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Aloe Polyphylla aka Spiral Aloe aka Aloe of Death

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Succulents & Cacti


Visually striking known for its spiral fractal design upon reaching 8"+ diameter I was drawn to Spiral Aloe through the photography well before taking an interest in gardening.

After briefly researching Aloe Polyphylla I noticed a few comments regarding difficulties, but I disregarded as internet venting. I quickly found how susceptible this variety was to so many variants, I killed it in under 3 months :(

Placement and preparation

I had purchased a tall speckled maroon glazed planter special for my Spiral Aloe filled with high quality well draining soil from a high end cacti nursery. It was placed in a sheltered location, one of the coolest (temperature wise) on our property with only indirect light and some direct light occasionally near sunset. Upon repotting I cleaned the roots and gave it a decent soaking and planted it at a slight angle.

Problems encountered

Pleasing to the eye through photography but hard to handle in real life, particularly one ridge over from the cool environment it lived in directly on the Bay to the scorching heat of the Tri-Valley. Two weeks after purchase we experienced our first heatwave of the endless summer of 2020 where temperatures reached the mid 100s. I believe this is around the time when I made the first mistake and the events that followed:

  • I have heard conflicting reports that this Aloe can handle being watered more than most Aloes.

  • In research retrospect during the heat of summer the Aloe goes into a dormancy period where it doesn't need as water as you would think (at least I am going to assume this is what happened)

  • The soil dried quickly and a week later temperatures once again increased so I gave it a little more water as the chunkiness of the leaves seemed to decrease compared to when I first purchased it and thought it might cool it down

  • The leaves started drooping so I assumed it was the high temperatures so I made the decision to move it indoors

  • Upon bringing the aloe indoors I was happy with my decision to limit the exposure to high temperatures but was concerned about the limited light

  • I purchased a grow light and kept it on for 4-6 hrs a day but noticed something very concerning the soil was not drying out

  • Then it happened, I was admiring it one morning and noticed a small insect then a few flying around after touching the soil.

  • Deep down I knew it was over but the central crown was still erect so I had hope.

  • That hope gradually decayed as leaf after leaf gradually fell limp then turned that horrible purple/black color of death as the Aloe began to rot away leading to the crown collapse and it was over :(

What Did I learn?

  1. I reacted to the problems encountered instead of anticipating them, make less assumptions. (although without direct experience this can be difficult)

  2. Don't try to bring something from a completely different environment and anticipate it to thrive. Know its environmental limitations and your limitations as a response and try not to battle this tooo much :)

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