I inherited this horrible aloe plant from an old roommate. It was living in a tall, skinny Tupperware in a dark corner of the kitchen, where it got knocked over and stepped on more than once. From reading around, I gather it grew tall like this because of low light? I put it in a bigger pot, transplanted one of its several babies, and put it in a sunny windowsill. I've read that it's possible to cut the top off a plant like this and propagate it. My question is this: what would happen to the bottom part if I did that? Would it survive? Would it grow to not be horrifically ugly?
The damaged leaves will not heal, and the weakened narrow portion of stem will remain that way. It can grow from the end, though, and that can be healthy. It was obviously suffering from etiolation. I think the best method of action starts with repotting the aloe. Use a free draining cactus mix, and a free draining pot. You can repot the pups in separate containers (don't worry, it should produce more). The idea is that although the old growth will never look better than it does now (you could end up with a very healthy new end on it though), the stem will root when exposed to soil. This is the method I have used for quite some time for my personal aloes, when the stem gets long (1), (2) (also useful for salvaging badly damaged specimens like yours, in the interest of continuing growth on the original stem).
- Remove the plant from the pot, and loosely shake the mix from the roots.
- There should be a portion of stem extending into the mix, which is what the roots grow from. Remove a section of this root bearing stem, leaving only about an inch of stem that still has roots.
- Remember how much stem you removed, and go up the stem, stripping leaves from the stem to match the distance.
- You can let the plant dry here, if you're afraid of rot (I usually plant right away).
- Place some mix into the bottom of the container, and place the stem all the way to the bottom. Place more mix around the stem, up to 1/2" from the container rim, or from the lowest remaining leaves (whichever comes first). Firm it well, so that the whole stem will remain in contact with the mix.
- Water it in. From here until it is actively growing, only let the top inch of mix dry between thorough waterings, and make sure it drains well. Do not fertilize
- Keep it in warm (at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit) areas, outdoors whenever possible (but avoid direct sun).
- Make sure it gets plenty of light. Sunlight is best, but needs to be introduced slowly, as aloes sunburn very easily and the damage is permanent. But even a shady spot outdoors is often brighter than artificial house lighting.
In a month or so, it will have rooted into the mix and started growing. This new growth should be robust and heavy, so the frail stem may need support. After a year of growth, repeat the process. Eventually you will have healthy, new growth from the top to the bottom. I do this regularly, to maintain stem length on my aloes. Feel free to ask for more information.
Edit: I'm adding a picture of the same plant now, several months after treatment. Note how much stronger it is:
This aloe is actually or was mature enough to do some powerful medicine. Needs way more light. Less watering. Less fertilizer. Take out that baby aloe and replant into a tiny pot. Cut dead leaves back to their base. Once aloe gets leaves 2 to 3" in width they are amazing with stopping infection and healing cuts. They sure stick as well but great stuff. You are watering too much and I'll bet too much fertilizer, yes? No?
Also you are probably using tap water? Too many salts from either or both fertilizer and/or tap water. Use bottled water and only water when very very dry. Repot in new potting soil after washing, scrubbing the salts out of this pot. Clay is good. Raise the bottom off that saucer using thin tiles to enhance drainage. Don't water but once every other week once this plant and the baby aloe are established.
Just because this plant looks awful it is not genetic! This guy has a mature root system and can become...as well as the little aloes, big gorgeous plants. Use Osmocote 14-14-14 only ONCE PER YEAR. Don't fertilize if you've already been fertilizing for at least 6 months.
Get him in a south facing window out of direct sunlight acclimating him little by little to full sunlight through the window. If you have a covered porch, put him out on the porch during the summers...covered porch not direct sunlight. Always potting soil. Read other answers about succulents and potting procedures...he is only ugly because no one appreciated this guy's worth!!
This is my first try to use computer graphics. So ugh what a lot of work to figure out!! Need more 'cuts' let me know. Sooner rather than later. Gees. I can't believe how UN user friendly these apps have become...