.


Keep your fingers crossed for healthy aloes in the New Year! What can you tell me about caring for succulents? How can I stop overwatering? What else should I know?

9 comments:

Julie said...

I water my aloe once a month!!! You can give it a good soak if in cactus soil and only once a month! The left over leaves you had could possibly have been just cut off, and planted in soil and they would make new plants! Succulents are just amazing...and your newly fixed up babies look awesome! Good luck! You done good! :)

Julie said...

I water my aloe once a month!!! You can give it a good soak if in cactus soil and only once a month! The left over leaves you had could possibly have been just cut off, and planted in soil and they would make new plants! Succulents are just amazing...and your newly fixed up babies look awesome! Good luck! You done good! :)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Good job! I have the opposite problem and have actually killed an Aloe by underwatering it. The move to cacti potting soil is going to help you a lot.

Jean said...

They look wonderfully healthy now! The one thing about aloes that you can always count on - eventually they'll get crowded and need another repotting. I try to grow my succulents in cactus mix, just to make sure they don't get waterlogged. Best of luck with them but I'm sure they'll do fine!

Diane said...

The new aloe family looks great in its new pots! My aloe is in a weird sort of stasis - hasn't grown, hasn't declined, in years. Maybe it's actually plastic?? I should repot in cactus soil and move it to a different window this year. I once had an aloe heave itself up out of the pot and crawl across the floor. Was quite a soppy mess when I finally noticed it. :p

Rose said...

I had an aloe once for several years which suffered all my neglect, then inexplicably died. Now that I think about it, I probably overwatered it, too. Great job of rescuing yours; they look so much healthier now. Like you, I liked to use the "juice" from them for my skin or for burns.

Gail said...

I have killed this plant more then any other! To be honest there are few houseplants that survive my neglect. It looks like your prize aloe will be with you for a long time! gail

rambleonrose said...

Julie--Thank you!! Once a month sounds perfect...hopefully I can restrain my overwatering ways!

MMD--I think the right soil will be key!

Jean--Thanks! I didn't realize they would reproduce so much, which is good because I have a better chance of keeping at least one alive!

Diane--Yikes! That sounds a little frightening!

Rose--Is juice the right word? I couldn't think of anything else to call it!

Gail--Thanks! I honestly feel better knowing I'm not the only one to kill these. When I think cacti/succulents, I think indestructible. Apparently not!

garden girl said...

Wow Rose - your aloes look so much happier now. Hopefully they'll be much happier in the new soil.

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