Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Top-Heavy Aloe Dilemma

Aloe Plant in Window

Hello Fellow Readers, I have a top-heavy aloe plant leaning precariously over other plants on the bay window in the kitchen that needs help. The thing is, I’m puzzled as to how, despite thorough research. So here we are, column number 400 (can you believe?), and I am stumped.

The succulents came by way of a kind client who asked if I’d take the pot of aloe plants that were hidden in the corner of her sunroom, apologetically confessing neglecting them.

“I know how that goes,” I consoled, “it’s hard to know what to do when plants become overgrown.”

Always quarantine new or hand-me-down plants 

It was apparent the trio of aloes were root bound as the plastic pot was severely bulging. That’s an easy fix, but with severely yellowed foliage, the plants looked beyond saving. I always place new or hand-me-down plants away from others to be sure no critters or diseases came for a ride. It was early summer, so I quarantined the trio outside in a part-shady spot. That way, they could absorb the nitrogen benefits of rain.

Several weeks went by, and the plants looked hopelessly unchanged. So, I wrestled them out of the pot and tossed them onto the compost pile, feeling sadness for the neglect they endured.

A few weeks later, with their roots exposed on top of the heap, I noticed their leaves were beginning to green up! I gathered the throwaways and potted them into three separate pots using a sandy soil mix. Their recovery was rapid, and they quickly grew into two-foot-wide plants.

The benefits of Aloe plants

Most know about the benefits of using the gel-like insides of aloe leaves to soothe burns, itchy rashes, and insect bites. I’ve come upon articles about the anti-anxiety benefits and air purifying attributes of aloe plants—suggesting you place them in your bedroom where they can have indirect sun by day. They are said to lower carbon dioxide levels and remove formaldehyde and benzene, found in cleaners and paints, from the air.

How to solve the top-heavy aloe dilemma?
Knife cutting old leaves of an aloe plant.

Cutting off the old lower leaves

Top-heavy aloe with a long stem

… left the aloe with a long stem.

So back to solving the dilemma of top-heaviness before it becomes an emergency like last winter. One toppled over and broke into “pieces-parts” as mom would say. I brought the fleshy stems to the nail salon I visit from time to time to tidy up my garden worn nails and cracking cuticles. The manicurists use the gooey gel as a hand cream.

Rather than toss the roots left after the crash, I tucked the pot amongst other plants outside after the risk of frost. A few months later, new shoots emerged, and I watched and marveled as it grew into a bouncing baby plant.

Other than cutting off lower leaves as they age to lighten the load —did that, which left the long stem and heavy top— I couldn’t find any solution to my dilemma. Nor could other parents of aloes looking for an answer on garden Q & A sites. Perhaps it’s time to harvest all the leaves and share them with others. Then allow the plant to rejuvenate as I did with my toppled plant; makes sense, right? But I ask you, kind readers, please let me know if you have a better idea. And thank you, and The Press, for 400 weeks of sharing :^)

Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

A renjuvenated aloe plant wiht new shoots.

My recovering toppled over aloe

Click through to learn about how to tend to other Houseplants in Duress

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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