Aloe vera

March 24th, 2008
Aloe barbadensis, 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).