How to Propagate Aloe From Pups or Cuttings
Aloe can be propagated through cuttings, or from pups. Regardless of the propagation method you choose, aloe propagation is quite simple if you stick to the proper steps. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton shares the simple steps to follow when creating more Aloe plants through propagation.
There are hundreds of different aloe species, each with unique blooms and interesting shapes. Aloe vera is the most well-known for its low maintenance needs, but there are also many other types to choose from. These plants have even become popular as houseplants, as long as you have the right light levels to sustain growth.
If you’ve found an aloe species that you love, growing either indoors or out, you probably want a few more of them. But before you head out to the nursery, check your plant to see if propagation is possible.
Aloes produce smaller versions of the main plant called pups that can be removed to grow into full aloes. Even if your plant doesn’t have pups, you can still propagate from cuttings to expand your collection. Here’s how to get it right.
If you want to expand your aloe collection, you have two options. The easiest option is to propagate from pups – the small versions of the main plant that pop up through the soil. All you need to do is remove these when they are large enough and replant them, having the plant do most of the hard work for you.
However, this method does rely on your aloe having pups to start with. Although aloes produce pups often during the growing season, problems with growth or incorrect conditions can halt this process. If you have recently removed a few pups, it will also take a while for your aloe to produce more that are large enough for removal.
If your plant doesn’t have pups, your only option is to propagate from cuttings. This method is slightly more complicated, but can give you far more aloe plants at one time.
You need to make sure you are including part of the stem in the cutting for quick rooting, so removal can be tricky. Unfortunately, you can’t just snap off any section of leaf to replant as they will quickly rot.
Which Propagation Method Is Best?
For quick results, dividing is the better propagation method. This is the most common option used by most gardeners as it is easy to do and has high success rates.
You won’t need to wait weeks or months for root growth as when propagating some other plants. Once these small pups are replanted and happy in their new homes, they can be treated the same as mature aloe plants.
That doesn’t mean propagating from cuttings is not possible, it is just a tougher method to choose with lower success rates and more chances to go wrong. But if your plant has no pups at all, or you want to break down your existing aloe into a few plants, this is a great method to choose.
What You’ll Need
Successful propagation starts with the right soil mix. If your soil does not have the right texture or drains poorly, your new aloe plants will quickly rot before they have time to establish.
Specialized succulent and cacti potting mix is suitable for propagating these plump plants. These mixes are designed to drain well enough to prevent rotting and have the texture succulent plants prefer. If you prefer to make your own mix, you can combine one part high-quality potting soil with one part sand as a simple potting mix recipe.
Next, you’ll need to pot to fill with this soil mix. There are many species of aloe, so choose the right container size relative to your specific plant.
Smaller containers are recommended as they don’t hold onto too much moisture. When propagating from cuttings, you can plant several cuttings in the same pot and transplant later once pups have developed.
Make sure your container has drainage holes at the bottom. Even if your soil has the perfect texture, the water will not drain away if it has nowhere to go. Terra cotta pots are also great options as the material draws moisture away from the soil too, but any materials are suitable for propagating.
Finally, you’ll need a sharp knife. This may not be needed when dividing as pups are quite easy to separate, but is essential when propagating from cuttings. The knife should be sharp and clean to avoid damage and the transfer of harmful bacteria.
Propagation From Division
Dividing aloes is a quick and easy way to propagate. This is best done when your plant needs repotting to complete two tasks in one.
Step 1: Remove the Plant From the Pot
Aloe pups can be removed from above the soil line by simply digging your hand into the soil and pulling the pup apart. However, this can lead to problems with removal if you are not careful. You want to avoid damage to the stem and roots as best you can, which is much harder to do if you can’t actually see them.
That’s why it’s best to completely remove the plant from the pot. This allows you to get a close look at the roots and point where the pup meets the main stem. Taking as much of that stem as you can will help with rooting and quick establishment.
If the plant is tricky to remove, squeeze the sides to loosen the soil or run a knife along the edges of the container. Turn the pot on its side and gently pull the plant out. Aloes can do some damage to your skin, so wear gloves or grip from below to avoid touching the leaves.
Step 2: Remove Soil and Identify Pups
Now that the plant is loose, remove some of the soil around the roots to get a closer look at the main stem. You don’t need to wash off all the soil. Just remove enough to see what’s going on at the base.
From here, you’ll be able to identify pups better and see where they meet the main stem. Pups separate so readily that a few may even fall off when removing the soil. If the pup is small and hasn’t really broken through the soil yet, try keep it attached to the main plant to draw nutrients and water until it is ready to grow on its own.
Step 3: Separate Pups from Main Plant
Next, simply pull apart the pups, loosening any tangled roots as you go. Most should be easy to remove. If there is some struggle to pull them apart, you can also cut the pup off with your sharp knife. Cut as close to the main stem as possible.
