How I Grow Aloe from seed


I don't know the best way to grow Aloes from seed so I'll just share my experiences.

 

One day last year on a walk just down the street from my (used to be ) office...

Little used sidewalk with lots of Hesperaloe

I always thought this area was desolate looking and wondered how they arrived at a decision to plant a berm several hundred yards long with Hesperaloe 20ft on center.

Hesperaloe Seed Pods NOT Ready!

Hmmm... these seeds will just end up in the landfill so surely no one will care if I grab a few pods

Hesperaloe Seed Pods Ready!


Before planting I soaked the seeds in water for a few days. I was surprised to see green shoots emerging from the soil within days!



Unfortunately I left these seedlings un-watered for too long and they all died. The extraction fan I use in the grow tent can really dry out the soil. Lesson one - don't let your soil dry out! I have clear plastic covers for these trays that help retain soil moisture - I may have left them off for too long  - I don't remember at this point.

Manfreda maculosa

Happily there are lots of plants in my yard willing to produce seed - time for a second attempt. This time I experimented by leaving the fan off except on the hottest days where air temps were 90+ degrees F.

Manfreda spreading in the front yard

You can see the base of a green flower stalk in the picture above - it's seed pods are out of frame but trust me - they are not ready yet.


Manfreda maculosa dried seed pods
Manfreda seed pods ready for harvest

The seed pods above stayed on the plant for several months after the last bloom faded. When shaken these seed pods sound like a rattle - a give away that the seeds have dried.


Manfreda maculosa open seed pod

Each pod produces so many seeds!

Manfreda maculosa seeds


I counted out 40 seeds (if memory serves) and left them in a bowl of water on the kitchen counter. I was curious if the same soaking technique I'd used with the Hesperaloe would also work on Manfreda. Soaking them for so long wasn't my original plan;  I was just being lazy.

Manfreda seeds soaking in water
Manfreda seeds after roughly 2 weeks soaking in water

Not every seed had germinated at this point but I went ahead and moved all 40 of them to a flat in the grow tent. Turns out not all the above seeds were viable.

Manfreda seedlings about 1 week after planting

The soil is a bit wet. When planting the seeds I was about to leave on vacation for week and didn't want them to dry out while away. At this point a few of the seedlings succumbed to what I assume was mildew. Lesson two - Do not over water - duh! In the past mildew was my number one problem which I felt was due to lack of air circulation, humidity.

Manfreda seeding
Manfreda seedlings about 5 weeks after planting

The roots of these Manfreda are minuscule and not always up to the task of holding the plant upright.


About 7 weeks after planting







The grow tent runs mainly at night for a total of roughly 14 hrs. I don't make any attempt to regulate temperature but it seems to stay roughly in the 80F - 85F range (the all time high and low temps shown above were from a different location. Importantly though the soil temperature stayed consistently warm which I'm guessing helps with seedling growth.

Aloe Thraskii


Step one - convince some pollinators to come and work in your garden during the winter months when Aloes are in bloom.


Aloe thraskii seeds
Aloe thraskii seeds


Step two - leave the flower stalks in place long after they've finished blooming. This is harder than it sounds if you like a tidy garden. I also soaked these seeds in a bowl of water for a few weeks like the Manfreda above. The result was the same - after about 1 week they began germinating.


Aloe thraskii seedlings
Aloe thraskii seedlings a few days after emerging


Aloe thraskii seedlings
Aloe thraskii roughly three weeks after planting

At a certain point you start to appreciate why aloes, agave and cacti sell for a larger amount than other plants - it takes so long to grow them.


Aloe thraskii seedlings about 5 weeks after planting


I'm not sure why but the seedlings seemed to have changed color from their original vivid green. Once transplanted they changed back to a richer green color.


Aloe thraskii roots are getting long

I carefully removed several of the seedlings at this point and realized I should have transplanted them a few weeks ago. Their roots are getting tangled and have grown surprisingly long. Some of the plants have a main root that is at least 8+ inches long! Lesson three - start seeds that grow roots aggressively in individual cells rather than an open tray. I've got a bunch of 72 cell trays that would have been perfect.

 

Transplanted Aloe thraskii seedlings (6+ wks)

I've learned that a layer of rock mulch helps to keep the fungus gnat population down by making it harder for adults to lay eggs. The gnats have not seemed to harm the seedlings from what I've observed - although the larval stage is reported to eat the roots of some seedlings. Some store bought soils seem to contain gnat eggs (no added charge!) I've tried heating up soil to ~ 250F in order to kill pests and/or pathogens. It's extra work for me to sterilize soil on anything but a small scale - so I often skip this step. This is mainly a problem for seedlings in the grow tent or house plants. Maybe I'll ask for an autoclave for Christmas.
 

Aloe Dawei


Aloe dawei seed pods
Aloe dawei seed pods early Oct, 2020


Aloe dawei seeds
Aloe dawei seeds the next day after removing spent bloom stalks


Aloe dawei seedlings
Aloe dawei seedlings late Oct, 2020




I've never had much luck growing anything but veggies from seed so even a small success feels like a giant leap.

Happy propagating!

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience! I've eyed Hesperaloe seedpods but I've never allowed the flower stalks sufficient time in place for the seeds to ripen. Relatively few of my aloes have bloomed but, as I'm getting more into propagating from cuttings, divisions and seeds, I'll try to be more patient with those flower stalks when I've got them.

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  2. Propagation from cuttings is a great technique for Aloes and seems easier than growing from seed. Maybe we can trade seeds?

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  3. That's a good run-down on growing those.

    I've thrown some Hesperaloe seeds around, not ambitious/organized enough for a grow tent. Might have a seedling--time will tell. Have grown a few Aloes from seed, and lost most--got lazy about attentive care when they were tiny and vulnerable. Finally got three plants from A. capitata seed pod, still waiting for them to bloom...five...seven...years on? Seems like they are big enough now. Not only are they slow to grow, they are slow to flower. They appear to be hybrids. I read that most Aloes are not self-fertile, true or not?

    Got one seedling Aloe by just scattering seeds on ground that gets some moisture, know for sure the seed parent was hardyi--the pollen might have been arborescens. Has quite a nice red flower but plant is a big sprawly clumper.

    Tried more Aloe seeds last winter, just in a pot on the patio, nothing ever sprouted so I stuck an Echeveria rosette in the empty soil, now there are a couple of aloe seedlings peeping out from under the echeveria. Ha! They fooled me! Can't remember what seeds I collected, of course.

    Collected some A. dhufarensis seeds, will try them for the heck of it. Want some?

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    Replies
    1. The tough parts seem to be getting the aloe seeds to germinate and keeping them alive the first few weeks - doing it outside is probably even harder! I open to trading some seeds if you like.

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