Red Aloe ferox, stressed (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Midwinter Succulent Show: Big Aloes In Bloom

Above: Aloe ferox at Desert Theater nursery, Escondido, CA. From my video, Spectacular Aloes in Flower.

Large, sculptural aloes with brilliant, Popsicle-like flowers make striking garden plants. Midwinter is peak aloe bloom season and an excellent time to see them in nurseries and landscapes.

Aloe ferox, or Cape Aloe, might be considered a tree because of its height at maturity--6 to 8 feet with bloom spikes that add another couple of feet---but unlike true tree aloes, it's not branching. Growth is from the center of the rosette, and old leaves dry and wither, so eventually you have a large octopus of a plant atop a columnar trunk.

Although the skirt of dry leaves hugging the trunk can be removed to make the plant more tidy, it's best to keep them on. As in the aloe's native habit of South Africa, these wraparound leaves protect the trunk from excessive heat, sun and cold. Aloe ferox does well in Southern California except in mountain and desert areas, and is hardy to the low 20s.

Aloe marlothii in bloom

Two specimens of Aloe marlothii in bloom flank an Aloe ferox not in bloom.

Aloe marlothii is similar to Aloe ferox and hybridizes readily with it, so it's often hard to tell which is which. A. marlothii blooms later (in early spring), flower stems branch horizontally, and leaves are prickled---sometimes heavily so.

Even if you lack space for big aloes, or live where it's too wet, cold or hot for them, I know you'll enjoy seeing them. These exotic, over-the-top succulents are fairly new to the horticultural scene. Surprisingly, even in Southern CA where they thrive, few people cultivate them...[Continue reading]

For sources, see my list of nurseries.

More Aloe Info

On this site

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...[Continue reading]

Go to my Aloes page for 80+ Aloe photos and IDs
Most of my aloe photos show the plants in bloom. After all, their large, vivid flowers are... [Continue reading]

Aloes in bloom with names


Find comprehensive info about aloes in my books Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed., pp. 182-190; and Succulents Simplified, pp. 185-197.

My YouTube Videos

Grow Aloe ferox!

See examples of mature Aloe ferox in the landscape and learn more about this big, beautiful succulent.

Spectacular Aloes in Flower

See in-ground aloes blooming en masse at Desert Theater nursery north of San Diego.

 Hannah Jarson's Aloe Eden

Explore a colorful, waterwise Rancho Santa Fe garden and get plenty of great designs ideas, too!

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  1. LOREE Rudin on December 18, 2022 at 11:57 am

    How old does the cape aloe have to be to flower ?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on December 18, 2022 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Loree — Given ideal growing conditions, four to five years.

  2. […] Mis fotos de aloes en esta página están identificadas según género y especie, y a veces nombres comunes… [Continue reading] Mis mejores aloes son cualquier especie grande y escultórica con flores brillantes parecidas a paletas de hielo que hacen que las plantas de jardín sean llamativas incluso… [Continue reading] […]

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