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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Undead

For Halloween I thought I'd share a back from the dead, zombie story - at least as close as one can find in the garden! I can't tell you how many times I have "killed" this aloe vera plant. We first got it at a farmer's market from a woman selling lots of odds and ends. She came up to us as we were leaving and offered us a small grocery store bag. Inside was a near dead, smelly, soggy, little aloe vera shoot. She said she couldn't sell it since it was in such bad condition so we could have it. Ever since the hippies living down the street with their cactus collection would share their aloe gel with us I've wanted one. So I took it and wondered if I could get it to grow with my barely green thumb.

But it didn't grow. It just sat in a pot on our porch and gave off the smell of death. So I researched a little and thought that maybe the Texas humidity was too much for it. So I brought it inside and put it in my son's bedroom window since it got the most light. And it started to get strong and turn green again. I thought it must be the warmth and was pleased. I was afraid to water it too much since I had read that it needed drought like conditions with a watering every once in a while. And once it was strong enough again I once again moved it out on the porch only to find it dying again. What I didn't know was that every night when we'd give the boys some water to drink my son would reserve some for the plant and give it the last few drops. He knew how to recreate drought like conditions perfectly!

By the time I realized that my plant had turned completely brown and limp with it's few stalks hanging over the edge of the pot. I had completely given up on it but hadn't gotten around to getting rid of it yet when my son asked if he could water it. I told him it was dead but to go ahead since it couldn't hurt now. He doused it with water - like tons and tons. And to my HUGE surprise - a few days later there started to be some green patches appearing on the seemingly dead plant. And it started to come back! We went through this cycle a few more times but after a move across the country this plant was dead for real. This time it wasn't just droopy - it was shriveled, light brown and kind of crispy. I knew it was dead this time and moved it under a bench in the backyard and forgot about it. Well, a couple weeks later this is what it looked like. And it's been thriving ever since. This plant is one tough survivor - no thanks to me! I guess the conditions out west was just what it was looking for!

So now, I don't touch it - I don't even water it. Though I am wondering if it's time to bring it in since the nights are starting to dip below freezing. I am sure some of you wiser gardeners can tell me what my next move should be and how to better care for my little zombie.



Elizabeth said...

Glad to read this post. I have an aloe vera on my porch that has been dead a while. It lived quite happily on top of my fridge, even though I kind of forgot it was there. But as soon as I took it outside and actually paid attention to it, it dies. Maybe there is hope for it.

Teaspoon said...

Yes, bring it inside for the winter -- aloes do not like hard freezes. The ice crystals damage the water storage cells, and then they can't survive the dry periods. Your "dead" plant would probably have had some gel left in the center had you cut into it, which is why it was still actually alive.

I find that a small amount (just enough of a splash to dampen the top layer of soil) of water about twice a week does for my aloe pretty well. In more humid climates, once a week is probably plenty, though even here in Wyoming, they do fine if they get missed for a few weeks. The large one at work gets a splash twice a week, the small one at home routinely gets missed for weeks at a time, because it's currently shoved up on a high shelf to keep it away from the cats.

They do seem to like the top of the refrigerator where it gets warm.

Anonymous said...

Give this plant to your son, I think he is doing a good job with it! Ha ha. Now i want to try my hand at Aloe Vera. I used to love using these when I was a kid. Thanks for the fun post!

Meg@MegaCrafty said...

Years ago I killed our Aloe Vera plant... it was so out of way up on the fridge (out of the cat's reach) that I forgot about it and it withered away. Maybe I should have held on to it a bit longer to see if it was really dead!

My grandmother had a huge Aloe in the front window. From what I remember about the care she gave it- she kept it in a window where it got the most light and would water it just a little, once maybe twice a week. Then hold off for a few weeks and give it a good dowsing.

But remember... take my advise with a grain of salt. I managed to kill mine!


Can't you neglect it just as well inside for the winter? Give it a shot.

rkbsnana said...

Poor little aloe vera. Did it have a will to live or what?