Tiger Tooth Aloe is a dramatic, miniature succulent. Its colorful, textured foliage is ideal for a houseplant or growing outside in warmer conditions. An easy-going succulent, the Tiger Tooth Aloe is an evergreen plant that is native to Kenya and Namibia in southern Africa. Today, thanks to its eye-catching foliage, it is also a popular houseplant.
If you want to add this easy-going succulent to your collection, this guide is designed to take you through everything you need to know, from planting to care tips, problem-solving and even propagation.
Read on to learn everything that you need to know about growing and caring for a Tiger Tooth Aloe.
What is Tiger Tooth Aloe?
The Tiger Tooth Aloe (Gonialoe variegata) is a unique succulent. Mature plants typically reach a height of 12 inches and spread up to 24 inches wide. Also known as Aloe Juvenna, the Tiger Tooth Aloe produces thick, blade-shaped variegated leaves. These develop in a rosette-like shape from the base of the plant.
As the name Tiger Tooth suggests, the edges of the leaves are rough and jagged, similar in appearance to a tiger’s jaw; however they are unlikely to cause any physical harm.
In favorable conditions, mature plants produce orange or pink bell-shaped flowers. These droopy blooms sit on stalks up to 24 inches tall above the green foliage.
Adding further interest, the green foliage is often marked with white spots. During the summer months, if the plant is exposed to enough light, the leaves turn from bright green to a reddish-brown color.
The spiky foliage give this succulent its name.
While not a dangerous plant, many people mistakenly think that this succulent is toxic to pets. This is because it is often grouped with other aloe plants. However, the Tiger Tooth belongs to a different plant genus; it is non-toxic.
You can find these succulents for sale in most plant nurseries.
Are There Different Types of Tiger Tooth Aloe?
Other than the Gonialoe variegata cultivar, there is only one other notable hybrid that is commonly grown as a houseplant.
Green Ice (Gonialoe x Gasteraloe) is a cross between the Gonialoe Variegata cultivar and Gasteria’ Little Warty’ This is a large plant, achieving a 12-inch diameter. Its thick green leaves with white edges form a sizable eye-catching rosette.
Where to Grow Tiger Tooth Aloe
A reliable houseplant, these small succulents are hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11. Like other succulents, it is happy to spend summer months on a warm, bright patio or balcony as long as it is sheltered during the winter months.
This easy-going succulent has a preference for partial shade. In fact, it tolerates shade far better than many other succulents and houseplants as long as the temperature is consistent.
A temperature consistently between 65 and 75 ℉ is ideal. Your plant can start to struggle if exposed to temperatures below 50 ℉.
These plants prefer arid conditions. If you are growing this succulent as a houseplant, keep it away from humidifiers as well as humid bathrooms and kitchens. You should also avoid placing the Tiger Tooth Aloe close to plants that thrive in humid conditions.
Place the plant in an east-facing window. This provides the partial light conditions that enable the plant to thrive.
You can also place your plant close to south or west-facing windows, but be careful not to expose it to too much direct light. This can burn the leaves. During the darker winter months, you may need to use grow lights to supplement natural light levels.
Growers in warm areas can plant Tiger Tooth Aloe outside as colorful ground cover. Plant in a spot that enjoys 6 hours of mainly morning sunlight. Avoid exposing the plants to too much intense afternoon sun. This can burn and damage the leaves.
Caring for Your Tiger Tooth Aloe
In a favorable spot, this is an easy-going plant that doesn’t require any specialist care. Sharing similar requirements, if you are able to care for these plants you will also be able to care for other succulents without too much trouble.
When to Water
Like other succulents, the Tiger Tooth Aloe stores moisture in its fleshy leaves. This means that you don’t need to water the plant too often. In fact, giving these succulents too much water is the worst thing that you can do.
To water, adopt the ‘soak and dry’ method. This is explained fully in our How to Water Succulents guide.
