Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Aloes in our front yard getting ready to bloom

It’s that time of year when the days are short and the heat of summer nothing but a hazy memory. Some people love winter, others would rather skip it (me!), but many of the aloes in our front yard are in a festive mood. I must admit, as much as I dislike this season, I do love the annual flower show put on by our aloes.

We still have a few weeks to go before things really get bloomy, but anticipation is half the fun. On that note, let’s take a look at what’s developing.


This smaller Aloe capitata var. quartziticola next to the garage is getting ready to bloom for the first time


This Aloe cryptopoda starts blooming earlier than the rest. The flower stalk is almost six feet tall now.


I really want this Aloe marlothii to bloom but it’s still too small, I think


Aloe ferox is definitely big enough…


…and this year’s flower stalk has twice as many flowers as last year’s


Aloe ferox close-up


Another first-time bloomer: Aloe petricola


Aloe petricola


One of three clumps of Aloe ‘Moonglow’, the most prolific flower producer I have


Yet another first-time bloomer: Aloe wickensii, lumped by some into Aloe cryptopoda, but according to others distinct enough to be considered its own species.


A bulb, not an aloe, but just as pretty: Veltheimia capensis


Aloe capitata var. quartziticola #2, also flowering for the first time this year. This a watershed year, it seems, with many aloes hitting blooming age. Unlike agaves, which typically die after they bloom, aloes flower year after year.


Aloe capitata var. quartziticola is my favorite aloe. I love the coloration of the leaves and the teeth.


Aloe glauca, beautiful and criminally underused in residential landscaping. I love how substantial the inflorescence is compared to most other species.


Aloe glauca


Aloe ‘Erik the Red’, one of the few Leo Thamm hybrids available in the U.S.


‘Erik the Red’ has three flower stalks this year, one more than last year. Its flowers are the most remarkable color, a deep dark red, which contrasts spectacularly with the apple green leaves.


Clump #2 of Aloe ‘Moonglow’


So many flower stalks!


Aloe ‘Moonglow’ was also bred by Leo Thamm and flowers for almost two months solid. The Sunbird Aloes web site recommends adding composted manure during the growing season. I’ve never done that but since I have a bag of composted chicken manure lying around, I’ll give it a try.


  1. Beautiful! I'm waiting for mine to bloom soon too. Hope for no frosts this winter.

    1. No frost, wouldn't that be wonderful? Looking good so far although things can change.

  2. Where did you get that Aloe capitata var. quartziticola, I want one too! Sue

    1. Two came from the Ruth Bancroft Garden, the third from Arid Lands in Tucson (mail order).

  3. I look forward to the day that my aloes are mature enough to put on a good winter show like yours. I'll have to check my Veltheimia to see if there are any signs of buds - my plant seemed to lag a few weeks behind yours in producing foliage.

    1. I'm in love with that Veltheimia capensis. What was once one bulb/plant are now five or six. Good times ahead! I hope yours will multiply too.

  4. What a show is coming your way! My wickensii is years from blooming. I've seen buds on 'Jacobs Ladder' and cameronii and some small hybrids, but that's it so far.

    1. This wickensii is only a few years old. It's doubled in size this year. The flowers were totally unexpected.

      My A. cameronii had a half a dozen flowers but the whole clump was damaged when they removed our Aristocrat pear last week. No big deal, it'll recover in no time even if it might skip the flower show this year.

  5. Oh Aloe 'Moonglow'. I keep looking at winter hardiness for Aloes and fret over the 20's, which can happen here . I liked Lorees' little Ruth Bancroft-esqe shelters she used for rain protection, but if I used frost fabric instead of poly it might be a solution. I am planing a winter visit to Berkeley Botanical to visit their Aloes.

    1. All of these aloes have been through 27-28°F with no damage. I think they're good down to 25°F although newly emerging flowers could be damaged.

      Having said that, I can highly recommend 'Moonglow'. If you're interested, I'll give you a pup the next time I see you.

  6. The Veltheimia flower is very striking! Beautiful color on that one. I think your marlothii has a couple of years to go yet. The Quartzicola ssp really is the best, isn't it?

    My very young 'Moonglow' has a single flower stem, which is exciting. Appears to be a really enthusiastic bloomer. The first thraskii flowers have opened, suprafoliata is almost finished, everything else is sending up stems. Much fun ahead, and rain, too--are you getting it yet?

    1. Marlothii: I don't have enough patience, I know, but they aren't the fastest growers, are they? I'm also waiting for flowers from A. excelsa which has a good 1 ft. of trunk.

      Quartizicola: The amount of sun has a big impact on the coloration. The first photo shows one that doesn't get much sun--it's mostly green. The other gets a ton of sun and is a whitish gray with distinct purple teeth.

      Suprafoliata: I have one in a pot (well, a whole colony, you could say) and it has never flowered. Weird...

      Thraskii: One of my favorites but they're too tender for Davis.

      Rain: We had a sprinkle yesterday. Tomorrow (Thursday) the storm door is supposed to be wide open. 1.7 (!) inches of rain forecast for Davis. I cannot remember the last time we received that much rain in one day. It might have been 10 years!

  7. Blooming Aloes were the star of our December trip to San Diego in 2014, oh how I wish I loved somewhere I could grow them in the ground. You've got a great collection!

    1. Are there any you can grow in the ground? A. striatula?

  8. Nice group of Aloes there, many of the same issues grow here in Berkeley. I continue to be amazed with what's hardy for you; that Aloe 'Moonglow' has been damaged here at those same 27~28°F temps, whereas the Aloe thraskii has also taken the same degree of cold with no damage. Does Aloe cameronii repeat bloom throughout the year for you like it does here in Berkeley?

    Some more winter bloomers I've got here include x spinosissima, castanea, plicatilis and africana.