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Hello! Yesterday, I shared this email query, and the accompanying photo:
I adopted a huge aloe Vera plant from my mother in law today and by looking at it, it’s in great need of repotting. I happen to stumble on your website today and saw your entry Sam the Aloe Vera Plant and his Quintuplets. Thanks for your great ideas. I just have one question for you if it’s alright. By looking at my picture of my aloe plant, can I transplant it into smaller pots like you did with Sam? I think I have a different type of aloe plant here and it has thick stalks. Also your plant has speckled white on the leaves whereas mine doesn’t. In any case, can I still transplant mine the same way? Thanks for your time. Btw, I’m new at this and not an expert but I do enjoy saving plants and see them healthy again.>>>>
And asked what your advice would’ve been.
Let’s see how you answered:
Claude from Random Rants and Prickly Plants wrote, “It looks like this is an Aloe veta ( actually Aloe barbarensis) that is etoliated, which, if I spelled it right, means its stretching for sunlight. That would also account for rhe lack of the white spots. By all means repot it, but don’t just throw the poor thing out in full sun, it’ll fry. I’d recommend putting it under a shady tree for a few weeks, then a less shady tree. if it Stuart’s turning pinkish, it’s getting too much light.”
Ginny Burton from Burton Optician in DC wrote, “Holy cow! I’ve never seen anything like that. I don’t see how its stalks could be repotted and wind up looking attractive. Can it be air layered? Or possibly just the top could be rooted. I once got a tiny aloe that had no roots, but it managed to develop roots.
Can’t wait to see what you recommended!”
Carmen wrote, “I’m not very familiar with the whole aloe family…but I know their’s a few that look like that naturally..they’re something like climbing aloes….or it could be stretching from not enough sun but I don’t see that too often on aloes(it’s hard to tell from the picture)…But you can remove the baby aloes from the mom as long as they have roots…When you go to repot it,clean all the dirt off the roots and just look at the root system and carefully pull away the babies with the roots and repot into their own pot…it’s very easy. I do it all the time with all different kinds of aloes and they do fine.”
Cass McMain from here in Albuquerque wrote, “My suggestion would be to cut the tops off and root them, cut the rest way, way back and force it to regrow from the base… and throw out the middles.
Aloe vera roots very easily in water or soil. The spots will only develop fully in a sunny location, and the stretching does look like a light issue to me. As mentioned above, don’t move to lots of direct sun all at once! A gradual increase in light would be ideal.”
Gennafer31 wrote. “I would lop off the top foot or so and remove all the leaves except for the top three then peel any brown paper on the stalk to reveal the nubby rootlets (if there are any) and pot it with just the leaves above the soil.
Just yesterday i found a huge aloe plant dying in a corner and I’m hoping to save it, maybe I should post a pic and see what you think I should do (or should have done).”
Excellent advice, everyone.
Claude, I like how you mentioned not putting the plant in full sun, and how Cass picked up on that, too. If a plant is used to living indoors, it’s important to protect it from the glaring sun. Introducing a plant to more and more light in a gradual method is smart. I also liked how you noticed that her plant was reaching for the sun – a sign that it wasn’t overly happy with its placement indoors.
Ginny, the best aspect of succulents is that most of the time they don’t need roots from the getgo. They’ll grow them once the leaves hit soil or water. (I prefer soil because it’s faster.)
Carmen, I would go a step further and say you really don’t have be that gentle with the plants and their roots. They are extremely resilient plants – they can handle a little manhandling (much more so than they could handle sun exposure) during repotting. I have no problem cutting or tearing roots apart, and the plants don’t seem to either.
Cass, Gennafer31, that’s pretty much exactly what I said to her.
All of you guys are so smart. I’m not surprised. I think it’s really cool.
Back in September of 2011, I wrote about how my Aloe plant, Sam, needed repotting. Here’s the link to that site. Here’s what Sam looked like before the editing job:
And shortly after, with his offspring:
That was the article the reader stumbled across when she was searching for answers to her houseplant questions.
We have different types of Aloe plants, but that didn’t matter.
Here’s my actual response:
>>>>Hi [name withheld for privacy]! Hey, thanks for your question. It’s great that you’ve adopted an Aloe!
Your Aloe is a little different from mine, but the same techniques apply.
If I were you, I would take all the plants out of the pot they are currently in and separate them. Mostly, they will come apart by themselves but you may have to use scissors on the roots. If there are some branches that are too tall for your liking, simply cut them and set the cuttings aside for a day or two to scar over. Then they can go directly into soil.
