Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

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Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#1  Postby Spination » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:56 am

At first, it seemed a yearly upgrade to a larger pot was fine, but this last time around, the plant outgrew the larger pot seemingly way too fast - hence some brown leaf tips, as when the leaves spill out over the pot edge, it's much more difficult to keep it properly hydrated.
I had to double check, but indeed, spring of last year, the plant was still in it's then last outgrown pot.
Feb, last year, old pot which was already considerably larger than the pot from the previous year
2016 02 25 A polyphylla X750.jpg
2016 02 25 A polyphylla X750.jpg (241.29 KiB) Viewed 979 times

Today, the even larger pot than the one just the year before already woefully inadequate... larger pot behind ready to go
2017 04 26 Aloe polyplylla #1 b.jpg
2017 04 26 Aloe polyplylla #1 b.jpg (257.05 KiB) Viewed 979 times

Larger pot, bottom filled with fresh mix, and plant test fit before sliding out of old pot into new one. Removing the plant from the old pot easier said than done, as it's got quite heavy, and turning it upside down to shake it out a little bit scary...not wanting to drop it on it's head!
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 c X800.jpg
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 c X800.jpg (230.84 KiB) Viewed 979 times

Done. 20 minute job, not bad. Looking forward to new leaves generated from the center, pushing the brown tipped older leaves lower down, and eventually completely replacing them. I'll be amazed if next year at this time the leaves are once again spilling out over the edges! No doubt about it though, the next repot will be a 2 person job...
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 d.jpg
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 d.jpg (218.89 KiB) Viewed 979 times


And on a different note... here is a pic of my own very first seed growing attempt for this species
April 2014
2014 04 06 Aloe polyphylla seedlings.jpg
2014 04 06 Aloe polyphylla seedlings.jpg (556.03 KiB) Viewed 979 times

That seedling on the right, now, 3 years later - speaking of which it needs a new pot now too!
2017 04 24 Aloe polyplylla seedling b.jpg
2017 04 24 Aloe polyplylla seedling b.jpg (127.63 KiB) Viewed 979 times

And.... minus two which just found new homes via Ebay, these seedlings all needing repots too. Busy, busy, busy! A mix here: 3 yr, 2, and 1 year old.
2017 04 24 Aloe polyplylla seedlings X800.jpg
2017 04 24 Aloe polyplylla seedlings X800.jpg (162.69 KiB) Viewed 979 times


Newly inspired once again, time to sow more seeds this week! D))
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#2  Postby Spination » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:15 pm

Voila, 3 yr old seedling repotted today. 8+" diameter.
Now, which way is this one going to spiral? (Information gives the odds of clockwise or counter-clockwise as 50-50)
2017 04 25 Aloe polyphylla 3 yr old seedling repot a X800.jpg
2017 04 25 Aloe polyphylla 3 yr old seedling repot a X800.jpg (291.68 KiB) Viewed 971 times


You can't see it looking down at the rosette, but the answer is given on the undersides of the leaves.
2017 04 25 Aloe polyphylla 3 yr old seedling repot b X800.jpg
2017 04 25 Aloe polyphylla 3 yr old seedling repot b X800.jpg (245.8 KiB) Viewed 971 times


The spiral is caused because the leaves are not perfectly symmetrical growing, in terms of one leaf half to the other. The narrow side of the leaves above pictured on the left indicate this plant will spiral counter-clockwise.

Here's the older one, 16" in diameter today, and the spiral spin is visibly clockwise. With time, the spiral will become much more pronounced.
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 clockwise spiral a X800.jpg
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 clockwise spiral a X800.jpg (208.52 KiB) Viewed 971 times


And the narrow underside half of these leaves is on the right
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 clockwise spiral narrow underside right X800.jpg
2017 04 26 Aloe polyphylla #1 clockwise spiral narrow underside right X800.jpg (162.2 KiB) Viewed 971 times
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#3  Postby Azuleja » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:33 pm

Wow, very cool! You've got these guys figured out.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#4  Postby Agave_fan » Thu Apr 27, 2017 6:38 pm

I never thought of myself as an aloe fan but you are sure turning me into one Spiny. Beautiful plant and interesting as well!
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#5  Postby Stan » Fri Apr 28, 2017 11:43 am

Great job Tom. They don't live forever either. At UC Berkeley,they were down to one...what happened to the other half dozen is a mystery.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#6  Postby Spination » Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:16 pm

