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I have a young Aloe barberae (a type of giant tree aloe), about 3 meters tall, which has been in my front yard for three years. I'm in Los Angeles, which has a climate similar to the weather in the plant's native habitat, and you often see big, healthy specimens of it around here. It's in full sun and gets drip watering.

The branches on my plant keep bending over and folding under their own weight. This has happened several times now, and I keep pruning them off. The pruned stems seem to have shriveled and lost their bulk; they look like the arm of a person who's very old and frail, and when I squeeze them it feels like there's nothing inside.

I understand that these plants are supposed to self-prune, but I'm not clear on whether that should look like what I'm seeing, or if the branches should stay intact while the leafy heads or individual leaves drop off. Currently, the surviving branches each have several leaf-heads on them, and each leaf-head has a bunch of dead, yellow leaves on the bottom and a bunch of healthy-looking green ones on top.

How can I tell whether (a) my plant is healthy and just self-pruning, (b) I'm under-watering it, or (c) I'm over-watering?

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    Although you given a great description, posting some pictures would definitely help get some good answers. – Debbie M. Aug 31 '15 at 1:53
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If the branches are getting too heavy to support themselves, I suspect the plant is getting either too much water, or too much fertilizer (or both). In nature aloes are found in poor, dry soils. They have adapted to that, and when grown in 'good' conditions, they often grow too fast, and soft, even if they look healthy.

I would barely water it, if at all. You want slow growth. Whatever you do, don't fertilize. And about the shriveled branches, those have no life in them, you can cut those off. Other than that, it sounds like a healthy plant, and you are probably doing the right thing!

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