Where one aloe plant is good, more are better. There are three common ways of propagating aloe plants. You can divide a mature plant, take and grow cuttings, or start them by seed.
Starting by seed is the most challenging method and isn’t always successful. Obtaining seeds from a reputable source can help increase your chances, but germination tends to be low. Still, it can be a good way to start species that are hard to find, otherwise.
Cuttings are slightly more successful, but typically, you can only expect about half of your cuttings to succeed. Plan on starting twice as many as you hope to eventually grow. The upside is that it’s easy to obtain the leaves you need if you have an existing plant, and it doesn’t hurt the plant to do so.
Finally, dividing offshoots or pups is the most successful method, but it requires waiting for the mature to plant to start developing offshoots. Once the pups have formed, chances are excellent that you’ll be able to separate them and plant them on their own.
Propagating Aloe By Seed:
Not all aloes can be planted by seed. Hybrids won’t grow true, and some plants might have sterile seeds. Rather than gathering seeds from mature plants yourself, it’s best to purchase seeds from reputable sellers.
There are a few key elements to remember. First, you want to avoid exposing the seedlings to too much moisture. That means they should be placed in an area with good air circulation. Don’t cover the containers with a cloche or plastic.
The second thing is to keep in mind that germination takes a long time. It will likely take up to two months for the seeds to germinate and up to a year before the seedlings will be large enough to transplant.
Before you start planting, prepare your growing area. You can plant a few seeds in small individual pots or multiple seeds in a seed tray. Four-inch individual pots are about the right size if you go that way. Fill your chosen container with a succulent potting mix to about a half inch below the rim and lightly moisten the medium.
Sprinkle the seeds onto the tray or place a few in each pot. You need about an inch between the seeds. Lightly cover with a thin layer of medium. Moisten the soil mix with a spray bottle.
Place the seeds in an area with bright, indirect afternoon light and direct light for a few hours in the morning. Direct light in the afternoon is too strong, which is why we avoid it. You can also use supplemental artificial lighting. If you do, turn the light on for about six hours.
Keep the soil moist using a spray bottle so as not to disturb the seeds. You want to keep the soil barely moist. It should never feel soggy or wet.
Place the pot on a seed heat mat to keep the soil around 60-75°F.
Most species will start to germinate within a month, but some will take a few weeks longer. Don’t give up on your seeds until two months have passed. At that point, you might want to start over, taking care not to overwater and to provide bright light.
Assuming your seeds have germinated, gradually increase the light exposure by 30 minutes per day until they are in eight hours of sun. Don’t expose the seedlings to afternoon light at any point, however. It will burn the seedlings.
Once the seedlings are a few inches tall, you can transplant them to their permanent containers and place them in an area with the correct sun exposure for the type of aloe you’re growing.
Cuttings don’t take a lot of work, but they don’t have a high rate of success with all species. The trick is to encourage the cutting to develop roots before it starts to rot. There are a few tactics we can use to encourage quick root development, but even still, expect only about half of your cuttings to take.
Cutting leaves won’t hurt your plant, and it can encourage new growth, so it’s not a bad thing to try, even if it doesn’t work out in the end. Just be sure to take cuttings from more mature plants. Young plants don’t have enough material to spare.
Some species are far more able to propagate this way successfully. Aloe vera (syn. A. barbadensis) propagates quickly and easily, with a higher success rate than many other species.
To start, slice off a large, healthy leaf near the base. Do this when the plant is actively growing in the spring or summer. Don’t try to do cuttings in the fall or winter, when the plant is dormant. Having said that, some aloe species are active during fall and winter. These should be propagated during the fall or winter.
To know which kind you have, look up when the species typically blossoms. That is its active growing time.
Set the cut leaf in an area away from bright light and with good air circulation. The temperature should be between 60-80°F. Allow the cutting to sit for at least 24 hours to develop a callus.
After 24 hours, feel the end of the cutting. If it feels dry and hard, it’s ready to plant. If it still feels wet, wait a bit longer. In the meantime, fill a small, three or four-inch pot with succulent or cactus potting mix.
Do not, under any circumstances, try to plant a cutting that hasn’t formed a callus. It will rot once you place it in the soil. Be patient, it can take several days for a callus to form. If any start to rot, throw them out and start over.
Once it has formed a callus, moisten the potting mix with a water bottle. The soil should be moist but not wet, like a well-wrung-out sponge. Next, dip the end of the cutting in water and then into rooting hormone. Rooting hormone helps encourage the roots to develop more quickly than they would otherwise.
Place the cutting so that just a quarter or a half inch is buried in the soil.
Place the cutting on a seed heating mat in an area with good air circulation outside of direct afternoon light. Direct morning light, however, will encourage the plant to root. Soil temperatures between 60-75°F promote quick root development.
Keep the soil moist but not wet, and watch closely for any sign of mold or excess moisture on the soil. Any sign of mold means that the cutting or soil has been contaminated with fungus and won’t grow. Dispose of the soil and cutting and start again.
After about a month, the cutting should have developed some roots. To test it, gently tug the plant. If it resists, that means roots are forming. Move the plant to a brighter area with about eight hours of light, preferably with some protection from the hottest afternoon hours.
After a few months, you can move the plant to its permanent spot.
Dividing offshoots is the safest and most successful way to propagate aloe.
Aloe species, as with many succulent plants, reproduce themselves by growing miniature plants at their base. These are known as pups, offshoots, or offsets. They’re genetically identical to the parent, and though they start out sharing the roots and nutrition of the parent plant, they’ll eventually develop their own root system and grow independently of the parent.
Take advantage of this natural reproductive method by removing the pups and planting them independently.
To do this, wait for the offshoots to develop a little. You want them to be large enough that they have developed enough to support themselves when removed from their parent. The offshoots should be about three or four inches tall before you remove them.
Once the offshoots are large enough, remove the entire aloe plant from its container. Brush away the soil and look for the point where the pup connects to the parent.
Remember that many aloes have toothed margins, and these can be sharp. Wear gloves or work cautiously when working with aloe.
Gently tease the pup away from the parent plant, doing your best to remove some of the roots along with the leaves of the offshoot.
You might need to use scissors or a sharp knife to help tease the plants apart.
Once they are separate, replant the parent and set the pup in a cool area with good air circulation that’s out of direct sun. Leave the pup there for 24 hours or more so that it can develop a protective coating over the cut areas. This is known as developing a callus, and it results in stronger, healthier plants.
After 24 hours, gently touch the cut area. If it feels dry and somewhat hard, it’s ready to plant. If it still feels wet, give it a bit longer to develop a callus. Don’t worry, the plant won’t die. It can survive cut away from the parent for several days without water and nutrients.
Once the plant has developed a callus, fill a small pot with succulent potting soil. You want a pot that is about the same size as the leafy part of the plant, or just a bit larger. Water the soil so that it’s moist but not wet.
Set the pup into the pot and gently firm the soil up around the base to support the plant and keep it upright.
Place the pup in an area with bright light in the morning but protection from the afternoon sun. Eventually, you can move the offshoot into direct sun, but early on, it needs protection from direct light. A north-facing window works well.
Allow the surface of the soil to dry out between watering. Keep the soil mix barely moist but not at all wet. It should never feel soggy. If you ball the soil up in your palm, it should fall apart, not stick together.
Once the plant has started developing new leaves, it’s ready to transplant into a bigger pot and move it to its permanent spot.