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First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Posted by rredbbeard SE CT USA/zone 6 (rredbbeard@yahoo.com) on
Wed, Mar 26, 14 at 17:38

Back in December '12, I started a few a.p. seeds that I got on eBay, and with beginner's luck, did pretty well with them. Germination was good, and I ended up with 5 seedlings that seemed to thrive on neglect. I have been gardening for decades, and got these seeds only because the plants are very striking, not knowing that large specimens reach almost a 24" width!

At 15 months, the largest plant is 7" across, and just moved to a 10" clay pot, which should be adequate for the rest of this year.

I've been reading everything available on a.p. culture. I'm no expert, but I've figured out some of the major factors for cultural success. These include keeping the roots cool (<85*F), and providing excellent drainage. The roots need air circulation and moisture, and a potting medium of scoria/perlite/cactus medium in a clay pot has worked well. Ideally, water goes through the medium very quickly, but the roots should never be allowed to dry out.
This summer will be the first time these have gone outside. They'll be hanging just under an east-facing deck for early morning sun exposure, and protection from stronger sun and direct rain. If temperatures get too high, watering may include placing ice cubes around the edge of the pot, although I've never heard of this being done before.

My first seeds started effortlessly, and my new batch of seeds is challenging. Scarring the seeds with sandpaper apparently helps promote germination, and my chosen method is to carefully chip the seed case with the tip of a razor, then soak it for 48 hours. Germination has otherwise been very slow.

Here's a picture of my largest of the 5 original seedlings, ~7" wide, in a 10" clay pot. When acclimated, these can tolerate temperatures down to 25*F, and even snow! The rate of growth right now is remarkable.

I welcome any comments or questions. As I said, I'm no expert.

--Rick in CT


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Great job, Rick! That's a very good size for 7 months! I've accepted that I'll never be able to grow these but I'm glad I can enjoy them vicariously.

Sorry I haven't responded to your last email, first day off I've had in weeks! I'll gather some information today, see what we have.


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Great information, Rick! Sorry I have nothing to add to help you, but you've helped me. I have seeds I have not tried to start yet. I'm hoping they are still viable & will germinate. I have procrastinated a bit long, I think.

Your plant looks great! It seems you've done a wonderful job with them! Congrats!


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Actually it's 7" after 15 months, but I'm still ecstatic with the results. Now if I can just improve the germination rate with the current batch of seeds.

I'll keep you posted.

--Rr


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Rr,
Thanks also for helping me out. I don't have a high germination rate. Didn't know about nicking the seeds. I just soaked mine for 24 hrs. before planting. Got 6 out of 20 seeds. My biggest is about 2 inches after 4 months and my oldest is less than one inch. I transplanted too early and stunded it. Two other didn't make it. I will wait till they have at least 4 leaves before transplanting. If I just forget about them they thrive. Got to leave my hands out of their trays.
Stush


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Thanks for the detailed write up. I have this and other Aloe species (seed) on order from Mesa Garden. I look forward to growing it. At one time, I had about 30-40 different Aloe species growing here. Beautiful plants.


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

I guess it likes the potting medium!
This picture is the same plant, one month
before the previous picture, in a 4" pot:


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

I've been growing these for several years now, biggest is going into a 7-gal pot very soon. I'm further south from you in Long Island, and I can tell you without a doubt that you cannot give them too strong direct sun in the NE - more important, and you already know that roots need protection: DO NOT LEAVE THE POT EXPOSED TO THE AIR DURING THE SUMMER!!!

Bury the entire plant and pot so the roots stay cool and moist. Tip the pot so that water does not collect in the center. And water frequently during warm weather if your potting mix is mainly inert stuff like perlite. Mine are completely exposed to rain and my lawn sprinklers.

But make sure to gradually get them accustomed to the sun. Mine has been outside for a few weeks now. Upper teens is fine for adult plants as long as the pot is submerged so the delicate rootzone does not freeze where exposed to the bitter cold.

Trickiest time is spring - after a winter indoors, cold and dry much of the root system is toast. It takes some time for new roots to regenerate so hold back on watering until it is regularly warm, like late June. New roots grow fast. Mine are now in almost pure perlite so rot is unlikely since it doesn't stay wet...but be careful!

Enjoy!


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Thanks for the heads-up. I think you saved me a lot of frustration had I not buried the pots. Your plants now get full sun in a southern exposure? Has yours flowered yet?
When I repotted the pictured plant a couple of days ago, there was a good deal of new orange/yellow root growth, and now I wish I'd taken a picture of it. Here's a pic from a few weeks ago of its root structure when I had it exposed.

What else are you growing?

