Propagating Aloes – Another Experiment

Update 5/21/22 – I never did anything with these 🤷 I got a new job, keep getting sick, and just haven’t kept up with some things. Maybe I’ll try again some other time.

I had this idea because one of the things I see a lot when people are arguing about whether or not Aloes can be rooted from leaf cuttings (spoiler: they can’t) is someone coming along and saying something like- “I grow them from leaves all the time, you just need to pull the new leaves from the bottom!”

“New leaves” sprouting from the soil..true, but it’s a whole plant. Not just a leaf. These are offsets aka pups.

Yeah, people are mistaking offsets for leaves. So I grabbed a couple chinensis plants, the easiest to experiment with because of how prolific they are, and took some photos to hopefully help. If you’re worried about the colors on some of these check out some of my other articles, like the ones on direct sun and why Aloes turn brown. It’s cold here right now, so a lot of my plants have their “winter colors”…none are sunburned, rotting, or unhappy. The brown on the stems is also normal (as long as it’s not clear and mushy.)

Older plant, new leaves grow from the center.

New leaves grow from the center of the Aloe plant. The “new leaves” at the base are whole new plants, just young ones. This is how Aloes propagate the easiest…by dividing offsets. Pull or dig them up gently once they are large enough (the bigger, the better), they should have some roots but if not, that’s ok too! They’ll root easily enough in a good gritty mix.

This one came up with roots, but I cut them just for the sake of experiment. Ideally you want the pup to be larger than this before you pull it up, especially if you aren’t real familiar with propagating. They struggle to settle in less if they are larger.
Don’t do this if you pull a pup with roots…I just did this so all the pieces kinda had the same starting point.
This is a cut leaf. People are gonna probably argue that it should’ve been a larger one, or whatever other idea they might come up with for why this one won’t work, but their way works. Doesn’t matter where or how you cut the leaf or which one it is. It’s not going to propagate.
A second pup I pulled to root in regular soil to show the difference in a gritty mix vs poor draining soil. I’ll cut the stem a little shorter. Someone on FB recently was all “they don’t need gritty soil, regular soil doesn’t suffocate their roots lol. I don’t use well draining soil, look at this Aloe cameronii pup that took 7 months to barely root.” Just one of those people unwilling to learn anything new or see how what they say makes no sense lol…so anyway, this is an add on to the main “leaves do not propagate” experiment.

Leaves will not propagate, no matter how hard some people push it. Doesn’t matter how you cut it, which leaves you use, or which Aloe species/variety it is. I don’t care if you saw it on YouTube…there’s people on YouTube that also think the earth is flat lol! And it’s not about the water content in the leaves like some sites claim…that’s not what makes it impossible (not just difficult.) Aloes need stem tissue to propagate. Sometimes cutting a leaf near the base where it meets the stem will give it just enough stem tissue to form roots, but that’s all it will do. Pay attention to the sites and videos claiming Aloes can be propagated from leaves…notice how they never show proof? And I mean actual proof, not the one guy that got Gasteraloe leaves to root or the other that pulled up a stem cutting at the end of the video…just to mislead people that don’t know they are being mislead. Now go look for Haworthia and Gasteria leaf propagation…lots of proof there, because those Aloe relatives CAN be propagated from leaves.

Haworthia leaf prop with pups

So I’ll let the cuttings I took callous a couple days and then pot them up. As they root (or not) I’ll post updates on their progress.

Here’s a good article with more info on the whole leaf propagating myth – https://laidbackgardener.blog/2017/11/15/garden-myth-growing-aloes-from-leaf-cuttings/

This is an offset (pup)…it’s what many that claim they have leaf propped Aloes are actually using. Mistaking a pup for a leaf, and thinking they’ve proved science wrong.
Offsets are whole plants…just young ones.
Cut up offset. Up top are leaves, and are now useless as they have none of the necessary tissue for new growth in them. Even if they were larger, or cut differently, or less thirsty, or left to callous for however long, etc…leaves will not produce new growth. The bottom piece will still root and grow because it has a stem.

Aloe vera var. chinensis clean up

Came home from visiting family in Oklahoma with four unruly pots of an indoor chinensis plant…cleaned them up and repotted most of them this morning. I kept a few pieces out to repot separately and experiment with in different growing conditions. I’d like to bring one indoors once cleaned up and repotted in my gritty mix (because I kinda do like the way they are growing), but gotta find a good spot the cats can’t get to. I have limited places for plants indoors lol..I don’t usually keep houseplants, but this house has some good spots for them.