The ‘soak and dry’ method requires deeply watering the plant until excess moisture pours out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Allow the excess water to drain away before returning the plant to its usual spot. Following this deep watering, you don’t need to water your Tiger Tooth Aloe again until the soil is dry to the touch.
How often your plant requires watering depends on the climate. An indoor plant in partial light requires very infrequent watering.
During the summer months, plants in warmer positions may need a drink of water once every 7 to 10 days. In contrast, during their dormant period, the Tiger Tooth Aloe requires water as infrequently as once every two weeks or even just once a month.
After watering, don’t allow your plant to sit in water for too long. This, along with overwatering and watering too frequently, can cause root rot to develop.
Does My Plant Need Fertilizer?
In good soil, these plants rarely require fertilizing. However, an occasional dose of fertilizer helps encourage flowers to form.
To feed your plant, apply a diluted dose of balanced fertilizer in the spring. A water-soluble or liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food is easily incorporated into your watering routine.
Don’t feed your plants in the fall or winter months when they are in their dormant period.
How to Encourage Flowering
In favorable and native conditions, the flowers can last throughout the summer. Indoor plants often flower from winter until early spring.
Be warned, some types never flower.
In favorable conditions, flowers may form.
If your plant fails to set flowers even after feeding, it may be because the plant is not yet mature enough to bloom. Continue to care for the plant and after a few years, flowers may form.
As plants age, make sure that they get enough light and water; these two elements are key to flowering, as is correctly overwintering the plant.
How to Overwinter
The Tiger Tooth Aloe needs to go through a dormant period during the winter months before it sets flowers the following year. During this period, the plant requires exposure to cooler temperatures, anything between 50 to 55 ℉, for a few weeks.
Start overwintering your Tiger Tooth Aloe when temperatures fall below 50 ℉ for more than 24 hours.
To overwinter your succulent, store it in a cool, dry place from late fall until early spring. Don’t return the plant to its usual outside position until temperatures have warmed sufficiently.
When to Prune
The Tiger Tooth Aloe is a low-maintenance plant; it doesn’t require regular pruning. As the plant grows, it sheds its leaves. The old foliage may also shrivel and dry.
Old and damaged leaves can be cut from the plant as and when you notice them.
Repotting A Tiger Tooth Aloe
To ensure healthy growth, repot your Tiger Tooth Aloe every three years. Regularly repotting also helps to prevent the plant from sitting in poor soil or a pot that is too small for too long.
You should also repot your Tiger Tooth Aloe as soon after purchase as possible. Plants purchased from plant nurseries and garden stores are sometimes allowed to sit in old soil that is poor to drain or lacks the necessary nutrients. Repotting helps your plant to get off to the best possible start in its new home.
When repotting, the new pot should be large enough to hold the plant’s root system without compacting it. Like other succulents, Tiger Tooth Aloe plants do best in unglazed clay, terracotta and ceramic ZOUTOG Succulent Pots.
Succulents do best in clay or terracotta pots.
Repotting plants can be messy. If you don’t have a potting bench, put some old newspaper down to avoid making too much of a mess.
Begin by either putting some pebbles or placing a Maxmoral Mesh Pad in the bottom of the pot. This prevents soil from pouring out or blocking the drainage hole.
Fill the pot with a sandy, semi-dry loam soil mix. The Tiger Tooth Aloe is not a fussy plant; as long as the soil is well-draining, it will be fine. Harris Cactus and Succulent Potting Mix is ideal. You can make your own potting mix by combining two parts sandy or cactus soil with one part perlite.
Don’t fill the pot all the way to the top. Leave a gap of around one inch between the top of the soil and the lip of the pot.
Water the pot well. Allow excess moisture to drain away and the soil to settle before continuing.
Carefully remove the plant from its old pot. Try not to damage or overly disturb the succulent too much during this process. If the plant is sitting in a plastic pot, cut away the sides with sharp scissors.
