Most houseplant lovers are familiar with aloe plants, but few of us get to enjoy the big, brilliant flower spikes that the plants can develop.
These colorful flower spikes shoot out of the center of the plant like rockets, contrasting against the grayish-green foliage and adding an extra dimension of interest.
While the leaves garner all the attention for the soothing gel they contain, these flowers show potential for medicinal uses thanks to their concentration of fatty and amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidant capacity.
About Aloe Blossoms
Some succulents are what is known as monocarpic. Agave and bromeliads are monocarpic, which means that they set a blossom and then they die because they’ve completed their lifecycle.
Aloe plants are polycarpic, which means that they grow flowers and set seeds repeatedly throughout their lives.
The flowers form on a tall stem with a spike made up of individual, fleshy flowers on the end. This cluster is known as a raceme. These resemble a bottle brush that tapers toward the tip. Most of the time, the plant will develop multiple flower spikes, but young plants or plants in lower light might only have one or two. Or they might have none at all.
Typically, the stem and raceme can grow up to 18 inches tall indoors and closer to 36 inches tall outdoors. The blossoms can be white, yellow, orange, red, or pink, depending on the light exposure, soil, and other environmental factor. They have a tubular shape, and each one is about an inch long.
How to Make Them Bloom
The first thing to know about making your aloe bloom is that the plant must be at least four years old before you can expect to see flowers. Some even need a year or two more to start flowering, while others might start as young as three years old.
Light is an essential component of flowering. That’s why indoor plants are less likely to bloom than plants growing outdoors. It’s not impossible to encourage outdoor plants to bloom, though.
While outdoor plants typically flower in the early summer, indoor plants might blossom any old time they want. Their internal metabolic cycle is confused by the artificial light and temperature of the indoor environment, and it throws their reproductive cycle out of whack.
Encouraging your plant to bloom is mostly about light exposure. Aloe is adaptable enough that it can survive in darker conditions than it prefers, but at least six hours of direct sunlight is necessary for flowering.
Depending on how much sun enters through your windows, eight hours might be even better.
That means you want to set your plant in a south or west-facing window where it will have sunlight on its leaves for at least six hours, but preferably more. If you don’t have a location that can provide this, you’ll want to use a supplemental grow light.
Supplemental LED grow lights simulate the sun and enable your plant to photosynthesize as they would normally in natural light.
You also need to consider temperature. An aloe in temperatures below 65°F likely won’t blossom. Ideally, it should be in air temperatures that are between 65-85°F. Even better is if there is a ten-degree or more difference between the daytime temperatures and the night-time temperatures.
This is where growing in a window can be even more useful. The spot in front of a window tends to have greater temperature fluctuations than a spot inside your home where it is well-insulated. You can even open the window at night to let in some cool air, assuming the outside temperatures don’t drop below 65°F at night.
You could even move your plant outside during the summer if you have a spot with the right light exposure and your temperatures are within the right range.
If you have your plant in full sunlight for eight hours per day in a warm area for at least one year and you still don’t see any flowers, it might be time to consider other causes.
A plant that isn’t healthy won’t bloom. Check that the roots are crowded and bound up in their container and that the container drainage hole isn’t clogged. The easiest way to do this is to remove the plant from its container and examine the soil and roots.
If there is hardly any soil in between the roots, the plant needs a larger pot. If the soil feels soggy or you see black or brown, soggy roots anywhere, you’re likely overwatering. The soil should feel dry in the first two inches before you water it again.
While you’re examining your plants, remove and re-pot any pups or offshoots. These plants are stoloniferous, which means they reproduce both through the seeds that develop in pollinated flowers and through stolons. When they send out stolons or pups, it drains the energy out of the parent plant, leaving them unable to direct their energy towards flowering.
Repot your plant with fresh soil, and be sure to use a cactus or succulent potting mix. Standard potting mixes are fine for most plants, but it can be too heavy for your aloe, retaining more water than your plant needs.
Finally, it might help to give your plant a feeding to help encourage it to take the next step in its development. Give your plant a succulent-specific fertilizer once every six months.