The aloe plant is popular as a houseplant for a number of reasons. Their attractive, glossy foliage adds color and interest to a range of spaces. The plants are also easy to care for and some varieties even have additional benefits, such as the much lauded medicinal properties of the aloe vera plant.
If you want to share your aloe plant with friends, or even grow more of your own then you need to learn how to propagate aloe. This is a lot easier than it sounds. This guide is designed to take you through everything that you need to know to successfully propagate aloe plants.
Learning to propagate aloe plants is an easy way to grow your collection.
What is Aloe?
Before we discuss how to propagate aloe we must first, briefly explore what these plants actually are.
A series of succulents, these attractive plants belong to the Asphodelaceae family. Most varieties produce rosettes of thick, fleshy leaves. The flowers are typically tubular in shape and tend to cluster around the top of the stem. These attractive plants vary in color from bright-greens to grays. The foliage can be plain, striped or even mottled.
Amongst the many plants in the series, the most commonly grown is the aloe vera plant. This is prized for its attractive, fleshy foliage and medicinal qualities. Cutting the leaves and rubbing the gel over a wound is a popular way to soothe burnt skin. It also helps to clean the air around it, removing any toxins.
Additionally, there are a number of other plants in the series that are just as attractive. For example short leaf varieties produce attractive gray leaves with a hint of orange, which perfectly compliments the plant’s orange flowers. The Spiral cultivar grows, as the name suggests, in an attractive spiral shape, bringing interest and drama to a garden or houseplant collection.
Attractive and easy to care for, learning how to propagate aloe is a surprisingly straightforward process.
Can I Propagate Aloe by Leaf Cuttings?
Many succulents, such as cacti plants, are easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. While aloe plants should be amongst them, the foliage of these plants have a higher moisture content than other succulents. This means that it can be incredibly difficult to root the leaf cutting without it losing too much moisture and failing. Even if the plant does root it rarely grows into a pleasing, healthy specimen to rival the parent plant.
Propagate Aloe from Seed
Growing from seed is rarely successful. It is a long, time consuming process. Most succulents grow very slowly. Seeds also require at least 8 hours of exposure to light each day before they germinate. This can be difficult if you don’t have access to grow lights.
Additionally, you can’t use seeds harvested from backyard plants. These can be easily cross pollinated with other plants, meaning that any new plants are highly unlikely to be replicas of the parent plant. Instead they are more likely to be a disappointing hybrid.
How to Propagate Aloe by Harvesting Offsets
A far simpler way to propagate aloe is to simply remove offsets from the parent plant. Even the most nervous gardener can have success with this method.
What are Offsets?
Offsets or pups are simply baby plants that share the same root system as the larger, mother plant. Many succulent offsets emerge at the base of the plant. Interestingly Mother of Thousands, another succulent, produces offsets on its leaves. These then drop to the ground, setting root where they settle.
As they develop, the offsets rely on the parent plant for water and nutrients. This dependency continues until the pups form their own root system. Plants don’t produce offsets until they are a few years old. Older, healthier plants are more likely to produce healthy pups than younger specimens.
To encourage offsets to form, place the plant in a light position. Applying a dose of succulent fertilizer in spring or early summer also helps to encourage pups to form.
Larger, mature specimens are more likely to produce viable offsets.
Once pups begin to emerge, allow them to grow on until they are large enough to separate. The size of the pups when you separate them depends on the type of plant that you are growing. In general try to wait until the offset is at least one fifth the size of the parent plant and has several true sets of leaves. Pups need at least 3 leaves of their own to be able to survive. You can remove the pups from old or large parent plants when they are smaller than one fifth the size of the parent plant, as long as it has enough leaves to survive.
How to Separate Offsets
Once offsets are large enough, separating them from the parent plant is a straightforward process.
You will need:
- A healthy plant,
- A sharp knife,
- 4 inch nursery pots
- Succulent potting soil
To separate the offsets remove soil from around the base of the offset. Take the time to look at the point where the offset connects with the parent plant. You are trying to determine the best place to cut to remove the pup.
When removed the offset should have a complete root system attached to it. Pups without roots struggle and are unlikely to survive. I will describe how to root pups that don’t have a root system later in the article.
If you find it difficult to see the pup, don’t be afraid to remove the plant from the pot. This enables you to better inspect the root system and decide where to make the necessary incisions. After separating the pups from the mother plant, inspect the root system and foliage of the mother plant. Remove any dead or brown material before repotting the succulent.
Use a clean, sharp knife to cut away the pup from the mother plant. If the roots of the offset are entangled with those of the mother plant, gently tease them apart.
Plant the pup in 4 inch pots filled with dry, succulent or cactus potting mix. If you don’t have any succulent potting soil you can make your own. Fill the pots with a combination that is one part potting soil and one part sand, mix the materials together well. This creates a well draining potting mix. Plant as you would a larger plant.
How to Propagate Aloe Offsets Without Roots
While it is easier to propagate aloe pups with a root system already formed, you can propagate aloe pups that don’t have any roots. To do this, remove the pup from the parent plant as described above.
Place the pup on a piece of paper in a dark, cool place for 24 hours. Keep it dry. During this period, a callus forms over the separation point. The pup also dries out. Once the callus has formed, pot as described above.
Potted Offshoot Aftercare
Place the potted offshoots in a light location away from direct sunlight. Let them settle into their new position for a couple of days before watering deeply with a watering can. This helps roots to settle.
Wait until the soil has dried out before watering again. This can be anything from 5 to 10 days depending on how warm the air around the plants is. Try not to overwater the pups, this deters them from forming a healthy and expansive root system. Overwatering can also cause root rot. If you are propagating pups without a root system, give them even less water. Underwatering slightly encourages roots to develop.
It can take anything from a few weeks up to a couple of months for roots to settle. To check if the roots are established, gently try to lift the cutting from the soil. If you feel resistance it means that roots are present and the pups are now established. New growth forming is another sign that plants are established in their new position.
When new growth emerges, it means the propagation is successful. Until then keep plants away from strong, direct sunlight.
Once established, care for the plant as you would a larger specimen.
Harvesting pups from the base of a mature plant is an easy way to propagate aloe. By following the steps outlined above and with just a little time and care you will soon have a range of healthy succulents to add to your collection.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.