ALOE-lujah for Africa’s Medicine!
For thousands of years, Aloe has been revered for its many profound medicinal uses. From the Ancient Egyptians to present-day Western civilisation, the long history and wide-spread use of this miracle plant has withstood the test of time, and will good reason! Aloe features as the main ingredient in so many skin, beauty, and health products around the world. Check out Life is a Garden’s indigenous super succulent short-list that’ll get you singing ALOE-lujah in no time!
Krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens)
- Appearance: A multi-headed shrub with large sunset-hued flowers and striking leaves.
- Get growing: Easy to grow in full sun with sandy/loamy soil, flowers in autumn/winter.
- BFF Benefits: Attracts birds, drought-resistant, good as a hedge/screen.
- Magical powers: Used as an anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, hypoglycaemic, and to treat open wounds.
Bitter aloe (Aloe ferox Mill.)
- Appearance: Reaches a height of 2-3 metres with huge flowers and rosette leaves.
- Get growing: skill in full sun with sandy/loamy soil, flowers in autumn/winter.
- BFF Benefits: Good for pots, attracts birds, and is drought resistant.
- Magical powers: The secret ingredient in Schwedenbitters, also used for its laxative properties, arthritis treatment, skin disorders, and wound healing.
Fun fact: Aloes consist of 99% water and can even be found on islands in the Indian Ocean.
Fence aloe (Aloiampelos tenuior)
- Appearance: Slender scrambler with masses of delicate orange-red flowerheads.
- Get growing: Easy to grow in full sun with sandy/loamy soil, flowers from early summer.
- BFF Benefits: Feeds honeybees, good for pots, attracts birds, drought-resistant.
- Magical powers: In traditional medicine, the roots and leaves are used as a purgative and tapeworm remedy.
Soap aloe (Aloe maculata)
- Appearance: Heads of bright sunset flowers with sword-shaped, spotted leaf rosettes.
- Get growing: skill in full/partial sun with sandy/loamy soil, flowers year-round.
- BFF Benefits: Attracts a variety of flyers, good for beds and borders, tolerates salt.
- Magical powers: The sap from the leaves can be used as a soap alternative (or used in homemade soap) owing to the strong anti-bacterial qualities.
Fun fact: Greeks believed aloe cured baldness and ancient writings say that even Cleopatra used it.
Cooper's aloe (Aloe cooperi Bak.)
- Appearance: Grows like funky tall grass, alone or in small groups, with spiked flowers.
- Get growing: Easy to grow in full/semi sun with sandy soil, flowers from late summer.
- BFF Benefits: Good in pots and as screens, attracts birds, edible flowers and leaves.
- Magical powers: Young shoots, flowers, and leaves are loaded with minerals. Harvest them to cook in a stew as a nutritious vegetable.
Quiver tree (Aloidendron dichotomum)
- Appearance: A hardy tree with smooth branches, blue-green leaves and yellow flowers.
- Get growing: Challenging to grow (but worth it) in full sun, flowers in winter.
- BFF Benefits: Good potted tree, attracts and homes flyers like sugar birds and weavers.
- Magical powers: Young flower buds can be eaten (tastes similar to asparagus), roots are used in traditional medicine to treat asthmaand
Top aloe tip: Ensure your beds or pots have good drainage as aloes hate having wet feet. Keep an eye out for fungus and root rot.
Plan ahead or plant now, but whatever you do, grow aloe! Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see which indigenous and exotic aloes they have in store, as well as soil mixes and food for your new super succulent. Read up about your wonder plant and familiarise yourself with its medicinal properties and how you can go about using them. Enjoy growing your own muthi and say aloe to your new best friends. Life is a Garden – how will you heal yours?