How to Grow Aloe Polyphylla (Spiral Aloe)

Aloe Polyphylla

Last Updated on October 31, 2021 by Phil

Aloe polyphylla is more popularly known as Spiral Aloe because of the formation of its foliage.

It is known for its large, thick succulent leaves that are likewise sharp. As such, when you handle the plant, make sure to be careful.

This aloe is native to South Africa. It enjoys moderate to warm conditions and it drought tolerant.

That said, in its native habitat, the plant received a good amount of winter snow.

The Spiral Aloe is amazing to look at especially if you look closely at its leaves which stay symmetrical as they grow in a circular path.

This process begins once the plant reaches between 8 and 12 inches.  Each row of foliage has between 15 and 30 leaves. The plant itself grows to about 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.

Aloe Polyphylla Plant Care

Aloe Polyphylla Light Requirements

Aloe polyphylla thrive on plenty of bright light. In fact, they need full sun which equates to at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.

That said, depending on where you live, the afternoon sun may be a big too hot or harsh for it. The same is true for brutal summers.

This means that if you live in the southern part of the country or warm regions where the afternoon sun can get very intense, it is a good idea to keep the plant under partial shade.

On the other hand, if you live in a cooler region, then full sun is ideal.

Indoors, this makes an eastern exposure the best spot for the plant. It gets long hours of bright light here. And, it won’t have a problem with the gentle morning sun.

Western and southern exposures are likewise great provided that you observe how the afternoon sun is. You want to avoid overly hot and intense light as it will eventually damage the plant’s leaves.

Outdoors, bright shade is likewise a good idea, especially during the hottest times of the day.

Bottom line here is your spiral aloe needs lots of bright light. As long as it doesn’t get overly harsh for long periods of time, it will be happy. This exposure will allow it to grow at its best and produce its most vibrant leaves and flowers.


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Spiral Aloe Temperature & Humidity

Aloe polyphylla grows best as an outdoor plant. It is less suited to growing indoors.

That said, it comes from South Africa. As such, it prefers warm weather. However, adult Spiral Aloe are somewhat (not totally) cold hardy. They can tolerate temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

This means you have a little bit more leeway with them when it comes to colder temperatures at the end of the year.

However, be aware that this only applies to adult Aloe polyphylla. Immature plants are not able to tolerate freezing or cold temperatures. So, it is a good idea to give them extra care if grown outdoors when fall arrives.

Ideally, keep younger Spiral Aloe in containers to make it easy to bring them indoors.

As time passes, they will get acclimated to the point where they are be able to live outdoors on their own.

On the other hand, beware of overly hot conditions as well. As much as the plant enjoys warm, bright light, it cannot tolerate too much heat as well.

Needless to say keep it out of any condition where temperatures is above 95 degrees. Here, its thick leaves will flatten out and turn limp.

It can somewhat tolerate levels between 85 to 95 degrees, although you do need to watch how it responds. Ideally, keeping temperature between 70 to 85 degrees will keep the plant growing well.

As far as USDA hardiness zones go, the plant can does best between zones 10 and 12.

aloe polyphylla

source: wikimedia commons


How Often to Water Aloe Polyphylla

Like other succulents, Aloe polyphylla have thick, fleshy leaves that store water. This makes it drought tolerant. However, do keep in mind that is needs less than other succulents.

In a sunny location, it will need more regular watering especially in the spring and summer. But, in a shaded location, it will need less water.

Be very mindful of water during the fall and winter when your Spiral Aloe will require even less water than it normally does.

As such, only water when the soil is dry to the touch. Ideally, wait for the top 1 to 2 inches to dry before watering. This will reduce the risk of overwatering, which can easily happen because the plant stores extra water in its foliage.


Soil for Aloe Polyphylla

Aloe polyphylla has long, thick roots. But, they do not go that deep. As such, it is essential to use well-draining soil.

It root system also does better in a wide shallow container as opposed to a deeper one where water can accumulate and sit for longer periods of time that may increase the risk of root rot.

This means your Spiral Aloe will prefer sandy or gravely soil over heavy clay soils that will retain moisture.

It is also one of the plants that will be able to do well in slopes, hillsides or banks where the slanted surface will allow water to run through it instead of just sit around the plant.

This kind of “fast draining” moisture prevents overwatering.

If you decide to grow it in a container, make sure the pot has drainage holes that will allow water to easily escape.

As for potting mix, you can use a combination of:

  • 55% compost
  • 35% perlite, pumice, coarse sand or vermiculate
  • 10% horticultural grit


Aloe Polyphylla Fertilizer

Aloe polyphylla enjoy rich, fertile soil. As such, giving them loamy soil or that which has been amended with compost helps a lot.