Thanks Stan. I know I won't live forever either, so I suppose it would be difficult to expect more from this Aloe. :lol: Seriously though, that's an interesting question - namely how long do they live? How old are the oldest known specimens? I've read a ton of information regarding this plant, and I don't recall ever being apprised of that. Personally, I feel that if the plant can be constantly provided conditions to it's liking, it should live indefinitely. I think the potential problems come though when the plant gets super large. Imagine repotting one of these when they're 3' in diameter. Ugh!
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#7  Postby Agave Down Under » Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:33 am

Superb work!
Its always satisfying growing plants from your own seeds!
I did have a small bundle of Polys and lost them all, i got another 1 or 2 now, i have learnt they need good drainage, or better yet make sure to re-pot them when you purchase them of other people, who knows what soil in under there, you will only know whats under there when you re pot it yourself!!! :shock:
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#8  Postby Spination » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:12 am

Thanks. You're right about the good drainage, but at the same time they can't be allowed to dry. I water mine daily, and as long as the water can flow through, it's all good. Standing, pooling water is another issue, not good.
According to the info Alan Beverly provided when he wrote his thesis on the plant, and studied them in habitat and also growing them, successful populations of this plant result where undamaged grasslands free from over-grazing continue to regulate continual water flow to the Aloes below. Thus, in cultivation, he warns to never let them dry, as this continual water flow in habitat is their natural situation, as they evolved. The plants need plenty of sunshine as well, and one benefit is that UV rays kill Fusarium oxysporum, a foliar infection of which can kill A. polyphylla. Regarding the sun, it's also important not to use black pots, because the sun heats up the black, and cooks the roots. Although you can see in my photo that I did use a black pot, you can also see my white plastic skirt around the pot to prevent the sun from heating up the black of the pot. They are tricky in cultivation, but some simple applied knowledge can help a person growing the plants avoid the pitfalls, and enjoy growing them successfully. Anyway, so far, so good. :))
The next big milestone for me would be a flowering event, hopefully within a couple more years.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#9  Postby Viegener » Sat Apr 29, 2017 3:33 pm

Interesting. I'm curious what other plants should not be potted in black pots. I got about 20 used 2gal white plastic nursery pots & have been saving them, but for what I don't know...
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#10  Postby Steph115 » Tue May 02, 2017 11:09 pm

Hey everybody! New member here from New Orleans. I finally decided to join after a while of following some of the discussions on here about A.p. - and Tom I especially enjoyed your seedling pictures. Your posts were very helpful for me in learning what to expect as far as growth.. Mine are now almost 3 months old and looking pretty healthy.

Regarding longevity of the plant - I think on Clark Brunt's website he states that he planted seeds back in 1996. Pretty amazing. He still had 4+ adult plants from that batch when he wrote his page, if I understand correctly. Pretty amazing.

Here are a couple pictures of my two seedlings in 4" pots.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#11  Postby Spination » Wed May 03, 2017 7:09 am

Welcome! Good job, they look perfect. And I'm glad any discussion and photos were of some help as well. It's fun as they develop, when you can watch something you planted yourself as seed become something so interesting and awesome. Next step on yours are the seedlings losing their initial distichous form, and start looking like rosettes... and then of course as they get larger and larger. :U

Just curious, how many seeds did you sow, and how was your germination rate?
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#12  Postby Spination » Wed May 03, 2017 8:52 am

I had moved my largest one early this year away from any sun shelter, wanting to finally provide full-time full sun conditions as advised, to promote the best and compact leaf form, but also in the back of my mind a little worried whether there would be any sunburn issue. We are now having our sunniest days of this year, and a couple of record-breakers heat wise. The good news is the plant shows no adverse effects - so far so good! In previous years, up near a hedge where after the sun would pass overhead in the afternoon and provide shelter from the hottest part of the day - now no more!
I think it comes down to that this plant is now big enough to take it, and I moved it months ago so that it could acclimate as the sunny days increased.
And, every morning, a good watering, and how much nicer it is now that there's room in between the outermost lower leaves and the pot's edge! So much easier! :U
No sign yet of sun bleaching - looks like the plant's relocation is going to work out just fine.
2017 05 03 Aloe polyphylla a a X800.jpg
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#13  Postby Steph115 » Wed May 03, 2017 3:33 pm

Thank you for the warm welcome! I purchased 5 seeds, sowed 2 directly in 40/40/20 cactus soil/perlite/sand, covered with plastic wrap until I saw green. Germination took place in 10 days for the first, about 2 weeks for the second. I used Alan Beverly's method of sanding off the papery wings from the seeds first. The other 3, I did the soak method to see what would happen. Only one germinated that way, and I'm pretty sure I broke the root right off when trying to transplant into the soil. I know 40% is pretty good, so I'm very pleased - but in the future I'm gonna stick with direct sowing after sanding off the wings.

