How to Care for and Grow Aloe Succulent Plants

In this Blog I will be writing about how you can care for and grow Aloe plants.

What are Aloe Plants ? 

Aloe plants are Succulent plants that belong to the plant Family Asphodelaceae, Liliaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae .

Aloe’s come from Africa, India and the Indian Ocean Islands and there are Over 500 species of aloes plants, with the most common Aloe plant that is readily available being the much loved Aloe Vera plant that is a very popular houseplant and has been used medicinally for many years. Aloes form thick fleshy succulent leaves in a rosette shape and each succulent leaf is are filled with a sticky gel.

In this Blog I will also be sharing videos on Aloe plants that I have made for my Cactus and Succulent You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon including a special video on How to Care for Aloe Plants.

HOW TO CARE FOR ALOE PLANTS

Light:

Aloe plants are often grouped alongside their related genera cousins Gasteria and Haworthia and Sanseveria, but Aloes do like more sunshine than their cousins and although they can be grown in shade they do prefer more bright strong light such as a South or west facing window that receives some sunshine or a sunny position outside that is protected from very strong sunshine and winds. Some of the tougher varieties can tolerate full all day sun.

In Winter its important that Aloe plants are placed in a very bright position and if growing indoors its important these plants can receive some sunshine for at least part of the day as Aloe plant leaves can grow lanky and floppy if not enough light can be given especially in the Winter months when Aloe plants will often still continue to grow. 

Temperature:

 Aloe plants can take very high temperatures in Summer as long as plenty of ventilation can be given. If you are growing these plants behind glass such as a window or greenhouse its important that plenty of fresh air can be provided on very warm days as these plants can cook at temperatures 100 F or more on a hot sunny day.

In Winter its very important that the temperature never drops below 5 Celsius / 41 Fahrenheit and although these plants can survive a bit lower than this if they are kept totally dry, they can not take any frost at all and its much safer to keep these plants above the temperature of 5c / 41F especially in damper climates where humidity in Winter is a problem. Here in UK and Ireland where I live as the damp and cold can cause fungus and rots to appear on these plants.

personally I would recommend keeping these plants at a minimum temperature of 7-10 C / 45-50 F if possible and I keep all my Aloe plants at around the 7 Celcius / 45 Fahrenheit in my Polytunnel over the Winter months. 

Water: 

In Spring and Summer Aloe plants like to be given a good water preferably with clean rainwater if it is available and the soil must be allowed to fully dry out before watering again.

In Winter its best to keep Aloe plants on the dry side and I only water mine lightly about once a month because I overwinter mine in a cool Polytunnel where the average Winter temperature is around 7-12 C / 45 – 55F, but if you are growing your Aloe plants indoors in a centrally heated home or outdoors in a tropical climate that has warmer temperatures you may need to water your Aloe plants more often, but its better to under rather than over water in the Winter.

unlike some of the Desert Cacti and some of the other Desert Succulents that have a complete winter dormancy, Aloe plants will often still continue to grow slowly in Winter and although Aloe plants will slow down their foliage growth in Winter, this is the time they will often send out their very beautiful colourful flowers in late Winter to early Spring. 

My Aloe variegata in beautiful bloom in my polytunnel January 2019

Soil: 

Its important to use a well draining soil mix when potting up Aloe plants and I like to make my own of 1 part loam based soil and 1 part horticultural sharp sand and 1 part grit or perlite. 

I have made a video for my You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to make your own Cactus and Succulent Cactus soil and you can watch this video below:

The most important thing is that you use a well draining soil so the soil in the pot dries out easily in between waterings. You can use any good quality commercial cactus and Succulent plant soil with Aloe plants.

Re Potting:

Its best to re pot Aloe plants in the spring and Summer when these plants are actively growing. Aloe plants have fleshy water storing root systems and because of their fleshy root systems its best to cut away any dead and decaying roots when you repot your Aloe plants.

