Houseplants forum: Help: Aloe Vera Reabsorbing Leaves

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Jan 8, 2018 10:59 AM CST
Hi everyone,

New member but long-time lurker. Smiling I've finally decided to join because my Aloe Vera Barbadensis' life depends on it. I am really stumped as to what is going on, but I'll give you a little backstory so you can possibly help me figure out the root (hehe) of the problem.

I've had this Aloe Vera Barbadensis for over 3 years now. It was a tiny little thing when I brought it home, but it turned into a monstrous, top-heavy plant very quickly. Whenever it's overgrown its pot, I've repotted it into pots that are wider than they are deeper, with drainage holes, and I've used a specialized aloe vera/succulent soil mixture that I buy from a local nursery/store. It has always been right up against the same south-facing window. I've watered it whenever the soil has become bone dry, and I've fertilized it sporadically.

Around a year ago, my poor Aloe had an accident happen to it. A chair was knocked on top of it, and a lot of the leaves were either broken in half or broken off completely. It changed from a ginormous plant into a pipsqueak. Regardless, it was still too topheavy for the pot it was in. I cut off the damaged bottom leaves (to use for burns), let the plant callus over in those places, and I repotted it. At first, it did great. Now it has taken a turn for the worst.

All of my houseplants are in the same room so my pets can't get into them. Over the past 6 months, a lot of my plants started deteriorating. It turns out that I wasn't watering enough. The soil was drying too quickly. My orchids that had wilted leaves are now thriving with the semi-water culture method. My succulents have plump, hard leaves instead of shriveled, limp ones. All of my plants are doing better, but my Aloe is suffering.

The leaves of my Aloe are curling inwards due to water reabsorption. There isn't any discoloration of the plant, the leaves aren't flopping over, and a new leaf is currently growing from the center. Everything I've read has pointed to dehydration. So, I thoroughly watered the Aloe. The problem continued. Once the soil dried from the previous watering, I let the plant soak for 15 minutes. No luck. I've watered every time the soil has gotten dry (deep down), and that happens to be every 4-5 days. My Aloe is only getting worse, though. The 3 inner leaves are fine, but the outer leaves have become so thin. It seems that a new leaf gets reabsorbed every week, and this Aloe doesn't need to lose more leaves. I haven't fully removed the Aloe from its pot, but I have pushed around the soil, and the roots that I've seen have been healthy. I'm at a loss, and I desperately need help because I am attached to this plant.

When dehydration occurs, will watering ever restore the absorbed leaves? Will the inner leaves be fine if I keep the plant hydrated? I am afraid of overwatering whilst trying to save this plant. Anyone have any ideas as to what's happening? The leaves look similar to this (NOT MY IMAGE):

Thumb of 2018-01-08/flowerchild29/bf56d3

Name: Lin
Southeast Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Jan 8, 2018 2:13 PM CST
Hi flowerchild29, Welcome!

I'm not real familiar with Aloe Vera (Aloe vera) so hopefully someone who grows them will be along shortly with advice. Is it only the one leaf that seems to have the problem; I wonder if perhaps it's normal and just an old, mature leaf that is fading?

~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~

Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Jan 8, 2018 2:29 PM CST
Yes, over the normal course of events the leaves at the bottom of the rosette do tend to curl and die back, especially after serious stress. It sounds like your plant is still recovering from the trauma it experienced.

As long as you wait until the soil is dry at depth, you should water deeply and regularly. Letting the soil soak is not really necessary. What I would recommend instead is watering in more than one pass, waiting 5-10 minutes in between for the first shot to sink in. This relates to the paradoxical inability of bone dry soil (peat based soil especially) to absorb any significant amount of water until it has had a chance to become moist first.

All sorts of variables (light, temperature, humidity) can affect the frequency, but given room temperature days, relatively high humidity, and good drainage like you are describing, you should not need to water more often than weekly. It would be a mistake to overcompensate for some observed changes relating to mechanical damage by watering too often. These are dry growing plants and even more so in low temperatures.

I would recommend patience above all. Strong light will be helpful as well. Maybe there is more information to be gained from a picture of your actual plant, but it sounds like the trouble will pass.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jan 8, 2018 2:30 PM (+)]
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