Aloe Vera: The Natural Healing Choice
Aloe Vera: When only the real thing is good enough
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Aloe Vera Plant Help PageHow to revive a damaged or dying Aloe vera plant.
Most of the time, if you leave them alone, Aloes are relatively robust plants and flourish just about anywhere in the house. If something does go wrong, its not because they don't like your decor. Something in the environment is wrong.
What are the main problems with growing Aloe vera plants?
The simplest thing to remember is that Aloe is a succulent and likes to be a bit on the dry side. It is also of Mediterranean/African origin and so likes the sunshine. Those of us who pile masses of manure on our vegetable plots and roses tend to think that our house plants also need lots of nutrients. But remember Aloe grows best in the sandy soils of Europe, Asia and Africa, soils which find it hard to hold onto nutrients.
To be honest, watering is the number one issue, most of the time.
Overwatering: Leaves that become soft, possibly slushy, covered in brown spots, wilting and falling over, are too wet. The best thing here is repot it with dry sandy soil (I mix sand with ordinary compost 60:40) and go from there. Don't water it again until it shows signs of recovery. Remove any rotting leaves or roots with a sharp knife before potting.
Underwatering: The leaf edges tend to curl in towards each other and pucker, discolour (go brown/red) and wither at the tips. The trick here is to water little and often. Keep the water near the edge of the pot so it doesn't soak the stem, which can then rot and snap off. I tend to make indents in the compost with a cane and water into them so it doesn't flow to the centre.
Chemical damage: Not very common. But if you bleach the inside of your greenhouse then overspray can damage plants. If you spray your windows with vinegar or windowlene to clean them, again, overspray can affect leaves and soil, as can other cleaning agents. Chemicals are the main constituent of cheap fertilizers which can up the salt content of compost and create 'hot spots' in the compost that burn the roots. Remove the plant and repot in sandy soil as above. Put the chemical/salty soil in a bucket with water. Allow to dissolve/dilute. Tip out and dry, when it should be safe to use again, if you don't want to waste it.
Drafts and cold: How do you do in a draft or the cold? Not so well? Neither does your Aloe plant. Move it to a warmer and less drafty location, all will be well.
Too much LIGHT: I find this a bit difficult to understand really. Aloe vera comes from the sunniest, hottest, most inhospitable areas of the world, yet in the UK, the plant is liable to burn in too much sun? Weird? You bet, despite us being around 55 degrees north of the equator, which makes us a lot less sunny and a lot less warm because light has to travel through a thicker atmosphere and bounce off a lot more cloud. Still, move your plant to a less severe light source and usually within about 48hrs, you will notice a significant difference.
Root rot: Not much worse than noticing your plant leaning over and upon trying to correct the lean, it comes away in your hand, leaving a stump and the roots in the pot. Umm, not good! Usually the result of too much watering and rotting setting into the stem or root base. Ironically, your plant can survive for a long time without any roots, because all it nees to keep going resides in the luscious leaves.
Repot the stump, shallowly into some dryish compost. You will need to support your plant with a stick/s or something else like a knitting needle, garden canes etc. Just to hold it in place while it roots again. New roots will form within about a month or two.
Here's the neatest trick. Quickly dry out your root base in a warm room, or greenhouse. If there is any life left in the roots, they will throw up new baby aloes which you can pot on in due course. More plants to play with.
Dead leaves: Dead leaves can be safely trimmed back to the stump with a sharp, sterile knife. The gel will seal the leaf within an hour or two and protect the plant.
Nutrients: Aloe can suffer from nutrient deficiency and nutrient abundance. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer once a year, usually in the spring, with a general fertilizer or one suitable for cactus. Follow the directions on the packet. In the wild, aloe survives on relatively little nutrition because of the location where it thrives the best. However, its roots go deep through the sandy soil to find what it needs. It can't live on nothing. You can bet if a goat takes a dump nearby, the plant next to it will be greener than the rest, and so I rest my case.
Frost damage: If your plant has frozen in the winter, you can mostly forget it and start again. Even when you think it is ok, it will be rotting from the inside out. You can tell frost damage by the leaf which takes on a very plump, curiously shiny/dullness, almost transparent appearance, that bleeds water when you touch it. Cut it away if it is a singular leaf, but usually, even with no symptoms, if one is dead, so are most of the others, they just haven't given up yet. Frost penetrates into the heart of the plant and kills it.
The answer is, never leave it outside in the winter. If it is in a greenhouse which is unheated, cover it with layers of fleece, or better still, bring it indoors for the worst of the winter.
Finally: Once you notice your plant is not happy and something is going wrong, try to change the situation. Aloe plants are remarkably resilient and given the right conditions will recover very quickly. You will be forgiven and rewarded with plump glossy leaves once again.
Please note: I collected these images from the internet sometime ago and can no longer remember where I found them. This page is here to help people who are having problems with their plants. If you are the copyright owner of any of these images and object to their use here, please email me and I will remove them. : Thank You.