Aloes and other standouts in the late-February garden

It’s been a mild winter so far, with only two very brief dips below freezing. That’s why I thought the aloes in our garden would be in full bloom by late January. Not so. Aloes, like all plants, are on their own timetable. Just because I am impatient doesn’t mean that things are happening any faster.

As we’re moving into the last week of February, it looks like the aloes are stepping on the gas. Nice pops of color are appearing in our garden, with more in the offing. Let’s take a look.

Aloe ‘Moonglow’, a complex hybrid from Sunbird Aloes in South Africa, is always the first to bloom. We used to have three big clumps, but I rehomed one – two is enough. The fire-engine red aloe is another hybrid, Aloe spectabilis × vaombe. The flowers are just now starting to open.

Aloe spectabilis × vaombe (left), Aloe ‘Moonglow’ (right)

Aloe ‘Moonglow’ with Arctostaphylos ‘La Panza’, a dwarf hybrid of Arctostaphylos silvicola and Arctostaphylos bakerii found at Las Pilitas Nursery

Aloe ‘Moonglow’ flowers

Aloe spectabilis × vaombe. The flowers are RED!

Aloe spectabilis × vaombe

In the next set of photos, Aloe wickensii lights up gloomy days with its stunning yellow-and-red flowers. The pink flowers that are almost done blooming are cape lilies (Veltheimia capensis), a bulb from South Africa.

Aloe wickensii in front of Agave ovatifolia, with Yucca rostrata and Agave parryi var. truncata on the left

Aloe wickensii in front of Agave ovatifolia

Aloe wickensii

Moving along the sidewalk bed, we come to the 2nd clump of Aloe ‘Moonglow’:

There are many cool plants here, but what has me most excited is the giant fennel (Ferula communis) waking up after its long slumber (it goes dormant in the summer and doesn’t come back until mid-winter).

Giant fennel (Ferrula communis) along the fence behind Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ × ramosissimum and Agave ‘Ripple Express’

Left to right: Yucca linearifolia, ×Mangave ‘Aztec King’, Aloe globuligemma × marlothii, ×Mangave ‘Pineapple Punch’

A few more flowering aloes in the next set of photos, all of them planted within the last six months so not as exciting yet as they will be in a few years:

Left to right: Aloe (globuligemma × mawii) × betsileensis, Aloe munchii, and Aloe ‘Superman’ (Aloe cameronii × white-flowering Aloe ferox) in flower (or close to it), Aloe ukambensis and Aloe ortholopha not in flower

Aloe munchii

Aloe munchii

Aloe (globuligemma × mawii) × betsileensis, a John Becker hybrid with intensely red flowers

At the intersection, Aloe ‘Tangerine’ (Aloe arborescens × ferox) is spectacular, especially in combination with ×Mangave ‘Queen for a Day’:

Aloe ‘Tangerine’

×Mangave ‘Queen for a Day’

Rounding the corner we get to the next mangave, ×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’. It, too, has turned into a traffic stopper:

×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’

×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’

Aloes aren’t the only plants flowering at this time of year. Below are two shrubs that are true standouts, Acacia aphylla and Grevillea ‘Scarlet Sprite’:

Acacia aphylla and Grevillea ‘Scarlet Sprite’

Acacia aphylla and Grevillea ‘Scarlet Sprite’

Acacia aphylla is completely leafless. It photosynthesizes through the wiry stems, which really are as blue as these photos suggest.

