Aloe Brevifolia: Growing the Chunky Crocodile

Ed Wike
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Quick Care Guide

Aloe brevifolia or Aloe chuckwalla lives a fairly low-maintenance lifestyle in the wild so it's not uncommon to see this Aloe thriving in a little potted plant without much extra care. However, just by following a few basic guidelines for its fertilizer, water, heat and light, you can have a happy Aloe in your home that will possibly outlive you.

Remember that aloe plants require only a few specific essential elements to thrive. Although there are minor differences that may arise due to growing conditions, the specific fertilizers you provide for your chunky crocodile aloe should mostly remain the same. While you may want to choose specialized fertilizers, a standard all-purpose plant food will do in a pinch. Keep in mind that your plant isn't asking for a home-cooked meal.

Once you have the proper plant food, you're going to need to water your plant. This simple step seems to be one of the most neglected steps in an aloe's growth, especially when purchased in a container. Plants in containers are given little attention in the display stores where most consumers buy their plants, and often the care with which the plant was placed in the container is likewise lacking. If your chunky crocodile aloe arrived in a container without adequate soil mixture to maintain adequate moisture retention – this may mean that your plant's soil requires moisture!

All About Short-Leaved Aloe

(Aloe Brevifolia)

Aloe Arborescens or Aloe Brevifolia, more commonly known as the Chunky Crocodile is a uniquely shaped 4 foot tall stilt leaved aloe with pale lime green leaves. Its base is covered with convexly undulating grey-green rosettes and it has a very interesting growth habit of putting out offsets from the base. Everything about this plant is what sets it apart from other Aloes. It sends off new plants in the form of fat grey-green offset rosettes that are much like bulbils but with leaves. These then send off several of their own new plants.

Types of Aloe Brevifolia

Aloe brevifolia or the chunky crocodile aloe, is one of the most popular types of aloe. It is a fantastic plant with a character and charm all its own.

It is the longest-lasting flowering plant in the world and it flowers for weeks at a time, as far as aloes go.

This aloe can be grown easily and has a wide variety of uses. This chapter is going to cover the many uses of aloe brevifolia, show you how to grow chunky crocodile aloe, and how to care for this beautiful plant.

Aloe brevifolia was named after its appearance; aloe brevifolia means”short body.” There is a great deal of variation in the plant and type of aloe brevifolia you will find for sale. You will likely find thick clumps of chunky crocodile aloe in many nurseries. Many have thick, upward pointing, fleshy leaves that are beautiful.

Aloe brevifolia’s most commonly used name is chunky crocodile aloe. This name was given by the discoverers of this aloe, Dr. Hans Meyer and Mr. Lorenz Sesse. They are the discoverers of aloe brevifolia and the first to scientifically describe this aloe.

Crocodile Plant Care

The Aloe Brevifolia is commonly called the Crocodile plant and it can be incredibly easy to grow. This plant has been used for hundreds of years in South Africa as a viable solution to a number of skin and muscle issues. It is used to heal sunburn, cuts, scrapes, insect bites, acne and skin blemishes. It also has been used for a number of other health related issues all stemming from its ability to rejuvenate the body's cells.

The Aloe Brevifolia thrives in full sun to partial shade and does best in rich, organic soil. The soil mixture can be comprised of compost, sphagnum, peat moss and perlite. The number of hours of sunlight the plant receives a day can influence when it sprouts a flower. If you notice the plant beginning to flower, you can cut off the flower. When the leaves are cut, they can be used as a salve for minor cuts, burns, scrapes and other skin irritants.

Light & Temperature

As with most tropical plants, aloes need to bask in a bright light with some direct sun. While not heavy feeders, they can still utilize and thrive under the right amount of lighting.

A grow light system can be used for growing Aloe Brevifolia, but natural sunlight is usually best if it is available. Many people grow these plants in East- and South-facing windows. Other growers use a grow light system with a cool white color spectrum along with a day/night temperature difference for optimal growth.

To bring the temperature down at night, you can use window blinds during the day to trap the light and keep it in. To bring the temperature up at night, you will need to leave the blinds open so the heat from the day can escape. You can also use a temperature alarm to help regulate the proper amount of heat at night. You want the soil to stay warm so the rhizome doesn’t start to freeze, but you don’t want to cook the plant.

