Sunset-scaping with aloes Botanical Boss

It’s chilly! Let’s crank up the heat with aloes and landscape an eternal sunset to enjoy this winter. Our experts from Ndundulu Aloes in KwaZulu-Natal gave Life is a Garden some sizzling seasonal plant picks to help cultivate warmth in the garden as well as which aloes to plant as living firebreaks! Come check out our aloe pest list and learn how to identify possible infestations.

 

On the aloe hot list this May

Indigenous gems

  • Suprafoliata 
  • Ferox 
  • Marlothi 
  • Aculeata 
  • Microstigma
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Sunbird hybrid aloes

  • Aloe ‘Candy floss’ 
  • Aloe ‘Baby blush’ 
  • Aloe ‘African sunset’ 
  • Aloe ‘Frosty days’ 
  • Aloe ‘Abundance’
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Living firebreaks

Extend your sunset-scaping passion to all around your property. Plating aloes as living firebreaks host a variety of benefits including:

  • Reducing water usage 
  • Assisting in soil erosion 
  • Increased food and habitat for our wildlife 
  • Preventing fires from spreading to your lawn
  • Adding to the beauty, colour, textural and structural elements of your garden
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Top 5 fire-resistant aloes (although all of them will do the job wonderfully) 

  • Aloe ‘Neon orange’ is a popular, small, tough plant for pots, the rockery, or a retaining wall.  During August and September, conspicuous glowing orange flowers will dazzle the landscape. If allowed to cluster and given enough space, plants will quickly grow a secondary rosette, creating a better and longer flower display. 
  • Aloe ‘Octopus’ is the first large winter flowering aloe hybrid with deep yellow flowers. The tentacle-like leaves of this plant have a funky spreading growth style. Its other outstanding feature is the length of the individual flower – it is the hybrid with the longest recorded individual flower of all the cultivars in the collection.
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  • Aloe ‘Saturn’ stands out as another amazing hybrid. Its flower buds are initially brick red but change to yellow as the flowers open, displaying a showy bi-colour combination in late winter and spring. This very large, slow-stemming aloe has interesting, thick, dark green leaves with very decorative large spines on the edges.
  • Aloe ‘Sun king’ flowers in late winter and spring where plants are covered by a canopy of yellow flowers carried on multiple inflorescences. ‘Sun king’ stretches the nectar season and welcomes sunbirds and bees in a time of scarcity. Plants soon demand space because of the division and re-division of the rosette, perfect for open landscaping. 
  • Aloe ‘Super red’ has a flower season lasting from late summer to winter with masses of outstanding red flowers. The rosette divides or splits when the plant is closer to maturity, resulting in an even greater flower display. Each rosette can produce up to 7 branched inflorescences.
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How to maintain your eternal aloe sunsets

  • Fertilise aloes once a year towards to end of the rainy season, depending on your region.  The product you use is a personal choice. If you have pets that like to snack on fertiliser pellets, we recommend a product that can be drenched into the soil beneath the aloe base. 
  • Remove any old, brown leaves by cutting them off with a pair of secateurs to maintain the aloe’s shape. These leaves can be added to the compost.  
  • If you do need to water your aloes, always water by hand underneath the aloe to reduce fungal infections like rust and black leaf spot. Remember to water deeply, infrequently. 
  • Regularly check your plants for possible pests and act quickly. Consult the pest list below and ask your GCA Garden Centre assistant for the best products to use.

Watch out for these aloe pests 

  • White scale starts with what looks like a coin-sized spot of white dust. It will gradually cover more and more of the upper and lower leaf surface. Eventually, this deprives the plant of sunlight to the extent that it can deteriorate and die. 
  • Aloe gall mite (canker/cancer) causes abnormal growths on aloes and cannot be seen with the naked eye, which makes it difficult to control before it has infiltrated your plants. Some growers rid this pest by cutting away the affected tissue with a sharp blade.
  • Rust is a very aggressive fungus that attaches itself to any part of the leaf surface.  When established, it starts showing as a yellow spot below the leaf skin, gradually growing in diameter. The leaf skin then perforates, exposing the rust-coloured spores that look like reddish-brown powder.
  • Aphids and mealie bugs aim for the very centre of the aloe plant and may require some scrutiny to detect. The presence of ants on aloes is often the first sign of an infestation. If plants are left untreated, the aloe reacts by closing the centre leaves to protect the damaged tissue. 
  • Snout beetles are aloe enemy number one, so quick and decisive action is required whenever they are detected. The beetle itself is about 1,2 cm long and invariably aims at the centre of the aloe plant where it can wedge itself between the leaves to insert its proboscis.
  • Black leaf spot may be caused by a variety of fungal or bacterial infections and is more likely when plants are under stress due to excessive moisture or high temperatures, combined with high humidity.  Spots are more likely to appear on older leaves and can be treated with fungicide. 
  • Red spider mites are very common pests but easily identified by the tell-tale, small pale markings left on the surface of the aloe leaf. The leaf may eventually be covered in these spots. The alert observer may see several tiny, reddish creatures, the size of small pin heads.  
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Sunshine is truly where the aloe is! Enjoy creating a vibrant, texture-rich landscape with these stunning plants. Remember to keep filling those birdbaths to offer a drink to all our sweet winter visitors.  If you have more aloe questions, join our Facebook group and connect directly with our experts: Seasonal Gardening FB Group

Photo’s Courtesy of Aloe-Aloe 

Photo’s Courtesy of Sunbird Aloes

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