Are you looking for a houseplant that is a little different? A plant that stands out from the crowd. If so, the distinctive lace aloe may be the plant for you.
Visually arresting, the lace aloe is a stemless flowering succulent that produces soft lanceolate white-spotted leaves in a rosette pattern. This attractive plant not only provides lots of color but also masses of visual interest and texture.
A versatile succulent, the lace aloe is a good choice if you want something to stand out on a coffee table in the center of the room or sit as part of a wider succulent collection.
This is a distinctive succulent. Aristaloe aristata by Jordan Cook / CC 2.0
If you want to add one to your collection, this guide to the lace aloe plant is designed to take you through everything that you need to know.
What is Lace Aloe?
More similar in appearance to a haworthia plant than other aloes, lace aloe or Aloe Aristata is a hardy, low growing succulent. The plant’s main attraction is provided by its visually arresting, fleshy leaves. Dark green in color they are marked with soft spines, fine cilia and white bumps. As the weather changes the leaves change color, providing further of colorful interest.
In addition to the plant’s attractive, fleshy foliage it also produces orange-red flowers. These sit on graceful, long stems, providing another colorful point of interest. If planted outside the flowers can draw scores of bees and hummingbirds to the garden.
Also known as the guinea-fowl plant or torch plant, like many succulents, the lace aloe is native to the mountains and grasslands of South Africa. Previously classified in the Aloe genus of plants, it has since been reclassified as an Aristaloe. One of the most distinctive types of aloes, the torch plant actually belongs to the Asphodelaceae plant family.
The dense rosette of the torch plant. Torch Plant by Chris Martino / CC 2.0
In the ground these plants can achieve a height of 9 to 18 inches. Additionally, its dense rosette can spread 1 to 2 feet wide. Plants growing in containers are often more contained, typically achieving a height and spread of 6 to 9 inches.
The torch plant plant is also easy to grow, tolerating a wide range of growing conditions and types of weather. Despite its small size it is one of the more resilient aloes currently available. This standout houseplant can also be grown in a temperature controlled greenhouse or, in warmer climates, outside as part of a xeriscape planting scheme.
Where to Grow Lace Aloe
Lace Aoe is hardier than many other aloes. The torch plant is typically considered cold hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11.
While it can tolerate conditions down to USDA Zones 7b, some winter protection may be required. Covering the plants with an Agfabric Frost Blanket offers protection from frosts and cold temperatures whilst still allowing light and moisture to permeate through to the plants.
This tolerance means that in certain conditions it can be grown outside in a light position. Here the plants can be expected to flower during the spring and early summer.
If you are growing in an area where temperatures can fall below 0 ℉ it is advisable that you grow the torch plant in a pot. This enables you to easily move it inside, to a more sheltered position for the colder fall and winter months. The pot can then be returned to its outside growing position once the spring temperatures have warmed up.
Should you decide to cultivate your lace aloe as an indoor plant, try to keep the plant near a window so that it can bask in lots of bright, indirect light. If you are able to expose the plant to lots of warm light during the summer months the torch plant sets flowers during the summer and early fall.
Exposure to light and warmth encourages flowers to form.
If your plant isn’t kept in a constantly light position, such as near a south facing window, it can stop growing. In darker homes, grow lights can be used to supplement natural light levels.
To encourage flowering, aim to keep the temperature over 50 ℉. If you are growing the plants in a cooler room, a VIVOSUN Seedling Heat Mat can be used to maintain an even temperature.
How to Pot and Repot
It is always a good idea to repot a plant as soon after purchase as possible. This helps to reduce the chances of accidentally introducing soil-borne pests or diseases to your houseplant collection.
Repotting also gives you a chance to inspect the plant’s root system, checking for potentially serious problems such as root rot.
Plants purchased from garden stores may have been allowed to sit in too small a pot or poor soil for an extended period of time. Repotting into a clean pot and nutrient rich soil gives your newly acquired plant a boost.
Otherwise, these attractive succulents are best repotted in the spring. Repot your succulents every few years, refreshing the growing medium in the process, or when the plant shows signs of becoming pot bound. Signs that your plant is pot bound include:
- Soil drying out more quickly than usual,
- Growth slowing or ceasing,
- A failure to flower,
- Roots sticking out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
Succulents do best in pots made from porous materials.
Your new pot should be shallow and the same size, or one size bigger than the old pot. A 6 inch pot can comfortably hold a growing plant. A good succulent pot is one made from a porous material such as clay or terracotta. These materials promote drainage far better than plastic pots, helping to prevent wet roots and soggy soil.
Repotting plants can be a messy process. If you don’t have a potting bench, lay a couple of sheets of old newspaper down before you begin.
Remove the plant from its old container and gently brush away any soil that clings to the root system. Check the roots for signs of disease. Any diseased roots can be cut away with sharp scissors. Remember to clean and sterilize your tools after use.
You should repot your plant in a gritty, well draining soil. A cacti or succulent soil such as Hoffman Succulent Soil is ideal.
You can make your own growing medium by combining equal parts well-draining potting soil and perlite. Mix the materials together well before using. If you don’t have any perlite, vermiculite or pumice can also be used.
Moisten your potting material.
Add a layer of moist potting material to the bottom of your new pot. Position the plant in the center of the pot. The top of the root system should sit below the top of the pot. If you are unsure, aim to plant the torch plant to the same depth as it was in its old pot.