It's so great to hear that your big guys have no problem with hot weather. I'm moving to Dallas in about a month, which is only a slightly less hot inferno for these guys compared to New Orleans. Do you see temps in the 100s? and do you cover with shade cloth or anything or just water them like crazy? Also, at what age do you like to move your seedlings outside?
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#14  Postby Spination » Wed May 03, 2017 4:09 pm

Interesting, My first seed sowing for them was also 5 seeds, similar result. Also, I did the sanding thing too. My next batch of seeds I got from Alan Beverly himself, and apparently he no longer believes that sanding is necessary! Also mentioned is that there appears to be no correlation between freshness of seeds and germination (up to 7 years I think I read). Anyway, results not as good % wise, but for the money, I feel I did better in # of plants that became viable seedlings.

I also prefer sowing directly. I keep my medium moist using a tupper-ware type container, on a seedling heat mat, opening the lid daily and shaking off condensation, and misting the top with water spiked with H2O2. No damp off, no fungal activity. I just sowed my last saved seeds of that batch from A.B., so it will be personally interesting to see if another year older, the seeds are less viable or not... I'm thinking about ordering another batch of seeds as I feel it's a very rewarding species to keep growing from seed. They do grow rather fast compared to other Aloe species, and there appears to be a ready market for any extra plants too - more incentive.

With my first plant (now my largest), I bought as a seedling, and tried too soon after a year of growing to give it more direct sun, which resulted in sunburn. My conclusion is that either I did too much too fast or too soon, or that young plants just do better in their first couple of years with shade cloth protection (I'm leaning towards the latter). Last year, my big one got direct sun from the crack of dawn until early afternoon only. No sunburn. But, due to it's proximity to a hedge, I was annoyed with litter, namely tiny berries that lodged in between leaves and stained them last fall-winter. So I moved the plant afterwards, gave it several good hosings with water to try and remove the stains, and with the combo of that and new growth, it's looking pretty clean again. Also, it's far away from anything now that will drop litter on it in the future.

Yes, we have our share of 100 + days. As I understand it, it's not so much the ambient temperature of the air, but the roots of the plant needing to be kept cool (as in well-insulated with sufficient soil), and avoiding the critical mistake of using a black pot that gets cooked by the sun. I just have a white cactus mix bag cut open and taped around the circumference of the pot, and it does not heat up at all in the sun. I think my largest seedlings are 1 year away from trying full sun, but the largest ones have been transplanted to larger pots, and they are now outside getting morning sun (and away from the hedge!). Part of it may just be basic geometry in regard to surface area getting sun. A younger plant has only so many leaves, they are each more exposed to the sun. Once a plant gets larger, the leaves are very packed in the rosette, and the sun is not so much any more hitting them all. As the sun moves, some leaves provide shade for other leaves, and they just aren't in total as exposed as when the plant is younger and smaller. I feel that is the biggest reason why I experienced a young plant that seemed to sunburn easily, and now an older plant which appears to be far more resistant.

Beverly recommends that full sun is preferable to maintain proper leaf form, but also advises that if the sun is just too much (sunburn), then just to toss a piece of shade cloth over the plant.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#15  Postby Steph115 » Thu May 04, 2017 9:14 am

Ah very cool, I'll be curious to hear how this round goes for you as well. Interesting that A.B. no longer thinks the sanding necessary - though that is good news as far as labor goes. I can't imagine it's fun to do that for dozens or hundreds of seeds.

Thank you for your insights re: relocating young plants outside. I'll be sure to start low & go slow with my young/small plants. I've e-mailed a couple times with Alan Beverly to ask a few specific questions about watering etc. He recommended placing plants outside no earlier than the 20 leaf stage. I'd guess that will be about 8 months-1 year after sowing for me, if they keep going at the same rate. I'm especially happy to hear about your plants doing so well even with 100+ temps as long as you use all the proven methods to protect the roots. Do your nights get significantly cooler? Or are your plants pretty warm throughout the day? I've heard that a nighttime reprieve can be crucial for cool climate plants like these.

I agree that this is an incredibly rewarding species to grow. Watching these seedlings grow excites me the most by far. I think I'll probably start another (perhaps much larger?) round once these guys graduate outside.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#16  Postby Stan » Thu May 04, 2017 9:40 am

Ok- I was told when I was volunteering at UCB as a propagator ( I followed orders mostly) was that they take their flats of seedlings- and tilt the flat so water never sits in the crowns of A.polyphylla. Again,I was told. But,yes I did notice their flats were tilted.
Here's mine after a recent pot up in size. I have had it since 2010 and it was already gallon size. Still not quite spiraling. Does not make you dizzy to look at it unfortunately.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#17  Postby Spination » Thu May 04, 2017 12:04 pm

Yeah, I was surprised about the sanding and then no sanding because he seemed to make a good case for doing it initially. For the first seeds, I took a folded piece of 120 grit paper and gently rubbed the seed inside, like as if they were inside an envelope. I worried whether it was too much, or too little, so it's a relief not to even bother any more, and not spend that time either.

