Short Leaved Aloe
Aloe brevifolia is an interesting contrast to most other aloe plants. It is known as the Short-leaved Aloe because of its short, chubby leaves that always set it apart from the long slender leaves of many other aloe succulents.
Position Sheltered spot, full sun but can tolerate partial shade
Watering Water thoroughly but infrequently
Size 4 inch rosettes / 12 inch clumps
Climate Hardy Zones 7,8,9,10 (Min -20° F)
Toxicity Non toxic
This is a perfectly proportioned dwarf aloe, growing in clumps of rosettes of no more than 12 inches in diameter. It’s leaves are a blue-green color that will develop into hues of yellow, orange and pink when exposed to full sun. The leaves are covered with spines and although not spikey or sharp, give this plant its other nickname of Crocodile plant.
Although now endangered, Aloe brevifolia once grew in abundance in South Africa’s Western Cape. Since much of the natural vegetation of this region is in huge decline, this plant is now mostly cultivated for aloe and succulent arrangements, rock gardens and for milder climates in pots and containers.
Aloe brevifolia Care
Aloe brevifolia will tolerate full sun quite happily providing it’s in a sheltered spot. It will also grow in partial shade however, the dramatic leaf color change will not be quite so vivid.
Ideally suited to weather conditions no lower than 20° F, keep your Aloe brevifolia in pots or containers if temperatures are likely to dip anything below this, so that they can be brought indoors.
Their beauty is in the rosettes that grow densely together to form clumps where it is possible to create ground coverage given the right climate.
This is a slow-growing dwarf Aloe where each rosette will reach a maximum of 4 inches when grown in pots. Although a clump of rosettes can reach 12 inches in diameter.
Like most aloe plants, Aloe brevifolia has an extra store of water in its leaves and so can tolerate reasonable periods of time without being watered. During the growing season, you should provide your plant with a good soak and then allow the soil to dry. Once the soil is dry, hold off for another couple of days before watering again.
These plants are used to extended periods without rainfall when growing in their native South Africa. There, they can survive for weeks and even months without water and when the rain comes, it falls in abundance to replenish their in-built ‘water tanks’.
When watering opt for a long stem succulent or bonsai watering can to soak the soil around your aloe. Try to avoid getting the leaves wet as much as possible as this can cause leaf rot.
Aloe brevofolia, is a summer dormant plant. This means you will need to reduce the amount and frequency of watering even more during the summer months whilst your plant lays dormant. ‘Aloe brevofolia will still grow during dormancy, but they tend to grow much slower and therefore need less water than during the main growing season.
Over-watering is a big problem for Aloe brevofolia. You’ll know if it’s being overwatered because the soil will remain wet for days, the leaves will have wilted or become brown and blisters may even have appeared. If this happens, remove your plant from its pot immediately and allow it to dry.
After the roots have thoroughly dried and you have removed all traces of rot, it is safe to repot your aloe using a clean pot with good-sized drainage holes and fresh well-draining soil. Begin a new watering schedule but make it less frequent.
Check out the section below on how to take care of root rot in your Aloe brevofolia plant.
Although grown in its native South Africa in dry clay soil, cultivated plants are typically grown in well-draining succulent or cacti soil. Opt for a peat-free soil or coconut coir mixed with minerals such as grit, sand or perlite for best results. This will help to keep the roots free from excess moisture.
You can by a pre-mixed succulent or cacti soil from all good garden supply retailers either locally or online. There are many good options available.
You can of course make your own well-draining soil at home relatively easily and quiet cheaply. Mix together two-thirds minerals such as grit, sand, and perlite, and one-third organic matter, such as a good quality peat-free compost or coconut coir.
It is rare to see a cultivated Aloe brevofolia flower unfortunately. However, in its native environment, this plant grows a tall slender cluster (inflorescence) which produces red flowers towards the end of spring.
If you are lucky enough to bestow a flowering plant, prune any dead blooms at the stalk base once they have finished flowering and have wilted.
To encourage a good, strong root system and healthy growth use a ready-mixed liquid succulent or cactus fertilizer that has been diluted to 25%. Fertilise 2 or 3 times only during the growing season.
There’s no need to fertilize Aloe brevifolia during its dormant summer season.
An endearing quality of Aloe brevifolia is its chubby little spiked leaves that rarely need to be pruned away unless diseased.
However, since Aloe brevifolia can be prone to leaf rot there may be occasions where you need to take matters into your own hands by pruning away any yellow, brown, or mushy areas. Cutting them away will ensure that the disease has less chance of spreading to other areas of the plant.
You will also need to prune flower stalks after they have flowered. Try to remove the entire stem, as close to the base of the plant as possible.
When pruning, trim away any affected areas with a sharp, sterile knife, a razor blade or a pair of scissors.
Because this is a slow growing dwarf aloe, you should only need to re pot every 2-3 years.
Carefully remove the aloe from its pot and separate the outer roots if they are firmly intertwined. Give them a thorough inspection for any signs of rot and if you do notice any wet and slimy, dark brown or black areas on the roots, gently trim them off with a sharp sterile knife or scissors.
Your new pot should be slightly wider than the previous pot and have sufficient drainage holes. Always use fresh well-draining succulent or cacti soil and avoid watering for 2-3 days to give the plant a chance to settle.
How to Propagate Aloe brevifolia
Typically, and similar to most other aloe varieties, Aloe brevifolia will not propagate well from leaves. Due to the high-water content, they often go mushy.
Fortunately though, Aloe brevifolia do a great job of propagating without much assistance as they often produce offsets. You can either chose to propagate the offsets or allow them to develop to provide an attractive ground covering. By doing a combination of both of these every 2-3 years you will encourage healthier growth in your Aloe brevifolia.
To propagate offsets, wear gloves and confidently grasp the baby plant between thumb and index finger. Then either pull it gently from the main plant or cut it with a sharp and sterile knife or pair of scissors.
Gently remove any soil from the bottom of the offset and allow it to callous off for a few days.
Once dry plant in well-draining soil and position in a bright spot avoiding direct sunlight. Keep soil slightly moist but not wet by watering infrequently.
Common problems with Aloe brevifolia
Other than pests, the main problem with Aloe brevifolia is too much water. The leaves of an overwatered plant will become brown, yellow and mushy and are likely to begin to rot. If this happens, remove your aloe from the soil and allow it to dry out. Once dry, repot in fresh well-draining soil and resume a less frequent watering schedule.
If you notice the leaves of your Aloe brevifolia are withered or wrinkled, they are likely to need more water. Give your plant a thorough soak until water runs freely from the drainage holes.
Allowing the soil of your Aloe brevifolia to remain wet or even lightly moist for prolonged periods can lead to root rot. Unless you check your plant regularly one of the first signs of root rot is brown, yellow, or squishy lower leaves.
To check whether the actual roots are rotten, remove your plant from the pot and carefully brush off any remaining soil. Roots that are brown or black and soft and mushy are rotten and need trimming off.
Allow the cut to dry before re-potting with fresh soil in a clean pot. Resume watering your plant, but much less frequently.
Mealybugs love humid conditions and can be found in the tightly packed leaves or crevices on Aloe brevifolia.
These tiny wingless insects produce a distinctive cotton-like mass on the plant’s surface. They feed on the plant’s sap by piecing their straw-like mouth into the foliage.
Use household insect spray, neem oil, detergent or soapy water to wash them away. Repeat regularly until the infestation subsides.
Scale are static shell-like parasites that sit on the underside of the leaves and feed on the plant sap. Infestations lead to the plant looking sick and wilted. You can treat scale by using a diluted detergent or soapy water to wash them off.