various aloe vera/potting mix questions

suuuueeeApril 30, 2007

hi there. because it was so nice and sunny today (for once) i was gonna put my aloe plant outside so it could get some direct sunlight. but on the way, i stumbled and dropped the plant.

because i only repotted 4 days ago, everything fell out, dirt and all. also, when it hit the deck, two of the leaves bent and cracked, so i ripped the top parts off.

when i repotted 4 days ago, it was my first time, and i didn't realize that i should've ruffled it up so that the roots weren't stuck in the shape of the old pot. so because the plant had fallen out anyway, i thought, why not? i'll repot it properly this time.

so after shaking out all the chunks of dirt, i got to take a look at the roots. (i did take pictures and everything, but i've misplaced the USB cable; sorry!) the roots were quite dry (so that means they're not rotting, right?) but not SO dry that they were brittle. even though they were covered in dirt, i'm pretty sure they're not white in color. they looked tan/red/brown to me. is this a healthy color?

so right now i'm letting it sit outside on some paper in the sunlight. how long can i let it just sit without a pot?

reason i haven't repotted it yet, is because i have some questions about the proper potting mix. i used a potting mix especially made for cactus & succulents (said so right on the bag!) by Scotts. but it doesn't look fast-draining AT ALL to me. i'm no expert but it doesn't look very different from regular potting mix.

so i'm wondering... before i repot, should i mix the supposedly C&S mix with some more stuff? i'm guessing perlite? is perlite available in most stores?

or can i mix it with things like marbles?

thanks for all your help in advance!

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When Hurrican Rita hitting us was a definite and the whole city was evacuating (for no reason at all apparently) I put my aloe (in soil) in a closed garage. That was in September 05. Oops, I sort of forgot about it -- until March of 06. I swear to you, it was pitiful. I brought it out, gave it a drink and left it alone to see if it would come back. Guess what. A year later and the thing is 16" tall with a diameter across the top of about the same, and it just finished flowering. They can withstand a LONG drought! ;0) As for soil, the stuff you have is junk by itself. It is loaded with peat which becomes hydrophobic when left to dry between waterings. I would only use it for about a quarter of my mix. Get some landscapers mix which is pine bark well decomposed (but still piecy, if that makes sense), and some grit of some kind. I use this stuff called OilDri which I get from Sam's for about $4.84 for a 25# bag. It is med-high fired clay and will hold it's structure for up to a year or more (that I know of). I also use decomposed granite or chicken grit. The feed stores sale it as Chicken Grit, but Home Depot sales decomposed granite as well - I think it was $3 something for a pretty good sized bag. You can also use unpainted fish tank gravel. I personally am getting ready to repot all of mine again without any peat. I am using coir instead. I bought it in the form of Bed a Beast at Petsmart in the lizard/iguana section for $5.99 for a block when hydrated makes 7 liters. I am going to mix 1 part coir, 1 part landscapers mix, 1 part OilDri, and 1 part decomposed granite. This makes it about 50% grit and very free draining-- good for where I am as constant rain is a high probability during the summer. I don't like perlite as it floats to the top. A lot of people like it because it is lighter than the stuff I've listed above, but other than my huge aloe and stuff in situ, my pots are only 3" to 8" so it's a non-issue. If your roots aren't white that is okay. A lot of succulents' roots turn a reddish tan color as they mature. As long as they are not mushy and/or dark brown, you should be good to go. Don't wait too long to pot up though. It can handle it, but why stress it. Happy gardening.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 8:21PM
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I've had good results with regular C&S mix, cut with probably an equal amount of medium grade perlite, and just a handful and a quarter of long fibered sphagnum moss. Is it any better than any other mix? no. Has it worked well for me? none of my plants have died, and they're putting on a lot fo new growth. The peat does become hydrophobic, like tanya stated, which is why I throw in the LFS.

As a side note, I remember a few years ago when I was just starting trying different mediums, I had some stuff potted in straight peat moss. I tried to water it and was dumbfounded when the water just formed a "water bubble" on top for almost 5 minutes.

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 8:35PM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

Happy reading....

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil Mix

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 10:29PM
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wow, thanks guys, especially for that link. that's a looooot of material.

what i noticed was Andy_E's post mentioning how there should be uniform particle size. this actually makes a lot of sense, no?

b/c if you mixed really fine soil with some rocks, all the soil would fill in the spaces between the rocks.

so i guess it really wouldn't help much if i added some marbles to the potting mix. all the soil would probably just pack around it, and drainage would be the same.

and tanyag thanks for all that info! but i'm a complete beginner, and that potting mix looks too ambitious right now, heh. in other words i'm looking for a lazy way out. :D

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 11:27PM
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"how there should be uniform particle size. this actually makes a lot of sense, no?

b/c if you mixed really fine soil with some rocks, all the soil would fill in the spaces between the rocks."
Except if the product you are using for grit is jagged and not rounded. It would not be good to use marbles because they have rounded edges. The OilDri and decomposed granite are jagged edged and so compaction isn't a problem.

A simple fix for you would be to go to Home Depot or other box store and buy Aquatic Soil (see link). It is more or less Turface (high fired clay). Mix that equal parts with the soil you already have. You may still get the hydrophobic nature of the peat in that soil, but it shouldn't be as bad. If you don't have a lot of plants you can get around the hydrophobia by getting a shallow rubbermaid tub, placing your plants in it and filling it to about 2/3 up the pots. Let them sit for about an hour and through wicking action, it should rewet the peat. It has taken my small 3" pots up to an hour to fully rewet and my larger 8" pots up to 3 hours to fully rewet. The nice thing is I only have to water the 8" pots like every month and a half like this. I have had no problem with rot either because of sitting in the water. It would take longer than that to cause rot.

You could also keep it simple by getting the "Bed a Beast" stuff from Petsmart and the Aquatic Soil and mixing those equal parts or 40/60 respectively. It should be rather easy.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 7:04AM
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