Water & Humidity

All aloes are tropical perennials that require high light levels, warm temperatures, and regular watering. Mulch and water your aloes thoroughly, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. The best temperatures to grow aloe vera are between 70 and 80 degrees. I have put my plant outside during summer (towards sunset, in the shade) and brought it in for the nights or when it gets cold at night.

In the winter months, aloes can tolerate temperatures as low as 50 degrees (though they tend to drop their leaves at this point), providing they are kept away from drafts and are given ample water.

Humidity is a constant factor you must consider when growing aloe. Humidity leads to insect infestations, so you will want to keep the air around your aloe thick and moist. Warm mist humidifiers work well if you wish to stick to a chemical-free solution. If you want to go all-natural with your aloe care, try placing the plant near a pond or other humidifier. If you don’t want to fuss with a humidifier at all, your best bet is to choose a sunny spot, as rain tends to be the most humid and the most comfortable for your aloe.

Soil

If you “winter” Aloe Brevifolia by mulching the plants, then you will be rewarded with a flush of growth of very green and succulent leaves in the early Spring. In the past, I have covered my plants with more than a foot of mulch. This winter, I have tried to cut back on mulching, as I have read that Aloe Brevifolia does not enjoy root restriction and is best grown with a well aerated soil.

Because the Chunky Crocodile does not have thick fleshy leaves, it is also important that the soil in which they are grown does not become dry. The aloe, like other aloes, is prone to sunburn if the leaves are not well moistened.

Fertilizer

The chunky aloe plant (Aloe brevifolia) is a sun-loving succulent that makes a fantastic exotic plant house or patio companion. The chunky plant is a variety of the typical South African aloe plant and native to the east coast and central regions of South Africa. Aloe brevifolia grows to approximately 1 meter in height, with a columnar shape and thick, chunky leaves. The chunky leaves are bright green with a yellow margin, and the leaves are infused with a sap that is said to be beneficial when applied to the skin for minor cuts and burns.

The aloe plant is perfectly happy to be left in a pot on the patio, or brought indoors during the colder months. Aloe plants do not like frosty weather, and will not survive when temperatures outdoors drop below “7 degrees Celsius. Provide an aloe plant with well-drained fertile soil, and a pot that allows the roots to spread out. Consider fertilizing the plant in the early spring.

Aloe brevifolia is a delightful house plant as well as a great subject for the patio/conservatory. It is attractive all year round and tolerates low light conditions extremely well. Although the plant grows best in full sun, it will survive in light shade. A chunky aloe plant grown in sun will provide a large display all year round.

Repotting

The chunky aloe, also known as Aloe brevifolia, is a perennial succulent that thrives in warm, dry climates and can have white, yellow, orange or red flower spikes. Aloe brevifolia is a clumping plant that propagates and grows more quickly by forming new plantlets from the base with each leaf rosette. Growing Aloe brevifolia is a long-term investment that requires patience in return for beautiful flowers and compact plants that last for years and flower all throughout the year.

The propagation method used on Aloe brevifolia most often is that of propagation by division. Summer is the best time to repot aloe, but it can be done in the winter if necessary. Most aloes can take a heavy trim without harm to the plant as long as it is done in early spring. They actually like to have their long, spindly leaves completely removed to expose bare stems. This is the ideal time to propagate by division because roots form around the base of the plant. If you do decide to repot aloe in the winter, expect a slower, less fruitful growth cycle from that plant.

Propagation

When you propagate Aloe Brevifolia, you can’t muck around too much. If you start trimming off the leaves and they are not looking great, you have to move them before they get stressed out. So if you snip off the top of the Aloe and it looks in bad shape, make sure you move it to an area where more light is present or to one that has more sun before moving the others.

Produce a plant that has an elbow position, so place it in the drain area of a container with its roots placed in the drain.

PART 5: APPENDIX

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Pruning

Pruning is the easiest way to manage the habit and appearance of a flowering plant like Aloe. The objective of pruning would be to shape the plant without damaging or removing major shoots, which include flowers.

Remember that the more flowering shoots that have been pinched off, the bigger and more bloom-frequent those that are left behind will be. Pruning also results in a bushier plant, even for a flowering plant like Aloe which typically needs a single main trunk.