Gently brush any remaining soil from the root system.
Make a hole in the center of the new pot that is large enough to hold the root system comfortably. The hole shouldn’t be too deep; most succulents struggle if buried too deeply in the soil. When placed in the hole, the top of the root system should sit just below the soil level.
Place your Tiger Tooth Aloe in the center of the pot and gently backfill the hole.
For more information about potting and repotting not only the Tiger Tooth Aloe but also other succulents, check out our How to Plant Succulents Guide.
Repotting regularly keeps plants healthy and productive.
Common Tiger Tooth Aloe Pests and Problems
These easy-going succulents rarely develop any serious issues.
Browning leaves are often a sign of sunburn. Caused by sitting in direct sunlight, cut away affected leaves and move the plant to a slightly shadier spot.
Yellowing foliage is a sign of overwatering. Other signs of overwatering include:
- Soft or mushy leaves,
- Translucent leaves,
- Foul odor,
- The plant looks unhealthy.
The Tiger Tooth Aloe dislikes having wet feet. As soon as you notice any signs of overwatering, repot into fresh, well-draining succulent soil and water infrequently. When repotting, cut away any roots that are brown or mushy in texture.
A soil moisture sensor is a useful gadget if you struggle to work out when to water your plants. Don’t continue to overwater struggling succulents. This can lead to root rot.
Leaf tips turning brown or leaves drying up are signs that your plant needs a drink. Water well and the foliage should start to look better in a few days.
It can be difficult to work out how often you should water your succulent, but remember; it is easier to save an under-watered plant than an overwatered specimen.
Finally, the flowers not only attract pollinators but also ants and some beetles.
How to Propagate a Tiger Tooth Aloe
You can propagate a Tiger Tooth Aloe either by harvesting and potting on offsets or by growing from seed. Harvesting offsets is easier and produces results quicker than growing from seed.
As these plants grow, they produce small rosette-shaped offsets or pups. Wait until the pups are large enough to survive on their own. Ideally, the pups should also have a root system of their own. While pups can be harvested and started without roots, they are more likely to succeed if they have been allowed time to develop a root system of their own before harvest.
Cut the pups from the parent plant with a sharp knife or shears. Aim to cut the connecting root in one clean movement.
After harvesting, allow your pups time to dry out in a shaded area of your propagation station for a few days. As the pup dries, a callus forms over the cut area.
Once a callus has formed, fill a pot with well-draining potting soil. Place the pup on top of the soil.
Use a Driew Plant Mister Spray Bottle to mist the soil every few days or when it shows signs of drying out. After roots have developed, stop misting and water the plant deeply using the soak and dry method.
Now that the pup has settled in its new pot, you can decrease how often you water until you are watering on a similar schedule to a larger Tiger Tooth Aloe plant.
Growing From Seed
Not as common as propagating offsets, growing from seeds is a slow process. It can take between 2 and 7 years for a plant to become mature enough to set flowers. Growing from seed is also prone to failure.
You can either purchase seeds from a specialist plant nursery or harvest your own.
As the flowers fade, seed pods form. Collect the seed pods from the plant as they start to brown and dry. Opening ripe seeds reveals tiny black seeds.
Fill some small pots with a cactus or succulent soil mix and sow one seed per pot. Cover the seeds with a light layer of potting mix or vermiculite and lightly moisten. Place the pots in a LeJoy Propagator; this helps to retain moisture and maintain humidity levels around the plant.
Place the propagator in a warm location that enjoys lots of bright, indirect light.
Seeds usually germinate within a few weeks.
Following germination, remove the pots from the propagator and place in a light, sheltered spot.
After six months of steady growth and care, the young plants should be large enough to be transplanted into their permanent container.
Succulents are ideal houseplants.
The Tiger Tooth Aloe is a compact succulent that is an ideal choice if you want an eye-catching, easy to care for houseplant. Why not add one 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.