Aloe longistyla, karoo aloe, is a xerophytic succulent and will do best in arid climates with warm days and cool nights. For optimal growth, it requires little water (water only when completely dry), so it is important to provide adequate drainage. While it can tolerate full sun exposure, its ideal location would be in partial shade to prevent overheating during hotter parts of the day.
Aloe longistyla, or karoo aloe, is native to the arid regions of Africa, and it looks and behaves differently from other types of aloe plants. If you’re growing an aloe longistyla indoors in the US, it’s important to provide specific care that optimizes its life and growth, including how much sunlight it needs, how often to water it, and when to prune or repot your plant.
Research has shown that aloe longistyla has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties, among others. It’s even been shown to be effective in fighting fungal infections in the lungs and sinuses, plus it’s a possible treatment for skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. With all these benefits and more, karoo aloe can be an important addition to your medicinal herb collection.
Like most succulents, karoo aloes are very drought tolerant and can go long periods without water. However, during winter dormancy it is important to give them a bit of water so that they do not completely dry out. Make sure to keep them in an area where they will receive plenty of natural light but no direct sunlight. If kept in too much sun, they will likely rot.
Origin and distribution
Native to South Africa and Namibia, Karoo aloes (Aloe longistyla) are summer-deciduous members of a small group of closely related species that make up Section Longistylae. This section includes six or seven other species, all indigenous to southern Africa. Though native to warm climates, most of these closely related aloes can tolerate temperatures as low as 27°F.
In cultivation, they prefer moderate sunlight with good drainage and consistent water during their growing season. Like many aloes, karoo aloes grow best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Some sources suggest that too much shade can lead to leggy growth in young plants.
Aloe longistyla propagation
Aloe longistyla is an interesting succulent because it can be propagated both sexually and asexually. Unlike many other aloes, they are normally propagated from leaf cuttings instead of by seeds. Propagation from leaf cuttings is a rather simple process.
Typically, leaves that have developed naturally will be plucked and either planted or placed in the soil until they develop their own roots. This method has been known to take as little as three months for rooting to occur. It’s also possible to propagate aloe longistylae from seed, although it’s not quite as easy as with other species of aloe.
To successfully grow aloe longistylae from seed, you must allow them to dry out completely before planting them in sandy soil. After planting them, you should keep your new plants warm and well-watered while they germinate. Once they have sprouted their first set of true leaves, you should move them into full sunlight so that they can continue growing properly.
When you purchase any aloe plant, it’s important to inspect its leaves carefully. Aloe longistylae are considered fairly low maintenance when compared to other varieties of aloe.
Aloe longistyla care information
Aloe longistylia, commonly known as South African aloe, is a low-growing succulent plant native to southwestern Africa. Though it prefers warmer climates (where it’s often used as an outdoor ornamental plant), it will do just fine indoors as long as it’s provided with bright indirect light and ample airflow.
When growing outdoors, place in full sun during summer months but give some shade in winter. A well-draining soil mix should be used for best results; you can grow your karoo aloe directly in potting soil or use a cactus mix if you prefer something more sterile.
Water sparingly throughout spring and summer months, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings; watering should be increased during fall and winter months when plants are dormant.
Although it does not require full sun, aloe longistyla will do best in a sunny position. Many successful gardeners give their aloes as much sun as possible and supplement with grow lights in winter. In general, though, all you need to do is ensure that your plant gets several hours of sunlight each day.
Aloe longistyla requires sandy, porous soil. You can add crushed limestone to your potting mix for added drainage and place your pots on a thick layer of pebbles. To avoid overwatering, make sure your soil is dry before you water it again (give it a couple of minutes). If you don’t have access to limestone, use coarse sand instead.
To properly water your karoo aloe, you’ll want to wait until its soil is almost dry and then water it with 1–2 cups of water until it starts to drain through. Be sure not to let your aloe sit in water; as with most succulents, they can rot if left sitting in soggy soil.
You should also make sure that your pot has drainage holes so that excess water can flow out of the pot. This will prevent root rot and help keep your plant healthy for years to come.
