Kelly Griffin Collectors’ Group
The savviest succulent collectors frequent a new Facebook group: "All That is Kelly Griffin." Kelly, a renowned succulent breeder, is responsible for dozens of aloe and agave cultivars.
Kelly is perhaps best known for colorful dwarf aloes textured with raised dots and dashes. He also hybridizes aloes that make great landscape plants---which is mainly where my interest lies. Kelly scours the world for rare species, sometimes out-climbing goats in remote, rocky regions, in order to gather seeds.
Above: Kelly calls this Aloe viridiflora x A. ferox "Smokey Eyes."
The best way to find Kelly used to be at San Diego Cactus & Succulent Society meetings. He's a past-president and judges show plants. Yet public gatherings are dicey these days. With the "All That is Kelly Griffin" online group, you needn't leave home to see eye-candy succulents, learn from members (and the breeder himself), and show off your own KG collection.
Self-described "avid fan" Gina Julia started the group in May, 2020. "It's mainly for members to show Kelly's aloes in different growing environments," she explains, "and how beautiful they really are in their forms and colors. It is also our 'giving back' for the joy he brings to collectors."
How a Hybridizer Thinks
Although he may have been bemused initially by a Facebook group dedicated to his life's work, Kelly soon started adding comments and photos, answering questions, ID'ing plants, and sharing insights. "When you take two nice species and put them together, the result you hope for is not always the one you get," he says in a comment that accompanies his photo of an F1 cross:
Of white aloes Kelly observes, "I have been trying to make a good white aloe as well as every other color combination. In 'Snowdrift' I was pleased with the shape, margins, growth habit, vigor, flower and solid color. It is a plant that I asked to go to production. I think it is better than most of mine in this vein."
Kelly's own garden
I first met Kelly in the '90s as a journalist covering dry-climate gardening for magazines and newspapers. Much later, after my books came out, I made several YouTube videos with and about him. His is one of the Featured Gardens in my book, Designing with Succulents (2nd edition), pp. 128-131.
Gallery: Kelly Griffin Aloes
Below you'll see photos by Kelly, used with his permission. They're from the "All That Is Kelly Griffin" Facebook group. Most are aloes under cultivation in the test garden at Altman Plants, Vista, CA.
Aloes: Uses, Photos, IDs & Varieties
Aloes: How To Grow & Varieties All about aloes plus a photo gallery of aloes ID’d and in bloom See All Succulent Types Aeonium Agaves Aloes Cactus Crassula Echeveria Euphorbias Ice Plants Kalanchoe Portulacaria Senecio About Aloes There are dozens of species of Aloe, from tall trees to dwarf cultivars. Aloes typically have juicy, triangular leaves…
Wow – some incredible plants. I like them all. Aloe ferox w/green flowers stands out for interesting color but also number of blooms. Of course the bi-color blooms are especially attractive – they always remind me of a multi-flavor popsicle I might have bought from an ice cream truck as a kid.
Hi Hans — I agree! Great analogy about the multicolored popsicles. Aloe flowers do make us kids again. This time without the calories!
I live in a suburb of Phoenix with high summer heat day and night. I have trouble keeping the small hybrids going after a couple of years in pots outside (they only get very bright light, no sun). I wondered if there are other growers in the Phoenix area that can provide insight on keeping these wonderful small Aloes going. I have asked to join the Facebook group and will ask there also.
Hi Nancy — It sounds like you’re doing everything right, and I agree that asking the group is a good idea. I imagine one of the characteristics highly desirable in a new cultivars is tolerance for a wide range of climates…though I have no idea how they test for that. Your input is likely very valuable: What makes it and what doesn’t?
Where can we find Kelly’s aloes for sale?
Hi Wendy — I think some of them are for sale via members of the group who are collectors, on a limited basis. (So do post your question there.) And of course, when they pass muster with Altman Plants, Kelly’s hybrids be cloned through tissue culture and available to the mass marketplace, including (hopefully) Altman’s online shop. Altman Plants, the largest wholesale grower of succulents in the US, sells to the garden centers of big box stores nationwide. Even now you can run across treasures. They pop up on social media from time to time as “look what I found!” plants from Home Depot and Lowe’s. Also if you live near Altman Plants in north San Diego County, as I do, it pays to frequent their retail nursery, Oasis Water Efficient Gardens (off North Broadway, Escondido). Amazing plants show up there, and just as quickly are gone. I almost never go there without seeing something I’ve never seen before. I do think we’re at the very beginning of a succulent wave that will bring many more gorgeous cultivars our way…but they may not be commonplace for years.
Yes, I’m fortunate to live in SD, North County. Oasis is amazing, next time I am there I’ll be sure to ask about Kelly’s aloes. It’s like shopping at Costco, I can’t get away without spending more than I intended.
Me too! When you’re in the aloe section, if you see the abbreviation PPAF (or PPA) on the label after the cultivar name, it means it’s a patented plant. Altman holds the patent, so it’s likely one of Kelly’s.
Stopped by Oasis Water Effect Gardens today! Found two of aloes marked with the PPAF Delta Rose and Mauna Kea others were Snowstorm, Snowdrift, Christmas Sleigh without the PPAF. They are all so pretty I had to get them all. Planning to use them in a planter we just cleaned out, it’s going to have an under the sea theme, these will be my starfish.
Hey that’s wonderful, Wendy. Hm. Either Altman’s decided not to patent them, or they predate Kelly’s association with the company. Pretty sure they’re all his. Thanks for the update!
The Aloe suprafoliata x cameronii KG and Aloe viridiflora x A. ferox KG especially blow my mind but it would be Amazing to use ANY of the landscape sized aloes, they’re all breathtaking in bloom!! WOW! Thank you for highlighting Kelly’s work, it’s always so fun to see the new aloes! Hadn’t seen “Peach Blush” yet, so pretty, love the babies too!
I know! Lots to look forward to! Thanks, Rande.
Just found your site (while trying to find out more about KG’s hybrid aloes). Do you know which plant that is on the top left corner in your group of eight at the beginning of your story? Love the striking bright yellow-green teeth on that one! And do you know of a source for the Aloe ferox with the green flowers? I live in Northern California (near Sacramento), but online sources are fine too. Thanks so much for your time!
Hi Michele — I don’t have the ID on that particular one. The KG Facebook group has photo galleries members can refer to, so you’ll likely find it (and many others) there.