Cutting Aloe Plants. Guide To Pruning, Propagating & Harvesting

In this article I cover everything you need to know about cutting an aloe plant. I also cover the topic of replanting a cut aloe and how to cut an aloe plant at the roots for propagation purposes.

How to cut an aloe without killing it

The first thing we need to address is if it is safe for an aloe plant to be cut.

Can you cut an aloe plant?

It is perfectly fine to cut an aloe plant for pruning.

You can also cut an aloe to propagate new plants but only when offsets appear.

You can cut the tip of the leaves to access the latex gel within as some aloe owners use this harvested latex in home skin care remedies and treatments.

Although some aloe owners will cut their plants in order to access and harvest the latex that the leaf contains, for medicinal and skin care home remedies, the main reason for cutting an aloe plant is to grow a new one.

In this article I address both reason for cutting your aloe plant.

However, if you have never propagated a new plant from a parent I strongly suggest you try it with your aloe plant.

Creating something new from small beginnings leaves you with a great sense of accomplishment and pride.

Although there are easier plants to propagate, especially from leaf cuttings (it rarely works with aloe plants), when you cultivate an entirely new aloe plant from a parent plant the rewards are worth the effort. More on that later.

There are two different ways to cut an aloe plant. One is for replanting and propagating new plants and the other is to harvest latex from the plant or to prune the leaves (both the latter involve leaf cutting).

The propagation method involves separating the plant at the roots while the latex-harvesting method involves taking a leaf cutting or cutting the tip of the leaf.

Let’s look at these methods now.

But before I cover the how-to of cutting your aloe plant I will address the most common questions I am asked on the subject of cut aloe plants.

Guide to removing damaged aloe leaf tips

I am often asked by houseplant owners, “can I cut the tip of my aloe plant?”

You can cut the tip of the leaves of an aloe plant when they start to turn yellowish or brown as this part of the leaf is dead.

You can also cut the tip of a healthy leaf to harvest the latex it contains if you want it for home remedies.

The exposed portion of the leaf tip will seal over on its own.

Pruning the tips of leaves that have turned yellow or brown is a good way to maintain the aesthetic look of your plant.

Pruning the leaves in this way will do no harm to aloe plant and the cut seals itself very quickly.

Aloe vera houseplant owners will often cut the tip of the leaves on their houseplant to harvest the gel contained within.

I don’t advise doing this unless the only reason you grow aloe plants is for this purpose.

Aloe vera latex, and gel harvested from most aloe plants, is considered to be medicinal and of great aid in beauty and skincare products.

Latex from cut aloe leaf
Latex from cut aloe leaf

Although I do not buy into the miraculous properties of aloe vera myself and only grow the plant because I like the way it looks there is some evidence for its healing properties.

So I certainly won’t disparage anyone else from using their plant in this way.

Guide to cutting an aloe plant to replant it

What about replanting an aloe or part of an aloe after cutting the plant … can you propagate a new plant from a parent plant and then replant both?

You can cut an aloe plant at the roots if offsets appear and replant both the original plant and the new offset.

You can also cut leaves from aloe plants and use the latex they contain for skin care.

Propagating new aloe plants from leaf cuttings rarely works.

Propagating from offset cuttings and root cuttings is the most common method for growing new plants.

If you try to grow a new plant from an aloe leaf cutting, regardless if you use water or soil as a growing medium, you will likely end up with a shriveled and dead leaf long before it has time to develop roots.

It’s really simple; don’t waste your time trying to propagate new plants from aloe leaf cuttings.

It won’t work. Instead wait until the plant develops offsets. Offsets are mini plants the grow at the sides of the main parent plant.

I will show you how to cut and then use these offsets to propagate new plants later in this article.

When you want to remove leaves from an aloe plant for harvesting or propagation

What about propagating a new aloe plant from a leaf cutting or removing a leaf for home remedy use, is this possible? Can you cut the leaf off your aloe plant?

You can cut a leaf off your aloe plant. This is a great method for harvesting aloe latex for home remedies such as skin care cream.

Be sure to the cut the leaf as far down the stem, and as close to its base, as possible.

You cannot use a cut leaf to grow a new plant though.

In the image below you can see where you should cut a leaf from an aloe plant if you want to remove the entire leaf.

Aloe leaf cutting
Aloe leaf cutting

Just remember that growing new plants from aloe leaves cut from a parent plant will not work.