Cut off anything that’s brown – it won’t return to green. And use high-quality potting soil from a local nursery because the Miracle Gro soil they sell at Lowe’s and Home Depot is always infected with fungus gnats (because they leave those bags out in the rain).
You can prune those stalks way back if you want – Aloes let you cut anywhere and they will find a way to live.
You should take lots of before and after shots (thanks for sending a photo, btw) with your camera. Let me know if you have any more questions or if you need anything.
Much to my surprise, she wrote back. And sent an “after” photo!
Thank you very much for taking the time to reply back with great information. Well, here they are, all separated although i had to cut all of them since they didn’t break apart easily. The roots were impressive. It was massive and coiled around. Hope it was okay to trim the roots back. The leaves all appear dehydrated from neglect so I do hope they’ll plump up soon. Thank you once again for your website , it was very encouraging !>>>>
My final response to her:
>>>>They look great! You could use them as gifts, too, if that’s too many for you.
The roots will be fine. It’s like cutting their hair – they’ll grow right back.
They’re obviously in good hands with you! Thanks for sharing the photos! >>>>
It’s so rare that anyone writes back after the work is done! Thank you, doll! I’m so glad you let me know how it went.
So once again, you regular readers recommended pretty much the same thing that I did, and for that you rock! Thanks! You continue to be impressive week after week.
That does it for our Reader Q & A session. I’ll be back tomorrow with an all-new Ask the Experts panel, as well as a new puzzler. If you haven’t already guessed in the current puzzler, you have until midnight tonight MST (that’s 2am EST) to do so. Leave your best guess in the comment section or on my facebook wall. I’ll reveal the answer and the winner(s) after the new panel.
Hope to see you back here.
I’ve been painting pots again. You can probably figure out what that means. That’s right – baby plants!
Today, we’re going to divide Sam the Aloe Vera plant into several smaller plants. He’s far bigger than he used to be:
Sam used to live on my kitchen windowsill, but when he got too big for that spot, I moved him in with Rosa the Jade and the E. Sill Band. Then he got too big for that spot, so he got his own small south-facing windowsill in the living room. Then he outgrew that spot, too.
Aloes don’t actually mind being cramped in a small pot – they can live happily like that for a long time. But Sam’s grown out of control. His leaves are flopping all over the place and he’s become top heavy. He’s outgrowing his container as well as his spot on the windowsill.
I haven’t been properly watering him lately, and to make sure I know it, he’s gotten some black spots on his leaves and brown tips on some of the leaves. The brown tips could be caused by lack of humidity in the air (which it is, this is the desert), but on this particular plant, I know it’s mostly his way of saying “I don’t like it when you forget to water me, then you dump too much water on me.” Which I’d done a couple of times in a row.
Because there are so many babies in the pot, I knew it was time for a big transplant.
I prepped for the transplant by painting clay pots and saucers for the baby plants. I find it relaxing to paint, and I love having pretty little colorful pots. Life’s better when stuff is pretty, don’t you agree?
I sealed the clay with a sealant I found at the craft store so water wouldn’t ruin the paint job. I could’ve also used a growers’ pot (a cheap plastic one) and placed it inside a decorative container if I was worried about the paint. But I wasn’t.
Once the pots and saucers were ready, I started in on Sam. I picked early morning to do the work, because it gets so hot here in Albuquerque during the day.
Step one, remove him from the current container:
Yeah, you can see he’s ready for new digs by how thick his roots are.
Step two was to break the plant into a million pieces:
Ok maybe it wasn’t a million pieces. There were three main stems and dozens of offsets. I started snapping off the babies and placing them in five of the new pots, which were filled halfway with high-quality potting soil:
I was doing normal maintenance stuff during the transplant, including snipping off those brown tips and black spots, and pulling off dried lower leaves. Aesthetics again!
I could’ve separated out the three big stems into individual pots, but I only had one pot available for Sam’s new home. So they all went into it.
Meet the reborn Sam:
Spiffy, eh? It would’ve been nice if I could’ve stood all of the stems up straight, but oh well – I’m the one who allowed them to grow all twisty and turned in the first place. At least there’s fresh soil and a lot more breathing room. Maybe that stem will grow up one day, haha.
Once Sam was fine, I turned my attention to the babies. I added more soil around the new plants, and padded them firmly in place in the center of each pot.
Here’s the family portrait I took afterward:
Aw, so cute!
Now, who’d like to buy an Aloe plant in a hand-painted pot? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? If you’re interested, leave a comment for me or shoot me an email. I have no compunction about breaking up a happy family (of plants, that is).
My Experts will be back manana in an all-new Friday Ask the Experts panel. We’ll be talking about fall. We’ll also have a new plant puzzler. Hope to see you here.