March 24th, 2008
Aloe barbadensis, aloe vera

Aloe vera

Like fellow Austin gardener, Rachel @ In Bloom, I’ve been enjoying the spiky blossoms of aloe vera this week.

They come as quite a surprise to me. I never knew that aloe vera bloomed. For years they did nothing but form more pups. Ever since my friend Dana shared a few pups with me, I’ve kept potting and repotting them until I had three pots so heavy that it took both of us to lug them indoors each winter. I’d read they were frost-sensitive.

In the summer of 2006, however, a construction worker knocked his ladder into one of the pots. I didn’t have another large pot for the three biggest plants so I stuck them in a empty bed until I could get one. I never got around to it. The aloe survived in a dark, dry place where nothing else grew. I liked their spare geometry.

Aloe vera

So I left them. I thought winter would kill them off but as I still had plenty of pups, I didn’t mind treating these three as annuals. Winter did not kill them off. Neither did a second winter. Both winters were mild and the aloe vera have the advantage of being planted in front of a stone wall which reflects heat. Had they been elsewhere in the yard I think I would have lost them. In places, the leaves took a reddish cast from cold damage. Earlier this month they sent up bloom stalks and finally last week the yellow flowers started opening.

Aloe vera

I quickly did some Google searches on “aloe, yellow flowers” and discovered that they are aloe vera (which is their common name), Aloe barbadensis being the botanical name, although there is a trend to use aloe vera for both.

Before I dragged the pots of aloe outside this week, I cut off two of the biggest stalks and stuck them in another dark, empty spot near the front fence. The pots have gotten too heavy for me to lift and the aloe seem to prefer being in the ground.

Update: 2016-11-05

The red-flowered Aloe arborescens is said by some to be the “true” aloe, the one with the most beneficial medical properties.

Update: 2018-03-17

I’ve decided to redo this bed from scratch.

The two hard freezes in January 2018 reduced this bed to pups. I had already hacked out the frozen tops. However, the pups were weak and not thriving. They are smothered by cedar elm leaves and I think I even put Christmas tree mulch in here one year.

Pulled 25 pups and potted 24 of them in the 4-inch pots. One was larger so I put it in a larget pot. (photos).

by M Sinclair Stevens

29 Responses to post “Aloe barbadensis, aloe vera”

  1. From Esther Montgomery Southern England:

    When I first saw your aloe vera photo, I thought wow! bananas!

    Esther @ Esther in the Garden

  2. From jenn:

    They look fantastic.

    I suspect that during colder winters, you could get away with a light level of protection – maybe something as simple as some floating row cover?

    I’ve been picking up aloes here and there. No blooms, yet.

    One of these days I’m going to get the big coral aloe. I LOVE their candelabra of flowers!

    I would definitely cover them if we were going to have a hard freeze. I’ll probably have to cover the ones I just planted in a less protected area. — mss

  3. From Rachel @ in bloom:

    It’s interesting how different our aloes look!

    Would you be interested in an aloe pup exchange? My orange-blooming aloe has plenty of offshoots, and I wouldn’t mind having a yellow-blooming aloe.

    By all means, let’s trade off! If anyone else wants pups, let me know. — mss

  4. From Kathy (New York):

    Thanks! Now I know what my houseplant aloes will never look like!

    I kept them as houseplants all these years not realizing my fellow Austinites were planting them outdoors with abandon. They will freeze, though. But they multiply so rapidly, it doesn’t hurt to take the chance down here. — mss

  5. From Jeanne Scottsdale AZ:

    These are amazing plants. I have about a half dozen of them in pots and in the ground. They thrive even in the three digit heat here in the summer time. If you leave them in the same place in pots, they eventually sent out their thick tenaciuos roots through the hole in the pot and into the ground. Mine are blooming now as well and I never fail to thrill at the robust, tight shoots they put out and the way they open up. My prize is a gigantic one in the front yard that measures about 5 or 6 feet in diameter and is thigh high not counting the shoots. So glad you discovered them.

    By the way, I am loving your blog and resonating with your desert discoveries. I must send you a picture of my garden sometime!

    Wow! That’s big! Doesn’t it freeze where you are or do you cover it? What color are your flowers? Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. — mss

  6. From Diana - Austin:

    Such nice blooms you have there. There’s just something special about aloe and yucca blooms, isn’t there? They are so exotic to begin with, then when they send those shoots up, you just can’t help but smile.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the aloe. My yucca, as prolific as they are, have never bloomed. I have to be satisfied with marvelling over everyone else’s in town. — mss

  7. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    I like the yellow of the aloe vera bloom. My ‘Blue Elf’ aloe’s flowers are the traditional reddish orange.