Many aloe vera plants purchased from shops have been grown from separated aloes (see below).

I have yet to see an aloe plant successfully propagated from a leaf (though I am sure someone has done it somewhere at some time).

How to cut an aloe vera leaf from the plant for latex harvesting

Cut the leaf as far down the plant, and as close to the base of the stem, as possible.

You can see from the image above that the leaf has been cut at the very base of the stem very close to the main body of the plant.

You should aim to cut your aloe leaves in the same manner as this will help the plant recover quicker and give you the most amount of leaf for latex harvesting if that is your purpose.

The dangers of cutting an aloe in half

With many houseplants propagating a new plant is as simple as cutting the plant in two. Can you cut an aloe plant in half for propagation purposes?

You cannot cut an aloe plant in half.

Aloe plants can only be separated when a new offset appears at the side of the plant.

By dividing the plant at the roots before removing the new growth you can create two plants where previously you only had one.

While you can cut a lot of other houseplants in half, like the african violet, by simply cutting the root zone in half, you need to take a different approach with aloe plants.

Aloe plants should never be cut in half as you risk killing the plant.

With aloe plants there must be a new offset coming from the parent plant before you can cut the plant.

This new offset will have its own roots attached to it.

You can remove the new offset growth and its roots and plant it in its own pot to grow a entirely new plant.

This process begins at the roots

Let’s look at how to do that now.

The only times it is safe to cut the roots off an aloe plant

So when is it ok to cut the roots of an aloe plant.

You can separate and cut the roots of an aloe plant for propagation purposes only when a new offset appears at the side of the plant.

This new growth will have its own roots.

You can also cut the roots off an aloe plant if the plant is suffering from root rot.

In the case of root rot the infected roots should be removed and the aloe should be repotted in a new pot with fresh soil.

You can discover how to do this by reading my instructions for fixing aloe vera root rot because the process is exactly the same for all aloe plants.

For propagation purposes it is possible to divide an aloe plant at the roots. To do this there must be new miniature plants growing to the side of the parent plant.

These are known as offsets though they are sometimes called plantlets.

It is possible to remove these new offsets from the plant and use them to grow new plants but only as long as you keep some of the root system attached to the offset.

If you remove the offset without keeping some roots on it your new plant will likely die before it has time to develop new roots.

Oftentimes when you remove an aloe plant that has offsets on it from its pot, the roots look like they all belong together.

You can be sure though that if there are offsets at the side of the main plant body then some of those roots belong to the offsets and not the main plant.

Even though the roots will look like they are all one and belong to the one system they do not. It is simply because the roots are intertwined. It is your job to separate them.

Aloe plant with 1 big and 3 small offsets
Aloe plant with 4 cut offsets

Just by using your fingers you should gently prise the roots apart. Often this is all you need to do to separate the root systems.

If this proves to be difficult use a sharp knife or scissors to cut away stubborn bits that are so intertwined they won’t separate.

Be careful not to remove the roots completely from either the parent plant or the offsets. Only cut when absolutely necessary.

The key is to make sure there are still roots attached to the offset when you remove it from the parent plant.

Once you have separated the roots, you can remove the offset from the parent plant (with its roots attached) and pot it up as a new plant.

In the early stages you may want to use a tent or plastic grow bag to cover the new plant in order to give it the best chance of survival.

Do not water a newly potted aloe plant. Wait several days before watering and then follow your normal aloe plant watering routine.

Be sure the new fledgling plant gets plenty of direct light and is situated in a warm place.

Busting the myth about cutting an aloe vera plant at night

Many houseplant owners will use parts of the aloe plant, especially aloe vera, for home remedies and homemade skin cream.

It is this type of aloe owner who often wonders if it is ok to cut an aloe plant at night.

You can cut an aloe vera plant at any time of the day.

As long as you cut the plant correctly and are careful not to damage the rest of the foliage or roots it doesn’t matter when you cut an aloe plant.

Always be sure to take extra care when cutting an aloe plant as the leaves do not like to be manhandled.

Aloe leaves are fairly rigid and over handling of them weakens their integrity.

Now that you know how to cut an aloe vera plant without killing it – or any other aloe plant for that matter – be sure to only cut away what you need.

If you continually cut your aloe plant it will be unlikely to bloom and you will miss out on its beautiful flowers.

For in depth advice on the care of aloe plants read this article.

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