Help! My Aloe Plant is in trouble!

A reader asked:

I got a migi aloe plant from a friend, it’s about 4 inches from the tallest leaf, including all the little roots. I transplanted into into a little pot, but the leaves are all limp.

For now – don’t give it any water for at least a week. You just gave it a shock: moving it and giving it new soil. Not a bad thing in itself, but if you water it straight after re-potting, it is very likely to get into trouble. I think it probably has something to do with the roots getting damaged or something. A week or two after you moved it you can give it water – not too much though.

My Aloe plant has no roots at all!

Good for you that you checked!

I had this problem too, a few years ago. I had my aloe plants out in the rain one summer, and failed to allow them to drain properly afterwards. When I finally checked on their roots a year later, it turned out they didn’t have any!

In other words: an aloe plant can survive and look alive without any roots at all!

However, if you want your aloe plant to grow, it will need roots.

The only solution? Put it in a pot that isn’t too big, and don’t give any water at all. 

It took me quite a while to be brave enough to try this, but it’s really the only thing that helps. After that, you’ll see the following (in order):

  1. The plant becomes less happy: the leaves will shrink a bit and will drop.
  2. The leaves will become fuller and will go straight again. On their own. While you continued to not give it any water.

What happens is: Aloe is a desert plant. It will not need to work hard to stay alive if you give it too much water. I gave WAY too much water and the result was that the roots disappeared. No water at all, and the plant knows it has to work to get water, and will make roots. And since it has water stored in those lovely leaves, it is quite capable of doing so.

The image above is of one of the two plants I had given too much water to. It’s now several years later and it is still recovering. The last time I checked it had a few roots, but hardly any. I’m still refusing to give it water, but I did give it new soil a month ago.

The tricky question is: when do I give it water again?

Aloe and light

You would think desert plants can handle light. However, many of our house-plants derive from plants that grew (in nature) in the shade of other plants. So they like hot and they can handle dry, but direct sunlight can be a problem.

If you want to move your aloe plant to a light spot, be slow about it.

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