There are different ways to propagate your aloe vera houseplant. It can be from offshoots called “pups”, by germinating seeds, or from leaf cuttings. Propagating from pups is the easiest method and the one with the highest success rate. If you try to propagate aloe vera from a cutting placed in water, it will rot before it grows roots. The chances of the cutting rooting in potting soil are much better but require patience. For instant gratification (and new plants), pups are your best bet.
Growing aloe vera from seed is easy but takes time. The seeds sprout in 1 to 3 weeks, and the succulent grows very slowly, whereas propagation with pups will give you a much faster start. Also, the seeds require eight to ten hours of sunlight for germination, which, in most homes, is difficult to provide naturally, so you need to set up grow lights. And the seeds collected from any backyard plant won’t do, as aloe vera easily cross-pollinates with other aloe species.
Propagating aloe vera from the pups of a healthy mother plant, however, is relatively simple and, consequently, is the recommended option.
Equipment / Tools
- Sharp knife
- Succulent potting mix
- 4-inch pots
Removing Pups from the Mother Plant
As an aloe plant matures, it grows pups around its base. Eventually, they will get so big that the plant will outgrow its pot. To propagate aloe vera, however, you don’t need to wait that long. The pups are ready to be transplanted when they have a few sets of leaves.
Take the plant with its entire roots out of the pot. This is best done by tilting the pot and holding the main plant at the base while carefully lifting it out. Do not apply any force though.
If the plant does not come out easily because the root system has filled the entire pot and it is stuck to the sides, take a dinner knife and run the blade all around the soil and as deep down the sides of the pot as possible to loosen the roots. The goal is to lift out the entire plant with its roots, as well as the pups and their roots, intact.
Once you have managed to get the plant out of the pot, separate the pups from the mother plant. Ideally, all the pups will have their own roots but some of them might not. Those without their own roots typically develop roots quickly once planted.
Find the spots were the pups are attached to the mother plant and cut off all the pups with a clean, sharp knife. Make sure that you don’t damage the roots. If the pup’s roots are entangled with the roots of the mother plant, gently pull them apart.
Inspect the roots and leaves and cut off any brown roots or dried leaves with a sharp knife.
Letting the Pups Callus Over (Optional)
Propagating succulents usually includes letting the wounds on the leaf cuttings callus over before planting. You can skip that step for pups with roots and repot them directly, but callusing is necessary when they lack roots in order to increase their chance of survival.
Place the pups on a piece of cardboard or newspaper in a dark, cool, and dry place for 24 to 48 hours. Wait until the spot where they were separated from the mother plant has developed a protective callus and no longer appears wet. Then pot them as described below.
Replanting the Pups
Separate the pups with roots from the ones without.
The pups need new pots about four inches in diameter. Make sure the pots have drainage holes. Fill the pots loosely with succulent potting mix, or add perlite, sand, or rock grit to potting soil to improve drainage. Using your index finger or a small stick, make a hole in the center of the soil large and deep enough to hold the pup with its roots. Place the pup inside the hole so the base of the plant is above the soil line. Add more potting soil to fill the pot.
Gently press down on the soil to compact it. The soil should fill the container to about half an inch below the rim. This also ensures that the pup sits firmly in the soil and does not get knocked over when you water the plant.
Thoroughly wash out the original pot with soap and hot water and replant the mother plant with fresh succulent potting mix.
Caring for Propagated Aloe Vera
For the first few days, the new plants that started off with roots need deep watering, but only water again when the soil has fully dried out. Watering too much and too often will lead to root rot.
Once you see new growth, which can take several weeks to a couple of months, you’ll know that your aloe vera propagation was successful. Keep the plants out of strong direct sunlight during that time. Once the plants are established, they need very little water and fertilizer.
To establish the pups that did not have roots, mist the soil in order to encourage root development. It will take longer before you know whether these pups have established enough roots to survive.