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Top dressed my aloe a month ago and it seemed to be doing great. Watered it a few days ago and came home to it today looking deflated. Examined the leaves and they all fell off in my hand. One or two looked damaged and rotten but the majority had no sign of rot at the base. This plant now has no leaves and questionable roots. What are the roots supposed to be like? Is there anyway to salvage this plant? Or root the healthier looking leaves that came off with rooting hormone?


I've had this aloe for about 6 or 7 years. It was a pup from my friend's plant. Moved it to the pot it was currently in about 3 years ago. The pot might be a little too big for the plant as the plant has been a super slow grower since moving it to the pot. It is an in-door only plant by a window without direct sunlight. Gave it the fish/seaweed fertilizer 1 or 2x a quarter. Top dressed it about a month ago with organic potting soil that had been mixed with sand to improve drainage. The leaf quality improved greatly since then with stronger and greener leaves. Last week it looked a little weak, gave it water (tap water) and it recovered to a normal state. Went out of town this past weekend and upon return on Tues the plant looked weak again and I noticed that one leaf looked kind of rotted at the base and when I pulled on it all the juice from that leaf poured out of it. I again gave it a small amount of tap water and when I got home today the leaves all looked deflated/saggy (nothing was strong or erect). Started examining the plant and didn't apply any pressure and the leaves started lifting out of the soil one by one. 80% of the leaves had white bases where they had been attached. The soil was a little packed feeling when I was trying to dig up the roots. The roots, I'm not sure what they are supposed to look like, but these were fibrous, dry, and something flakey was falling off revealing the fibrous inner material. I don't see an option to upload pictures here.

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Assuming it was an aloe, its acquired a fungal infection at the base of the stems. I suspect the culprit is your 'top dressing' - you do not describe scraping off soil from the top of the pot and then replenishing it with your topdressing, you just say you topdressed it. If you simply put it on top of the existing soil, that meant the dressing was now higher than the soil level, and higher round the base of the leaves - the plant has become infected with fungus because of it and rotted through. It may or may not regrow - personally, I'd acquire another pup from your friend and start again. And don't put it in a pot that's too big for the roots at any stage, that's never a good idea, there's a high risk of fungal and other trouble from all that empty soil surrounding the roots. Because the plant needs water, it means you have to water quite a lot to get all the soil wet, and then the plant is sitting in wet, possibly sour soil.

It is not uncommon to topdress plants in pots, but the procedure is always to scrape out the top layer, without breaking roots, and then add the new topdressing, so that the soil level is the same as before around the base of the plant. If that's what you actually did, then the fungal trouble may have appeared because of the soil to root ratio being out of whack.

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This is pretty interesting...Aloe doesn't usually collapse in one day unless it has gone through a freeze. The other common problem is over watering. If you are over watering it'll take weeks to see this kind of collapse. What kind of mulch did you use? Is this plant out doors or in a pot? You have to send some pictures and tell us what you've been doing for size of pot, type of soil used, drainage issues, watering with tap water?...fertilizer, TYPE OF MULCH...you mulch this plant and it collapses in one day? Please get us this info...as soon as you are able. Possibly a way to save your aloe but leaves falling off is so unusual I also have to ask you to make sure this is Aloe...thanks!!

  • Absolutely!!! So great... – stormy Jul 30 '15 at 21:37
  • Definitely sounds like root rot of some sort. And I agree with Bamboo that your 'top dressing' is suspect! Please send pictures!! And for indoor plants do not use tap water! Chlorine, Fluorine two very toxic chemicals are in all tap water as well as an awful lot of bottled water. So, stop drinking tap water! Make sure you check your bottled water...just saying. Softened water has too many salts for plants, distilled water is better. – stormy Jul 31 '15 at 21:08
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Addressing the "can I salvage it" part of this question. In short: Yes, or at least it's more than likely.

If your roots are still mildly healthy acquire root stimulant and coat the roots according to instructions on the package. Purchase or find some Orchid potting mix or Perlite and place your plant remnants in there. Lightly water the plant (I use a spray bottle to simply mist the roots) and let the plant remain in those conditions until you see improvement. Of course, place the plant in a well lit area but avoid placement in a location with lots of direct sunlight. Since the Orchid potting mix does not provide enough shade or moisture the plant could scorch if placed in a location with lots of direct sunlight. Once it is healthy, ensure that you transplant into an appropriate soil mixture, preferably adding extra perlite for aeration. Please note that vermiculite is not an adequate substitution for perlite and could cause root rot.

If you look at the link tied to the word "roots" you'll see many examples of healthy roots as well as dead ones.

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