Friday, March 20, 2009

Aloe in Bloom always says Spring to me!

Aloe Barbadensis just flowering.

They have been flowering from about the beginning of February here in the Phoenix area. I took some of these pictures a month ago, but thankfully I have been very busy with design work. The Aloe always reminds me of spring here. I can’t help but get excited when I see the stalks growing up and budding out Yellow and Orange all over town.

Aloe Barbadensis Buds

Some Aloe around town look really ratty. Burned tips, purple and grey tones and very little green they look like they need to be watered badly. They might, but chances are your looking at an Aloe planted in full sun. If you buy an aloe from a retail nursery the plant care tag may tell you, “Plant in full sun to part shade”. Don’t believe it. In Phoenix Aloe are happiest in part sun or filtered sun conditions. Mid-day and afternoon shade works well, too.

Aloe Vera - Aloe Barbadensis - Medicinal Aloe

Most Aloe is native to Africa, but I hear that some Aloe Vera – Barbadensis is native to Central and South America, the Cannary Islands, Jamaica mon (he he), and Bardados, hence the name. This is the medicinal variety that has been used by doctors, folk healers and clever mothers to treat burns, bites, inflammation, and to prevent infection. The Yellow Aloe Vera is the most effective, but Aloe Vera Orange works almost as well.

The height of the leaves is about 2’ to 3’ and the stalks can reach up to 5’. Aloe Vera clumps freely, so to keep it looking good (my opinion here) I pull off the little suckers and give them away.

Aloe Ferox, Cape Aloe, Tree Aloe

Aloe Ferox or Cape Aloe is very dramatic and can grow to 12’ or so and 5’ in diameter. It doesn’t clump so you can trim off the old dead leaves exposing and interesting tree form. It grows in a less upright form then Aloe Vera, but the stalk has an enormous amount of intensely orange flowers.

Most Aloe are cold hardy to the mid 20’s and are definitely a low water use plant. They do attract birds and our beloved humming birds enjoy them, too.

Plant them as an accent and keep them trimmed clean for a more dramatic effect just as you would an agave, just not in full sun, please.


  1. I've never seen aloe in bloom! You made my day! Thanks.

  2. Bill, that's really good information. Who would have known? I'm often amazed how wrong the labels can be...

  3. Tatyana: Great!

    Town Mouse: You have to be careful with the USDA climate zones. They are basically cold hardiness and not heat related. Full sun in San Diego is not the same as full sun in Phoenix although we share some of the same zones.

    I need to check out your yard progress.

    KeeWee: Gotta love the Aloe Ferox. Later in the year the tips of the leaves turn red, too.

  4. Great Aloe photos. You are right about Aloes doing better in filtered shade in Zone 9b. 'Blue Elf' is an exception--it seems to do fine even with a southern exposure, as does Aloe sinkatana. They do look better with some sun protection though.

  5. I really dig aloes. As you mentioned to Town Mouse, though, zones are only part of the picture. Here in coastal San Diego I have a three big bruisers in full sun with no added water, but it's a pretty chilly environment compared to yours. I have a ferox in way more shade than would be ideal for it, but it's hanging in there. I love how tough these guys are. And I agree that they're great signals of longer days.

  6. I really shouldn't be looking at the pictures of the Aloes growing outdoors. Makes me long to live in a much warmer climate! Gorgeous nonetheless!

  7. Hi Kate. Don't be to hasty. Our temps just moved into the 100's for the second time this year and could be up as high as 105 by the weekend. Summer is here!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for sharing these pictures of your beautiful aloes. I have a question for you. One of my aloes sent a spear up last week, which has been growing steadily every day. This morning I discovered that my cat has 'removed' the top of the spear. Do aloes do anything clever if a spear is removed before it blooms? Will it send another one up? I'm so disappointed!

  9. Landscape maintenance people usually cut of the stalks or spears after they begin to look old. I doubt if your cat harmed your aloe, but I also doubt you will see another spear till next year. I have seem them bloom rarely in the fall.

    There may be someone reading with more horticultural experience then I regarding aloe. I'm not a succulent expert by any means. I would try posting in some other blogs and forums that are more focused on succulents. Try