Here is a video below that I have made for my You Tube channel called Desert plants of Avalon On How to repot Aloe plants and also including the Aloe cousins  Haworthia  plants and Gasteria plants where I show you the best way to cut away the dead fleshy roots and you can watch this video below :  

Fertilizing: 

I fertilise my Aloe plants once a month from Spring until late late /Autumn using a tomato based fertiliser by Maxicrop, ( see photo below ) The reason why I like to use a Tomato fertiliser with my Succulents and cacti is that I truly believe it helps them to flower because of the high potassium in the tomato feed and I have never had tomatoes on my succulents yet haha 😀 but any good quality houseplant fertiliser or a good quality fertiliser especially for Cacti and Succulents should work well. I stop fertilising all of my Aloe plants and all my Succulents and Cacti from late fall / Autumn until Spring when the cooler temperatures and short days come and their growth slows down.

Pruning: 

Aloe’s can be fast growing plants and need to be given plenty of space to grow and thrive. Aloe plants do not need be pruned if the growth is healthy and green but its normal for the lower bottom leaves of these plants to go brown and dry up as the new growth emerges from the rosette, and these dead brown leaves can easily be removed and pruned back to make the plants look healthier and tidier. 

If you want to know How to prune back the dead brown leaves from your Aloe Plants then Here is a video below that I have made for my You Tube Channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to Prune dead leaves from Aloe Plants:

Flowering : 

Aloe plants will usually flower late Winter to early Spring but I have had my Aloe plants in my Polytunnel flower in Spring and Summer and Winter haha 😀 but I do have crazy Cacti and Succulent plants that have a mind of their own haha but because Aloe plants are from South Africa in the Northern Hemisphere where I live in in N. Ireland they will normally flower in late Winter ( Jan /Feb ) to early Spring ( Feb -March ) the flowers are gorgeous and are usually red, orange, yellow bell shaped flowers 😀 

Here is a couple of videos that I have made for my Cactus and Succulent You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on Aloe plants in flower both my own and also Aloe’s here in the Botanical garden of Ireland and you can watch these videos below: 

Propagation: 

From Plantlets :

The wonderful thing about Aloe plants is that they produce lots of plantlets from around their base. The best time to divide these aloe plantlet pups from the parent plant is when you are re potting in the Spring and Summer months.

You can then pot up the individual plantlets from the base of the Mother plant into individual pots to give away to friends and family.

From Seed:

These plants will occasionally produce seed pods too if the flowers have been pollinated by other Aloe Plants also in flower 😀  and if your Aloe plants have been pollinated then once the seed pods have ripen and the pods have turned brown then you can harvest the seeds to sow them and get more Aloe babies haha. Most Aloe Plants are not self pollinating though and you would need more than one Aloe plant in flower to get seeds.

If you are lucky enough to find seed pods on your Aloe plants and you want to know How you can harvest the seeds from the pods and also when the seed pods are ready to be harvested, then watch this video below that I have made for my Cactus & Succulent You Tube Channel called Desert Plants of Avalon.

If you want to know How to Grow Aloe plants from seed then you can watch the video below I have made for my cacti and succulent You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to grow Aloe plants from Seed : 

Pests & Problems:

The Biggest problem with Cacti and Succulents including Aloe is Mealy bug they are the pain of any succulent plant lovers life haha and the best way to treat them is with using a solution of Isopropyl alcohol /rubbing alcohol and also Horticultural neem oil for treatment of prevention long term. The Isopropyl alcohol is best to treat the bugs that you can visually see and the Neem oil helps to keep the bugs away long term. 

Here is a video below that I have made for my You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to remove Mealy bug from Succulent Plants including Aloe’s using Rubbing alcohol / isopropyl alcohol:

Here is a video below I have made for my You Tube Channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to use Horticultural Neem oil to prevent and treat insect pests on Houseplants including Aloe’s:

 Here is a video below that I have made for my You Tube Channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to Care and Grow Aloe Plants.

Thanks so much for reading guys and wishing you all lots of Happy Growing and Plant Power from across the Emerald Isle 

Lyn XXXXXX 


 

Gasteria, Gasteria variegated, Gasteria pups, Gasteria offsets, Gasteria babies,

How to Care for and Grow Gasteria Succulent Plants

What are Gasteria Plants ? 

Gasteria is a genus of succulent plants that is native to South Africa and are related to the Aloe, Haworthia and Sansevieria family of plants.

