over-watered gasteraloe

Desert_RosinJune 14, 2012

Hi all -

I recently got a gasteraloe plant (cross between gasteria and aloe) and I am worried I have over-watered it! The leaves are heavy and sagging and I would almost describe them as juicy. When I got the plant they appeared dry (brown around the edges) and very stiff. I repotted the plant because I bought it in a plastic pot, and I put it into a clay pot with cactus soil (miracle grow), and gave it what I consider a normal amount of water for aloe. I have another, older aloe plant that I have yet to kill!... but maybe the gasteraloe needs a lot less water?

I don't know if I can save this plant! from what I have read I think, if I have indeed over-watered it.. I may need to repot it again to avoid root rot (if it is not too late!)

please help!

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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Any chance of a pic before you turn it out? It may not be necessary.

I'd suggest a deep breath & don't panic, it's likely too early. Tough for us to say w/out a pic.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 5:06PM
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Here are some images. The top left is the gasteraloe when I first got it (just after the first watering)... the other two images are the plant today.
Notice how before the plant was much lighter, especially at the base of the leaves near the stem...

Please help :(

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 6:07PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I'm sorry, I missed your use of the word 'juicy', if that means mushy, I'm sorry to say your plant's a goner. Mushy mens rot & sad to say there really isn't much to be done, too far gone, sorry.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 9:27PM
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All of those lower leaves are goners, so depot the plant and remove those leaves (if they don't fall into a pile of succulent muck on their own). If there's stem that's still viable, it can be saved, with some work, but if the stem's gone the plant's gone.

OTOH, Gasterias have been started from leaf cuttings - Aloes don't have this feature, so I'm wondering if a hybrid will or not.

Show us what you have after you've cleaned up the plant - we've all done this at one time or another, so don't feel bad. And Gasteraloes are a touchy bunch anyway, much better to stick with either an Aloe or a Gasteria (best to have both). Of course, I've never been charmed by this Frankensteinian brood so I'm not exactly impartial.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 12:36AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I promise your plants would appreciate a soil that practically steals your ability to over-water, and the soil you're using ain't it. Not a rap, just an observation - it happens all the time ....... people see 'cactus' or 'succulent' on the bag and assume that the soil is appropriate. Though it's a fairly logical assumption, more often than not, it's wrong.

The problem goes deeper than you simply having over-watered. If you water in sips, so the soil doesn't remain TOO wet, you run the risk of a steady accumulation of salts in the soil, which can actually cause the same reaction over-watering can. I think that understanding how your soil works, in terms of properties like water retention, aeration, and how much perched water it retains, is probably the most important key to becoming proficient at growing anything in containers. Please take the time to read the link I'll provide, and see that if you make it a part of your thinking it doesn't help you significantly. Then, if you have specific questions or need additional guidance, you can just ask. You can have a soil that works against you, or one that works for you - one you're constantly fighting, or one that makes your job easier - one that provides you with a wide margin for grower error, or one that magnifies how critical your decisions are ....


Here is a link that might be useful: More about soils if you click me.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 7:40AM
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Thank you for the helpful link - I will definitely take the time to look into it.

... here is the damage. I am afraid she is a goner. When I tried to pull the mushed leaves off the bottom, pretty much the whole plant pulled off the stem :-/ And also as you can see, the roots (or lack of there of) also pretty much just fell away when I gently removed her from the pot. There is one solid root there on that tiny stem bit ....

she's a goner, right?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 9:15AM
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That one root also doesn't look viable - it looks like it has been too wet too long.

We've all been there - I had this happen with an Aloe just recently. If you get another one, just remember that it's succulent and would rather be a little dry than too wet.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 9:46AM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

here is a link to grow gasterias. this also goes for gaster aloes


    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 10:16AM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

here is a link to grow ing gasterias it applies to gasteraloes


    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Not to put too fine a point to it, but not everything you find on the Internet is correct. Gasteraloes are, by and large, not nearly as hardy as Gasterias are or indifferent to benign care. While your effort to help is admirable, just because you find a link doesn't make it true.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 12:42PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

TG: I, too, admire your initiative in searching the web to help people with problems.

But you should know that most "guides" are written by people who are paid to compile information and may never have owned a plant in their lives.

The only way to get accurate information is from national, regional or local organizations or from places where you hear from people who actually "know and grow" the specific plant or type of plant.

This holds true of dog breeds, too. I have loved every poodle, terrier, German Shorthaired Pointer and Shih Tzu that's owned me. But to read the generic guides you'd think they were all the perfect breeds for everyone. NOT! ;-)


    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 3:45PM
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I haven't done anything with those bits of the old plant yet (see photo in previous post)... waiting on a verdict from you experts... is he a goner, or is it worth trying to plant that stem and see what happens?

In the mean time I got this new plant (also gasteraloe... the local nursery has a bunch of them... I am determined to do better with this one!)... It was one of the better looking ones they had, even with those few broken leaves... are those leaves OK or should I get rid of them?... I'm thinking they are fine... right? and what about that one leaf that is brownish looking?