Step 4: Let the Plant Callous
Once all the viable pups have been removed, lay them out on a sheet of newspaper or in a dry area. This gives the base time to callous after removal, limiting chances of rotting. If planted straight after removal, any moisture added to the soil will likely rot the base of the plant, killing off the pup and preventing any possible rooting.
Make sure the pups are left in a dry area away from any moisture that could stop the base from drying out. Depending on the size of the pup and the stem, this will take a couple of days. Wait for the base to callous and dry completely before you are ready to replant.
Don’t worry about the pup drying out too much – there is enough moisture in the leaves to keep the plant alive.
If you want to complete the process all at once, you can plant straight into soil. But the soil needs to be completely dry. Then, hold off on watering for about a week to give the bottom time to heal. It’s better to wait to make sure the bottom is calloused before planting, but this is another option for impatient gardeners.
Step 5: Replant
Finally, once the end of the stem is dry, plant each pup into its own container. Fill the container with your prepared soil mix and make a hole in the center. Bury only the base of the pup, keeping the leaves completely dry.
Water lightly after planting to encourage new root growth. Make sure all the excess moisture drains away completely as this is when pups are most vulnerable to problems with rotting. If you’re not sure that the base has completely sealed, leave the pup in dry soil for a few days before watering again.
Move the pot to a sunny and warm spot to encourage new growth. After planting, you can provide the same care to these pups as you do the parent plant, adjusting watering schedules depending on the size of the container.
Propagation From Cuttings
Propagating from cuttings is another option to try if your plant doesn’t have any pups. This process needs to be done carefully to be successful. However, if done right, you can get far more plants out of cuttings at once than you would dividing.
Step 1: Remove the Plant From the Pot
The start of the process is much the same as dividing. This does depend on which species of aloe you are propagating, as some cuttings can be removed without uprooting the plant. But if you can’t clearly see the stem and the point where the leaves emerge, it’s best to remove the soil for a closer look.
Again, this process can be combined with repotting for overgrown plants. Not only does this allow you to complete two tasks at once, but it also limits disturbance for the roots, improving overall growth.
Step 2: Remove The Soil From Your Plant
Remove the soil around the roots and gently tease them. Then run the base of the plant under water to get rid of any soil residue. As you’ll be cutting into the stem, it’s best to start with a clean plant and clear view of what you are doing, unhindered by soil.
This is also a great time to assess root health. Look out for any damage or areas of mushy growth that indicate rot. Make sure you trim these off before replanting to improve the health and growth of your aloe plant.
Step 3: Cut Off an Individual Leaf
With a closer look at the base of the plant, you can identify the perfect sections for cutting. Aloe leaves can’t be removed at just any point as single leaf cuttings will quickly rot when planted in soil. Your cutting needs to include a part of the stem at the base that has the tissues necessary to produce plantlets.
Your knife should be small and sharp to allow you to make a precise cut. Slice the leaf at the stem, keeping some of the stem tissue at the bottom. Avoid damaging any other parts of the plant in the process as this can impact growth after repotting.
Don’t worry if you accidentally damage the top half of your cutting. As long as the bottom is healthy and intact, a new plantlet will form.
Step 4: Let Cuttings Callous
Just as with dividing, and propagating any succulent, you need to leave the cutting to callous. This is even more important for cuttings than pups as there is usually more surface area open to the soil, and a higher chance of rotting when this step is skipped.
The time to dry will depend on the moisture in the leaves and the size of the cutting. Leave each individual cutting on a piece of paper in a dry area to seal at the base. Humidity can also have an effect on how long it takes, so choose a dry room in your home outdoors to speed up the process.
It is possible to plant straight away and avoid watering for several days. But disturbing the plant to check the base will impact rooting anyway, so its far better to be patient to improve your chances of success.
Step 5: Replant
Finally, gather all your calloused cuttings to get ready for planting. As long as your container is large enough, you can root all cuttings in the same spot. If you don’t want to transplant later, plant them into larger individual pots. Keep in mind that this will impact moisture levels so you’ll have to water more carefully to avoid rotting.
Fill your container with soil and gently press the bottom of the cuttings into the soil. If the leaves are large, you may need to cut the tops off to stop them from falling over.
You can also bury a toothpick in the soil to keep the cutting upright or balance leaves against small stones.
Only the very bottom of the cutting should be in contact with the soil. If any part of the leaf is buried, it will likely rot when watered, killing off the cutting. Move the pot to a bright spot where it will not be disturbed to stop the leaves from falling over.
Within a week or two, you should notice new growth appearing at the base of your cutting. Once these plantlets have developed enough to grow on their own, remove the initial leaf and transplant into a new container for long-term growth.
Aloes are incredibly easy to propagate at home, especially if your plant has pups. Continue to remove these and propagate during the growing season for an endless supply of aloes.