If you grow your spiral Aloe is a container, it is a good idea to check whether the potting soil that comes with it has been pre-mixed with fertilizer. If it has figure out what kind and how long the plant food lasts. You can ask the nursery you got it from.

This will let you know when to start feeding the plant.

You do not want to feed it while it still has the pre-mixed dose in effect. This will “double up” the fertilizer which is not good for the plant, its roots of leaves.

That said, how much fertilizer you use will depend on how often you repot.

  • If you repot annually, you can use a slow-release 6-month fertilizer. With it, you only need to apply once and you’re good to go till next season.
  • On years your don’t repot, apply liquid fertilizer once every month during the growing season.


Pruning Spiral Aloe

Aloe polyphylla grows to about a foot tall and about 2 feet wide. As such, it isn’t the biggest plant. But, it does take up some space. And, because of its spiral configuration, the lower leaves are bigger.

Thus, when it comes to size and shape, you may get tempted to remove these especially once they start drying out or dying off.

But, never prune them or cut them off prematurely.

That’s because they serve a few functions. The most of important of which is to re-absorb water and nutrients. This allows the plant to produce more flowers and foliage.

The good news is, spiral aloe don’t need a lot of pruning. So, it is fairly low maintenance in this aspect.

But, if you grow it in a container, be aware that its size will eventually be a problem. Not only will you need a large pot, you’ll likewise likely need to prune its roots every year.

While the plant isn’t bothered by the root pruning, it does come out to be quite a bit of work.


Aloe Polyphylla Propagation

Aloe polyphylla is a bit trickier to propagate compared to other aloe varieties. As a result, the plant is rarer than other succulents. And, one reason you’ll likely need to go online to find them.


That’s because it cannot be propagated by leaf cuttings. Because of its large, thick leaves, you’d think that the spiral aloe would be straightforward to propagate via this method.

But, that is not the case.

This means you’ll either need to rely on its offsets (the plant does produce pups) or propagating from seed.

How to Propagate Spiral Aloe from Offsets

Offsets would seem like the much easier way to propagate your Spiral Aloe. But, another reason why it has become rare is that it does not produce offsets (pups) that often.

And, you have to keep it happy for several years before it may be able to do so.

As such, it is kind of a hit-miss thing.

That said, if you’re fortunate to see your Aloe polyphylla produce offsets, you want to take full advantage of them.

Use a sterile knife to cut the offsets from the parent plant. Be careful as the leaves of the plant are quite sharp.

Then remove any loose dirt from them.

Leave the offsets in a warm, dry place to allow them to callous. This takes about a day or two.

Once they’ve calloused, place the offsets into containers with well-draining soil.

How to Propagate Spiral Aloe from Seeds

Because offsets are not a sure thing and leaf cuttings are out of the question, propagating from seed is the most effective way.

The good new is, it is easy to grow them from seed. And, you can purchase the seeds online easily.

So, all you need is a bit of patience and allow the seeds to germinate then grow into seedlings.

From there, you’ll be able to decide whether to transplant it outdoors or move them to a larger container.


How to Repot Aloe Polyphylla

If you keep the plant in a container, you’ll need to repot it at some time. This will depend on how big, deep or shallow the container is.

Your Aloe polyphylla has shallow roots. As such, it is best to keep it in a wide, shallow container. This will reduce the risk of overwatering which can happen with deeper plants as the ratio of soil to the plant’s roots is big.

Once the roots start showing out from under the container, it is time to repot the plant.

Because of its size (it will reach about 2 feet wide), containers will get harder to find as the plant’s size increases.

As such, in most cases, pruning its roots is needed. And, is done once a year along with repotting. This will allow you to keep the plant in its existing container.

Similarly, repotting annually also allows you to refresh the potting soil each time you do. This will let you use a 6-month slow-release fertilizer instead of having to feed it monthly during its growing season.


Spiral Aloe Toxicity

Keep the Aloe polyphylla away from young children, dogs and cats. The plant is toxic to both humans and animals. Thus, ingesting any part of the plant cause vomiting and other digestive distress.

Similarly, the leaves are sharps o you can hurt yourself. It is important to be careful when handling this plant as well.

That said, it is worth noting that in its native South Africa, the Spiral Aloe is revered for medicinal and magical qualities.


Pests and Diseases

Aloe polyphylla are prone to aphids and snout beetles. In order to prevent them from happening, it is important to keep the plant healthy. This includes proper drainage, watering and aeration.

Similarly, too much humidity or moisture increases the risk of fungal problems. Overwatering can cause root rot.

This means you always want to be mindful of watering and drainage.

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