This light-starved aloe is seriously in need of repotting! Source: indseec, http://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: http://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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

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

  1. 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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