Gasteria includes around 80 different species and they are known for their beautiful very striking tongue like leaves that can vary in size from small and compact leaves to long and and tongue like.

I have made a detailed How To care for Gasteria video for my cacti and succulent You Tube Channel called Desert Plants of Avalon and also a video on repotting Gasteria and I have shared the links to these videos at the bottom of this Blog.

Gasteria, Gasteria variegated, Gasteria pups, Gasteria offsets, Gasteria babies,
My Variegated Gasteria with offsets ‘babies’ forming all around the base, these can be detached with a sharp clean knife and potted up as little individual plants.

HOW TO CARE FOR GASTERIA

Light Levels

Gasteria like to be grown in a position that receives plenty of bright natural light but these plants prefer to be away from strong direct sunshine and a position that receives part sun or indirect sunshine is best for growing these plants. Too much sunshine can make the leaves on these plants turn yellow or red.

If you are growing Gasteria as a houseplant its advisable they are placed in a bright position away from strong sunshine, and a window that receives some part sun for example morning sun that is not too strong is best, avoid afternoon sun in a south facing position in a window or if only a south facing position is available then you can cover the window with a shade cloth or net so the plant receives dappled sunshine.

Watering

Gasteria can take plenty of water during the warm Summer months but its very important to always allow the soil to totally dry before watering again. Like most Succulents these plants like to have a winter rest period where watering should be reduced to a bare minimum. I stop watering my Gasterias almost completely from October until mid March but I do still give a small amount of water to them once every 6 weeks but I grow mine outside in a heated polytunnel that is kept cool at around 7 Celsius / 45 Fahrenheit, but if you grow yours inside a house that is kept at a normal room temperature its best to give a small amount of water once a month to prevent the plants shrivelling, however its best to only water very lightly as watering these plants during Winter can encourage them to grow lanky and stretched out and at the worst case rot at the roots.

Clean Rainwater is always preferable to tap water if possible, but these plants are pretty hardy to tap water.

Temperature

Gasteria like most succulents can take high Summer temperatures but if you are growing these plants indoors or in a greenhouse or polytunnel its important that plenty of ventilation can be given otherwise these plants can ‘cook’ in temperatures above 100F without fresh air.

In Winter its best to keep these plants at a minimum Winter Temperature of 7 Celsius / 45 Fahrenheit but they can take slightly lower than this for brief periods but never any lower than 5 Celsius / 41 Fahrenheit as these plants can not take any frost at all, but ideally these plants are happier kept above 7 C / 41 F in Winter. Ideally 10 C / 50 F is a safer temperature in Winter if it can be provided and a cool unheated but bright room to overwinter them without heating would be best as keeping these plants on the cool side in Winter encourages blooming in the Spring and Summer. 

Re potting & Soil media

Gasteria like to be planted in a well drained soil mix and a cacti and succulent soil is ideal for these plants.

I usually make my own soil mix up of 1 part loam and 1 part grit and 1 part horticultural sand but any good quality well draining cactus and succulent mix will work well for these plants.

Gasteria have thick and very fleshy white roots that often die back every few years and new ones form, because of this its important that all the dead dried roots are removed every time you repot them. When I re pot my Gasteria’s I will cut off the dried dead roots and leave the plants out of their pots overnight before I pot them into their new pot and soil media, I do this to allow any roots that may have got damaged from trimming the dead ones to callus over, this prevents the slight possibility of root rot, this is not a necessity but its something I prefer to do and would personally recommend.

Here is  a video below I have made for my cactus and succulent You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How I repot my Gasteria and Haworthia and Aloe plants with their fleshy big white roots, and in the video I show my Haworthia as an example but this also applies to Gasteria.

Here is a video below I have made for my Cacti and Succulent You Tube Channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to make your own cactus and Succulent Soil in 3 easy steps:

Fertilising 

Gasteria can be fertilised with any good quality cacti and Succulent fertiliser from spring until late Summer, and I usually fertilise my Gasteria with every 3rd watering that I give them from April until early September.

Flowering

Gasteria’s are called Gasteria because of the shape of their flowers resembling the shape of a Stomach as ‘Gaster’ means Stomach.