Prune this succulent while it is dormant. When the plant is dormant, you will notice longer and shaggier leaves. The crook in the leaves is the sign that the plant is ready to be pruned.

Pinching off those leaves causes the plant to focus the nutrients in its body toward growing branches and to lay down new roots.

Typically, Aloe should be pruned just above a leaf joint, which is where a leaf stem connects to a stem or branch.

While pruning, be sure to avoid cutting above joints.

The best way to do this is by pruning at a 45 degree angle.

Troubleshooting

Japanese Aloe var. splendens, commonly called Aloe Brevifolia, is a clump-forming succulent plant with broad pointed leaves. It is often used for landscaping and can be kept indoors as well. This particular form of Aloe is called a Crocodile Plant because it looks like the head of a crocodile.

When the plant is young, the leaves are green and pointy, and the plant grows a long snout-like structure with a very pointed tip. The adult plant has a shorter, wider, more round snout, with a more blunt tip. The plant grows to a maximum height of about 2 feet.

Growing Problems

If you are growing aloe vera to produce Aloin for medicinal purposes, you want one that grows slowly. The reason for this is that you want to use the latex that oozes out of the plant. This latex is poisonous and must be removed by running it through a steamer or other filtering apparatus.

By growing an A. vera that is slower growing, you will give it more time to accumulate the latex, which in turn will give you a higher quality product. An aloe that has been manipulated to grow slower is called the “Aloe Brevifolia.”

Growing Requirements for Aloe Brevifolia

Fast growing Aloe vera plants can be grown from cuttings. This is different that how you would grow a plant from seed. In order to get cuttings from the plant, you must first take cuttings from other mature plants. Then, starting in the spring, plant your cuttings in an area that gets a lot of sun. The cuttings will develop new roots and should produce new leaves when temperatures rise. Mature plants should be around two feet tall by late summer.

Pests

Any plants bought at the grocery store or home-centers are likely to be treated with pesticides or herbicides. One way to ensure your plants stay organic is to grow them indoors.

Another way to reduce the probability of pests, diseases, and your plants’ longevity is to be resourceful in everything you do. Since different vegetables require different elements to flourish, we’re recommended that you grow 5 plants at a time. They should include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Eggplant
  • Swiss chard

As you can see, that’s a full meal. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you can simply install a grow light in your home and ensure it doesn’t get too hot or too cold in the room where you’ve planted your garden.

Diseases

Generally, aloes are tough plants that are relatively easy to grow as long as you choose to grow them in the right conditions.

If you grow them in the wrong environment, however, they can quickly develop diseases or infestations that can damage or even kill your plant.

Aloes, like most succulents, require good drainage and soil with the correct pH balance so they can thrive.

Mealybugs are the most common pests that plague Aloe brevifolia and can cause serious problems. To get rid of mealybugs in your Aloe need to do the following:

{1}. Separate infected parts.
{2}. Use a systemic insecticide.
{3}. Sterilize tools between infected and healthy plants to prevent the disease from spreading.

If your plant has root rot, the roots may turn brown or black.

It is important to immediately treat root rot, which you can do by watering your plant less.

An easy way to remember when to water your plant is to stick your finger in the soil.

If it is dry halfway between the top of the soil and your fingertip, it’s time to water.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is a great deal of information about this plant online, so feel free to use the Internet, in addition to this chapter as it will help you understand this green wonder.

Here are some commonly asked questions for Aloe Brevifolia and their answers:

What are the best growing conditions for Aloe Brevifolia?

If there is a lot of sunlight available, this aloe plant will grow amiably. Keep the soil moist. As the plant grows, it needs a depth of around 120 cm, so make sure that the pot that it is in has got a depth of around 120 cm. Also, make sure that you fertilize the plant during the summer since aloe will stop growing during the winter.

What amount of sunlight do I need to nurture my aloe plant?

You need to give it at least 4 hours of sunlight a day, and a sprinkling of water when the soil starts drying out.

How to transplant Aloe Brevifolia?

Transplanting the plant can be done once in every three years or at least when the plant reaches a certain size. To do this, dig a hole as large as the diameter of the pot it is currently in, and the same depth (the same depth as in the previous pot). Make sure that you water the plant before transplanting, and transplant the plant as slowly as you can.