Acacia aphylla

Acacia aphylla (back), Drimia maritima (front)

Giant sea squill (Drimia maritima) is a Mediterranean bulb that can grow to massive proportions. Ours has split so there are two heads now. The second one is barely visible between the main rosette on the right and Agave nuusaviorum on the left:

As I mentioned, aloe season has barely begun. Here are a few aloes, many of them hybrids, whose flowers haven’t opened up yet:

Aloe peglerae × white-flowering ferox

Aloe peglerae × mawii

Aloe × spinosissima (Aloe humilis × ferox)

Aloe speciosa × Aloidendron barberae, a Nick Deinhart hybrid

The flowers almost identical to Aloe speciosa, but this hybrid flowers at a smaller size than A. speciosa would

Aloe aculeata × esculenta (in front of Aloe lukeana)

Aloe ‘Maui Gem’ (A. mawii × globuligemma), a Brent Wigand hybrid, next to what is arguably the most striking hechtia of them all: Hechtia ‘Wildfire’ (H. texensis × stenopetala), an Andy Siekkinen hybrid

Hechtia ‘Wildfire’ looks like burgundy-colored liquid metal. I can’t say enough nice things about this fiercely armed terrestrial bromeliad.

Some non-aloe goodies:

Agave parrasana flower stalk in winter rest mode. In late spring, it’ll resume growing, reaching its terminal flowering stage in late summer.

Next to the front door

Front yard

Agaves, aloes, cacti, cycads, and hechtias

Lachenalia aloides ‘Quadricolor’, one of the prettiest South African bulbs

Lachenalia aloides ‘Quadricolor’

Close-up of ×Mangave ‘Bloodspot’ × Agave ‘Blue Glow’, a Nick Deinhart hybrid

As I’m writing this, it’s pouring outside. While not as wet as last year’s winter, we’ve certainly been blessed with regular rainfall.

Dudleya hybrids enjoying the winter rain

© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. I think I'm as excited to see your giant fennel as you are! I noticed mine was leafing out in December and am hoping all this rain will keep it growing and, who knows, maybe even flower. All your plants are so beautifully grown, and for you those mangaves really seem to have fulfilled their promise as worthy additions to a succulent garden. And so cool to see your name under San Marcos' entry for that acacia!

  2. It is really a wonderland! Wow, I bet people stop and take pictures of your garden. That rain yesterday, all condensed into an hour, felt almost tropical. Hechtia 'wildfire' is stunning. The fennel is so soft, it grows here wild on a trail by a big vineyard. I never thought about having it in the garden - it is GORGEOUS!

  3. Your aloes were well worth waiting for, Gerhard. They look spectacular, as do the flowering bulbs and shrubs. My Aloe wickensii (crytopoda?) is so far showing no sign of blooming and may get moved to give it more sun when I renovate a succulent bed elsewhere. I'd love to have a display that provides as much drama as yours. I wasn't familiar with giant fennel but now I'm coveting that too.

  4. A celebration of colors in your garden, Gerhard. Aloe ‘Tangerine’ has always been a favorite... I'm a sucker for those orange blooms, and indeed a perfect pairing with Mangave ‘Queen for a Day’.
    Mangave ‘Bloodspot’ × Agave ‘Blue Glow’... WOW!

  5. What a beautiful time in your garden and photographed sovv be well!

    - Mark Delepine in Berkeley

  6. Love your Aloe 'Moonglow'. I am so happy I ordered 2 from Devon Boutte. One died in the miserable heat from last summer, but the other one is all budded and ready to go! I used to have Lachenalia aloides ‘Quadricolor’ in a pot and that died, but one seeded in the ground under the Texas Olive and is budded too. They are so colorful!

  7. Beautiful photos! Is the "Bloodspot" available somewhere in Davis?
    I am new to Davis, coming from Mauritius, and just realized how common succulents are in South Africa and Madagascar!

  8. So many treasures. 'Moonglow' looks particularly good with the blue Y. rostrata backdrop.

  9. Acacia aphylla would be repeated throughout my garden if I lived down there. I've always, always wanted to grow Lachenalia since I first saw it in Crockett's houseplant book. Your post restirs that passion. And, the last thing I didn't expect... I've long loved the combination of silvery greys and deep reddish oranges, but I am really grooving on the color contrast between Aloe 'Moonglow' and the blueish tints of the Agaves and Yuccas behind it!


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