You may need to add or remove some potting material to get the position right. When you are happy with the position of your lace aloe add more moist potting material, gently pressing it down to fill up any air pockets.
When repotting, be careful not to bury the leaves. Leaves that are in contact with the soil can start to rot. Sprinkling a layer of sand over the soil can help to prevent this.
Make sure that the leaves are not contacting the soil.
After repotting, do not water the plant immediately. Wait a few days, for the soil to dry out, before watering. This gives the torch plant time to settle in its new pot.
How to Care for Lace Aloe
Once planted and placed in a favorable position, care is largely straightforward. Keeping your lace aloe plants in a warm, light position and fertilizing during the growing season encourages flowers to form.
When to Water
Water your lace aloe regularly when the plant is actively growing. Fully grown specimens are more drought tolerant and require less frequent watering than smaller plants.
When watering, adopt the soak-and-dry method. This is a reliable method widely used to keep succulents healthy and hydrated. Begin by soaking the soil.
Once the soil is drenched, allow excess moisture to drain away before returning the plant to its usual growing position. You need only water the succulent again when the soil has dried out.
After watering, allow the soil to dry out. Square crop by Éamonn Ó Muirí / CC 2.0
Adopting the soak-and-dry method helps to prevent potentially serious problems such as root rot from developing. It also prevents water building up in the rosette of the plant.
Be careful not to overwater your plant. The lace aloe, like other types of succulent, is sensitive to overwatering.
If your plant isn’t watered often enough the foliage may yellow. It can also wilt or die back.
Do I Need to Fertilize?
A low maintenance plant, the lace aloe requires very little fertilizer.
Growing plants can be given a dose of fertilizer once a month during the growing season. A succulent appropriate fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food, contains all the nutrients necessary to sustain healthy growth and flowering.
Do not fertilize in the fall or winter months, when the plant is dormant.
It is rare for mature plants to require fertilizer, however if growth is slow or you want to give the plants a boost and encourage flowering a light dose can be applied during the growing season. Repotting into a fresh, succulent-appropriate potting soil can also boost growth.
How to Prune
Lace aloe is a low maintenance plant. The only time you need to prune lace aloe is to remove dead or diseased leaves. Singed, sunburnt or cold-damaged leaves can also be cut away.
Older leaves can be cut away with sharp pruners or scissors. This rejuvenates the plant, encouraging healthy growth to emerge.
There is no need to prune these succulents. Aloe-aristata by Skolnik Co / CC 2.0
How to Propagate Lace Aloe
Succulents are amongst the easiest plants to propagate.
The easiest and most reliable way to propagate a mature plant is to harvest the pups or offsets. These form around the base of the mother plant.
Pup removal is best done in the spring.
Cleanly remove the pup from the base of the mother plant with a sharp knife or scissors. The pup should have a few leaves and a small root system.
After separating from the parent plant, place the pups in a light, dry position to dry out for a few days. A sunny windowsill alongside your larger lace aloe is ideal.
Place the pup in a light spot Aloe-Aristata by Stephen Boisvert / CC 2.0
Plant the pup roughly three quarters of an inch deep in a small pot filled with moist, well-draining potting mix. Don’t plant the pup in too large a pot, it should be no more than one size bigger than the root ball.
Place the pot in a bright position.
Care for the small pup as you would a larger lace aloe, watering only when the soil starts to dry out.
In 4 to 6 weeks the offset should start to produce new growth. At this stage you can start to lightly fertilize the plant.
Lace aloe pups can also be removed during the repotting process. This not only creates lots of little plants, it also helps to rejuvenate the mother plant.
Common Lace Aloe Problems
The lace aloe is an easy to grow plant that rarely suffers from any serious issues.
While problems are rare, if you identify them quickly, they are easy to solve.
Most lace aloe plant problems are caused by an incorrect watering routine. Plants that aren’t watered enough can wilt or start to droop. The leaves also turn yellow.
Too much water can cause the base of the plant to rot. The roots also rot and die. Rotting roots are typically brown and mushy. To try and save the plant, remove the plant from the pot and replant in a dry, fresh potting medium.
If you struggle to know when to water your plants, a soil moisture sensor provides a reliable method of monitoring the moisture content of your soil.
Mealy bugs are a common lace aloe pest. Difficult to spot, these small pests bury themselves in the roots and between the leaves. If left undetected a mealy bug infestation can destroy your plant.
Regularly inspect your plants for signs of infestation. Should you spot any mealy bugs, dip cotton swabs in neem oil and apply to the leaves. A homemade insecticidal soap can also be used to safely treat infestations.
Check the foliage for signs of infestation. Aloe-Aristata by Rosa Say / CC 2.0
Scale insects can inhabit the leaves and flowers during the winter months. Should you notice any small brown or white spots on the leaves, it is probably a scale insect infestation. Use a damp cloth to remove the insects from the plant. Again neem oil and insecticidal soap can also be used.
Lace aloe is an attractive hardy succulent. The plant’s cactus-like appearance and elongated triangular leaves provides lots of visual interest. An ideal plant for a table in a light room, you can also grow lace aloe as part of a plant collection.
Versatile, low maintenance and attractive. Why not add lace aloe to your garden today?