How To Grow And Maintain A Spiral Aloe (Aloe Polyphilla) Plant?

Imagine a hand-drawn spiral mandala.

Now imagine turning that mandala into an origami.

Now imagine what the blend of both in the world of succulents would look like. The result would be a beautiful spiral aloe.

If you’re one of those wholesome souls who loves to have plants as part of your home decor, garden or spiritual accessory, you will love this post as we’re going to shed light on everything you need to know about growing and maintaining a spiral aloe.

From the basics on where they are found to the most commonly asked questions on how you could grow them in your living room, we are covering them all.

What Is A Spiral Aloe?

For the uninitiated, a spiral aloe or aloe polyphylla is a plant that belongs to the genus aloe. More specifically, it is a succulent, which refers to a plant that is thick and fleshy with leaves and stems that can store water. This succulent species is classified as perennial or evergreen because of its ability to live, grow, flower and produce seeds for more than three years.

Aesthetically, it is spiral with beautifully symmetric five-pointed leaves twirling out from the center. The number of leaves in this plant species ranges between 75 and 150 and the plant grows up to a length of approximately 80cm. As far as the length of individual leaves are concerned, they can grow up to 30cms in length and 10cms in width.

History and Habitat

The spellbinding plant remains mostly in stealth in the African mountain regions of Drakensberg and in the South African regions of Lesotho. They grow on the slopes on rocky surfaces, surviving an entire season of snow without any endurance.

If you had to visit the mountain region, you would have to reach north-facing slopes at an altitude of approximately 9000ft to catch a glimpse of the plant in all its glory. Or, view them

in areas where their roots are comparatively kept moist throughout the summer through continuous flow of water.

Visiting the Lesotho region in the 1930 would have fetched you zero results as the spiral aloe succulent species was almost extinct then and buying or snatching the plant from its natural habitat and environment was and is a criminal offence. Thanks to several strict protocols and conservation laws, the volume of the plant species had significantly increased over the years. During the dawn of the new millennium, the plant was also delisted from the endangered species list.

Despite being protected and strictly conserved, the seeds of the plants are available for enthusiasts. And if you own the seeds and are looking for the techniques and practices to grow, this is exactly what we are going to look at next.

How To Grow Spiral Aloe From Seed?

Before we get started, let’s understand a few essential pointers first:

  • It’s difficult to grow a spiral aloe plant outside of its habitat.
  • It is going to take more than patience and perseverance to grow the plant species and take in the sight of a fully-grown plant.
  • Though it is classified as a fast-growing plant, it takes anywhere between 5 and 6 years to fully grow to its beauty.
  • The conditions under which the plant grows not only have to be met but maintained for its entirety as well.
  • Avoid growing this plant if high temperatures are the predominant weather conditions in your region. This is not a desert plant.
  • Grown succulents can withstand a temperature of -120c but the younger ones must be safeguarded for freezing conditions.

Also note that these are not warnings but a few factors you should consider before you set out to grow a plant that doesn’t belong to your habitat or environment. When maintained well, all your efforts would be worth it to see the spiral aloe in its most gorgeous form.

A Step By Step Approach

Now that you are aware of the fundamentals, let’s get to the important aspect of growing the plant in your supervision and intervention.

  • Choose a location where you want to grow the plant. It could be indoors or in your garden depending on your region.
  • Buy or procure your seeds and keep them handy.
  • Depending on where you intend to grow the plant, have an appropriate growing pot of a considerable size that could balance the growth and dimensions of the plant.
  • Procure soil (from your nearby nursery or from online resources) and mix a small quantity of perlite in it (recommended). Its physical and chemical properties enrich the soil and make it comparatively easier for the plant to grow. It also assists in water retention.
  • Add gravel quarter of an inch to your growing pot. This keeps your pot grounded and more firm and makes for an excellent drainage solution.
  • Fill the soil (with perlite) on the growing pot over the gravel. Do not fill till the brim of the pot.
  • Sow the aloe polyphylla seeds on the top portion of the soil and sprinkle some soil (without perlite) over the seed. You don’t have to bury the seeds deep into the soil. Superficial sowing is ideal.
  • Spray water on top of the soil and keep an eye out for it.

Care And Maintenance Of Spiral Aloe Plant

With the seeds sown, all you have to do is maintain the plant to start seeing results. And for that, you need to take care of the following.

  • The plant isn’t cold hardy until it grows and matures. This means that it is ideal to grow the plant indoors until it matures.
  • Unlike other succulents, the plant needs comparatively less water. So, either use the soak-and-dry method or simply spray water over the soil. Let it not become too dry. The plant won’t germinate if it dries out. Similarly, the plant is also most likely to die if it is too moist or watered too much.
  • It needs sharp draining soil to grow well and this is exactly why the use of perlite and gravel comes in handy for this requirement.
  • To make the growth more effective and enriching, a slow-release fertilizer can be mixed with the soil while planting the seeds.
  • For those of you who repot, refilling slow-release fertilizers would be ideal. And if you’re someone who grows the plant in the same pot, adding liquid fertilizer a few times during its growth phase would do the necessary job.
  • If you’re familiar with growing succulents, you would know that diluting the fertilizer would do good for the plant. But because spiral aloe has unusual requirements and the fact that it is watered frequently, the concentration of the fertilizer would be automatically washed away.
  • You could also tilt the pot to a certain angle so it resembles a slope (mimicking its natural environment). This further ensures the drainage system is fine and that there is no water clogging.
  • When the plant grows, the leaves growing at the bottom of the plant frequently dry and die. Anticipating this, you shouldn’t remove the bottom leaves prematurely. The reason is that these leaves absorb the minerals, nutrients, and moisture and send it back for the growth of flowers and foliage. Remove the leaves only when they are completely dry.
  • Pampering and nurturing are inevitable for the growth of spiral aloe.
  • Ensure an ideal temperature of around 23°C is maintained for the propagation to sustain.
  • The propagation of the plant does not happen from the leaves but from the seeds, adding an additional layer of maintenance to the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Spiral Aloe Seeds Look Like?

The seeds that give birth to a magnificent-looking plant look flat and tiny. They are generally brown or black in color. Some seeds are also white or light in color but care should be taken that planting lighter color seeds will not result in germination as they aren’t yet harvest ready.

Is Spiral Aloe Hard To Grow?

Growing spiral aloe is a complicated process. The natural conditions under which the plant grows are very different from the environment we set up in our homes or gardens. That’s why we should provide whatever the plant needs for its growth. For beginners, this could be a little demanding in the early stages. For those who understand gardening or succulents, the differentiation and the understanding would be easier.

How Long Do Polyphylla Aloe Seeds Take To Germinate?

Depending on the growing conditions you provide and the efforts you put in to take care of the seed and soil, it should take somewhere between 3 and 4 weeks for the seeds to start germinating.

Wrapping Up

Like zen gardeners say, the philosophy of life could be understood by growing a plant from scratch. And when the plant species is as testing as spiral aloe, the journey only becomes more interesting and rewarding. After years of patients and maintenance, the sight that the eyes behold of the spiral plant in its full bloom makes the years of toiling worth everything.

1. Many-leaved aloe. Royal Horticultural Society

2. Aloe polyphylla. Integrated Taxonomic Information System