Here are some before photos…long, twisted stems, thin, deflated leaves, juvenile distichous form, lots of old dead leaves and very little roots. They’d been growing a long time like this, but were surviving anyway. This is the growth habit a lot of indoor growers are familiar with, at least with this variety. “True” vera will form a rosette quicker, not fill the pot so fast with pups, but tends to have thin, droopy leaves and poor roots too. But these conditions are where a lot of the common (but mostly wrong) advice you see out there for Aloes comes from…it’s based on unhealthy indoor vera plants. They aren’t supposed to be droopy, twisted messes with little to no roots.

I pulled them all out of their pots, cleaned up the dead leaves, shortened some stems if they were too curled or had dead parts, dumped the soil they were in and repotted them all in my turface/expanded shale/potting soil mix. The soil they were in was old and too dense, and I didn’t want to reuse any of it. I didn’t let them callous or anything and the soil mix is kinda damp because it rained and I wasn’t home to cover my soil bucket, but most of them should be fine (and they’ll shoot out more pups to fill in for the ones that don’t make it in no time!) It’s still hot enough the soil won’t stay damp long. I’ll leave them on the front porch out of direct sun for a while to acclimate, eventually moving some of them around elsewhere to get more sun and take photos of their progress along the way.

Update – 5/20/22. I’ll post pics below. Some spent the winter indoors (being terrorized by my cats, who are fine btw), some in the greenhouse. Most are doing well…I lost a few and some still are stressed (or stressed again with the heat), but there’s lots of new growth now that it’s warmed up (or staying warm, we had a warm-ish winter too) and they are getting more regular water.

Group shot.
Lots of new pups. There’s even one sticking out the side of the pot where it has a broken spot lol…This one still looks the roughest as far as the original pieces go, but it spent the winter in the greenhouse and I kept it too dry. I also did not acclimate this one as slowly to the increase in light it got.
5/29/22
9/8/22
This one spent the winter inside in the window, being continuously knocked over by cats (I also brought home three kittens from this relatives house when I brought these plants home lol)…it’s been out in a shady spot in the greenhouse about a week or so. It’ll bounce back.
June 2022 after a good drench
This one spent the winter mostly in a shadier spot in the greenhouse than the first pot did. I just moved it back out to a higher shelf, so some are a little stressed again (plus it’s so hot 🥵)…but I think this one is filling in the nicest so far.
April 2022
I attempted to keep this one inside, but gave up. It spent the winter in my smaller glass greenhouse and now it’s in the larger one.
December 2021, with a couple pups from my larger full sun/yard grown chinensis plant behind it.
May 2022
Found another pot lol…May 2022.
June 2022
June 2022
September 2022. Moved it out of the greenhouse into full sun.
June 2022
June 2022…the largest is starting to form a rosette already! I’ll have to repot these again soon lol…
October…temp changes bringing the nice stress color back
October 2022 (it’s hard to hold these things without my hand looking weird when I look at the photos later lol)
About to bust out of this pot (Oct.)
Oct.

Check out my other posts for care advice. Avoid the Facebook group “Aloe help and varieties (and succulents)” because you’ll just get bad advice there. Check out my other posts for care guides and info on this variety.

Aloe ‘Key Lime’

Key Lime is a newer Kelly Griffin/Altman Plants hybrid sold under the “Star Aloe” label. I feel like I say “it’s a nice little plant” a lot, but…it’s true lol 🤷‍♀️ All the hybrids are nice little plants, and I really enjoy figuring out all the details that make them different from one another, and trying different growing conditions to see how they change. Here are some photos showing examples of that.

My plant when I first got it.
Same plant after being cooked a bit
A little thirsty
Oops, cooked too much…very thirsty.
But it bounced back easy, now it’s nice and plump again. Waiting for some cooler weather to bring out more color.
Colorful pup
Bloomstalk and back of leaves, different plant. I have a couple newer ones like this that so far have more upright leaves. The teeth are a bit different too, I think I’ll keep one to see how it changes.
One of the newer plants.
Buds…these are really vibrant, so much brighter than a lot of my other hybrid flowers.
Kinda out of focus, but still shows the nice color.

Aloe ‘California’

Closeup

Some good info on this variety – https://www.agaveville.org/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=789

I first bought this plant in an overcrowded clump back in 2016. It’s a pretty easy variety, though gets kinda fungus-y with the rain and humidity here. Likes full sun. Often misIDed as vera or ‘Blue Elf’. Here’s a few photos of my plants.

