- The best spot: Growth and flowering are best if Aloes are grown in full sun, but a slightly shaded position will also work, as long as they are not over-watered.
- Choosing the right variety for your climate: Some Aloes are frost-resistant and others are not – be sure to choose the right variety. Even frost-hardy aloes may have their flowers damaged by frost, so our advice is to choose a variety that flowers either before or after the frost. In an extremely cold area, the choice will unfortunately be limited.
- Soil types and a perfect planting hole: Aloes are adaptable to most soil types except heavy clay. Good drainage is a must. Dig a generous-sized square hole about 3-4 times larger than the plant’s root ball. Mix the soil from the planting hole with a generous helping of compost and/or well-rotted kraal manure. Also add a handful of bonemeal or a balanced, slow release, organic fertiliser. Return some of this mixture back into the hole until your aloe is at the correct depth. Only then fill the remainder of the hole.
- Maintenance: Once established your Aloe will be drought-resistant, but will grow faster and lusher with moderate watering. Smaller Aloes and those in containers will generally require more frequent watering than large Aloes. A watering routine will depend on the soil type, variety and season. To stimulate faster growth and better flowering, feed aloes every 2-3 months with a balanced organic fertiliser. They also respond well to periodic applications of well-rotted chicken manure in the growing season to boost foliage growth. Additional liquid fertiliser for container-grown Aloes is very effective to keep the foliage lush.
Aloes are prone to pests and diseases. Look out for the following and take the necessary preventative measures.
- Rust – In the home garden where one does not have too many Aloes it is recommended to remove all the affected leaves and burn them. You can spray with Virikop plus a good wetting agent to limit the spread of the disease.
- Black spot – This is a complex problem caused by more than one fungus. Some plants are more susceptible than others, and soil pH can also affect susceptibility. If a plant is extremely susceptible it is recommended that you destroy it and replace it with a more resistant variety. Home use fungicides are not that effective in treating this disease, one can however spray with Virikop as a preventative.
- General insects – These include Snout Beetles, various beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, aphids, mealy bug and scale. For home use an alternating spray program of Aphicide (Dimethoate) and Koinor with a good wetter-sticker is effective for controlling most insects, most of the time. For a severe scale infestation one can use a mix of Garden Ripcord and Oleum. Once the scale is dead it generally does not fall off and has to be rubbed off with a cloth or soft brush.
- Aloe Cancer/Aloe Mite – A difficult pest to control and no home-use products are completely effective in controlling these mites. It is always best to physically remove (cut out) the deformities/growths caused by the mite. Burn these growths, don’t leave them lying around your garden and don’t put them in your compost heap. After physical removal of growths/deformities, spray the plant with an effective miticide. Negotiations are underway at the moment for modern, suitable products to be made available to retail customers at retail outlets. Aphicide (Dimethoate) and Karbaspray(Carbaryl) are effective to a certain extent but some populations of mites are resistant and others will become resistant if the products are not alternated.
What is a hybrid?
In simple terms, a hybrid is a combination of two or more species to form one plant. The main reason why growers and breeders hybridise plants is not only to try and improve species to become great domestic garden plants, but also to gain some advantage that neither of the two originals could achieve alone. You may also come across the term ‘cultivar’ which is a plant, or a group of plants, selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by vegetative (asexual) propagation. Most cultivars have arisen in cultivation but a few are special selections from the wild. Cultivars are produced by careful breeding and selection for flower, colour and form.
Growing Aloes successfully depends on the specific Aloe species or hybrid that suits your climatic conditions and soil type. For example, trying to grow Aloe longistyla in a garden on the Highveld or down the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast will only lead to disappointment. However, hybrids on the other hand, are generally easier to grow, Aloes flower in the winter when everything else in the garden is dull and boring. Their drought tolerance and the fact that they attract many birds and insects to the garden make them winners. So keep the following in mind:
- Good soil preparation
- Good disease prevention and management
- Occasional feeding with the correct fertilisers.
South Africa is home to some of the most amazing Aloe Hybrids:
This statement plant presents as a red to white bi-colour that is stunning. It originated in 2009, grows easily and is perfect for mass planting. It is also ideal for a large rockery or a landscape design. These plants flower from July to early August and are highly resistant to most aloe pests and diseases. They require Sun, rich soil and little water.
Porcupine has a multitude of bright bi-coloured racemes and is perfect for any garden. It can be planted on mass but also thrives in pots or containers. This is a very fast growing plant that suckers a lot and forms clumps. The peak flowering happens in May but this aloe can start flowering from March and continue through to August. It may also sprout the occasional flower throughout the year. They require rich, well-drained soil, medium watering and sun/semi-shade.
This aloe flowers a vibrant red making it a very popular choice for adding a bit of colour to your garden. It is reasonably fast growing and begins flowering when young. Individual plants will usually become busy. It’s peak flowering season is between June and July, however random flowering can also occur. It requires rich, well-drained soil, medium to little watering and full sun.
This aloe is ideal for mass planting as well as small pots and containers. It differs from most aloes as it has an unusually long flowering period. These plants can flower from April through to late July and are a wonderful addition to any garden. This aloe is mostly immune to Aloe Cancer but is susceptible to black spot if the conditions allow. They thrive in sun or semi-shade, can survive with light or a lot of watering and grow best in rich soil.