The spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla) is a mesmerizing evergreen succulent in the Aloe genus that is native to South Africa. Its unique spiraling growth habit has made this succulent popular and highly sought after. Thick green leaves with pointed, purplish-brown tips form a compact, symmetrical spiral that can grow clockwise or counterclockwise. Each turn of the spiral has between 15 and 30 leaves, and this aloe can grow up to 24 inches wide.
This striking succulent makes a great addition to rock gardens, succulent gardens, or containers, and also grows well indoors as a houseplant. Unfortunately, its high demand and specific growing requirements have made the spiral aloe difficult to find and expensive to acquire, but if you manage to obtain one, its striking appearance will make the effort well worth it.
|Botanical Name||Aloe polyphylla|
|Common Name||Spiral aloe|
|Mature Size||12 in. tall, 24 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Flower Color||Pink, orange|
|Hardiness Zones||7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs, toxic to cats|
Spiral Aloe Care
Unlike its relative the Aloe vera, the spiral aloe is not an easy succulent to grow and keep alive outside of its native habitat. It is sensitive to a variety of environmental factors including temperature, humidity, and watering which all need to be just right in order for the spiral aloe to thrive.
Although the spiral growth habit is one of the most unique aspects of the spiral aloe, juvenile plants do not begin to spiral until they are at least eight inches wide. Mature plants are also more likely to produce blooms than young spiral aloes are. Watch out for their beautiful salmon-pink flowers that sprout from a long branching spike.
This succulent does not require as much light as most other succulents. When grown outdoors, the spiral aloe should be planted in a location that receives full to partial sun and is protected from the harsh afternoon sun. Six hours of morning or evening sunlight is perfect for the spiral aloe.
When grown indoors it can tolerate more sunlight. Place the spiral aloe in a location that receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day. South-facing or west-facing windows are usually both great choices.
The spiral aloe requires airy, slightly acidic, and well-draining soil in order to thrive. Standard cactus and succulent soil mixes can be used, however adding some pumice or lava rock will help to increase the aeration. Alternatively, you can create your own potting mix at home by mixing together two parts pumice or lava rock, two parts potting soil, and one part horticultural sand.
Like most succulents, the spiral aloe is extremely drought tolerant and does not require a lot of water. In fact, overwatering and root rot are some of the most common reasons that gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts struggle to keep this succulent alive.
Ensure that the soil has dried out thoroughly between watering, and cut back on watering in the fall and winter months. If you live in a region that experiences frequent rainfall and you are hoping to grow the spiral aloe outdoors, growing it in a container that can be moved indoors and protected from the rain is probably a good idea.
Temperature and Humidity
The spiral aloe is not cold-hardy and also does not tolerate extreme heat. Ensure that this succulent is not exposed to prolonged periods of freezing temperatures, and protect it from temperatures higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).
Protect the spiral aloe from excessive winds and humidity. Mild, dry temperatures are ideal conditions. For most growers, growing the spiral aloe indoors as a houseplant, or in containers outdoors is the easiest way to keep this high maintenance succulent alive and thriving.
Regular fertilizing is not required for the spiral aloe as it is accustomed to growing in sandy, poor-quality soil. If desired, an annual application of a cactus or succulent fertilizer in the early spring can be beneficial to help boost growth during the active growing period.
Propagating Spiral Aloe
Like most plants in the Aloe genus, the spiral aloe is most readily propagated through offsets (or pups) from the mother plant. Propagation through leaves and seeds is extremely difficult and unreliable and generally is not feasible for most growers. A happy, mature spiral aloe will grow offsets which can be separated from the mother plant and repotted in their own containers. Wait until the offsets are at least a couple of inches wide before separating and repotting them to ensure they will be able to survive on their own.
Potting and Repotting Spiral Aloe
The spiral aloe is slow-growing and will only need to be repotted every two to three years. Ensure that you choose a container with drainage holes to avoid drowning the plant. Terracotta or clay planters are excellent choices for the spiral aloe because they help absorb excess moisture in the soil.
To repot a spiral aloe, turn the pot sideways or upside down to gently wiggle the plant out of the container. Remove as much of the old soil from the roots as you can, being careful not to break the roots, and then move it to its new container. Add fresh soil around the roots and firmly pat into place.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
The spiral aloe is generally pest and disease-free, although it can occasionally be bothered by sap-sucking pests such as mealybugs and scale. Ensure that you are regularly checking the plant to catch any pests early. Mealybugs and scale in particular like to hide in crevices of the plant and on the backs of the leaves.
You can also remove light infestations of scale insects by dipping a facial-quality sponge or plain cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and dabbing each insect. The alcohol alone should kill the scale, but the dead insects will remain on your plants and make it difficult for you to scout for new infestations.