Overgrown clump of young plants
Thirsty and a little etiolated
The tall growth probably leads this to be misIDed as a “climbing aloe” pretty often, too. But Aloiampelos species don’t have spots and their teeth/growth habits are a bit different.
Kinda fungus-y…been a wet summer! The skinny plant in the pot with these is a different variety

My Oldest Aloe vera

I can’t remember exactly when I bought this one on ebay, but it was probably sometime between 2014-2016. My first Aloe was the chinensis variety, I got that in 2006 when my mom gave me an extra pot of hers after I moved out. We’d always just called that Aloe vera, like most people probably call many kinds of Aloe “Aloe Vera”. Then I actually started learning more about Aloes and realized that wasn’t really Aloe vera..and I didn’t have one lol. So I bought two pups..I still have the other one as well but I’ve kept it in different conditions and it hasn’t grown as large or as quickly. They both stayed kinda small and scraggly until I moved out of the apartment with the shaded patio and into a place with full sun…after a bit of stress and adjusting, all of my plants really took off. I know I harp on the indirect vs direct sun stuff a lot, among other things, and this is why. I have grown them in all kinds of conditions and they’ve done the best when they get a lot of sun.

2017 in the new yard…not yet in full sun, but I repotted and moved them shortly after this.
February 2018. This is when I first repotted it into this pot. I changed the soil mix once after I started using expanded shale…the turface by itself compacts too much.
August 2021.
New pot, September 2021
January 2022

Signs of Thirst in Aloes

I took a few photos of some thirsty vera pups this morning to help me make this post…I do keep most of mine a little more dry, the ones in the new greenhouse especially dry out pretty good. The yard gets a lot of rain and I mostly just have the older plants that can handle it out there right now. So anyway, I had quite a few good examples for this post lol!

Thin, curled leaves and dull stress color. This pot has a couple pups in it and they are probably ready to be separated and have more room to grow.

What you hear a lot about watering succulents is to “water only when the soil dries out”, right? Well, that’s not really good advice. You should be using a soil mix that drains quickly and doesn’t hold water. So if you water whenever that soil is dry, you are watering too often. If the soil doesn’t dry quickly and you are actually waiting some time for it to dry out completely, it’s holding too much water and in the long run that’s going to cause issues. Sometimes “my roots are dying off because of this heavy soil” looks a lot like “I’m thirsty”, so it’s a good idea to check out your plants roots if you don’t think the soil is drying well enough or you are watering pretty often and the plant still looks thirsty. If your plant is showing these signs of thirst and doesn’t perk up after a good drench, unpot it and evaluate the roots and your soil mix.

Crispy leaf tips can sometimes just be an older leaf naturally dying off as well.

Stress colors get a bad rap when it comes to Aloes. As I’ve rambled about quite a bit before, a stress color is often confused for sunburn or a sign of “too much sun”…when it could be caused by any number of things, and usually isn’t that big a deal. Check out my posts about direct sun and care guides if you haven’t yet, I go into pretty good detail in those. Often the issue is that yes, your plant may be getting a lot of sun but that part isn’t the issue…it’s probably not getting enough water for the amount of sun it is getting, causing the stress color.

Stress color

Probably before it starts developing a (usually dull brown or grey) stress color, your plant’s leaves will start to thin and curl in at the sides as it uses up its gel reserves. When they are very thirsty, the leaf tips will be discolored and crispy and the plant will turn more and more brown or grey all over. I do have another post showing a very thirsty forgotten Aloe vera pup, and you can see the very thin, curled and crispy leaves on that one. The pups in this post aren’t quite that thirsty yet, but definitely still could use a good drench (or repot.)

Thirsty pups

Other things to consider when you are working out when to water your plants – your environment, the plants soil mix, pot size/material, and variety. Aloe vera wants more water when it is hot and they are getting a lot of sun, especially if they are in the kind of super gritty mix I use or in smaller or terra cotta. Being potbound or crowded with lots of pups will make them dry out quicker. Some other Aloe varieties are summer dormant and aren’t going to appreciate being watered when it’s very hot. Indoors they aren’t likely to go dormant since the temps indoors are more like their optimal growing temps. So there are a few things to consider, definitely don’t water on a schedule, especially anyone else’s. Let your plant tell you it is thirsty.

Thin, curled leaves on a hybrid (‘Piranha’) Some varieties may kinda close up, with their leaves more upright or folded over the center of the plant when getting a lot of sun and not enough water.
‘Piranha’ more recently, much better hydrated
Two ‘Starry Night’ plants that get about the same amount of sun…one just gets less rain (the right one.)

