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Gareth

Aloe polyphylla: The Spiral Aloe

Well it is official, Lois is turning me into a proper gardener.

I was surfing around the net the other day when I came across the spiral Aloe, and thought what a stunning looking plant.

I like succulents and have a few varieties of them dotted about the garden. So I stuck my neck out and bought 5 seeds at a £1.00 each †

Aloe Polyphylla originates from Lesotho, South Africa and in the wild it is currently very high up on the Cites endangered list. Fortunately there are several thousand specimens in collections around the world, and I thought that I would do my little bit.

They grow with either a clockwise or an anticlockwise spiral, and begin to do so when there are seven leaves on the plant, so there will be a little excitment waiting to see which way mine will go: that is if the seeds germinate!


Here are a few photos copied from the internet:










and a link to the gentleman's blog from whom I purchased my seeds http://www.viridis.net/cactus/aloe_poly.html

I am looking forward to planting my seeds this weekend, and then keeping you all up to date with the progress of the plants.
lizzie44

Oooohhhhh! Pretty please can I have one if you can spare it?? ( I'll pay you in bongleberries!, eggs, crisps, hard cash etc!)  Love Lizzie
Gareth

lizzie44 wrote:
Oooohhhhh! Pretty please can I have one if you can spare it?? ( I'll pay you in bongleberries!, eggs, crisps, hard cash etc!) †Love Lizzie


I have just ordered 5 more seeds from a Cambridgeshire grower, so hopefully I will now have two sets of unrelated seeds to produce plants from.

Lizze44; Lois agrees with me, and it would be our pleasure to enter into a Spiral Aloe horticultural mini joint venture with you........ buckets full of Bongleberries will do just fine.
Gareth

Well, it has taken almost 3 months, but our first Spiral Aloe has germinated in the propagator on the shelf in the conservatory.

If the truth be known I had completely given up on them ever making a showing several weeks ago, but Lois told me to leave them alone for them to germinate in their own good time.

It is only one Spiral Aloe with only a single leaf but with a second almost ready to unfurl so far, but my expectation of one or more from the other nine Spiral Aloe seeds in the propagator germinating has risen considerably.
freckle

Ooooooh-these look fantastic!!!
lilwitedogs

What an interesting plant!
12Bore

What a grand looking plant, me likey!
kaz

Let's hope that a few more germinate and that they go in different directions
Gareth

We've had a second Spiral Aloe germinate in the last couple of days and it looks like there maybe another two about poke through the surface of the compost in the pots.

It was Lois' idea that they might be a cold climate germinating plant and to that end they have been left on the window sill of our unheated conservatory; we've had a couple of good frosts this week, so I am just going to leave them be for the time being and see what happens.
Gareth

Well it has cost me £20.00 and taken 17 months to get to this stage: only 2 spiral Aloe seeds at £1 each out of the 20 I purchased have geminated and survived to this stage, but I think that I have 2 strong and viable plants. I don't think it will be long before the plants start to show which way they will spiral........ Will it be clockwise, anticlockwise or one of each?





Digindeep

Clockwise...at a real guess..well were in the northen hemisphere......

There again...what do I know...

After all this time time its good to see your rewards...  
Rena

Those are COOL! So glad they sprouted as now they look pretty happy! Yay for Lois keeping you from totally giving up on them! Def want to see more photos of future progress!
kaz

I say clockwise as well
Gareth

This is the progress to date.





I have also succumbed to buying another 20 spiral Aloe seeds in packets of 5 from four different nurseries. These I'll be germinating on the windowsill this autumn.
Rena

Well done, Gareth!!! Too bad I'm halfway round the world .... I'd 'let' you start one for me Please, keep the photos coming, seeing the growth changes are amazing!
Gareth

Currently I have my 20 newly acquired Spiral Aloe seeds in the top compartment of our freezer, although they are still in the packaging. Consensus of opinion around the garening internet forums indicates that a frost or two in their native Lesotho helps to breakdown the outer coating of the seed and aids in germination. So I'll remove them from the freezer on Thursday, and then on Saturday I'll begin attempting to germinate these seeds on blotting paper.
Gareth

I forgot about my Spiral Aloe seeds in the freezer, so they stayed there for another 7 days until Lois noticed them whilst doing a quick food stock check.

We have since taken 5 seeds from the pack and have placed them on damp tissue paper in our unheated conservatory. According to various gardening web-sites and forum boards this seems to be the most successful method of germination. We will set off 5 seeds a week for the next 3 weeks and when seedlings appear we will pot them up but leave them to over winter in our unheated (single glazed but attached to the house and south facing) conservatory.
Gareth

During the last couple of weeks my original 2 Spiral Aloes have shown a little more growing progress. It is one week shy of 2 years since the first one germinated.


Rena

Amazing!!! They look SO cool!!

What are the diameter measurements on them so far?
Gareth

Hi Rena,

My Spiral Aloe currently reside in 4 & 1/2" diameter pots.

I have taken this photo this morning against a tape measure for you.

Digindeep

Certainly looking good Gareth, pat on the back to you mate, well done
Gareth

Lois has just informed that she has all 20 of my recently purchased batch of Spiral Aloe seeds on damp tissue paper in the kitchen, and that it is her intention to stop me from procrastinating and to make me just get on with it.

