How to Propagate Aloe
The aloe plant is a health powerhouse, and it can be used for everything from cooling sunburn to being the key ingredient in a gut-soothing smoothie. With all of the beneficial uses for aloe, it should come as no surprise that some people go through it quickly, which is why growing your own aloe plant can be a sustainable and cost-effective way to make sure you always have some on hand. Fortunately, it's easy to propagate aloe—all you need is a healthy plant, a fresh container, the right soil, and these expert tips.
All About Aloe
Aloe, or Aloe vera, is a tender plant that forms a rosette of long, slender, fleshy leaves that are lined with soft, spiny teeth along the edges, says Hayden Shuping, greenhouse manager for Reynolda Gardens. Once those leaves are cut open, you'll find the gel-like substance that many health experts use for everything from beauty treatments to recipes. The interior pulp contains a substance called aloin, which makes it a favorite holistic treatment thanks to its reported anti-inflammatory properties. Just be sure to read up on the proper way to consume the plant if you plan to use it in any recipes, as parts of the succulent are toxic.
How to Propagate an Aloe Plant
Shuping says the best way to propagate an aloe plant is by gently removing the plants that begin to grow at the base of the mother plant. "Unpot the whole plant and carefully divide the plants into individuals, making sure to not to break off roots of the young plants," he says. "Pot the young plants in appropriately sized containers as individuals or in small groups to have a more established looking container plant."
Working with the young plants, also known as pups and offshoots, is easiest when you're hoping to propagate new plants, explains Vicky Popat, CFO and tropical plant expert at PlantOGram, but you can also do it from cuttings. "[Cutting mature leaves back] will help produce healthy new leaves," she says. To propagate from cuttings, you'll need to make a clean cut in a mature leaf. Wait a few days to allow the wound from the cutting to dry out. If the leaf begins to rot or decay, you will have to toss it and start again with a fresh leaf. If the leaf successfully dries out and begins to "scab" over, you can place it into damp soil (not wet) and wait for it to root. Since this method is riskier (not all leaves will re-root), it's not recommended by our experts.
Why You Should Propagate Aloe
Aloe plants can become crowded since shoots will continually grow from the base of a healthy mother plant, and overcrowding within your pot is not optimal for the plant's health. "Dividing the plants is the best way to make room within the container for new leaves and roots," says Shuping. "Cutting off large leaves at the base of the plant can give the new shoots more room and light to grow without dividing the entire plant."
For the best results, Shuping says you should use well-draining soil and allow it to dry between watering. "Aloe grows naturally in arid environments and can quickly rot if the soil stays overly saturated." He suggests buying a soil that is already mixed. If you'd like to go the DIY route and make your own, Shuping says you can do so by adding coarse sand (never beach sand due to the salt component), rock grit (he suggests chicken grit), lava rock, perlite, or other available sieved aggregates to existing potting soil.