During the growing season, from spring through early fall, karoo aloes prefer to be fed with a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and high in potassium. Fertilizers with ratios of NPK 4-6-4 or 5-5-5 are good choices for healthy growth. During dormancy, however, stop fertilizing altogether. Your plant should grow back its leaves in spring.
A key factor in aloe longistylas growth is its temperature. Ideally, your karoo aloe should be kept at a temperature of approximately 16 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) during its growing season and cooler temperatures during winter, when it is not actively growing.
These plants do well in temperatures between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius), so don’t place them near heaters or air conditioners.
While they’re native to arid climates, Aloe longistyla can tolerate humidity, as long as it’s kept relatively low. In fact, dry air is preferable to humid air; high levels of humidity encourage pests and diseases.
The ideal humidity range is between 30 and 50 percent. If your home’s humidity level falls outside of that range, consider using a humidifier or dehumidifier to keep it in check.
A good place to measure your home’s relative humidity is in your bathroom. This room typically has low levels of moisture and can help you get a baseline reading on your home’s overall moisture levels.
Pruning Aloe longistyla
This succulent is generally fast-growing, but you may need to prune some of its side shoots in order to keep it healthy. Use a sharp pair of scissors or a knife to cut off any dead leaves or flowers, as well as any stems that are growing out from between other leaves. You can also remove any extra leaves if they’re interfering with your plant’s ability to photosynthesize.
When to repot
Repotting aloe longistyla is a crucial part of caring for them. Repot your aloes into larger pots every two to three years. As soon as you notice that their leaves are growing tall and thin, it’s time to repot them. You can do so immediately; new growth will quickly fill out after repotting.
It’s important to note that if your plant grows too large for its pot, it could be root-bound. This means that there isn’t enough room in its pot for its roots to grow, which can lead to problems down the road. If you think your plant might be root-bound, repot it into a larger container with fresh soil.
One of my favorite things about aloes is their interesting dormancy requirements. To overwinter, they need to be kept completely dry and cool, but in spring you can bring them back out into the full sun.
If you don’t go overboard with watering and sunlight, your plant will emerge from dormancy refreshed and robust. Once your plant has re-emerged, it’s a good idea to take a snip or two for propagation purposes before letting it settle back into its dormant period.
Flowers & Fragrance
This succulent produces showy flowers in summer. Some people find them too strong, but they are sure to bring a smile to any gardener’s face. Growing up to 4 feet tall, ‘Karoo Gem’ can be pruned to fit almost any space and will even thrive indoors if you can keep it warm enough (about 70°F). The star-shaped flowers attract bees and butterflies.
Aloe longistyla has a quick growth rate; in fact, it’s one of the fastest-growing aloes in South Africa. It can grow up to 80 cm within a year, making it an excellent choice for collectors who are looking for a plant that will develop quickly but won’t take over their space.
As with all aloes, sap from Aloe longistyla is mildly toxic when ingested. But ingesting any part of an aloe plant isn’t good for you in any case. The plants are considered poisonous and can cause rashes or burns when touched or rubbed on your skin. Keep out of reach of children and pets, just to be safe.
USDA Hardiness Zones
Aloe longistyla thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. In colder climates, it will still grow, but it may not flower and its leaves may die back during cold weather. If you live in a colder climate, try growing your karoo aloe indoors or keep it potted and bring it inside when temperatures drop below freezing.
Pests and diseases
Keep an eye out for whiteflies, which are tiny white flying insects that love a sweet drink. If you notice them, treat your plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap. It’s also important to protect your aloe from mealybugs, which look like fuzzy balls crawling on its leaves and stems. To kill these pests off, dab mealybug killer onto affected areas of your plant’s foliage every three weeks during warmer months.
Another pest to watch out for is spider mites, which are small red bugs that tend to appear on plants in dry conditions. They can spin webs over leaves and cause yellowing and curling of leaf edges. Treat spider mites by misting your plant with water until it is dripping wet. Repeat once per day until they disappear.
The Aloe longistyla plant is a great addition to any sunny spot in your home, not only because of its aesthetic value but also because of its many health benefits. With proper care, your karoo aloe will thrive and reward you with years of beauty and health.