Our last couple of days were in the 90s, and didn't cool down very much until past midnight. Our geographical situation is unique, located in a valley 5 miles north of SF Bay Marsh, and 25 miles east of the ocean, with 2 mountain ranges in between. If we're in a warming trend, with daytime hot temps, then the evening breeze is usually coming from inland, which keeps it warm at night. If we're passed the hump, and either stable or cooling, then the breeze in the evening comes from the ocean, which cools it down at night significantly. We can have a 100 plus day, and then in the 60s at night, or a lot warmer - depending. Another potential benefit is when we get to enjoy the AM marine layer which can delay the heating up until later in the AM.

AB mentions in his "culture" write-up that a plant bare-root with bright yellow roots turns necrotic brown (the roots) in 80F degree water in 2 minutes, which underscores the importance of keeping the root zone protected. Under the surface soil is always significantly cooler than the air temp, especially if it's wet, and it's not being cooked by a black pot in the sun, so that is only reason these plants can take hot temps - keeping the roots cool. Right now, I am watering my big one out in full sun every morning, to keep that soil damp and cool, and the plant seems to really like that.

-----------------------------------------------

Stan, as far as I know, that's true. I never overhead water any of them though, so not a problem here for me. If I was that lazy though, I would definitely make sure the rosettes are tilted though to drain the water. I can also see another problem with overhead watering, and water pooling in the crown. As the sun hits the water, might as well have a magnifying glass there instead, because the effect is the same - not too smart. My plant out in rain though, has not been an issue, but the sun wasn't shining down on that water either when it was raining. ::wink:: The plant also tends to lean towards the direction of predominant sunshine naturally if left alone, but since I don't have to worry about pooling water in the crown, I like to turn my pot every day or two a little each time, to keep the growth around the rosette more even. That's just me though. I enjoy "wasting" my time out there fussing with my plants every day, so it's not like I need to find a way to save a few minutes or hours here and there. Those minutes and hours out there being with my plants are what's keeping me alive...hahaha.

Your plant is looking good, but I think I recall you had an issue with it - a setback, and had to start again growing it? That would explain it's small size considering 7 years of growing. I was looking at pics of my older one, which is fascinating in itself to see how it progressed. In April of 2014 it was a 5" plant. By August it was about 9", terrible form though (elongated leaves). Better lighting straightened out that issue, and I've had to pot it up every year, but I think the last time around (last year) I should have gone even bigger than I did. Anyway, now 16" +, so tripled up in exactly 3 years time.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#18  Postby Stan » Thu May 04, 2017 1:18 pm

Here's the photo history. It HATED in ground,in clay. Other then that its the same climate,water. Yard.
http://www.growingontheedge.net/viewtop ... polyphylla
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#19  Postby Spination » Thu May 04, 2017 1:50 pm

So, I kind of read through that thread and it appears the dominant theme is to keep them watered, in well-draining medium, which I already well know.

Given we live in clay soil here, my opinion on that is clay tends to be dry...bone dry cracking lousy brick-like medium - that is, until it gets wet for a prolonged period, when it becomes soggy, sloppy, clingy muck. For the most part, it's one extreme, or the other, which is especially unsuitable for A. polyphylla. Yes, the spiral likes to be wet, but no, not in soil that isn't free draining. Clay fails on every count. When the clay is wet, it doesn't drain, so the plant can rot. When it's dry, that just doesn't suit it at all in the first place.

About the only plants that seem to thrive due to their adaptive life cycles in clay are the grasses and weeds, which happily transform themselves from rampant allergens to extreme fire-hazard depending on whether the clay is still soaked, or bone dry.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#20  Postby Stan » Thu May 04, 2017 2:29 pm

I thought I had amended it enough over the years. I had sacks of Lava rock as a mulch many years ago. It long sunk in and disappeared.

This is one of the few succulents in the world that loves potting soil. With perlite...
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#21  Postby Spination » Thu May 04, 2017 3:01 pm

I had recalled that adding gypsom used to be recommended to amend clay soil, but I read a WSU piece that considers that mostly myth, or at best a misapplication of farming technique for ornamental applications.

