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. 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 has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening 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 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

7 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….

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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