Crocodile Aloe, Blue Aloe, Short Leaved Aloe
Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit
Aloe brevifolia Mill. is the correct and accepted scientific name for the Crocodile Aloe. It was described by Phillip Miller in Garden Dictionary in 1771.
Accepted varieties of Aloe brevifolia: Aloe brevifolia var. brevifolia, Aloe brevifolia var. depressa (Haw.) Bake
The genus, Aloe L., was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Plants of the World Online lists 585 species in the Aloe genus (as of 10-11-21 when this page was last updated). It is a member of the plant family Asphodelaceae with 40 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
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When I was buying plants at Lowe’s and Wal-Mart in Greenville, Mississippi in August 2012, I only wanted to pay up to $3.00 per tiny pot. There were a few bigger pots of Aloe brevifolia at Lowe’s, but they were around $10.00 a pop. SO, I took an offset and brought it home. That didn’t work so well because it soon died. Hmmm. Hardly ever happens. SO, after it died, I went back to Lowe’s and bought one of the larger pots… It was very overcrowded, so I put it in a larger pot…
I was doing some yard work for a friend in Mississippi and noticed she had this AWESOME Aloe brevifolia in a planter in her backyard. She said it overwintered there even though we were in USDA zone 8a.
I moved back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013 and I brought most of my succulents with me. Most of my plants were in the back of a trailer and it was around 30 degrees the entire 8-9 hour trip. I had no idea what I was going to do with them when I arrived, so most of them had to go into the basement. Surprisingly, most of them did fine in the basement with low light and 65-degree temperature. The Aloe brevifolia not only didn’t like the trip, it didn’t appreciate the basement.
The Aloe brevifolia was so happy to be outside when spring came. Now we can all get used to a completely new environment. It asked me if it could be moved into a smaller pot, which I thought was weird. I never had a plant make such a request before since they are usually wanting a larger pot. So, I put it in a smaller pot…
Aloe brevifolia is native to South Africa north of Cape Agulhas to the east of Cape Town. Information suggests it gets most of its rain during the winter months. The area it is native to is being used more and more for agriculture, so it is listed as an endangered species. It now grows mainly in small areas on slopes and rocky areas where it has adapted to avoid fires.
I am not sure what the deal was with this plant. It was outside in a smaller pot but it was NOT happy. Maybe it needed more sun.
This species is a clumper that forms rosettes that seem to build on top of each other to about a foot or so tall.
It did start looking better toward the end of the summer, but then, colder weather was approaching.
SO, toward the end of October, all the potted plants outside had to be moved inside. Most of the succulents were moved to a table in my bedroom. Well, it didn’t like it…
I put an offset from the bigger plant on the kitchen windowsill with several other succulents.
I gave up most of my plants late in the summer of 2014 then started back up again in 2015. I am not sure if I will try another Aloe brevifolia unless I have more suitable conditions for it. It did seem a bit difficult for me are I rarely have difficulty with any Aloe and their relatives.
Origin: Areas around Cape Town in South Africa.
Zones: USDA Zones 8-11
Size: 1-2’ tall x 1’2’ wide.
*Light: Information says to plant in full sun…
**Water: Water occasionally when soon is dry.
****Soil: Well-drained soil. I use Miracle Grow Potting Soil amended with pumice (50/50) now.
Flowers: Orange flowers on long spikes beginning in late spring.
*During the summer, I keep most of my cactus on the back deck where they receive full sun. During the winter most cactus aren’t picky about the light because they are basically dormant. For several winters, mine were in front of the east-facing sliding door in the dining room so they didn’t get much light but they did great. I built a new shelf for the bedroom so now they are in front of a west-facing window. Most of the succulents are on a shelf in a south-facing window in a cool bedroom but a few are in my bedroom. I keep my Aloe and most of the succulents on the front porch in light shade although they do receive direct sun a couple of times during the day (depending on their location on the table). I don’t put them in full sun because I don’t like their leaves to burn. They get enough light to have nice dark green leaves without stretching.
**When it comes to potting soil, finding the “sweet spot” is not exactly that easy when materials are limited. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts (and experts) do not recommend using peat-based commercial mixes but what choice is there for most of us. They say to use a loam-based mix… Hmmm… Our soil is loam, so do I just use dirt? Well, no because “dirt” is heavy and you need a “light” material. There is A LOT of cactus and succulent recipes online and some get pretty elaborate. Many say to use sand as an ingredient, but if you do that, it needs to be very coarse, like builders sand, because “ordinary” sand, like for sandboxes, is too fine and it clogs up the air space between the coarser ingredients. For MANY years I used 2 parts Miracle Grow or Schultz Potting amended with an additional 1 part of perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Schultz doesn’t seem to have as many large pieces of bark. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts recommended using pumice instead of perlite and grit so I checked it out… The “guy” at General Pumice (online) recommended using a 50/50 mix of potting soil and pumice. General Pumice has 3 different sizes to choose from depending on the size of the pot. SO, in 2018 I bought a bag of 1/8″ and mixed it 50/50 with Miracle Grow Potting Soil. I liked it pretty well. Then in 2020, since most of the cactus were in larger pots, I ordered the 1/4″ size. Pumice has a lot of benefits over perlite and has nutrients that are added to the soil when watering. Pumice is also heavier so it stays mixed in the soil instead of “floating” to the top. Still, there is the issue of the mix getting very hard once you stop watering the plants during the winter when you stop watering. I think this is because of the peat in the potting soil… SO, instead of re-potting the cactus and succulents in the spring, I started doing it during the fall and winter so their soil would be loose. Since you don’t water as frequently during the winter if at all, the timed-release fertilizer does not activate. I have not tried coir, but I am looking into it…
***I water my cactus and succulents on a regular basis during the summer but barely ever in the winter (maybe a little in January) but it all depends on the plant. The leaves on the succulents will tell you when they need a little water… Aloe store water in their leaves and can go for a long time without additional water. If they are dormant in the winter, they don’t need much water… Better to be safe than sorry.
When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.
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