Thanks for all the help and advice - clearly i'm a novice gardener and everything is greatly appreciated :)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 11:34PM
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To answer your question, yes, it is dead.
With your new plant, I would suggest you get it out of the peaty mess that it is currently planted in and into a fast draining mix (add an equal amount of perlite to your cactus mix so you have a 50/50 mix). Do not "water in" the plant; let it sit for 5-7 days, at least, before you water it. When you do water it, water until you see the water draining out of the pot and then don't water again until you can stick a finger in the soil up to the second joint and it comes out clean (like a toothpick with a cake). Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 3:06AM
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I believe that you are "OK" to keep the leaves with the broken tips alone. They will not do any harm to the plant, it just may not be aesthetically pleasing (pleasing to the eye). It's difficult to find an Aloe, Gasteria, Haworthia, or Sanseveria (at least from my experiences) that doesn't have at least one broken tip on a leaf.

I'm not sure about the brown leaf. Some succulents turn shades of red with sunlight but you described it as more brown than red (and being just one leaf, I doubt it's from being in the sun). If it is in fact dying, I'd just allow the plant to get rid of it on it's own (it will eventually shrivel up and die, at which time you can remove it). I've tried removing half head leaves before from succulents and sometimes they didn't come off as easily as planned and I ended up doing more damage than good. Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 8:56AM
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This is very helpful. Thanks. How big of a pot is too big? The plastic pot the plant is currently in is only about 2.5 inches in diameter, and the smallest clay pot I could find is 4 inches in diameter... is this too big? The plant is currently pretty much exactly the same size as the pot it is in (see above posting). Thanks all.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 10:00AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Upthread, I mentioned the importance of your soil choice and touched on how significant it can be in determining how satisfied you might be with the results of your efforts. I think that mixing 50% peat with "cactus soil", and there really is no determining how appropriate that soil is w/o looking at it and an at least some understanding of soils, is a step in the right direction, but falls short of what's possible with a little better understanding. Mixing fine particles and large particles that don't absorb water dies decrease water retention, to be sure a good thing, but it doesn't significantly increase aeration, drainage (flow-through rate), or the height of the perched water table. That's all explained in the link I left upthread.

To answer your question about appropriate pot size ..... that is something not determined by the size of the plant or the size of the pot it was previously in, it's determined by soil choice.

Here is a copy/paste job of something I wrote a long time ago on another forum:

How large a container can or should be, depends on the relationship between the mass of the plant material you are working with and your choice of soil. We often concern ourselves with "over-potting" (using a container that is too large), but "over-potting" is a term that arises from a lack of a basic understanding about the relationship we will look at, which logically determines appropriate container size.

It's often parroted that you should only move up one container size when "potting-up". The reasoning is, that when potting up to a container more than one size larger, the soil will remain wet too long and cause root rot issues, but it is the size/mass of the plant material you are working with, and the physical properties of the soil you choose that determines both the upper & lower limits of appropriate container size - not a formulaic upward progression of container sizes. In many cases, after root pruning a plant, it may even be appropriate to step down a container size or two, but as you will see, that also depends on the physical properties of the soil you choose.

Plants grown in slow (slow-draining/water-retentive) soils need to be grown in containers with smaller soil volumes so that the plant can use water quickly, allowing air to return to the soil before root issues beyond impaired root function/metabolism become a limiting factor. We know that the anaerobic (airless) conditions that accompany soggy soils quickly kill fine roots and impair root function/metabolism. We also know smaller soil volumes and the root constriction that accompany them cause plants to both extend branches and gain o/a mass much more slowly - a bane if rapid growth is the goal - a boon if growth restriction and a compact plant are what you have your sights set on.

Conversely, rampant growth can be had by growing in very large containers and in very fast soils where frequent watering and fertilizing is required - so it's not that plants rebel at being potted into very large containers per se, but rather, they rebel at being potted into very large containers with a soil that is too slow and water-retentive. This is a key point.

We know that there is an inverse relationship between soil particle size and the height of the perched water table (PWT) in containers. As particle size increases, the height of the PWT decreases, until at about a particle size of just under 1/8 inch, soils will no longer hold perched water. If there is no perched water, the soil is ALWAYS well aerated, even when the soil is at container capacity (fully saturated).

So, if you aim for a soil (like the gritty mix) composed primarily of particles larger than 1/16", there is no upper limit to container size, other than what you can practically manage. The lower size limit will be determined by the soil volume's ability to allow room for roots to 'run' and to furnish water enough to sustain the plant between irrigations. Bearing heavily on this ability is the ratio of fine roots to coarse roots. It takes a minimum amount of fine rootage to support the canopy under high water demand. If the container is full of large roots, there may not be room for a sufficient volume of the fine roots that do all the water/nutrient delivery work and the coarse roots, too. You can grow a very large plant in a very small container if the roots have been well managed and the lion's share of the rootage is fine. You can also grow very small plants, even seedlings, in very large containers if the soil is fast (free-draining and well-aerated) enough that the soil holds no, or very little perched water.

I have just offered clear illustration that the oft repeated advice to 'only pot up one size at a time', only applies when using heavy, water-retentive soils. Those using well-aerated soils are not bound by the same restrictions.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 10:29AM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

I agree with Nancy: Remove it from its current mix and pot in cactus soil with 50% perlite (preferably coarse). If perlite is fine, I'd go higher.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 2:46PM
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