So now the seeds have been frozen, thawed and softened on damp paper, come the weekend I will have to plant them into individual pots on a tray to germinate them properly.............. watch this space.

Rena

Gareth wrote:
Hi Rena,

My Spiral Aloe currently reside in 4 & 1/2" diameter pots.

I have taken this photo this morning against a tape measure for you.



Thank you! They're making pretty good growth time

Where are ya gonna put 'em when the are close to being adult plants? (they might be a bit challenging to be moving around if ya wait til they are full grown )
Gareth

Rena wrote:

Where are ya gonna put 'em when the are close to being adult plants? (they might be a bit challenging to be moving around if ya wait til they are full grown )


I am going to follow the lead of this gentleman from whom I purchased my first Spiral Aloe seeds and re-pot them into large pots.

Here are a couple of photos I have copied from his web-sites:



Rena

Oooooo! Perfect!! (Snow an all even! ) I hope you'll keep updating.
Gareth

Rena wrote:
Well done, Gareth!!! Too bad I'm halfway round the world .... I'd 'let' you start one for me Please, keep the photos coming, seeing the growth changes are amazing!


Rena,

I have been checking the Nurseries from around the world that sell Spiral Aloes to the public. I think it might be worth you looking into growing these as a long term project: Spiral Aloes from Eco Tree California
Rena

Gareth wrote:
Rena wrote:
Well done, Gareth!!! Too bad I'm halfway round the world .... I'd 'let' you start one for me Please, keep the photos coming, seeing the growth changes are amazing!


Rena,

I have been checking the Nurseries from around the world that sell Spiral Aloes to the public. I think it might be worth you looking into growing these as a long term project: Spiral Aloes from Eco Tree California


Thanks Gareth!

Not so sure they'd make it here though... . We're at 4500+ feet above sea level and winter lasts longer than spring-summer and fall combined.  I'll have to settle for watchin how yours progress.
Gareth

In the wild of the Drakensberg mountain highlands of Lesotho, Southern Africa they are most abundant at altitudes of between 1000 to 2500 metres or 3300 to 8200 feet, and survive and flourish in a temperature range from -24*C to 35*C or -13*F †to 95*F

The seeds need plenty of water to germinate, but the plants require free draining conditions
Rena

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Gonna have to get some serious thinkin goin on.

The lowest we've gotten (last winter) was -27* with -20*-ish F (it became the 'norm') for a period of time. The warmest (here on the farm) has been 112*-120* F and that for a period of weeks.

Think it would do okay if I started from seed? (It would have a good start by being climatised from the point of germintion.)
Gareth

I think that would be the sensible course to follow.
Gareth

Progress over the last few days:

There has been just enough growth on my original 2 Spiral Aloes for you to notice the a little bit of a difference in size over the last 5 days, but more importantly if you look carefully you might be able to see that I have over watered them and it has affected them slightly. This week we will re-pot them into larger pots, but will ensure that there is a greater percentage of pearlite, fine gravel and sharp sand added to the new compost.



As for the 20 new seeds that I obtained in packs of 5 from 4 different suppliers. Well, they all got mixed up when Lois took the initiative, so I'll be unable to judge which nursery sells the better, stronger or more vigorous strain. However, they are at day 9 on wet tissue paper now, and there is a little promise of possible germination from 2 of them.



A friend of mine, Matthew Sparkes who is a journalist for the Daily Telegraph has requested a young Spiral Aloe plant from me, so I have agreed to give him one if we have more than 5 germinate, but there is a condition that I have set, and that is he must buy another Spiral Aloe from another source, and then when the time eventually arrives we will swap seeds and pollen in the post so that we may cross fertiliser our plants to produce further generations.
Gareth

Here is this weeks Spiral Aloe update photo: Day 20 on damp tissue paper.

As you can see, A4 and B1 have germinated. A2 and C2 also look like they may germinate in a few days.




Later this week A4 and B1 will each be transferred to a small pot containing a home-mixed desert/cacti compost....John Innes number 2 with plenty of added sharp sand and perlite. I have still to pot up the two thriving Spiral Aloes, having decided to give them a few extras days to recover from the accidental over watering about 2 weeks ago.
Gareth

Wow!

At 2pm today, I went into the kitchen to make a cuppa, and out of habit I looked at the Spiral Aloe Seeds on the window sill.

It is less than 4 hours since I took the photo in the post above, but look: D4 has germinated.  


sod

very interesting  
Rena

So COOL! I think it is SO amazing to watch seeds germinate!
Gareth

Here is this week's Spiral Aloe germination progress:

Day 23:

There are now 5 seeds that have germinated: A4, B1, D2, D4 and E2



Day 25:

A manky looking mould had appeared on the original piece wet tissue, so I decided to change if for a new piece;




Later today we are going to pot up our existing two Spiral Aloe plants into larger pots. We will be utilising a home blended growing mix of 1 part sharp sand, 1 Part Perlite and 1 part john Innes No2 compost. We may also transfer the germinated seeds to a tray filled with the same compost mix.

Whatever happens I am going to give the remaining seeds on the damp tissue just 14 more days to germinate and then I will write them off as a failure at that point; but hey! so far it's a 25% germination rate, and an improvement upon last time. Sometime during the next  2-3 weeks I will begin to germinate another batch of seeds that I will order from the Internet in the next few days.

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