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Propagating By Stem Cuttings

A common problem I see people post about with their Aloes is they can get pretty top heavy…depends on the species, but it’s usually caused by inadequate light exposure, especially with Aloe vera. Maybe your plant has root rot and you need to cut the stem to save it. Or maybe it grew for a while in low light, and then you moved it to more sun and it’s growing stronger again, but it has a weak spot and it’s growing kinda funky.

Like this guy. This is an offset from a “chinensis” plant I was gonna mail someone back in March, I stuck it in a box but they never got back to me to finish setting up the process…so it sat forgotten in the box for about a month. I did an experiment with it once I found it, I have a photo album documenting it on my Facebook page (Jenn M Smith – Plants.) Well, it’s growing stronger now but it’s got that weak spot where the growth stretched from lack of light, and it is starting to develop roots above it.
Roots developing

When stuff like this happens a lot of people ask if they can cut the stem and replant it. The answer is yes! Stem tissue is what you need to propagate Aloes, so while they won’t propagate from just leaves, the easiest way to propagate Aloes is with stem tissue. This includes separating pups/offsets, since they are whole plants with stems. I’ve seen people say things like, “Oh yeah, you can propagate Aloe from leaves, you just need the new ones from the bottom of the plant. I do it all the time.” Yeah, those are pups…not new leaves. New leaves grow from the center of the plant, and I don’t care what certain websites and videos on the internet say…you can’t propagate Aloes from leaf cuttings. The few that actually show “proof” do it in misleading ways, by either pulling up a stem cutting with leaf attached or using a different genus that looks similar enough to Aloe that most people that don’t know any better don’t question it. It’s like those single heart leaf Hoya plants…you gotta have the right tissue attached to that leaf for it to do anything but eventually die.

Ok, so back to fixing this issue. Cut the stem where you want it, or above any unhealthy tissue in root rot cases. Let it dry out for at least a couple days, maybe dip it in some cinnamon. Especially for rot cases, you want to watch it and cut anything else off that continues to rot. Prepare a smallish pot, depending on the size of the cut piece you want to re-root. Get your fast draining soil mix ready, and once the top part of your plant is ready to be replanted just place it in the soil. You may have to use something to prop it up until it roots and can hold itself up. I don’t dampen the soil mix until I’m sure the plant at least has root nubs (little yellow bumps on the stem), then it can be watered sparingly until it is well rooted enough to get regular waterings. Some growers do start watering before there are roots, but they are using gritty mixes or moss, things that aren’t going to stay damp for very long. And it probably depends on your climate, too…it’s humid here, that probably helps.

In the example pics I took, I’m not 100% following this advice when it comes to the waiting a couple days part. I cut the stem and potted immediately, only because of the dry gritty soil mix I use and that it already has some root nubs forming. And because this wasn’t a rot case, this was a wonky growth issue. Use your best judgement in your personal case on how soon to plant and water your cutting. You can generally tell when a cutting has started to root by gently moving it…it’ll have a little resistance if it’s sending roots out. Mine don’t seem bothered when I remove them to check for root nubs either, but once I see the nubs forming I try to leave them alone.

Don’t water propagate. The roots it’ll form will be weak, if it even roots at all and doesn’t just turn to mush, and they’ll pretty much have to re-root anyway once you pot them up. As the plant is rooting it’ll probably start looking a little sad as it uses its reserves since it doesn’t have roots and needs to form new ones. Don’t worry about stress colors and it looking thirsty…once it starts to root and re-establish itself it’ll be fine! Also, to keep from having to do this again..slowly introduce it to more sun once it’s rooted so it doesn’t continue to etiolate. Indirect light is not enough! And keep the bottom piece of the plant. If it’s healthy it will most likely grow offsets.

I cut just under the newly forming roots and repotted the bottom piece.
Both pieces together. Repotted and ready to continue growing.

Update! Rooting well as of October 27th. Using a gritty mix promotes healthy root growth. The bottom piece also has a few little pups poking up.

A larger plant I cut and re-rooted…the freeze damaged the stem of my ~5 foot tall Aloe rupestris. I cut the stem back until it got to healthy tissue, let it callous and replanted it in my gritty mix. A couple months later, and these are the roots.
One of my ferox plants, summer 2020. By October it was looking very sad, I thought maybe it wanted a larger pot..but when I unpotted it, I found that this pot had clogged and the roots and most of the stem were dead from sitting without drainage for who knows how long.
January 2021…this is how much I had to cut it back. But I finally got it to stop rotting, callous and start growing roots.
May 2022, growing happily again finally.
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Published by AloeHoarder

I live in Houston, Texas and have been interested in and collecting Aloe plants since 2008, my first Aloe was the “chinensis” variety that I got from my mom in 2006. I am autistic and an English major. Aloes are my “special interest”.

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