Cactus and Succulents forum→Aloe Hercules Help!

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Los Angeles, CA
amiemjordan
May 18, 2020 10:14 AM CST
Hi! We got this aloe hercules (i believe) about 3 months ago - we live in southern california it has been planted in a pot and gets part sun. I have been watering it at the same pace as the rest of the cactus and succulents in pots (all doing well) - about once a week and more if it gets over 90.
When we bought it I noticed that the lower leaves had brown spots - they eventually shrivel up and get crispy and die. Since its been home the lower leaves are continuing to get brown spots, shrivel up and die.
To me, this seems like UNDERwatering. The leaves never feel mushy and are getting crispy. However I noticed today the base of the trunk is brown, I don't believe it was like this before. It is still rock hard, but where it is brown it appears "sunken in" in some spots, not plump and full. Again this seems like UNDERwatering...but brown I would think is a mold/rot that is typically from OVERwatering. I'm compeltely stumped and want to save my baby! We love him!! Please help!

(Also note: it is raining today, hence the wetness on leaves)
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Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
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mcvansoest
May 18, 2020 10:39 AM CST
Welcome!

Are you sure this isn't straight up Aloe barbarae?
Leaves seem a little thin for Hercules, but it could still be it - just wondering as it does make some care difference.

It looks like the trunk is starting to develop the typical bark, so from that perspective nothing is wrong, but your description of 'shrunken in' is worrisome, but it is hard to see for me in the picture as is the color given that the plant is wet.

A list of questions:
Is there still new growth coming in at the crown?
Do you check if the soil is actually dry when you water?
How much water do you give it?
Just to be sure: does that pot have a drain hole?
If you squeeze the trunk in the middle quite hard does it have any give?
Has the sun exposure of the plant changed?
Can you plant it in the ground?

Both Aloe Hercules and barbarae are fast growers, your plant is getting to be of a size that the pot it is in, is on the small side, you could be seeing some issues related to that - if the plant has been growing happily the last three months that pot could be pretty full of roots, root crowding can cause negative effects on the rest of the plant.
It sounds like you have convinced yourself it is underwatering, which is possible as both Hercules and barbarae can take quite a bit of water, but the worry always is that if it is actually overwatering that upping the amount and or frequency of watering will exacerbate those issues. However if the plant is still growing it is hard to tell someone to unpot it and check the roots, but that would be one way to be sure. However as another member on this forum says (I am paraphrasing): if you unpot a plant without a root problem to inspect the roots, you have probably created a plant with a root problem in addition to what else is ailing it.
So let us know the answers to some (or hopefully all) of the questions above and we can go from there.
It is what it is!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
May 18, 2020 11:25 AM CST

Moderator

Lots of good points there. Thumbs up

I would add regarding overwatering vs. underwatering: the difference has to do with soil moisture more than any particular feature of the plant. Try to water well when the soil is dry or nearly dry at depth. There is no benefit to allowing the soil to sit bone dry for any extended period. There is a significant risk of adverse consequences if the soil does not regularly dry out enough.

There are various ways to assess soil moisture but one way that I prefer for larger pots is to water very carefully, a little bit at a time, over the course of maybe an hour or so, until water starts coming out the bottom. Once you know how much water it takes to saturate the soil, you know how (relatively) dry it was beforehand. One important caveat here is that bone dry soil will take a while to rehydrate, and actually reject water in quantity, as dry peat or cocofiber do not absorb water very well until they are given some time to become moist. So take your time, maybe use 5-10 minute intervals.

I don't recommend you water this carefully every time you water, but if you do it every so often you will have a better sense of where the soil is at in between.

Welcome!
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - May 18, 2020 11:26 AM (+)]
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Los Angeles, CA
amiemjordan
May 25, 2020 12:43 PM CST
Hi!

It very well may be an Aloe Barbarae, there was no tag when purchased.

Yes, still new growth.

Yes, check that the soil is dry before watering, and water until it drains out of the hole in the bottom, with a hose on shower setting about 1x every 7-10 days. Hard to determine volume of water given hose watering.

When I purchased it was in a pot about 60% this size, just about 3 months ago and already had the spots on the leaves, but those leaves have since shriveled up and I've removed...and it's still happening to the bottom leaves. We can certainly pot it in the ground, but I would be surprised if root crowding is the problem seeing how new it is.

Absolutely no give in any prt of the trunk, that thing is rock solid!

No sun exposure change, it gets a lot of sun (full sun until about 3pm). We live in SoCal.

I've attached a few more photos of the 'sunken/shriveled' trunk and the spots/crispy damage of the leaves.

