confusedgardener
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help with an out of control aloe plant!

Hi there,

I am hoping somebody on this forum will be able to give me advice about how to get a grip on my wildly overgrown aloe plant. It was given to me by an acquaintance who was moving house, when it was already fairly large. But since I have had it in my home for the last year it has grown absolutely huge! It is now so top heavy that it leans over sideways to rest on the floor and nearly tips its pot over. It creeps out of its pot and along the floor like a huge tarantula! People have to edge around it because there is no space large enough for it in my tiny New York apartment.

The size of the plant would actually be perfectly manageable if it would stand up straight; it is the creeping tendency of the plant that is the problem (are aloes not naturally upright plants?). Can I prune it to be smaller, or stake it to keep it upright, or something? I don't want to throw it out because it is obviously such a thriving plant; I would feel terrible killing it. And I use its gel as a remedy for burns and suchlike. But it is honestly quite grotesque, floundering out of its pot all over the floor the way it does at the moment.

Any suggestions will be most gratefully received!

Thanks,

Confused aloe plant owner.

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Jess
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Hi :D

Your plant needs splitting. It reproduces by offsets as well as seed. This is why it has grown in such a strange manner. It has no way of spreading across the soil surface so the only choice it has is to climb up itself.

Take the whole plant out of the pot and select the best part of the plant. Seperate the roots gently and see if you can pull this portion of the plant away intact with roots. Once you have what you want to keep repot that portion and either give away or throw away the rest.

Hope that helps.
Knowing without doing is like plowing without sowing."

confusedgardener
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out of control aloe plant

Hi there,

Thank you so much for that advice! Really helpful. That explains so much.

So, it seems to me that the best and smallest bits on the plant are the little new sprouts at the top. But I'm thinking they aren't directly attached to the roots. The oldest leaves are the ones attached to the roots. So can I use the top/newest parts of the plant - take cuttings or something? Or do I definitely need to use parts directly connected to the roots?

Thanks!!!

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confusedgardener,

Being the contrary type that I am I took a slightly different approach than what is usually suggested. Rather than try to dig out the "pups" I did the exact opposite. I cut the large portions off and left the new growth at the base of the plant. Now your pot will not be top heavy and you can root the large chunks as new plants to give away, they root easily. If you wish you could just discard the upper portions or give them away, they will survive a while out of the soil so there is no need to rush.

Norm

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confusedgardener,

By way of illustration I have taken this picture for you.
[url=https://img166.imageshack.us/my.php?image=aloecropmy2.jpg][img]https://img166.imageshack.us/img166/645/aloecropmy2.th.jpg[/img][/url]

The three plants on the right were the progenitors of the other two plantings. When the original group, on the far left, became top heavy I was faced with the same problem you now have. Most sources suggested that I cut out the "pups". Another option was, as suggested, to re-pot the whole group, either would have worked. I took a different route though. Instead I left he pups in place and cut out the large portions, which were re-potted into the one gallon pot in the center.

After two season, despite a chunk of brick in the bottom, it once again became top heavy. Again I chose to remove the large portions. This time I potted them individually, I did this over the past winter. Once they are well rooted I will probably pot them up and let then go for another two seasons. At that point I will be faced with the decision of whether or not to keep everything, I only have so much space inside to over-winer my tender plants.

In short, these are so vigorous that I think you can do whatever you wish and they will recover.

Norm

aqh88
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Use a large shallow pot. They don't root deep but spread across the upper most levels of the soil. One reason they easily become top heavy and tip their pots. They will last much longer before needing repotting or dividing in a large shallow pot than one that is simply deep. Watering less frequently and setting it up so that the water sits in the bottom of the pot (rocks, layer of sand) will cause the roots to grow a bit deeper to seek out the water. These guys can last a long time without water, potentially forever if you leave in a humid area, so aside from right after repotting you can let it go quite dry. The one I have was actually left abandoned for 5years in a slightly damp basement. The only moisture it had was what was in the air. The soil was a brick and the aloe plant looked completely healthy.

Like many similar plants they grow from the inside out so you can remove the outer most leaves and sections when you repot. For mine I cut away the entire bottom set of leaves along with the sections that were growing pups and planted it up to the next set of leaves. It was unhappy for a couple weeks and then in the past 2months it's nearly doubled it's size without falling over.

confusedgardener
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Hi Norm and aqh88,

Thank you so much for your helpful advice. I've been so busy recently I barely ever get a time to do fun stuff like deal with my plants, but I knew I would have some time this week and was looking forward to finding out what info would be posted here. I have some time this weekend so I'm going to try out some of the strategies you suggested this weekend.

The large, shallow pot advice totally rings true to me. I repotted the plant a year or so ago just because the soil it was in looked terrible, and I couldn't believe how tiny and shallow its roots were! The plant is in this huge, deep pot, and it's so silly because it has barely any roots at all, and, as you said, is alwasy falling over!

I'm a little confused about this question of 'pups'. I don't think my plant has pups. Would 'pups' be little, new plants attached to it? It doesn't have them; it's just incredibly long and top-heavy, constantly sprouting out of itself.

I think basically I just need to be sure about how to separate and repot the portions of the plant that I want to keep. Can I literally just cut off leaves and grow them? I mean, can I just cut off a leaf with no roots at all, put it in some soil, and expect it to survive and grow? Or can I only keep the lower portion of the plant that is attached to the roots?

