How To Grow Aloe From Seed & Harvest Seeds From Aloes

How To Grow Aloe From Seed & Harvest Seeds From Aloes

If you’re a succulent lover, no doubt you’ll have some aloe growing in your garden. Gardeners who live in warm climates enjoy growing these plants outside while those with harsher winters, usually grow them in pots. No matter how you like to grow them, if your own aloe plants are mature enough to flower, you might be interested in learning how to grow aloe from seed. 

Growing these plants by germinating seeds can be extremely rewarding as this is generally not a common propagation method for succulents. The reason for this is that the seeds can take some time to germinate and the young aloe seedlings will grow quite slowly.

However, growing from seed rewards those with patience and it can also be an excellent way to grow your collection. Especially, if you’re able to secure succulent seeds for some of the rarer varieties. 

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Common Species Of Aloe To Grow

healthy aloe vera plant

The genus Aloe contains over 700 different accepted species and hybrids according to the Plants of the World Online database. Of course, the most common of these is the Aloe vera that we’re all very familiar with.

But, when you investigate further, you’ll find a whole range of fascinating species, all with different characteristics and growth habits. Many of these will be quite rare and only found in small pockets of their natural habitat.

While many aloes are desert plants, there are even varieties that grow in more humid environments. So, if you live in an area that gets periods of high humidity, you should be able to find a species that will work for you.

However, for the purpose of this article, let’s have a look at some of the more common species that you can easily find.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is found naturally in desert regions or dry shrublands. It’s a succulent as it stores water in its large, often narrow, leaves. The leaves are usually a bright to muted green in colour and they have short spines around the edges and on the very tip.

Aloe vera plants are relatively easy to grow as long as the soil is well-drained. When you cut one of the leaves open, you’ll find a gel-like substance. This gel is often used for soothing skin irritations such as sunburn. The plant is also widely used by pharmaceutical companies and can be found as an ingredient in many beauty products.

Aloe barbadensis

Aloe barbadensis is a synonym of Aloe vera so it’s essentially the same plant. This type of nomenclature is quite common in the botanical world as botanists identify and classify different species.

The reason for this is that, even in nature, plants of the same species can exhibit slightly different characteristics. This happens especially when new seeds germinate and this may sometimes be a result of cross-pollination. 

Aloe polyphylla (Spiral Aloe)

Aloe polyphylla spiral aloe

This species of Aloe is quite spectacular as the succulent leaves grow in a symmetrical spiral emanating from the centre. The leaves are slightly wider than the common Aloe vera but still have the same spines and pointy tips.

Interestingly, this species was discovered growing naturally in the small region of Lesotho or the Maluti Mountains. However, thanks to its unusual form, it has been widely propagated by commercial growers, making it readily available to home gardeners.

Aloe marlothii (Mountain Aloe)

Aloe marlothii mountains aloe

If you like your succulents on the large side, then the mountain aloe is sure to impress. These large plants come from South Africa and can grow up to 6 metres tall (8-10 feet).

The plant has very fleshy succulent leaves that grow from a single base. These leaves also have distinctive spines around the edges as well as sharp pointy tips.

Aloe arborescens (Torch Aloe)

Aloe arborescens torch aloe

This is another attractive Aloe species that is prized for its large upright flowers that appear in winter. The leaves are grey-green in colour and sword-shaped. The sap in the leaves has similar healing properties to Aloe vera and was used in European countries to help in the recovery of patients who had cornea transplants.

How Long Does It Take For Aloe Plants To Flower And Produce Viable Seeds?

It can take over 4 years for Aloe plants to mature to a stage where they will produce flowers and viable seeds. So, if you have one or more Aloes growing in your garden that haven’t flowered yet, just be patient.

However, if you happen to live anywhere near a botanical garden that is growing a range of mature plants, you might want to check with the staff to see whether you can gather some of the seeds to grow.

How To Harvest Aloe Seeds

seeds pods on an aloe plant

Aloe seeds can be found inside the seed pods that develop after the flowers have finished. These pods are generally green to start with and oblong with numerous sections. 

The pods will turn a brownish-green colour when they’re ready to harvest. Once the pods are dry enough, you can crack them open to harvest the brown to black seeds inside. 

When extracting the seeds, make sure that you only keep the darker ones as the lighter seeds will not germinate. Make sure you split the pods over a plastic container, dish or bowl so that you can collect all the seeds.

Aloe seeds should remain viable for around a year so you can safely store them in a paper bag or paper envelope in a cool, dark place.

Expert tip: Your aloe plant will only produce seed pods after flowering if the flowers have been pollinated. Therefore, if your plant is growing indoors, you’ll have to put it outside when it flowers so that insects such as bees can take care of the pollinating for you.

