Native to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and Arabia, Aloes are evergreen succulents with usually spiny leaves arranged in neat rosettes, and spectacular, candle-like inflorescences bearing clusters of brilliant yellow, orange or red, tubular flowers. They exist in a wide range of sizes, colors and offer an amazing array of leaf shapes. Some make incredible landscape specimens, creating year-round interest. Smaller varieties are ideal to add drama, texture and color to containers. Easy care, waterwise, they brighten up the dull winter landscape and are fascinating.
- Belonging to the Asphodelaceae family, Aloe is a genus of about 450 species of succulent plants.
- Aloes range from small miniatures, a few inches high, to tall trees. Their usually thick leaves are lance-shaped, smooth, bumpy or prickled and are lined along their edges with usually sharp, but sometimes soft, teeth. The leaves of many Aloes redden when the plants are stressed by drought, cold, or more sun or less rich soil that it requires.
- Unlike most Agaves which die after blooming, Aloes flower every year in candle-like or cone-shaped inflorescences, usually packed with tubular flowers that are brightly colored in shades of red, orange and yellow, and occasionally cream, green, pink or white. The vast majority of Aloes flower in winter, while some groups, like the grass aloes for instance, usually flower in spring or summer.
- Aloes are mostly long-lived plants, especially the larger species. Some exceptionally tall specimens of Aloe marlothii are said to be over 200 years old!
- Easy to grow, Aloes generally require soils with good drainage and do best in warm climates. Aloes require very low maintenance once established. They are well-adapted to arid conditions. Their succulent leaves enable them to survive long periods of drought, however, watering should not be withheld. Aloes thrive and flower better when given adequate water during their growing season. Be careful not to overwater Aloes as this can cause them to rot, especially when the soil does not drain well. Most Aloes are frost tender but there are some that are remarkably hardy.
- Aloes are terrific for beds and borders, rock gardens, succulent gardens or Mediterranean gardens. They are ideal as accent plants and highly decorative in containers. Large Aloes are spectacular landscape plants. They can be used to create a stunning focal point or a striking backdrop. Combine them with smaller, Aloe species in the foreground and add some of their favorite companion plants such as low succulent groundcovers (Senecio mandraliscae) and sedums. Complement with Agaves and Opuntia cactus to add texture and a sculptural presence to the Mediterranean gardens or to the drought-tolerant gardens. Their natural adaptation to harsh and often arid climates, makes Aloes superb subjects for the water-wise garden.
- Filled with nectar, the brightly colored flowers of Aloes are regularly visited by pollinating birds and insects and a welcome source of food during the winter. Their sharp thorns and spines, as well as usually bitter leaf sap, are good deterrents for many herbivores, including deer and rabbits.
- All species of Aloe (except for Aloe vera) appear on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, meaning that trade in Aloes is controlled to prevent utilization that would be incompatible with their survival.