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by ruthann
(southern california USA)

why did my newly planted coral aloe go limp and shrivel?

Hi Ruthann, nothing is more disheartening than buying and planting a new plant only to have it give up the ghost. It’s most ungrateful of them! In most cases, with succulents, it’s over kindness that kills them. Here’s what I picture happening:

You carefully take the little plant out of its pot, after giving it a good drink, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Then, you lovingly place it in some rich, fertile soil that you bought in a bag from the hardware store, and then water the plant in well.

It’s no wonder it’s keeling over!

First of all, never water succulents if you’re going to repot them. Any damaged roots will rot instantly if they are too wet.

Allow the plant to dry out quite considerably, uncomfortably so. (For you, that is). This prevents root rot, which your plant most likely has.

The next thing is that in most bagged soil, such as what you would get for balcony planters or other types of plants there will be pathogens that succulents have no resistance to. Additionally, most of this type of soil has added fertilizer, or even gasp manure!

Succulents hate too much fertilizer, especially when newly potted.

So, here’s what to do, and you may be able to save your plant:

Take a deep breath, and take it out of the new soil and pot that you’ve so carefully planted it in.

Shake or remove all the soil, or as much as you can. Inspect the roots. Healthy ones are pale green or white, dead and rotting ones are, well, dead and rotting, and most likely brown or black in color. Cut these off with a razor blade or sharp scissors.

Lay the plant on some paper towel or newspaper to dry out. And I mean, dry out. This will take a couple of days. Don’t water it, or do anything other than maybe flip it over to dry the other side.

Now, take some potting soil, sterilized is best, or pasteurized, and mix it half and half with small gravel. I use turkey grit, or screen it through a quarter inch screen to take out the big pieces, and also screen it through something smaller, like a flour sieve, keeping only the middle size of stones. You don’t want anything tiny, like dust sized, as this will clog the pores of the soil.

Mix your soil, dry.

Plant your plant, dry – don’t water for two days or longer. Keep the plant in a cool but bright place (not in full sun) under a shady tree is good, or an east window with a sheer curtain.

It might take a while to recover, but if the plant has any hope of surviving, this is what it will take.

Don’t be too kind!

Best of luck,

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