    I saw aloes growing in Tanzania when I was there, really big ones about 3 feet tall, with bloom stalks taller than I am. A bird called the Beautiful Sunbird, as lovely as its name and with a long bill made for dipping into the tubular blooms, frequented them.

    I read that there are about 300 different types of aloe. I have another kind that doesn’t form a rosette and stays quite small but I don’t know what it is. The ones you saw in Tanzania sound excellent. — mss

  8. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    These make my aloe in pots in my sun room look absolutely puny. The bloom seems rather tall and top heavy, are those more the buds getting ready to open?

    It’s mostly buds but if you look at the bottom of the stalk in the top photo there are some open flowers. They don’t open very wide; imagine a giant yellow grape hyacinth. — mss

  9. From Kay (South Arkansas):

    Wow – stripy! I suppose I shouldn’t be jealous of a climate with so little rain, but right this moment I am. I experimented with leaving my aloe outside in a pot this winter, and while it is not _dead_, it has been reduced to a couple of pups. Won’t do that again! Ah, well, at least I can enjoy your blooms from here.

    Stripy? Aloe is frost-sensitive. I’ve read that they are damaged at 32F/0C degrees. My experience is more like 28F/-2C degrees. — mss

  10. From kerri:

    It’s always fascinating to see the blooms that our barren houseplants bear when grown in an environment that allows them to do their ‘thing’. I don’t remember ever seeing an aloe flower before. Lovely! Thanks for sharing that.

    I’d never seen them blooming before either and probably wouldn’t have if that worker hadn’t smashed the pot with his ladder. — mss

  11. From Rachel:

    I’m inconsistent at best about covering my aloe, which is in a pot on my back patio, but while I’ve had some reddish frost damage, the plants do seem to bounce back pretty well. I had similar luck at the old house, where my aloe was planted in the ground. A hard freeze might do them in, but five or six years of winters haven’t hurt my aloes much.

    I think that a lot will depend on where we live in Austin (for example, Annie frequently get freezes in northwest Austin that never bother me just south of the river) and where the aloe is sited in the yard (mine benefits from the warmth held by the stone wall). — mss

  12. From Kim (Ohio):

    This is what I love about blogging. I, who have trouble growing aloes in the house (it’s genetic) get to see your lovely plants blooming in the ground. 🙂

    Any luck I’ve had with the aloes is entirely accidental. — mss

  13. From Bonnie, Austin:

    Had no idea about aloe blooming. I’ll have to watch mine which just got put into my new bed beside the driveway this winter.

    Me either! Sometimes I don’t “see” plants until I’ve been properly introduced. After my aloes sent up their flower stalks, I noticed a woman buying one in bloom at Gardens when I stopped by to get my tomato plants. I figure I’ve seen it blooming before but never recognized it as my little houseplant. — mss

  14. From Steve Mudge (Fort Worth):

    Those blooms remind me of my former life in coastal California–Aloe vera, A. candelabrum, and others ran wild often making impenetrable thickets like Agaves, but when they were in bloom they were a sight! Have you ever heard of Aloe bainsii—the Tree Aloe? Same leaves and such but it forms a trunk and grows at least 20 feet tall–quite the sculptural specimens.

    Wow! That sounds exotic. I’ve never really thought very much about aloes except for keeping the requisite pot in the kitchen for burns. I didn’t realize they could be used as landscape plants. — mss

  15. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    I’m back. Do you remember the ones we saw in bloom at Jill Nokes’s garden? They were growing along the side yard. They made an impression on me, and I resolved to plant some in the ground. Since then, I’ve planted the low-growing but rapidly spreading African aloe. No blooms yet though.

  16. From Yolanda Elizabet:

    There’s always something new to learn about plants. That aloe flower is both pretty and very unusual. It’s wonderful that you are able to grow aloe’s outside. Here it’s just too cold for them.

  17. From june (asheville nc):

    I didn’t know that aloe bloomed! Your pictures are great. I’ll be lucky if I can keep my aloe plant alive (I think I over watered it) let alone see flowers on it. Unfortunately I don’t think I live in an area where aloes are likely to bloom…unless I get a greenhouse.

    The aloe bloom was a surprise to me, too. But now I see it everywhere. That’s always the case with me. I have to grow it in my own garden before I recognize it in someone else’s. — mss

  18. From Dale in Austin:

    Cool!!! Hey, my aloe is also blooming (apparently). Are there aloe seeds in the flowers? I am thinking of adding more aloe vera plants to the back of my ouse, since the one that is there now is apparently immortal. Can I use the flowers (or seeds) to plant more?

    There is a little aloe plant that started growing beside the original one – is that a “pup”? Can I transplant it firther from the original? Is there any pecial technique for transplanting?


  19. From Karen Louisiana:

    Hi, I just love your yellow flower aloe. I have an aloe that has lovely fire orange flowers. It is visited very often by humming birds. I would love a yellow flowering bud if you would be willing to send me a couple of pups.

