Aloe Brevifolia: Growing the Chunky Crocodile

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Love aloe plants? Limited on space? Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Aloe brevifolia, the dwarf aloe.

Small and sweet, Aloe brevifolia is less than a foot tall. It has the thick, triangular leaves of an aloe plant, but grows in a succulent-like rosette. In color, it’s glaucous green, blue, and gray. Short-leaved aloe is ideal for small but showy spaces in containers or gardens.

Are you ready to try this unique Aloe? Here’s everything you need to succeed.

Good Products for the Chunky Crocodile:

Quick Care Guide

Aloe brevifolia
Aloe brevifolia is an enjoyable and easy aloe plant to grow. Source: Gardening Solutions
Common Name(s)Short-leaved aloe, crocodile plant
Scientific NameAloe brevifolia
FamilyAsphodelaceae
Height & Spread12″ tall and wide
LightFull to partial sun
Water“Soak and dry” method
SoilSandy and fast-draining
FertilizerOptional; balanced liquid fertilizer
Pests & DiseasesScale insects and mealybugs, root rot

All About Short-Leaved Aloe

Aloe brevifolia has the common name of crocodile plant, thanks to its “teeth”. These soft spikes line the edges and create a spine down the back of each leaf. They aren’t dangerous, but be careful! The plant itself is mildly toxic, and should not be consumed by people or their pets.

Short-leaved aloe is best grown outdoors in zones 9-11. It’s perfect for rock gardens and xeriscaping. Because it grows in clumps of rosettes, it’s also a great small-scale groundcover. If you grow your short-leaf aloe in the right environment, you may be rewarded with some color. The tips of the leaves turn a stunning red, yellow, and orange in response to bright light.

A native from South Africa, this aloe has growth spurts in the spring and fall. Its growth slows or stops during the summer and winter. It also attracts birds, bees, and butterflies with its flowers. These tall, red-orange beauties appear in late spring.

Types of Aloe Brevifolia

Crocodile aloe
It’s sometimes called crocodile aloe due to its spiny leaves. Source: Juan Ignacio 1976

Although Aloe brevifolia itself is the most common variety, these subvarieties are interesting finds to look out for.

Aloe brevifolia f. Variegata

This form has non-uniform, yellow and white stripes. It’s perfect for adding some subtle color to your rock garden.

Aloe brevifolia var. Depressa

This is the largest type of Aloe brevifolia. It reaches up to a foot tall and is more spread out between rosettes. The leaves grow outwards on the bottom, creating a flower shape.

Crocodile Plant Care

Just because crocodile plant is low-maintenance doesn’t mean it has no demands. Your Aloe will only thrive with proper care!

Light & Temperature

Aloe brevifolia demands and thrives in sunlight. It prefers 6-8 hours of bright light every day. However, it will grow in partial sun if direct light isn’t an option. When moving your aloe to a new location, let it acclimate to the light by introducing the new location slowly.

The ideal temperature for this plant is 70-80° F. If your area gets colder than 20°F, your Aloe brevifolia will need to come inside.

When indoors, place your crocodile plant in the sunniest south-facing window you have. Supplement with a grow light if needed.

Water & Humidity

Aloe brevifolia’s leaves are so chock-full of water that they don’t need frequent watering. The best method here is “soak and dry and dry”. Give your short-leaved aloe a deep drink, and then let the soil dry out and remain so for a few days.

For you overeager waterers, Aloe brevifolia is decently forgiving. It can handle some moisture, but won’t grow as well with it. Watch for yellowing and mushy leaves, which is a sign of major overwatering. If this happens, repot your Aloe brevifolia in dry soil and lay off the watering can.

Give your short leaved aloe less water during the winter and summer. Too much during this time may cause it to rot.

Soil

Aloe brevifolia in garden bed
This aloe species can grow in pots or directly in succulent garden beds. Source: cultivar413

To keep it nice and dry, plant your crocodile plant in well-draining soil. Ideally, ⅓ of the soil should be sand, perlite, or pebbles. Mixing up your own concoction is an easy way to ensure this. 