--Rick in CT


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Rick - they get as much sun as I can manage, full exposure, after initial acclimation. During the coldest part of winter (and this year was very long) they sit dry and dark in my unheated garage.

They grow very long, thick noodle-like roots, but not deep. A wide shallow container is adequate, no need for super deep pots. I also make lots of extra holes in the pots to allow roots an escape underground. Just trim them back with a scissor when unearthing at the end of the season.

No flowering (yet)...maybe one day? Wouldn't that be something!

I grow many things - cactus, mesembs, cycads, aloes, plumeria...if you search through this forum for my moniker "xerophyte nyc" you should find lots of stuff. I've been quieter here the last couple of years, mainly because life and family keep me busy.

x

This post was edited by xerophyte_nyc on Sat, Mar 29, 14 at 7:37


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

These are growing so fast! After repotting everything just six weeks ago, some of the a.p.'s need it again. I didn't expect them to gallop like this! This picture shows the roots that have grown into the new medium in less than six weeks, a very healthy orange color. While these plants can tolerate mild freezing, I'm thinking that a winter dormancy isn't required here. My plants were indoors under lights all winter and made healthy growth.

Incidentally, the plant in this picture has distinctly blue-green leaves. Has anyone seen or heard of this variation before?

--Rick in CT


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

These are growing so fast! After repotting everything just six weeks ago, some of the a.p.'s need it again. I didn't expect them to gallop like this! This picture shows the roots that have grown into the new medium in less than six weeks, a very healthy orange color. While these plants can tolerate mild freezing, I'm thinking that a winter dormancy isn't required here. My plants were indoors under lights all winter and made healthy growth.

Incidentally, the plant in this picture has distinctly blue-green leaves. Has anyone seen or heard of this variation before?

--Rick in CT


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Rick,
Did it have the Blue/Green leaves at germination? Or did it develope them as they grew? Are all your seedling the same color?
Mine are just a light green.
Stush


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

While these plants can tolerate mild freezing, I'm thinking that a winter dormancy isn't required here. My plants were indoors under lights all winter and made healthy growth.

What kind of lights, and what kind of temps? It's fine to push young plants along indoors - but the same is not necessarily true of adults. It's a challenge to provide adequate light, fresh air, etc. indoors so if the plant is tricked into growth the leaves may not be the same as those forming under real sun, wind and rain. If you can find a cool spot indoors for a few months, it may be better long term as the plant grows.

Incidentally, the plant in this picture has distinctly blue-green leaves. Has anyone seen or heard of this variation before?

Never seen that before - but juvenile leaves of aloes are known to have a different morphology from older plants.


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

These were in a south facing window until December, where they got pretty well chilled at night, then under fluorescents. I've been acclimating them to the outdoors environment and more sun for the past couple of weeks, being careful to protect the pots from excessive sun. So far so good--there aren't any signs of stress.

I can't say for sure that the blue plant was always that color, but it probably was. I've seen a.p.'s on ebay that seemed to have a bluish tone to them.

--Rr


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

I am very impressed and jealous! Maybe one day I will have the time to play around with these plants, but I killed the only one I ever had. The spiraling on these plants is amazing.

Very good job starting these guys from seed--and good luck with their summer vacation.


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

They do great here in the SF bay area outdoors,becoming hefty squat plants. My problem is that in hot summer weather it curls up tightly....more water,and it relax's somewhat. I did have another clone years ago that was touchy..in one week,it rotted. I did nothing different for the second plant,it hasn't minded overhead watering.
I guess there are clones of various qualities out there...you seem to have hit pay dirt with a blue seed grown plant. Congrats!


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

I just hope I can keep them cool and healthy! I'm in an almost urban area, and plunging the pots in the ground to keep them cool is a challenge. As for now, the plants do well on a south porch all day, and the pot bases stay very cool to the touch, being pretty well shaded from the sun. My other concern is possible rampage by tree rats (aka squirrels!).

Stay tuned....

--Rr


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Hi Rick,
I just received six A.P. seeds from a vendor in South Africa and I did a little research on line and found the British Cactus and Succulent Society forum where the members say the literally soak the seeds in water until they germinate…which could take 2 or more months! They just keep changing the water to avoid algae and bacteria. Many claim to have 100% success rate. If you go to the BCSS website and do a search of “Aloe Polyphylla from seed” you should find the string (started by someone named Tina) that explains their methods and shows pics too.

I also found a site by Clarke Brunt who grows them by seed as well. He had some really interesting notes on is losses and successes as well as some really nice pictures of blooming plants. You should be able google him to find the page.