  20. From Patrick Op de Beeck:

    I would love a puppy of them because they are different from mine who has bluegreen leaves with reddish thorns in 3 rows (2×1 on either side and 1 on the outer side of the leave.
    I cannot say which flower he does because I have him only from this year.
    For those interested they are great healers for the skin (any kind of damage: fire, uv, youth spots,brown spots,…). An alternative are muscus of snails for wraths and brown spots.

  21. From Norma L. Tyree/Florida:

    I have had aloe in my backyard for many years now—-it gets pups and I separate and plant them in other parts of my yard! Yesterday, while I was out enjoying my yard, I noted a shoot that I had never before seen so I went to investigate! Yes, my very first aloe bloom. Not sure what color it will be when opened fully but I suspect orange. Naturally, I took the first of what will be a series of photos. Would share the photos if I only knew how!

  22. From Nancy Troyer/Banning, CA:

    A couple of years back, I was surprised to see my folks’ large Aloe Vera (in-ground) in Escondido with fantastic blooms. I took some pictures but can’t locate them but understand theirs is blooming again. Last year I bought a potted Aloe Vera at Home Depot and the plant has outlived every other kind of plant, bar the other succulents up here at 2500 ft elevation. It grew too large to keep in a typical hanging plant pot, so I re-potted it in a 5-gallon plastic pot with a packaged cactus soil. It has grown larger and larger (by neglect) and to our surprise and delight now has a three pronge trio of unopened buds. I’m hoping it will be as beautiful a bloom as the one in Escondido, but realize now there are so many varieties. Will take some pics and display them here if I can. I guess the cactus soil did the trick … and my neglect!

  23. From Minkie:

    I got mine from Wal-Mart a few years back and I always keep them indoor by the window because I am in Boston (zone 5). It grew slowly partly due to neglect. I can recall I only repot it twice over 8 years, I pot them in larger container each time. Last year it grew so big that it was top-heavy and toppled over, made a mess in my room, so I repot them in a 5-gallon container with a mix of potting soil and sand from the backyard. Again I keep them indoor by the window with lots of sun but cold. I only water them once a month with warm water.
    This morning I notice something tall and unusual pointing upward thru the foliage of a hanging basket on top. So I trace down the stalk and to my surprise that it was from the Aloe Vera. Its flowers are yellow, I took some pictures up close it looks like yellow banana.
    I’ll post those pictures when I have them uploaded online.

  24. From Vickie, Nashville:

    I haven’t braved putting my little aloe in the ground. Just kidding on the little part. It’s about 3′ x 4′. I had never seen an aloe bloom till this year. It has the same stalk bloom yours does and I just was doing a little research on the plant and came across your site. Thanks for all the good information.

  25. From Larry, Athens,Tx:

    I have never seen any aloe bloom until this year,nov 2009, and my big plant lays sideways and it has many baby plants from it. The pot I have it in is fairly big. I keep my plant outside year long and the frost has not afected it as yet. I have had this plant for about 3 1/2 years. Send me an email address so i can take a pic and send to you.Larry

  26. From Rachel, Ludington, MI:

    In all the years that my mom and grandmom grew aloe plants they never saw one bloom. Last winter in 2008, mine shot up a stalk in the middle that looked similar to an asparagus stalk. I kept checking on it to see what it was and looked it up in one of my grandmom’s old plant books. I found out that some of them bloom, but I had never had one do that. I had transplanted the large aloe to a bigger pot because it kept tipping over the pot it was in. The plant is in a large galvanized steel pot, about 1 1/2 feet by 9 inches oval shaped. I figured it couldn’t tip that monster over. It now has four pups around it and the bottom leaves are at least a good 3 inches wide. I’ve never set it outside, but it sits in a south facing window. this year it’s blooming again. I just figure it’s one of those signs that tells me when I get really stressed out, everything will be okay.

  27. From Dan, Iasi, Ro:

    Aloe Vera is a very resistant plant, you virtually don’t have to take care of it, it thrives in the harshest conditions. I have one at home, I often forget to wet it and it has grown quite large now, I’m thinking of putting it in a garden. Plus, it looks very good

  28. From Joan Northwest Arkansas:

    I just got my first Aloe plant about 10 inches tall. If I can keep it alive all winter I will try it outside next summer. In a pot that is. We are in zone 7 so I know I can’t leave it outside. Oh how I would love to have it bloom. I appreciate all the comments. They give me a better insite on taking care of the plants. Thanks

  29. From Helen Fowler, Kemp, Texas:

    I have numerous buds on my aloe vera. This is a overgrown large plant that I found at Lowes on the sale rack. I have never seen one bloom and I am watching it daily in my greenhouse. Cant wait to take a picture and post it.