Aloes have become extremely popular garden plants, primarily for their drought tolerance and showy blooms that are produced mainly in the winter months.
Of the numerous hybrids that have been bred to meet the demand for these plants, one of the most successful is Aloe ‘Hedgehog’, a low growing, clump forming plant that has proved itself over and over. ‘Hedgehog’ is a hybrid of indigenous aloe species, and was bred by a South African plant breeder.
The grey-green leaves of Aloe ‘Hedgehog’ have thorns on their margins, grow to a length of 30 to 40 cm, are relatively narrow and often recurved, causing them to form a compact but spiky ball – hence the name ‘Hedgehog’. Numerous offsets (also called plantlets) form around the parent plant, causing it to develop into a clump of ever-expanding rosettes of foliage. During late autumn and winter, flower spikes emerge from between the leaves and usually attain a height of around 50 cm. They bear nectar rich, tubular flowers of a coral-orange hue that contrast beautifully with the foliage. The spent flower spikes are best cut off to maintain the tidy appearance of the plant.
Like most aloes, ‘Hedgehog’ grows best in a full sun position and requires a well drained soil. Regular feeding (every six to eight weeks) with a blended fertiliser that has a high potassium content encourages blooming. It grows well in most parts of the country and seems to cope with high rainfall and summer humidity. This ability to adapt to a wide range of growing conditions has contributed enormously to the success and popularity of the plant.
Being a small, compact plant, this aloe has a seemingly endless list of garden uses and applications. It is simply magnificent in pots and containers of all shapes and sizes. Plant it in rock gardens, indigenous plantings, on banks, as massed ground cover in large landscapes – the list just goes on and on. ‘Hedgehog’ is impressive, whether planted as a single specimen or in large groupings, and it always looks its best during the drab winter season.
Aloe ‘Hedgehog’ is definitely a delightful garden pet; it thrives on neglect, always touches the heart when its flower spikes emerge, and is even more endearing when it is adorned with feeding sunbirds.