A Winter wonderland with Aloes
Let's say 'Allo to some beautiful Aloes!
What is a winter garden without these floral gems?!
DID YOU KNOW that of the 250 or so aloe varieties in the world, about 150 species are indigenous to South Africa. They can be found growing anywhere from the coast to mountain peaks, and vary from dwarf and grass-like species to single- and multi-stemmed aloes, even tree forms.
Not only does it produce brightly coloured flowers, it can also withstand prolonged periods of drought and some are frost tolerant, like Aloe arborescens.
Aloes hybridise easily and as a result there are a large number of hybrids. These are usually more attractive and faster growing and faster flowering than the true species. Treat yourself to a visit to Cape Garden to see the pretty Aloe hybrids we stock - such as 'Egoli' and 'Peri-Peri'.
Sunlight and shade
For a hot dry spot in full sun where little else can go, consider a collection of aloes.
Although most need full sun, those with speckled leaves do better with some afternoon shade.
Aloes add bold sculptural features to a garden and an abundance of warm-coloured blooms in autumn and winter. They can be planted singly for effect (A. arborescens for example), used as a focal point (A. plicatilis), or in a massed planting (A. 'Little Joker').
Like most plants with red, orange and yellow flowers, aloes attract birds. The flowers are rich in nectar which draws not only sunbirds, but also insects, which in turn attract insectivorous birds such as shrikes and bulbuls. Lizards and geckoes live in the leaves of the bigger aloe species, like the bitter aloe.
Most flower in the colder months of the year, but there are also a few that flower during the other seasons as well. A. cooperi flowers from December to March for instance, where A. maculata is variable - in summer, winter or spring.
Aloes have been used for centuries for their medicinal value. One very well-known example is A. vera which is not indigenous to South Africa.
An excellent local alternative is the bitter aloe (A. ferox), which contains two different juices - the bitter yellow latex and a white gel.
The gel is used to treat skin problems, such as burns, dry skin and eczema, acne, scars etc. The bitter latex, which hardens into dark brown crystals, is used as a purgative, to detoxify the blood, and to treat arthritis, rheumatism, and digestive and other ailments.
The gel obtained from the leaves of A. arborescens also works very well when applied to the skin to treat burns, abrasions and insect bites, including bee stings, and mosquito and flea bites.
Popular and easy to grow Aloes
A. barberae is a striking tree aloe growing up to 15m in nature, usually 6–8m in gardens. It grows fairly fast when planted in rich soil and watered well, but it is not frost tolerant, particularly when young.
A. vanbalenii needs very little attention, and forms dense clumps. If planted in full sun and watered sparingly, the foliage turns a deep orange-red colour combining well with yellows and other warm colours.
A. arborescens grow into dense, multiheaded shrubs that are covered in blooms from May to July. They are particularly effective when planted en masse along a boundary, quickly forming an impenetrable barrier. There are several different colour forms available.
A. vera is described as a 'wonder plant' and very useful. It makes a pretty focal point in sunny borders or decorative containers.