The flowers usually form in Spring and Summer but I have also had my Gasteria’s flower in Winter and Fall /Autumn but then again I do have odd plants that often like to do their own thing haha 😀 

Here is a video below I have made for my Cactus and Succulent You tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon when my Gasteria’s were flowering at the right time of year 😀 

Propagation

Gasteria propagate by sending out little offsets or ‘babies’ that form in little clusters around the Mother plant. These offsets can be left to cluster all around the Mother plant or they can be detached by using a sharp and clean knife and potted up into their own individual pots.

Occasionally a little offset will form along a flower stem where a previous flower has been although this is not common and much more rarer, but I did have it happen to one of mine a few years ago and I had this happen also with a Haworthia.

Gasteria can also been grown from seed although this is a lot more time consuming but definitely very rewarding and fun to do especially if its from seeds from your own plants.

Here is a video I have made for my Cactus and Succulent You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to Harvest Seeds from Gasteria and you can watch this video below.

Here is  a detailed video I have made for my cactus and Succulent You tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How to Care for Gasteria and you can watch this video below: 

Wishing you all lots of happy growing and PLANT POWER from across the Emerald Isle

Lyn XXXXX <3 

Sanicat Pink cat litter Low dust lightweight non clumping

How to use Sanicat / Sophisticat Cat litter made of Molar clay as a soil addition for Cacti and Succulent plants

Hi Guys 😀 

In this weeks Blog  I talk about how you can use a certain type of Cat Litter that is made from 100% Molar clay as a grit replacement and also as a top dressing for all of your Cacti and Succulent plants.

I have recently been using this cat litter as a grit and perlite substitute and as a wonderful component of cactus compost for my cacti and succulent plants, I have been using it as a top dressing too 😀  BUT Please note DO NOT use other types of cat litter ONLY ones made from 100% Molar Clay and non clumping, and I will ONLY be recommending the one I use in this Blog as I have been using it myself with great success.

Sanicat cat litter for cacti,
Sanicat Pink lightweight low dust and non clumping cat litter made from 100% molar clay used as a top dressing on my cactus plants.

I first heard about using cat litter as a grit and perlite replacement from my Cactus and Succulent Society friends here in Ireland.

My friends had been using a brand of cat litter from Tesco that is made only from 100% molar clay and sold as Tesco ‘Low Dust Lightweight Cat litter. Tesco is a common Supermarket chain here in UK and Ireland, but sadly Tesco have now discontinued this brand of cat litter and it is no longer available. 

Thanks to my wonderful friend Alex I have found a very good 100% molar clay cat litter replacement. Alex  recommended this product to me after using it on his own beautiful succulent plants and Alex has also had amazing success with growing his succulents using this cat litter as a 100% soil alternative and growing his plants in just this cat litter alone and he has noticed such a difference with the roots of his plants being nice and healthy.

The cat litter I am recommending is by Sanicat also sold as Sophisticat and it is the pink non clumping cat litter low dust and sold as 100% molar clay. BUT Please note DO NOT use other types of cat litter ONLY ones made from 100% Molar Clay and ones that are non clumping and non perfumed, and although this cat litter does have a very light perfume it is harmless to your plants and goes away after the first watering.

Sanicat Pink cat litter Low dust lightweight non clumping
Sanicat Pink cat litter low dust, lightweight, and non clumping.

It is so important that you only use the brand I am recommending or a cat litter that you know is definitely a non clumping 100% pure molar clay variety as any other types of cat litter are intended for cat litter trays and not cacti and succulents and all other types of cat litter are sold for cats and are not suitable for cactus soils, therefore any bag of cat litter will not do and can be very harmful to your plants if you use it.

HOW I USE IT AS A SOIL ADDITION

I love to make my own cactus an succulent soil and previously I have always used horticultural sand and grit or perlite and a loam based soil such as John innes number 1, 2 or 3 but for the past 3 months now I have been using this cat litter at a ratio of half and half of 50% cat litter to 50% loam based soil and I mix both of these ingredients equally, and so far I have been very impressed.