If you choose to use a specialty succulent soil, check the drainage and add some perlite if needed. The soil should drain well enough that your Aloe is never sitting in water, even after a deep watering.

Fertilizer

Balanced liquid fertilizer is perfect for Aloe brevifolia, though optional. Feed your plant 2-3 times during spring and fall. Don’t fertilize during the summer and winter.

Repotting

Crocodile plant grows slowly, so you likely won’t have to repot it. However, if your plant does manage to outgrow its container, then it’s time for an upgrade.

Treat your short-leaved aloe to a slightly larger pot and fresh, dry soil. After replanting, let it sit without water for a few days so it can adjust to the move.

Propagation

Aloe brevifolia is efficient at propagating itself. It frequently sends out offsets, also called suckers. This propagation is what makes it a great groundcover.

After your Aloe brevifolia has grown several rosettes, you can easily propagate by division. Simply unearth a portion of the plant and cut it free from the parent. After replanting, don’t water for a few days so the wounds can heal. Dividing your Aloe brevifolia every few years will help invigorate it and encourage more growth.

You can also propagate your crocodile plant from its offsets. Isolate an offset and cut it from the plant. Let the wound dry out for a few days and then plant it. Keep the soil consistently moist until the cutting has grown roots and is established.

Aloe brevifolia, unlike most succulents, doesn’t propagate well from leaves as they usually go mushy.

Pruning

The only pruning required is for dead flower stalks. Remove them at the base of the stalk after the blooms have faded.

Troubleshooting

Short leaved aloe
Aloe brevifolia is sometimes called short-leaved aloe. Source: Skolnik Collection

Short-leaved aloe is usually disease and pest-free. However, you should always be on the lookout for symptoms. Catching them early will make yours and your plant’s life easier.

Growing Problems

The main problems you’ll see on your aloe – if any – are usually due to over or underwatering. 

Overwatered crocodile plants will turn yellow and mushy. If left in water too long, they may begin to rot. Switch to a sandier soil and let it dry out completely in between waterings.

If your Aloe brevifolia’s leaves are withering or wrinkled, they need more water. Give your plant a good drink and it should recover.

Pests

Scale Insects are nasty pests that suck the life from aloes. They’re tiny and usually white or brown. One of the most common scale insects you’ll encounter is the mealybug. This one leaves behind white, cottony nests that resemble powdery mildew.

Scale insects, including mealybugs, can be prevented by keeping your Aloe brevifolia dry and not overfertilizing. If you notice just a few insects, kill them immediately by physically removing them or dabbing them with rubbing alcohol.

For large infestations, we recommend horticultural oil or neem oil. Coating your crocodile plant with a thin layer of this will suffocate the pests. Spraying your plant with insecticidal soap is another great option.

Diseases

Not much stands in the way of Aloe brevifolia when it comes to disease. However, basically every desert plant can develop root rot. This occurs when the plant is constantly moist, which invites bacteria. Rotted sections of your short-leaf aloe will be brown or black and mushy.

Prevent root rot by watering correctly and choosing a well-draining soil. If you notice rot on your plant, you’ll need to act fast before it spreads.

With sterile clippers, cut off all rotted parts of your Aloe brevifolia. If this means you’d be cutting away the majority of the plant, you’re better off just propagating from the remaining healthy sections and losing the plant itself.

After removing the rotted sections, repot your short leaved aloe in new, well-draining soil. To help prevent the spread of any rot you missed, apply a fungicide to the soil. Let your Aloe brevifolia sit in the dry soil for a few days before watering.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is Aloe brevifolia edible like Aloe Vera?

A: No. Aloe brevifolia can be mildly toxic to humans, causing severe stomach discomfort and possible nausea. To animals, most aloes cause vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea, and you should get your pet to the vet quickly to prevent any more dangerous issues.

Q: Can Aloe brevifolia grow indoors?

A: It can, but outdoor conditions are favorable in most warm climates. If you have to grow indoors, put your Aloe brevifolia in a sunny, south-facing window and use a grow lamp if needed.


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Rachel Garcia
Succulent Fanatic

Clarisa Teodoro

Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener

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