Preparing Your Propagation Mix

The propagation mix that you use should be light, open and free-draining. You might like to use a proprietary seed-raising mix or you can make your own by mixing equal parts coconut coir with sand. This is ideal because it will be moist enough for good germination but still drain very freely.

Alternatively, you can use sterile compost, sand and perlite. Mix one part sterile compost with one part perlite and one part sand.

Ideally, you want to use a seedling tray or flat tray for propagating your aloe seeds. Succulents such as aloes take a long time to produce a substantial root system, so you don’t have to use deep pots for propagating them. Plus, seedling trays require much less soil to fill them.

Sowing Your Seeds

germinating aloe seeds in a plant tray

Fill your seedling tray with the propagation mix and water lightly. Scatter the seeds across the surface of the mix. The seeds should be spaced around 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart.

Cover the seeds lightly with some sand. Or, you can just use more of the propagation mix. Just don’t bury the seeds too deeply.

Place your seedling tray in a warm spot that receives bright light. However, keep the tray out of direct sunlight. If you don’t have a bright spot, consider investing in a grow light to help your seeds to germinate.

Don’t be tempted to cover the trays with plant cloches or plastic bags. While this is recommended when propagating other types of plants, it should not be used when propagating succulents.

Instead, you want to mist the surface of the propagation mix with water from a spray bottle to keep it slightly moist but never wet. Only mist when the surface is dry. However, you might need to do this once a day.

The seeds should start to germinate in around 2 to 4 weeks.

If you’re starting your seeds indoors, you might want to place the seedling tray onto a heat mat. This additional heat source will provide enough warmth for the seeds to start germinating.

Watch Out For Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases such as root rot or damping off are much more common in succulents than they are in non-succulent plants. Therefore, you need to watch out for these as your aloe seedlings start to grow.

This is one of the reasons that you should always use a well-draining medium to ensure that any excess water can easily drain away.

You should also refrain from misting your young seedlings once they’ve started to emerge and grow. Just water the soil very lightly when the surface is completely dry.

Transplanting Your Aloe Seedlings

woman transplanting aloe seedling into a terracotta pot

Once your seedlings have grown a little and have at least 4 leaves, you can transplant them into their own pots. For this, you want to fill the small pots with a succulent mix. Succulent mixes are usually a combination of coco coir, perlite and sand. This allows for premium drainage.

Handle the tiny young plants carefully so that you don’t damage the roots. You might want to scoop them out of the tray with a teaspoon and then plant them directly into small pots.

Water your new aloe plant every three days using only around one tablespoon of water for each plant.

Tips For Growing Healthy Aloe Plants

healthy aloe plant

The most important thing to remember to keep your Aloe plants healthy is not to overwater them and to ensure that the soil has good drainage.

You only want to water your plants when the top one or two inches of soil are dry. Remember that these plants are succulents and overwatering is one of the main causes of aloe plants dying.

You also want to watch out for sap-sucking insects such as aphids or spider mites if you’re growing aloe outside in the garden. The best way to get rid of these pests is to dip a cotton bud in isopropyl alcohol and apply this to the pests.

You should remove any of the leaves that have been severely affected because the damage cannot be reversed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is aloe hard to grow from seed?

No, it’s actually quite easy to grow aloe from seed. You just need to ensure that you collect the seed pods when they’re brownish-green in colour and only keep the dark seeds that you’ll find inside the pods.

How long do aloe seeds take to germinate?

It can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks for your aloe seeds to germinate.

Are aloe plants fast-growing?

No, aloe plants usually grow quite slowly. In fact, you can expect your plant to only grow one new leaf a month. And, this will only happen over the warmer months of spring and summer.

Can you use a normal potting mix for aloe plants?

It’s far better to use a special succulent mix to grow your aloe plants because this will have excellent drainage. However, you can use a normal potting mix by amending it with the addition of some sand or perlite in a ratio of 2 parts potting mix to one part sand or perlite.

Should aloe plants be grown in large pots?

Like most succulents, aloes should only be grown in pots that are just large enough to accommodate their root ball. A pot that is too large may contain too much moisture in the soil which is not ideal.

Final Thoughts

Aloes are popular succulents that many people will have either growing in their garden or as pot plants either indoors or out. Propagating these plants from seeds is actually quite easy and can be a rewarding exercise.

The seed pods are produced on mature aloe plants once the flowers have finished and these should be collected when they’re dry and are a brownish-green colour. Then, it’s just a case of cracking open the pods and collecting the seeds.

Aloe seeds can be stored for up to a year but propagating with fresh seeds is always best as old seeds may not germinate as well.

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