I will be busy repotting a lot of my cacti and succulents in the Spring of 2019 as this time of year most of my plants are resting for the Winter, but I am looking forward to seeing how this soil mix of 50% Sanicat pink low dust non clumping cat litter and 50% John innes loam based soil will work for me long term so watch this space guys <3 

HOW I USE IT AS A TOP DRESSING

Top dressing your plants is not a necessity but I always think it adds a nice touch to your plants, and also it does help to keep bugs like Fungus flies and Root mealy bug away, but grit can sometimes stay a bit damp for too long on the top of the soil, and because Sanicat cat litter dries very fast once it has been wetted it makes it ideal for cacti and succulents as it does not hold damp for long because it is so fast drying 😀 

The natural pink colour of the molar clay adds a wonderful touch for top dressing your plants too 😀 

Here is a link to a video I have made for my Cactus and Succulent You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon on How I use this cat litter as a grit replacement and also as a top dressing and I explain in a more detail how I use this product 😀 

Thanks so much for reading guys and let me know your views by dropping me a comment below <3 Sending you all lots of love and PLANT POWER from across the Emerald Isle and wishing you all lots of HAPPY GROWING 😀 

 

 

 

Welcome to my first Blog and lets talk about overwintering your plants

Hi Guys 😀 

Welcome to my first Blog on this website 😀 

Winter is very nearly upon us and we have already had a few chilly nights here in Belfast in N.Ireland, Luckily I have just finished bringing in the last of the Cacti and Succulents that are not cold hardy from the Polytunnel into the house to overwinter them.

If you are like me and live in the Northern hemisphere and you grow cacti and succulents either outdoors or in a  greenhouse or polytunnel then you will need to protect any of your plants that can not tolerate the cold temperatures we get here on this side of the planet.

During the Autumn and Winter months I heat my polytunnel at a minimum Winter temperature of 5 Celsius / 31 Fahrenheit and I have a thermostat control that switches on if the temperature drops below 5 c / 41f inside the polytunnel, this allows us to keep a large proportion of our cacti and succulents safe over the Winter to overwinter them during their Winter rest period, but also still warm enough for the Winter growing Cacti and Succulents such as the South African Succulents and the Schlumbergera cacti commonly known as the Thanksgiving and Christmas Cacti that still continue to grow and flower during the Winter.

cacti, cactus plants, desert plants of avalon, Succulents, succulent plants,
The Cacti and Succulent Plants that are all going to be left overwintering in the Polytunnel, these plants will be kept at a minimum temperature of 5 Celsius / 41 Fahrenheit, I have a thermostatic heater that switches on if the temperature in the polytunnel drops below that.
Christmas cactus, thanksgiving cactus, schlumbergera truncata, pink flowering schlumbergera,
Some Cacti still continue to grow and flower during the Winter for example Schlumbergera commonly known as ‘The Christmas Cactus’ and the Thanksgiving cactus’

 

There are so many different cacti and succulents and they all vary so much in their minimum Winter temperatures and also the minimum temperatures vary so much depending on where they are growing, for example cacti that are being overwintered cool and dry in a dry arid climate with low humidity can survive much lower temperatures, and some of the desert cacti like Opuntia and Rebutia can even survive temperatures that are below freezing compared to the same types of cacti that are being overwintered cool and dry but are in a humidity high country such as where I live here in Ireland and UK.

 

Most of the Cacti and Succulents like to be overwintered cool and dry and bright ideally at a temperature between 5 – 10 Celsius /  41 -50 Fahrenheit, this encourages them to stop growing and they get to rest over the winter and also encourages blooming in the Spring and Summer of the following year.

If you want to learn more about Overwintering Cacti and Succulents then you can read the Article I have wrote for the growing tips on this website HERE

I have made a couple of videos on my You Tube Channel Desert Plants of Avalon on How to Overwinter your cacti and Succulents and also How to Overwinter your Cacti and Succulent seedlings during their first year and both of these videos are below : 

 

I filmed a series of fun video vlogs for my You Tube channel Desert Plants of Avalon when I was bringing in the Cacti and Succulents to overwinter from the polytunnel into the house, and in these video vlogs I share lots of information about each cactus and succulent and about their individual minimum winter temperatures, check the video below if you want to see the first part of my Overwintering video Vlog

I hope you enjoyed my first Blog on this website and stay tuned for many more to come 😀

Sending you all lots of LOVE and PLANT POWER from across the Emerald Isle 😀