Varieties of Aloe Hybrids

Most normal (whatever that is lol), non-obsessive people aren’t really aware of just how many different hybrids there are. They all often get lumped into “oh, that’s a Christmas Aloe”, even by some of the nurseries selling them. Or now that Altman’s is selling a few of them under the Star Aloe label, they are ALL now Star Aloes. Which is fine for some. Fantasy Aloes, complex hybrids, Star Aloes, whatever. They are hard to ID and many can look very similar, even for those of us that collect them. And care isn’t going to vary a whole lot between cultivars. Maybe one of those common names is better than them being mislabeled…when you google a hybrid name you’ll get a bunch of different plants because of people guessing at the names of them, and that definitely doesn’t help with identification for those that are interested in what their plant’s cultivar name is. I have another post with comparisons and ID tips, this will just basically be a photo dump of the different hybrids I have to give an idea of just a few of the many (MANY) hybrids out there. And these are just ones easy to get in the US.

White Lightning
Key Lime
Peppermint
Fang (aka Carmine or Marco)
Brass Hat
Silver Ridge
Bright Star (aka Donnie)
Wildfire
Sidewinder
Viper
Delta Rose
Corduroy
Corduroy without stress color
Lizard Lips
Lizard Lips closeup
Green Sand
White Fox
Jimmy/Little Gator
Pink Blush
Also Pink Blush
Delta Lights
Moondance (?)
Blizzard
Wunderkind
Mauna Kea
Snowflake
Pink Thing
Pink Thing with a little more color
Guido (aka Silver Star)
Firecracker
Quicksilver (?)
Coral Fire
Purple Haze
Christmas Carol
Christmas Sleigh
Oik
AJR
Lavender Star II
Piranha
Goby
Diablo/Zigzag/divaricata hybrid
Stingray
Pearl Necklace aka Sal
Confused
Snow Drift
Dark Shadows
Orange Marmalade
Altman Plants/KG’s ‘Blue Castilloniae hybrid’
Mauna Loa
Swordfish
Crimson Dragon
Pickled Pink
DZ (very commonly sold mislabeled as Christmas Carol)
Unnamed Stefan Uyehara Hybrid
Unnamed, either Tim Harvey or Stefan Uyehara hybrid, I can’t remember

Anyway, I think that’s enough for now…just a tiny glimpse into the variety of Aloe hybrids out there. I have more photos on my Facebook page (Jenn M Smith – Plants) and on IG (aloehoarder)

A Few Aloe Photos

Just a few recent photos from my yard!

A. vanbalenii
Aloe fragilis I am trying out inside to see if it’ll be any happier out of the heat
A. jucunda hybrid
Big vera plants
A couple “not peckii” pups (sold as A. peckii, blooms disagreed!) Main plant had to be beheaded, stem was damaged in the freeze.
A. kilifiensis flower buds
A. ‘Firecracker’
A. ‘Apache’ flowers

For more photos check out my IG (aloehoarder) or Facebook page (Jenn M Smith Plants.)

Another Aloe Growing Condition Experiment

Aloe vera var. chinensis, different growing conditions

So I took this photo of these two plants before the winter storm of February 2021. The plant in front had been growing on the front porch with little direct sun and occasionally squirts from the hose for about a year. The back one in full sun and exposed to the rain. Both in super gritty soil mixes, same size/age when I separated them. I realized looking back through these photos the other day that only one of these plants is still alive. I had both of these plants in my greenhouse that I tried to keep heated during the freeze, but the power went out on the coldest night and it dropped to 26F inside the greenhouse (it was 10F outside.) The one in the front is the one that melted..the one grown without direct sun. The one grown “rough” survived.

The surviving “chinensis” plant more recently
My oldest “chinensis” also survived the freeze..as did all of my “regular” vera plants. Full sun FTW.

Don’t baby your Aloes! Give them what they want..LOTS of sun, well draining planting medium and water well but infrequently…and they’ll grow stronger. These plants are tougher than the rep their popularity as a houseplant has given them.

Aloe vera – Growing Conditions Experiment

I got a bunch of free vera plants last year, so I stuck one on the front porch to see how it would do. Here is how the plant changed, going from getting a lot of good sun where it lived before I got it, to spending almost a year without much direct sun and only the occasional spray from the hose when I’d remember, and then finally being moved to the backyard with the other Aloes and getting better sun and better drenches of water.

March 2020
January 2021, next to one of the other plants I got at the same time that I kept in full sun and out in the rain. Thin, droopy, growing slowly.
Today (June 2021), back in better shape and growing fast with some good sun and rain.
August ‘21
Gonna need a larger pot soon.
October 2021, pot was getting too crowded with the smaller plant in there.
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