This light-starved aloe is seriously in need of repotting! Source: indseec, www.helpfulgardener.com

Question: I would like to know how to recuperate an aloe that is very etiolated, with a 12-inch (30-cm) section of bare stem at the base.

Jacques Belle-Isle

Answer: You mostly see this kind of bare stem on either very old aloes (Aloe vera) or those seriously lacking light. Fortunately, you can easily solve the problem by cutting off the top of the plant and rerooting it.

Cut the stem about 2 inches (5 cm) below the lowest leaves, then remove a few leaves at the base of the rosette, pulling them off completely, including the sheath at their base, to expose a section of fresh stem. You will notice that there are small bumps on this part of the stem: they are actually adenventious roots that will spring into growth when in contact with soil.

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Remove a few lower leaves before inserting the cutting into a pot of growing mix. Source: Lmb1122, garden.org

Now fill a pot of barely moist growing mix (any potting soil will do: aloes are not fussy plants!). Make a hole in the center of the mix and insert the cut stem into it, pushing it down so that the lower leaves rest on the pot edges. This will help stabilize this heavy cutting, otherwise difficult to fix solidly.

Place the cutting in a well-lit spot, preferably one that gets a few hours of sun daily. Only water when the soil is really dry.

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In 4 or 5 months, your aloe will be a picture of health again. Source: www.ikea.com

The cutting will root slowly, probably over several months, but soon enough your aloe will have regained a healthy appearance. It can then be treated as an adult aloe, with more frequent waterings and even a bit of fertilizer every now and then.

In the future, give your aloe more light (your plant is clearly struggling from the lack of it!). Remember that an aloe is essentially a full-sun plant that will tolerate moderate light, but certainly not dark corners!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

14 comments on “How to Save a Bare-stemmed Aloe?

  1. Thank you for this article! This is exactly what I was looking for, although it took me a bit to find. I have a ~10 year old aloe that I’ve grown since it was very small, and it hasn’t looked good ever since it got way too big for it’s last pot and I wasn’t able to repot it. The stem looks exactly like the one in the top photo. My plan is to cut the bottom part of the stem that’s bare roughly in half, and then let more roots form in water as that’s what it’s been living in for a few weeks. It also has many bumps on it which are as you said, new roots. Hopefully it works, and I’m pretty confident it will. I’ve rooted many of it’s aloe pups in water before so it should be rather similar.

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  4. Thank you for your useful article. I have a futher question… I have an old Aloe vera that I’m about to cut the top off, and re-pot just as you’ve described. However, I was wondering whether the remaining stem (the part with no leaves, but still with roots in the soil) can somehow be induced to sprout fresh leaves.

    Thanks.

    • Certainly. Just give it minimal care (you won’t want to overwater it while it has no leaves) and new sprouts will appear.

      • Hi, I have attempted this with my aloe, it was huge as had it over 5 years then has struggles due to pests & watering issues. I’ve taken the top for a new plant but leaving the bottom as old stem looks healthy white still – should I remove this and trim the roots to a smaller pot as it’s in its older very large pot still?

  5. Pretty sure I have a black thumb. I’ve killed everything green I’ve ever tried to grow. The exception is an Aloe Vera that was given to me about 6 yrs ago (yay me). It used to be 2 separate Aloe in one pot. I separated them and the smaller one died. The larger one held on by a thread then started to thrive. I am fairly certain it now has root rot. I thought at first it was just crowded with all the new “babies” it had. So i decided to once again attempt to separate them. But the leaves are browning (even on the babies) and I am pretty sure it’s going to die. I am going to attempt to save it by removing what I think root rot. Is there a draw back if I just cut it all off to where only a nub is there? Will it sprout new roots?

    • I suspect if you try cutting it back to a nub, you’ll find there is rot in the nub (base of the stem, if I understand correctly). Still, you could try if the nub is entirely white, but if there is any brown, that indicates there is still rot present. Rooting the top, as described here, is more likely to work.

  6. Hi, can you please help me, I’m really worried that I might have killed my plant! I wanted to save my overwatered aloe that has root rot, so I cut my aloe vera plant at the base in the white section, about 2 cm below the lowest leaf, and yellow sap came out. I was trying to cut below the node, but couldn’t really figure out where the node was. Is the yellow sap normal, or have I cut off the node?

    • Aloe sap is yellow, so no problem there. Nodes on aloes are simply like a line that circles the stem. They’ll be enough on the length of stem mentioned.

  7. I did this and had accepted my beautiful plant would die. It was so hearty… It has been over 5 weeks and my plant hasn’t skipped a beat. The new leaf sprouting in the middle is growing well…. THANK YOU for this info….

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