Lace, torch, or guinea-fowl aloe (Aristaloe aristata) was first described by famous botanist Adrian Hardy Haworth, who compiled one of the largest and most diverse collections of succulents and cacti in England during the 1800s.
Indigenous to modern South Africa and Lesotho, this striking succulent grows in temperate grasslands, chilly mountain slopes, and hot, sandy deserts equally well. It thrives in partial shade and full sun and tolerates serious drought. It’s adaptability has earned it a place in many homes and landscapes.
The plant was previously classified as Aloe aristata, but it was recently reclassified to the Aristaloe genus, meaning that it’s not technically an aloe (Aloe spp.). It’s more closely related to haworthia (Haworthia spp.), which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the plants look extremely similar.
The plants have dark green, tapering, succulent leaves dotted in white and edged with toothed margins. When they’re grown in the right conditions, a tall stalk of tubular orangish-red blossoms emerge from the tight basal rosette of leaves.
These are petite plants, topping out at about eight inches, or closer to 18 inches when in bloom, and just six inches wide.
- Genus: Aristaloe
- Species: aristata
- Native To: Lesotho, South Africa
- Sun Exposure: Direct or bright, indirect light
- Soil Preference: Sandy, loose, well-draining medium
- Soil pH: 4.0-7.0
- Blossom Color: Orange, red
- Growing Zones: 7-10
- Toxicity: Latex can cause skin dermatitis, mildly toxic if ingested
Caring for Lace Aloe:
In their native habitat, these plants typically do best in dry, warm environments. But they can tolerate temperatures down to around 7°F and over 100°F. Though they’re tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, they don’t do well in humid areas or with standing water.
Lace aloe can’t tolerate bright, direct light in the afternoon. It will burn the leaves. Look for a location in a north-facing window or within a few feet of an east-facing window. You can also place it near a south-facing window, so long as it’s covered with a sheer curtain.
If you place it in a west-facing window, set it somewhere several feet away from the window and situate it so that it doesn’t receive any direct light when the sun is in the afternoon sky.
You can also provide supplemental lighting if you prefer. If you go this route, use LED grow lights for about four to six hours. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for distance recommendations.
Soil and Container
Most succulents need extremely well-draining, loose soil that doesn’t retail water excessively. Lace aloe is no exception. To make things easy, you can purchase a cactus or succulent-specific soil.
If you want to make your own soil, combine Three parts coarse sand and potting soil, mixed with one part perlite.
Once you have your soil, you need a container to put it in. There are two things to keep in mind First, the pot must have drainage for excess water to run out of. Second, the pot shouldn’t be too large. A large container increases the chance of overwatering and root rot.
Look for a pot that is about four inches in diameter for a single plant.
As with other aloes, lace aloe has the ability to store water in its thick, succulent leaves. That means it can tolerate some dryness. It’s far more likely to suffer from overwatering than underwatering.
Never water on the leaves. That’s a good role to follow, in general, but especially important with plants that form tight rosettes like aloes. Water can get trapped in the folds of the leaves and rot or promote fungal disorders.
When you water, apply the water to the soil or use a bottom watering technique. Soak the soil so that it feels moist but not soggy. If you’ve ever wrung out a sponge really well, that’s the sort of texture you’re aiming for. If you ball up a small amount of soil and it sticks together, the soil is too wet.
After watering, allow the soil to dry out completely before you water again.
Don’t bother feeding your lace aloe any fertilizer. As long as you change your soil regularly, as we describe under maintenance, your plant will get all the nutrients it needs from the soil.
If it seems like your plant isn’t growing as you expect, you can add a 5-5-5 NPK fertilizer to the soil in the spring and again in the summer. Remember, however, that this is a slow-growing plant. Slow growth doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant is lacking nutrients.
Propagation and Flowering
Lace aloe reproduces readily. It’s one of the things that people love about this plant. Aloes reproduce themselves by sending out little baby plants, known as pups or offsets. They also send out flowers that produce seeds, but the average home grower should stick to propagating the offsets.
To propagate an offset, wait until the pup is a few inches tall. Remove the plant from the pot and brush away the soil. Gently tease apart the offset from the parent. You might need to use some scissors or a sharp knife to sever the pup.
Re-pot the parent and set the pup aside for 24 hours. You want the plant to develop a callus to prevent rot.
After 24 hours, the part of the plant that was severed from the parent should feel dry and hard. If not, give it another day to form a callus.
Once a callus has formed, plant it in succulent or cactus soil in a small pot.
If you love the idea of seeing the flowers on your plant, but they aren’t developing on their own, you can encourage the flowers to form by moving the plant into a bit more sun exposure. Remember, it shouldn’t be in direct afternoon sun, but direct sun the rest of the day is fine.
You should also try to expose the plant to temperatures that are ten degrees lower than the daytime high.
An alternate method is to bring the plant outside during the spring, summer, and fall in a spot with direct sun in the morning but shade in the afternoon. Bring the plant in during inclement weather or if there is a frost in the forecast.
Every four or five years, remove the plant from its existing container and remove all the soil. Wipe out the container and fill it with fresh, clean new soil. Repot your plant.
This step is necessary in order to refresh the soil. As potting soil ages, it tends to compact and become hydrophobic.
Remove any leaves that turn yellow or shrivel up on the plant. They won’t recover, and they act as a drain on the plant’s resources. They also leave an opening for fungal pathogens.
You can also cut off the flower stalk, if it forms, after the flowers are spent.
Common Problems, Pests, and Diseases
Lace aloe is incredibly tough. It’s rare that you’ll experience problems. The biggest issues you’ll face are root rot, mealybugs, or scale.
Root rot isn’t a disease but a physiological disorder caused by roots that are in sitting water for too long. The roots won’t be able to access oxygen because they are essentially drowning in water. They’ll turn brown or black and mushy, and the top of the plant will turn yellow or brown and will wilt.
If you notice these symptoms, stop watering and remove the plant from its container. Brush away all the soil and clip off any black or soggy roots. Repot in fresh soil and reduce watering so that you only add water when the soil is completely dry.
Mealy bugs are armored insects in the Pseudococcidae family. Scale are closely related and are insects in the suborder Sternorrhyncha. Both are extremely slow-moving and cluster on the undersides of the leaves or in the rosette where the leaves meet.
You can scrape these off with a butter knife or wipe the insects with isopropyl alcohol to kill them.
If you notice the leaves growing far apart or looking pale, it means that the plant needs more light exposure.