If I were a songwriter, this would be a very sad song. If I were a novelist the heated romance, rejected love, and death of a whole beloved family could be a best seller. All combine in my attempts to keep a certain succulent over-winter indoors.
You might wonder just what it is I do wrong. So do I. I give them a special full spectrum light in a warm room. I give them company and talk to them almost daily. Granted, they might find the constant key strokes of my computer a little annoying, but this isn’t paradise after all. Evidently, it isn’t even a reasonable place.
My latest drop-dead-lovely aloe (Kalanchoe Gastonis-Bonnieri) did just that. It’s large, floppy, purple striped hound-dog ears grew babies on the tips of every leaf. They touched the ground outdoors and seemed happy enough touching the floor indoors. But then, instead of rigging pots under the little fellows, I decided to just remove them and pot them up.
These youngsters had root systems formed well enough, I thought, and looked perfectly capable of standing on their own. In my defense, I want you to know I did not kill the little ones on purpose. Greed, my desire for more adults, made me tear them away from their mother. I figured more would follow. After all, kalanchoes are called “Mother of Thousands” because of their propensity to generate offspring.
I carefully potted up the aloe children. I kept them watered and kept Mother watered. She started to shrivel. “Too much water,” I thought and withheld the water until the soil dried out. She continued to decline until all that was left was a stalk hung with shriveled leaves. In the meantime, the babies were looking rather shabby. Their small leaves dried up and then so did their bodies. I had managed to kill not only the mother but also all of her babies. So sad.
I can grow aloes as summer garden dwellers and then just leave them to live or die outdoors with no help from me. (They might find this preferable since my help seems so fatal.) My appealing aloe has passed on. I just sit here at my computer and sing my sad song of love. Will one ever love me back?
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By Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Entomologist and Orkin Technical Services Director
Photographs courtesy of Orkin
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