The best method apparently is adding organic material, and mixing it in 6-12". I did a large area (80' X 80') 2 years ago to grow tomatoes, and there's just no easy way. When it's wet, every shovel load sticks to the shovel, not to mention your shoes, if the clay doesn't just pull the shoes (or boots for that matter) right off your feet! :lol:
Letting it dry and then you may as well be using a pick axe. I also rented a big roto-tiller, and that is some nasty bone rattling work as well. If it's wet, it all sticks to the blades so that's no good. Dry, and it's like breaking up rock. Looks good on the chalk-board, but not so fun being the person walking behind the machine. A few hours of that and it feels like every bone in your body has been rattled loose. I think the best I was able to do was wait until the soil was not too wet (and using a shovel), but the window is small because when it wants to dry, it dries really fast and then it's like working with brick. Having loads of organic material (compost, soil, topsoil, leaves, grass clippings) to mix in with the shovel and eventually the quality of the soil does improve greatly for future use.
I don't see much the value of adding pumice, because that's inorganic, so I'm not sure really what that does to improve the soil quality of clay. You're still left with cruddy clay with all it's drawbacks except with pumice mixed in.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#22  Postby Stan » Thu May 04, 2017 4:12 pm

What is amazing are the photos of them in habitat. Sloping rocky and small boulders hills,only what looks like sedge grasses and- under all that is described as moving subsurface water- lots of it. Why I say I think they could be grown hydroponically.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#23  Postby Steph115 » Thu May 04, 2017 10:21 pm

Stan I feel like I can see the spiral pretty well in your plant! I have also heard about the tilting technique from a couple sources. Definitely makes sense given the incline they live on in Lesotho. I took a look at that thread - I LOVE the way EricvanUlden has his plants growing between those rocks. I know he said he lives below sea level - but how does that work exactly? Is it just rocky mulch (like lava rock or pumice) between the larger rocks? They look like they are a good bit above the ground otherwise.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#24  Postby Spination » Thu May 18, 2017 10:40 am

The repot for this plant was 4/26, and ... my imagination? or, is this thing really growing as I perceive? It is in diameter already an 1" measured wider than when fresh into it's new pot - but is that because it's growing, or only perhaps expanded - as in swelled up with water?

So, I wondered if I can actually document the growth of the plant from it's center, in some easily verifiable manner. First, in consideration of it's spiral, and growing point from which new leaves generate...
2017 05 07 Aloe polyphylla b b X800.jpg
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Yup, 5 spirals, just like they say. With a piece of tape, I just taped onto the leaf tip terminal spine what I counted as the 3rd leaf from the center, and took a photo. In retrospect, the photo should have been from more overhead, and in more even lighting with no shadows. Even in that photo though, I can count 3 leaves from the center, although I can imagine a 4th leaf right there in the center that at the time I was unable to perceive which spiral it belonged to.
2017 05 07 Aloe polyphylla _reference mark a a.jpg
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New photo, 11 days later
2017 05 18 Aloe polyphylla a X800.jpg
2017 05 18 Aloe polyphylla a X800.jpg (200.65 KiB) Viewed 792 times


Better angle, more even lighting. I can clearly count 5 leaves now (4 for sure, and one I can imagine is there in the center) in the exact line of that spiral leading to the center. I'd say that it's definitely growing, and my imagination not running rampant! A new photo every couple of weeks should be able to record growth's progress throughout the seasons going forward (as long as the tape stays put!).

Lastly, one week ago, I thought I was seeing the beginning of some bleaching on lower leaves, and paranoid about sunburn, I decided to move it a few yards away, a few feet to the north of a Dawn Redwood I planted out a few years ago, and provides a dappled shade through which the sun shines. The tree is quite far from a 100 foot in 100 year behemoth, but at about 15+ feet already, a few plants strategically placed around it get some minor relief from the sun through it's feathery leaves as the sun travels the sky during the course of the day. As it is now, the polyphylla gets direct sun as it rises in the morning, some minor shading from mid-morning to early afternoon, and then straight sun again in the afternoon until evening. The leaves appear to be greener than I thought they were a week ago, so I think I'm going to stick with this arrangement through the summer, unless it seems to be going badly.
In previous years, this plant got morning light, and afternoon shade. Now, a slightly different measure of sun, but a trade of more mild sunshine early with definitely stronger light later.
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Re: Can't seem to keep up with this Aloe polyphylla's growth

Post Number:#25  Postby Stan » Thu May 18, 2017 11:31 am

What would you get to cross A.polyphylla with A.plicatilis!..Amazing to think. Or,cross A.polypylla with almost any other Aloe...
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