How to: grow aloes
Photo - Leo Thamm
The dazzle of fiery candles shown on this page comes courtesy of modern hybrid aloes.
These plants are a great way to add colour to the winter garden.
There are more than 200 species in the aloe genus, all of which are native to Africa. Like most African plants, aloes are right at home in our climate. New ‘aloe-aloe’ cultivars couple the hard-living aspects of the original species with modern flamboyance. Breeders have looked to put prolific and showy flowering in the plants, coupled with long-lasting quality. The colour ranges from white through yellow and orange to red and pink, as well as bicoloured. Different cultivars colour at different times, so you can choose colour for when you need it.
'Moonglow' in pots. Photo - Leo Thamm
Excited already? Here are a few other things you might not have known about aloes and what they can offer to your garden:
1. Aloes are shallow-rooted so can be grown where soil depth and room is an issue, such as close to boundary and retaining walls. They are not picky about soil, except for heavy clay soils. They require good drainage to prevent rotting of the roots. They also do well in pots: for best results use a succulent potting mix combined with about 10 per cent compost.
2. Aloes can handle the wet. Aloes are well-known for drought-tolerance, less well known is the fact that they can handle a high volume of water. As long as the soil is well-drained, aloes will tolerate periods of prolonged rain.
3. Aloes come in a range of sizes. The smallest aloes are around 20cm high, while some species, such as Aloe barbarae can reach a towering 18m in height.
4. Aloes flower best when grown in full sun, although the cultivar ‘Fairy Pink’ continues to flower under the filtered light of a tree.
5. Aloes attract birds. The dense clusters of flowers are full of nectar, which attracts both insects and birds, so birds can often be seen hanging on to the flowering stem for a feast.
Taringa House. Photo - Linda Ross
The ‘aloe aloe’ range can be purchased in most retail nurseries and garden centres. For information on indivultival cultivars go to www.aloe-aloe.com.au