Aloe congolensis (Congo Aloe)

Aloe congolensis

Last updated on July 23rd, 2022 at 06:38 pm

Aloe congolensis (Congo Aloe) is one of the most popular houseplants around, and as such, it has been in need of some basic care instructions.

The Congo aloe plant, or simply the aloe plant, originates from East Africa and South Africa. It has broad, dark green leaves with fleshy gel-like ridges along the center of each leaf that is comprised of water and minerals that can be used to soothe minor cuts and burns (such as sunburns). The aloe congolensis plant grows in large clumps that spread out over time, reaching up to six feet wide in some cases.

A type of succulent plant, Aloe congolensis, belongs to the Asphodelaceae family. This type of aloe is native to East Africa (specifically parts of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania) and grows naturally in dry rocky areas with little rainfall and strong winds. It typically grows in arid rocky areas with poor soil, but it can also be grown indoors as long as it gets enough light, which can be hard to come by in Africa.

Origin and distribution

Aloe congolensis is a genus of about 400 species of flowering succulent plants. The most well-known member of the genus is Aloe vera, or as it is more commonly known, true aloe. The genus was historically placed in Liliaceae and Agavaceae, but now Agavaceae is recognized as a family in its own right, leaving just Liliaceae sensu lato to contain all of those species once placed in Agavaceae.

This broad view of Liliaceae includes not only Aloe, but also many other genera that were formerly considered agaves and lilies. This broader definition has been adopted by some botanists, though not yet by taxonomists who maintain these groups as separate families within Lilianae sensu stricto. In any case, there are around 400 species of Aloe.

Many are native to southern Africa, with others scattered around tropical regions worldwide from Africa through Asia and Australasia to Central America.

Aloe congolensis propagation

Aloe congolensis

Aloe congolensis propagation is usually easiest with offsets. Simply remove an offset and plant it in a pot of soil. If you start them indoors, make sure they receive plenty of light, so they won’t grow leggy; provide bottom heat if necessary. Avoid overwatering; let them dry out between waterings.

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You can also propagate via seeds. Sow them outdoors once temperatures are warm enough or sow them indoors 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Press seeds into the moistened seed-starting mix and keeps moist until germination, which takes about 2 weeks.

Transplant seedlings when they have at least two sets of true leaves. Keep plants well-watered but not soggy. Fertilize lightly every month with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Pinch back new growth to encourage bushy growth. Water from below, keeping potting medium evenly moist. Water from above can cause stem rot.

Aloe congolensis care information

Aloe congolensis

The aloe congolensis is a small plant that is great for any indoor environment. It thrives under optimal lighting and warm temperatures, with temperatures ranging from 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The aloe should be watered regularly, approximately two times per week.

We do not recommend placing it in direct sunlight, as it can cause severe burns on its leaves and petioles. Also, its roots must never be left dry, as they are sensitive to dehydration.

Light requirement

Aloe congolensis prefers partial shade to full sun. A plant grown in full sun will produce more leaves, while a plant grown in partial shade will produce more flowers. If you want flowers, keep your aloe outdoors, near a sunny window indoors. You can also grow it outside during warm months and bring it inside during cold months.

Soil/potting mix

Unlike many of its succulent counterparts, Congo aloe can be grown in just about any well-draining potting soil. However, it prefers sandy soils with plenty of organic material. Soil composition will also have an effect on leaf size and coloration.

For example, soil with higher levels of organic matter tends to produce larger leaves than soil that is more nutrient-poor. If you plan on growing your plant indoors, a loose mix such as cactus mix or coarse sand is ideal for proper drainage.

If you plan on growing outdoors or in a greenhouse, a mixture of 50 percent coarse sand and 50 percent organic material such as peat moss is recommended. The most important thing to remember when planting your aloe is to make sure that its roots are not exposed; they should be planted 1–2 inches below soil level.

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Watering

If you’re growing Aloe congolensis outdoors, plan to water it about once a week—more often if it’s extremely hot or extremely dry. Keep your soil moist at all times, but don’t leave it too wet. Overwatering is just as bad as underwatering, as stagnant water can cause root rot.

You can either use a watering can or let the rain do its thing, unless you live in an extremely arid region, rain should suffice. If you’re using a potting mix, make sure it drains well; otherwise, add perlite or gravel to improve drainage.

Fertilizer

To get your Aloe congolensis growing as fast as possible, provide it with nutrients. A slow-release fertilizer is a good choice. Apply one teaspoon of fertilizer every 3-4 weeks when your plant is actively growing. Avoid fertilizing during winter months, since aloes are deciduous and will not be putting on new growth at that time.

