One of Southern CA’s in-demand landscape designers, Bill Schnetz of Schnetz Landscape, Inc., likes to use aloes of all sizes in residential gardens. If you love succulents, live in a mild climate, and grow these South Africans in soil that drains well, “they’ll soon become your favorite plants,” Bills says. For a natural setting, he suggests mixing one or two varieties with tough, drought-tolerant ornamental grasses and flowering perennials. And “for a contemporary look, plant similar aloes in rows and geometric blocks.”
In this Rancho Santa Fe courtyard garden, Bill installed multiple coral aloes (Aloe striata). Their long-lasting flowers and translucent leaf margins repeat the orange of roof tiles and pavers, succulent ‘Sticks on Fire’ at left, and bird-of-paradise along the wall (when in bloom).
Blue, the color complement of orange, creates striking contrast via Senecio mandraliscae and Senecio serpens (at left) and tufts of blue fescue (below). Other ornamental grasses, paddle cactus and elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’) lend texture and interest. Dymondia, a walkable ground cover, serves as a low-water lawn substitute. Stone pavers and Saltillo tiles repeat the rust hues of boulders that line a dry creek bed. (Also see this garden in Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed., page 58.)
Bill’s Favorite Aloes
I asked Bill if he’d share which aloes he uses most often in clients’ gardens, and why. He graciously provided the list below. For additional descriptions, photos, and landscape ideas for aloes, see Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed., pp. 182-190. For labeled photos of these and 70+ other species and cultivars, go to my website’s Aloes page—which also is a good resource for determining what you may already have.
Small aloes. These tough, toothed aloes handle adverse conditions. Height: 8 to 18 inches.
Aloe x nobilis, Aloe aristata, and Aloe humilis all grow tight and stay low.
Aloe ‘Rooikappie’ is Bill’s favorite small aloe. It gets a little bigger than the three above and is a good fit for small and large landscapes. It’s a repeat bloomer and transplants easily.
Mid-size aloes are good for borders and large-scale massing. Height: 18 to 36 inches.
Aloe striata has nice plump leaves and good floral color.
Aloe vera is dramatic planted en masse, and yes, the gel is useful for burns and cuts.
Aloe x spinosissima is a 2- to 3-foot sprawler great on hillsides and rocky soil.
Aloe cameronii is Bill’s favorite 2-foot aloe. Stays red all year if given full sun.
Tree aloes tend to be slow growing and may not look their best in cold winter months. Don’t plant them near foundations or under eaves—they do get big.
Aloe bainesii is a moderate grower, 15 to 30 feet tall. Leaves may turn yellow and get black spots, but with summer warmth and feeding they’ll green up.
Aloe dichotoma is slow-growing to 15 to 20 feet. It has nice gray leaves and is very drought tolerant.
Aloe ferox is slow growing to 6-10 feet with a single trunk that holds dead leaves.
Aloes ‘Hercules’ is a faster-growing hybrid with a thick, strong trunk. Give it plenty of room.
Shade-tolerant aloes useful as firebreak plants are fast-growing and spreading.
Aloe ciliaris is a sprawling succulent that will climb palm tree trunks. Take care that it doesn’t get buried in leaves and melt away. Sometimes called ‘Fire Wall’ aloe, when grown on a slope, the plants form a 3- to 4-foot mat of fire resistant growth.
Aloe arborescens is probably the most commonly grown aloe in the world. If you have room for it, you can’t go wrong. It solves a multitude of landscape problems, and thrives everywhere—coast, low desert, foothills—from Mexico to San Francisco. Originally from South Africa, it’s also found all around the Mediterranean. This multiheaded aloe makes a good background plant and tolerates filtered shade beneath tall trees. For a dense barrier, plant 6 to 8 feet apart in a line or triangle. Height: 4 to 8 feet and spreading.
The above is courtesy of Bill Schnetz of Schnetz Landscape, Inc. and Rebecca Simpson.
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