I think I’m going to try the soaking until they germinate method ! I will keep you posted on if it works…which could be months from now!
Julie ; )


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Yes, those are all great sites to refer to. I have also found instructions to scarify the dry seeds, either by rubbing them between 2 pieces of sand paper before soaking them, or carefully chipping the seed coat with a razor blade. Giving the dry seed several 1 day cycles in/out of the freezer is also helpful. I haven't been able to achieve the high success rates in the various articles tho....

Rick in CT


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Clarke Brunt said on his site that he used that method with limited success as well. I'm leery of scarifying the seed as I'm afraid I will damage it due to my lack of experience in that area. If I do it too little, it won't make any difference.

He also mentioned the longer he soaked the seeds the better success rate he had. So I will soak mine for as long as it takes and let you all know if it worked! Good thing I have patience!

Julie : )


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

I'm going to soak a few seeds and see what happens, but these will be frozen for a few days, and chipped first. In the mean time, I repotted 2 of the originals, to 8" pots, from the 4" pots I put them in just 3 months before. These orange roots really want to spread, so it's best to overpot. I have some 3 month old seedlings that will go directly into 4" pots tomorrow.
So far, equal parts of perlite, growstone, and MG cactus mix seems to keep them happiest.


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spiral aloe polyphylla sprouted!

Hi rredbbeard,

Just to update you, I started soaking my 6 A.P. seeds on June 7th and today I found 2 of them sprouted! That was much quicker than I expected. I will keep you posted on the others to see how long they take.

Now that they sprouted, can you tell me how to plant them? Do they go below or above the soil? if below, how deep? Any tips would be most appreciated!

Jools4


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

not sure if i posted this correctly!


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Hi Jools,
Those seeds I started 3 weeks ago are doing pretty well. I took 10 seeds, gave them (2) cycles of freeze/thaw, then chipped them as I described earlier. Of the 10 seeds, 2 germinated within 72 hours, and by day 10 there was a total of 7 germinated. Maybe the others were duds, or maybe they weren't chipped right. Who knows?

In answer to your question, I use a gritty mix for the seedlings too, and planted the germinated seeds 1/4" deep, including extra perlite to cover the seeds to help retain moisture, in a terra cotta community pot. A total of 6 finally made it (pictured). I put a maximum of 5 seedlings in a pot.
In a few days these will go individually into 4" pots, and after a couple weeks of recovery, I'll start acclimating them to outdoors. From here on, I'll overpot, just to save time.
Community pot==> 4" pot==> 8" pot==> ??

When my larger seedlings (4" -- 8") first went outdoors, I was more than a little concerned bc all the plants developed tiny brownish freckles, which I thought was either fungal or bacterial, and I was all set to treat these when they spontaneously cleared up, with no damage to the leaves.
So far, the temperature here has stayed below 85°F, and I have each terra cotta pot sitting in a dish which serves as a water reservoir, with that whole setup sitting in a larger container to shade the clay pot from direct sun. Remember, if the roots hit 85°, the plant is toast. So far, this setup creates evaporative cooling, and I'm pretty compulsive about checking the pot temps, especially on the warmer days. I don't have a good spot to plunge these in the ground. As long as there's water in the dish, the unglazed pot will provide root cooling, and the plant can have its full sun. If the local temperature ever gets too high though, I won't hesitate to put the plants in the basement for a few days.

I hope this helps. These are methods that seem to work so far for me, but I'm still experimenting....

Rick in coastal Connecticut


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

Hi rredbbeard, Thanks for the tips! I'll give it a go and with any luck I will have some beautiful specimens like yours!

Jools

PNW- Western Washington State


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RE: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

If your seeds are still in water, fish them out and chip them. It might help!

--Rick


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Update: First year growing spiral aloe polyphylla

The largest of my aloes has been in a 10" pot for several months over the summer, and substantially outgrown it. I went to repot it into a 22 inch plastic half-barrel (HD), and realized that the spiral pattern had already started to show! This is the same plant pictured back in March '14, and it's now 20 months old, with ~55 leaves, 12" wide.

Although my methods aren't scientific, it seems pretty clear that this species doesn't require a winter dormancy. Over the past 2 winters here in zone 6, the lowest temp it was exposed to while indoors was 50°F, and last year they survived well under simple flourescent tubes, getting watered regularly.

As a result, I theorize these plants had the equivalent of 3 or 4 growing seasons in just 20 months, which accounts for the rapid progress. Avoiding the trauma and possible root loss that can result from cold, dry winter storage also probably contributed to this progress. The plant in this picture is the same one shown here back in Feb/March.

These plants were slowly acclimated to almost full sun starting in late March. At first, the leaves developed some light tan freckling which cleared up on its own.

Here's a question: if this species needs only moderate-to-cool conditions and good drainage, could it be naturalized into a new, higher elevation area which has moderate, regular precipitation, with mild winters?

--Rick in CT


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