Spiral Aloe Plant
The corkscrew formation spikey leaves of the Aloe polyphylla make this plant truly distinctive and unusual. Also known as Spiral aloe or Many-leaved aloe, the pale green, fleshy spikes of this plant can grow in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction with as many as 150 spikes in five rows.
Position Full sun with partial shade
Watering Water thoroughly but infrequently
Size Height: 12 inches x Diameter: 24 inches
Climate Cold hardy Zone 8,9,12 – 24 (Minimum 5° F)
Propagate Offsets and seeds
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals
Flowers Insect attracting pink or red flowers in late spring
Spiral Aloe is a fantastic hardy outdoor plant and will add interest and appeal to rocky slopes and borders as well as pots and containers. Its natural mountainous habitat means it is used to temperatures dipping as low as 5 °F so there is little chance of needing to bring it indoors during cold winter months.
Native to the mountainous regions of the Kingdom of Lesotho in South Africa, this Aloe has been taken to the hearts of the nation and named their national flower.
In the spring, tubular flowers will appear on branching spikes. These nectar-filled blooms attract bees, insects, and birds and can be red or pink in color with yellow tips.
Aloe polyphylla Care
The Aloe spiral plant needs a bright spot with a reasonable amount of shade. Given their hardy nature, these Aloe plants are best grown outdoors in beds or borders or even pots and containers.
They are best suited to a slightly angled position to allow water to drain away from the crown and prevent rot. his will replicate the natural environment of the plant, where it is used to steep, loping landscapes.
This is a relatively fast-growing Aloe that can reach up to 1ft tall and 2ft wide. It is no wonder that it is often referred to as Aloe spiral since its spikes circle outwards from the central crown in either a clockwise or anticlockwise direction.
A certain amount of patience is required when growing here as young Aloe polyphylla plants need to grow 8 to 12 inches in diameter before the spiraling begins.
A mature plant will have up to 150 spikes in total that are tightly packed together in up to five rows.
Most Aloe plants are known to be drought-tolerate due to the climate and conditions of their natural growing habitat. It’s fair to say that many are happier if the soil in which they are planted remains a little moist. This is especially the case during their growing season and for young plants that have not yet reached maturity.
Always use well-draining soil and a pot with good drainage holes. Water regularly but infrequently, say once per week during spring and summer. Reduce the frequency of watering during autumn and winter when the growth of your aloe will have slowed. My preference is to use a long narrow spouted succulent watering can. This helps me prevent overwatering and keep things under control.
Keep an eye on your Aloe polyphylla for any signs of over-watering. 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.
Check the roots for any signs of rot too at this point (see the section below on how to take care of root rot in your Aloe polyphylla).
Once the roots have dried and all traces of rot removed, you can repot your aloe using fresh well-draining soil and a clean pot with good-sized drainage holes. Resume a less frequent watering schedule.
If you are unsure whether to water your Aloe polyphylla it’s a good idea to test the moisture content in the soil. You can of course use a tool for this or quite simply, you can press your finger into the soil. If it’s wet it won’t need watering but if it’s dry or just slightly moist under the surface of the soil then it’s time to water.
You should also try to avoid getting the leaves of your Aloe polyphylla too wet or allowing water to pool amongst the spikes as this can lead to rotting leaves. Try to water the soil around your Aloe plant and pour off any excess water that remains trapped in the tightly packed spikes.
Your Aloe polyphylla will thank you for being planted in a well-draining succulent or cacti soil. A peat-free soil or coconut coir mixed with minerals such as grit, sand, or perlite is best. This will ensure the roots are free from excess moisture and help you better monitor the watering needs of your plant.
Planting in the right type of soil will also ensure your plant gets the oxygen it needs to encourage healthy growth, as well as helping to prevent root rot and disease.
Pre-mixed succulent and cacti soils are readily available to purchase from any decent garden supply retailer or online and there are plenty of options available.
Alternatively, you can make your own well-draining soil at home. It’s easy to do and relatively cheap. Simply, mix two-thirds of minerals such as grit, sand, and perlite, and one-third organic matter, such as a good quality peat-free compost or coconut coir.
Although unusual under cultivation, late spring is when you can expect to see a flowering Aloe polyphylla.
The tubular-shaped blooms can vary in color from pink to red with yellow tips and will appear on branching spikes.
They are filled with nectar and will attract bees, insects, and birds to your garden.
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%. Fertilize 2 or 3 times only during the summertime growing season.
There’s no need to fertilize Aloe polyphylla during its dormant season of autumn and winter.
The joy of Aloe polyphylla or Aloe spiral is the corkscrew of spikey leaves and so it is unlikely that your plant will ever need to be pruned.
However, since all Aloe plants can be prone to leaf rot there may be an occasion where you need to take matters into your own hands by pruning away any diseased areas.
Indicators of disease at the top part of your plant include yellow, brown, or mushy leaves and an early indicator of root rot can be a mushy stem just below soil level.
When pruning, trim away any affected areas with a sharp, sterile knife, a razor blade or a pair of scissors.
Before repotting your Aloe spiral plant make sure that the roots have sufficiently filled the current pot width-ways.
When you remove your Aloe from its pot, you’ll notice that the roots will have spread horizontally but may not have reached the top of the pot. This is normal root growth for Aloe polyphlla and so, when choosing a new pot, make sure it is wider than the current pot and not necessarily taller.
Carefully separate the outer roots if they are firmly intertwined and give them a thorough inspection for any signs of rot. 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 succulent pot should be slightly wider than the previous pot and have sufficient drainage holes. Always use fresh well-draining succulent or cacti soil and once planted, water generously until water runs through the drainage holes.
You should only need to repot every two years.
How to Propagate Spiral Aloe Plants
Since Aloe polyphylla is unlikely to flower outside of its natural habitat, seeds can be a rarity. A much easier way of propagating this plant is from cuttings or occasionally, offsets.
Always wear gloves and use a sharp, sterile knife to take an outer leaf from a mature aloe polyphylla plant. Place it on a thin layer of well-draining soil and allow the cut edge to callous off for a few days.
Once the cut end is dry, place in well-draining soil and position in a bright spot avoiding direct sunlight.
Water once and then infrequently thereafter. Only water when the soil becomes lightly moist.
If you are lucky enough that your Aloe polyphylla produces the occasional offset, you can use it to propagate a new plant. Wearing gloves grasp the baby plant between thumb and index finger and 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 polyphylla
Overwatering your Aloe polyphylla, or more to the point letting the soil stay wet rather than 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 repot ting with fresh soil in a clean pot. Resume watering your plant, but much less frequently.
Mealybugs especially love humid conditions and can be found in the tightly packed leaves or in the crevices of stem junctions on Aloe polyphylla.
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.