Mini Aloe Guide
The size is diminutive, but the appeal is ginormous!
If you are amped to start a collection of succulent plants that are mostly indigenous to our continent, why not go for all the mini aloes readily available on the commercial plant market?
We are blessed with top-notch local plant breeders who are passionate about aloes, from the large and stately to the really tiny. From their expert knowledge and flighty fingers arose the most beautiful miniature aloe hybrids and selections for collectors as well as those who can only garden in pots or in very limited garden space.
Aloe species are naturally very tough and forgiving succulents needing limited care, but modern gardeners demand a little more from their plants, which aloe breeders have attended to. They have bred fast-growing miniature hybrids with more than one flowering period in spectacular abundance, attractive and interesting foliage, and better disease resistance.
These breeders are at the same time conserving vulnerable species in the wild that are endangered due to habitat destruction or over-collecting. They protect them by identifying their potential commercial value and propagating them in numbers in order to diminish their ‘rarity’ reputation. This means lessening the chance of them becoming extinct in the wild.
The general definition of a miniature aloe is a stemless succulent plant with a rosette of thick, tapering leaves (in most cases spiny) and tubular flowers on long and slender stems. Where mature size is mentioned, it excludes the height of inflorescences.
Mini aloes to look out for:
‘Tuffy’ has white-toothed, spiky foliage with a pink tinge and sporadic pink flowers. Size: 10 x 15cm.
‘Goldfish’ has attractive, speckled foliage with sporadic yellow to orange flowers. Size: 25 x 25cm.
‘Pink Blush’ has textured dark green and light green leaves with raised pink edges. Orange flowers from late winter to spring. Size: 12 x 20cm. This is a Kelly Griffin USA Hybrid.
‘Peri-Peri’ has grey foliage and masses of orange-red flowers from late April to June. Great for mass planting in a rockery. Size: 20 x 40cm.
‘Rascal’ has tight clumps with attractive cupping leaves. Red-pink flowers sporadically throughout the year. Size: 15 x 25cm.
‘Spotty’ has spotted foliage with a dusky pink tinge. Pink flowers sporadically throughout the year. Size: 15 x 20cm.
‘Marilyn’ has long, narrow leaves with masses of exceptional pink bell-shaped flowers. Main flowering in autumn with sporadic blooms throughout the year.
‘Ticky’ is a super-compact clump-forming variety. Short, broad green leaves with white markings. Pink flowers sporadically throughout the year.
‘Tom Thumb’ is a fast-growing, clump-forming plant with white markings on medium length leaves. Very prolific flowering variety with red/pink flowers throughout the year.
‘Crunchy’ has short, upright leaves with attractive red spines. Flowering in autumn and winter with attractive bi-coloured pink to pale yellow blooms that are beautifully scented.
‘Nobilis’ is a hybrid of A. perfoliata and A. brevifolia. It forms a carpet of decorative rosettes, and suckers profusely, making it a perfect choice to use as a groundcover in rockeries. The broad triangular leaves are bright green in light shade and orange tinted when exposed to full sun, and have creamy white to yellow teeth along their edges. Tall spikes of bright orange flowers appear in summer. Height: 30cm.
For the purist connoisseur:
Aloe ruffingiana is native to Madagascar and has acaulescent (stemless) rosettes of pale green leaves with white spots edged with white spines. Orange-red flowers. Size: 25 x 30cm.
Aloe descoingsii is native to Madagascar and regarded as the smallest aloe in the world with rosettes only 5cm across. The leaves have toothed margins with small white warts on both sides. Tiny orange flowers are produced in spring and summer. This critically endangered plant tolerates light shade. Cultivars or hybrids of A. descoingsii are available in the trade.
Aloe albiflora is native to Madagascar and has narrow, cylindrical, greyish-green leaves with many white spots. White bell-shaped flowers appear sporadically.
Aloe jucunda is native to the woodland areas of Somalia. It has glossy, triangular dark green leaves flecked with pale green spots and edged with triangular teeth. Pale pink or coral flowers on tall stems appear all year round. This freely clustering aloe can also tolerate a little shade and is a coveted houseplant as well. Height: 25 – 30cm. Regarded as critically endangered in the wild.
Aloe humilis is native to the Eastern and Western Cape, it is also called the spider aloe. It has rosettes (20cm in diameter) of pale blue-green leaves with irregular bumps and soft spines on their margins are curved or erect. Red-orange flowers appear in late winter to spring. Height: 45cm.
Aloe brevifolia is endemic to the winter-rainfall areas of Caledon and Bredasdorp, and eastward to Swellendam, Riversdale and Cape Agulhas. It is commonly known as the blue aloe due to dense rosettes of blue-grey leaves with white spines building up on each other to form a clump of 30cm tall. Orange flowers appear in late spring. Status in the wild is vulnerable.
Aloe peglerae is native to the rocky mountain slopes of the Magaliesberg and Witwatersrand, it has greyish, spiny leaves curving inward giving it a soccer ball shape. This is a winter-flowering aloe with a tight raceme of orange-red flowers on a single stalk sprouting vertically from the top of the leaf formation. It is slow growing and must be kept dry in winter. Height: 40cm. This plant is endangered and it is illegal to collect it from the wild.
A good potting tip:
When planting aloes in pots, make the level of the growing medium a little lower around the plants, allowing a few centimetres of space from the rim of the pot. Fill that space with a layer of fine grit around the rosette or ‘crown’ of the plant. It will prevent rotting.
Caring for potted aloes:
Apart from a few hours of sunlight each day and conditions that are not too cold or too wet, mini aloes need the following to grow really well:
Very good drainage: Containers should have drainage holes and should contain a bottom layer of gravel chips for even better drainage.
A suitable growth medium: Use a commercial succulent mix or make up your own with 3 parts potting soil or coarse compost, 2 parts coarse river sand and 1 part perlite.
Correct watering: As aloes are very drought resistant in nature, they do not need a lot of water. If they are growing in confined spaces such as containers, they will need your help to be hydrated enough to thrive. Water them well and deeply when you do it, but allow the soil to dry out before you water again. Also make sure that the water drains away afterwards and does not dam up in saucers in which pots might be standing on or are displayed in.
Protection against pest and disease: Pests and diseases like scale and rust can sometimes be a problem when plants are stressed due to adverse growing conditions. To prevent or treat them, use easy-to-apply biological products like EcoBuz Pest Pro and Disease Pro.
Is feeding necessary? Aloes in nature will find nutrients in the soil around their roots. Those kept prisoner in pots will need a little help. Use a water-soluble fertiliser like Makhro Grobest once a month to give them a boost.