Too much fertilizer can cause your leaves to turn yellow or even brown, so use discretion and only fertilize if necessary for optimal growth and health.

Temperature

Aloe congolensis does best in temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees F. It will survive, but not thrive, in warmer or cooler temperatures. Keeping it too cool or too warm is hard on its leaves, so plan to do your repotting in late spring or early fall.

If you live in a particularly hot area, you may want to invest in a small fan for your aloe vera plants. The constant movement of air around them will help keep their leaves from getting sunburned.

Humidity

Maintaining proper humidity is essential to promoting aloe plant growth and preventing root rot. Allow your Aloe congolensis plant’s soil to dry between waterings, but avoid letting it dry out completely. Typically, you should water your Congo aloe no more than once every two weeks during its active growing season; once it has reached the mature size, reduce watering to once a month or so.

The ideal humidity range is between 40 and 60 percent. If your home’s air is too dry, consider using a humidifier to maintain these levels. If your plant’s leaves are turning brown, it may be too humid; if they’re curling up or turning yellow, it may be too dry.

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Pruning

This succulent can take a great deal of neglect and still look good, but proper pruning will help your aloe thrive. Prune at any time of year to get rid of damaged leaves or suckers that sprout up in unwanted areas.

It’s especially important to trim suckers that appear along a single stem: If you don’t do it when they first appear, removing them will require pulling off part of your plant with them. Be sure to leave some leafy growth on each stem; if you remove too much, new leaves won’t be able to form.

When to repot

Aloe congolensis

When your Aloe congolensis leaves are getting too crowded in its pot, it’s time to repot. If they grow more than six inches past their current container, they’re probably ready for a bigger home. Look for new growth when determining whether or not to repot your aloe. They like to be slightly pot-bound, so don’t give them too much space!

As with any plant, water regularly and fertilize about once every two weeks. Always use a fertilizer that is formulated for cacti and succulents, other types can burn your plant’s roots. Keep in mind that over-watering is one of the most common mistakes made by first-time aloe owners; make sure you only water enough to keep the soil moist, but never soggy wet.

Dormancy/Winter rest

In colder areas, you may need to provide your plant with a winter rest. If so, see if your plant has started to grow new leaves or a flower stalk. You can tell by lifting and carefully removing some of its soil. If it is growing new growth or flowers then you should stop watering it, giving it just enough water so that its roots don’t shrivel up from dehydration but not enough to allow it to start growing again.

Don’t worry about feeding it either; it won’t be taking in any nutrients during dormancy anyway. The best way to provide your plant with a winter rest is to move it somewhere cool and dry where there isn’t any sunlight at all. A basement would be ideal as long as there isn’t a furnace kicking out heat nearby. Another option would be an unheated garage or shed.

Aloe congolensis flower & fragrance

Some of its flowers have a pleasantly sweet fragrance, but it is not overpowering. The plant’s scent isn’t detectable until one is very close to it. When cut, these flowers release their fragrance all day long.

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Growth rate

Aloe congolensis prefers slow to medium, but slow is a relative term. If you’re used to growing succulents from seed or cuttings and want something that’s easier, then aloes are for you. They generally don’t grow as large as other succulents, so they can be kept in containers and given frequent haircuts without losing their roots.

But they grow very slowly because of how long it takes them to mature, most take 5 years before they begin flowering.

Toxicity

Generally, Aloe congolensis is considered toxic if ingested. Extracts of aloe should be used with caution on sensitive skin or wounds as there is a risk of burning when applied topically in higher concentrations.

There are some concerns about potential mutagenic and carcinogenic effects, which have been refuted by numerous studies, though whether these studies are valid is another question altogether. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

USDA hardiness zones

Aloe congolensis thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. If you live outside of these areas, you can still grow an aloe plant but it will require more care and attention. In addition to being able to tolerate frost, it’s important that your aloe plant is placed in a location where it receives at least six hours of sunlight each day.

Pests and diseases

While many aloes are very resistant to pests and diseases, aloes that have been hybridized or grafted may be more susceptible. Proper care and maintenance can help prevent pest infestations and disease problems.

Some Aloe congolensis pests include mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, spider mites, caterpillars, and grasshoppers.

For most pest problems you can use commercially available pesticides labeled for use on houseplants.

Conclusion

The care and keeping of Aloe congolensis are not unlike that of succulents in general. In fact, I recommend keeping all your aloes in similar conditions. The most important thing to remember is your lighting situation. Providing adequate light is crucial, and can really boost growth rates while reducing stress.

Sunlight is most ideal, but if you don’t have a bright window or skylight where you plan on keeping your plants, consider getting quality grow light for your plants as well.