Thank you both for all your help!
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Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
Plant Identifier Plant and/or Seed Trader Cat Lover Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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mcvansoest
May 25, 2020 1:32 PM CST
The leaf damage looks like what my Aloe barbarae looked like when I exposed it to too much sun/heat here - Aloe barbarae is a plant I cannot grow where I am at, even in pretty much full shade the heat would get to it. I know that they can grow them in SoCal though, but barbarae appears to have a clear temperature max above which it is not a viable plant. However, I can grow Aloe hercules just fine here - its dichotoma parent provides the extra heat/sun hardiness.
I have similar looking spotting on an Aloe vaombe that is in full sun - so while the first sense would be that it is somehow some kind of fungus/rot and thus moisture related thing, I wonder if it could be another sign of the plant getting more sun than it was used to before.

I think the base of your plant is developing the regular bark texture which starts happening on the trunk as the plant grows older and the plant gets taller. It looks a little gnarly but that could just be it being the base of the plant.
Part of it could be transplantation shock, which can occur to plants quite a while after having been moved/transplanted, but if it is that it should come out of it at some point.

The worry you have is if the leaf die off is starting to outpace new growth. I guess you can try and increase watering to maybe once every 3-4 days, but you want to make sure the soil is pretty much dry after that kind of period before you increase your watering frequency. I still think that pot is on the small side for the size of the plant, but if you are going to experiment with increasing watering frequency you probably want it to be in smaller rather than a larger pot.
Other than that old leaves shriveling up and falling away is a normal growing process for tree aloes, very happy plants will retain more leaves, but all of them go through a cycle of older leaves shriveling up and falling away as new leaves grow in and the plant gets taller.
So as long as you can convince yourself that the plant's roots are in good shape and the plant does not have actual rot (and it sounds like it doesn't) it may just be a wait and see approach with some experimenting with watering frequency.

That is all I have, maybe Baja has some more insight/advice.
It is what it is!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
May 25, 2020 3:35 PM CST

Moderator

Water your plant differently if you want to know if you are overwatering or underwatering. The hose isn't going to work for this purpose. Use a 2- or 5-liter bottle and pour a little water at a time on top (waiting 5-10 minutes in between each time) until it comes out the bottom. You don't need to do this every time, just until you know mentally how dry the soil is after a given interval with the same general light and temperature.

Given you recently repotted the plant, I don't think it urgently needs more space, but it is pretty big for the pot. It is always going to be easier for you to keep and maintain an aloe tree of this size in the ground, if you have the choice on that front. The watering will be simplified, the roots will be cooler, the plant will have more space, many factors come together to make it easier on the plant (and you) when it's in the ground. It will end up bigger faster, with more heat tolerance and fewer potential issues with watering.

I have saved more than one extra-large aloe from crisis in a container simply by putting them in the ground.

People like to show off their tree aloes in containers, and it's not very tricky to get them to do well in containers (up to a point), but it does require careful management of water and a pretty clear idea of how dry the soil is getting in between watering.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - May 25, 2020 3:49 PM (+)]
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San Diego, CA (Zone 10a)
Region: California Cactus and Succulents
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SDAloeTree
May 25, 2020 10:06 PM CST
I definitely agree with mcvansoest on the ID its likely a barbare (bainessi).

The dark spot on these can be attributed to over watering among other things. Mine had these dark spots when it came from the nursery. This years new growth does not have them (its in full sun; this time of year is twelve hours). Mines in the ground so watering can be different. I water mine no more often than once every eight weeks.

The leaves drying up and falling off is normal for this time of year as long as new growth is replacing it. Mine is doing the same thing actually its just wrapping up. New growth predominates now.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
May 26, 2020 5:08 PM CST

Moderator

For comparison here is my plant, a 3 year old seedling with a stem that's maybe 18 inches tall, recently repotted into a 15 gallon (14") pot, where it should be good for a little while. You'll note a few black spots which do not at all worry me. It gets pretty much day-long sun but the pot is protected from the sun for much of the day by the low wall.
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I am currently watering that plant at half the frequency of its sibling (which is still in a 3 gallon/10" pot), every 2 weeks, but that will change when it is bigger.

Note the large leap in pot size, which is how I have been handling this plant since the beginning:

4" -> 6" (4x volume) -> 3 gallon (7x) -> 15 gallon (5x)

Here is the parent:

[Last edited by Baja_Costero - May 26, 2020 5:59 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2252770 (8)
Los Angeles, CA
amiemjordan
May 29, 2020 1:04 AM CST
Thank you all so much!! I will watch this and plan to put it it in the ground soon. All this info (and proper identification) has been invaluable. Cheers!

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