Thanks again; you're so generous to take the time to give me this advice!

confusedgardener

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PS I took some pictures to post to make things clearer. The problem is, I can't work out how to post them. But if anyone can tell me how, I'll post the pictures, which show the way the plant is collapsing over onto its side, the tendency of its growth (one long stem), and the pretty, bright little new shoots appearing at the centre. It is so vigorous it amazes me. Makes me feel like a good gardener for once! (I know aloes are just really hardy!)

confusedgardener
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oh, wait, wait, I found out how to post pictures ... So, here goes, I hope this works ... and i hope by the end of the weekend I will have reformed my out of control aloe plant into several pots of pretty, small to medium size aloes - some of which I can maybe even give away as gifts! I'm so happy to think I won't just have to throw it out since it's become unmanageable, but can regenerate it into a more manageable entity, as I'm very fond of it.

Okay, here goes ...

[img]https://i284.photobucket.com/albums/ll11/confusedgardener/aloe5.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i284.photobucket.com/albums/ll11/confusedgardener/aloe3.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i284.photobucket.com/albums/ll11/confusedgardener/aloe2.jpg[/img]

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confusedgardener,

Good job with the pictures. By pups I did indeed mean offsets or new plants that form at the periphery of the older portions. Since yours has none I am unsure about the prospect of propagating it right now. I have never tried to root a single leaf of this plant and none of my reference material suggests it.

The good news is that you can shorten the plant to make it more manageable if that is what you wish. Lets say you want a six inch plant, cut the top nine inches or so from the base and strip the lower leaves from the stem. Here is another picture of the same plants I posted earlier.
[url=https://img518.imageshack.us/my.php?image=aloeor7.jpg][img]https://img518.imageshack.us/img518/2406/aloeor7.th.jpg[/img][/url]
Note the three stem cuttings on the right, they were removed from the pot in the center as described above. These were allowed to dry out for a few days and planted in a very gritty, free draining medium.

If you don't disturb the base it may be forced to produce new growth. It will be unsightly for a while but I would wager it won't die.

Norm

confusedgardener
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Hi Norm,

Thanks for your response! Okay, so let me be sure I've understood this correctly. I cut the top of the plant off, reducing it to the height I want it to be?

But then, how does the stripping of stems from the lower portion of the plant relate to this strategy?

I'm sorry to be so dense. I'm very inexperienced with gardening!

Just a random aside, in case you know - how would an aloe plant like this survive in the wild? Would it just grow along the ground?

Rachel

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confusedgardener,
I'm sorry to be so dense. I'm very inexperienced with gardening!
No problem, we all start somewhere and I'm sure no one here knows it all.
I cut the top of the plant off, reducing it to the height I want it to be?

But then, how does the stripping of stems from the lower portion of the plant relate to this strategy?
I suggested that you cut it longer than the target height. The portion you strip bare will be buried and will strike roots. Make sure to let it dry for a few days so the cut area will not rot.
Just a random aside, in case you know - how would an aloe plant like this survive in the wild? Would it just grow along the ground?
In you area I don't believe they will survive the winter, best to keep it in a pot.

Norm

confusedgardener
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I searched all over the web and there seems to be a lot of disagreement about whether one can propagate aloes from leaf cuttings! I think I'm going to conduct an experiment myself. I'll take a couple of cuttings, let one dry and callous before planting, plant the other immediately, and also do what Norm said (stripping lower leaves and replanting). Then I'll report back in a few months about what worked!

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Leaf cuttings don't seem to work. Aloes are extremely slow to put out roots anyway so maybe it is just something you have to be very patient on and keep the right amount of water but I've never accomplished it.

That aloe has grown a bit crazy. Where does it get it's light? The leaves on all mine are mostly straight but curve a little or tend to grow out one side more than the other which makes it unbalanced. Since the plant isn't rooted that deep in the pot anyway I don't think you need to cut it off to make it shorter. I just strip the bottom leaves and stick it deeper in the pot so more of it is underground. Like I said they are extremely slow to root so I'd be hesitant to cut the roots it has off if you can just stick it deeper. That's what works for mine.

I don't remember if this has been mentioned but aloes are succulents more like cactus. If you are repotting it would be best to use some cactus potting soil or mix in sand with regular potting soil. Heavy soils that hold moisture seem to result in slower and more growth issues.

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aqh88,
I just strip the bottom leaves and stick it deeper in the pot so more of it is underground. Like I said they are extremely slow to root so I'd be hesitant to cut the roots it has off if you can just stick it deeper. That's what works for mine.
I have had no trouble getting my stem cuttings to root but I think I have a different variety than 'confused' and perhaps you do. What you suggest could certainly work though.
I don't remember if this has been mentioned but aloes are succulents more like cactus. If you are repotting it would be best to use some cactus potting soil or mix in sand with regular potting soil. Heavy soils that hold moisture seem to result in slower and more growth issues.
I agree completely. Perhaps I was not specific enough but I did suggest a "very gritty, free draining medium"

Norm

confusedgardener
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Thanks for all your advice guys! I hope I have a variety that will root ... I don't know what variety it is (someone gave it to me when they moved house) so I suppose basically time will tell! I have planted my little cutting, but now it is in the care of a subletter as I'm away for the next few months, so I will report back with observations when I finally get to see it again! And I will certainly do the leaf-stripping and replanting technique described if the cutting doesn't take. Very useful advice!!! Thanks to everyone!

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