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HOW TO GROW ALOES

Aloes include a wide range of succulent plants that are found growing naturally mainly in Africa and Madagascar. Some 125 different species are indigenous to South Africa whilst numerous garden hybrids that have been bred for superior garden performance. The range in terms of plant size, shape, texture and flowers is enormous and growing continuously as more hybrids are introduced.

The colourful flowers are rich in nectar and attract copious amounts of birds and insects to the garden whilst in bloom. Aloes are drought hardy and easy to grow in most climates. Some are far more frost or cold tolerant than others. Select wisely in colder areas.

PLANTING PROCEDURES

– Prepare the soil by digging over deeply to depth of 500 mm
– Leave any stones, rocks or builders rubble in the soil to assist with drainage
– River sand helps to improve drainage in clay soils
– Add a layer of compost to the top of the prepared soil along with bone meal at the recommended rate and dig in well
– Rake soil to the correct contours and levels
– Place rocks or pavers in strategic positions before planting
– Commence planting with the largest feature plants then fill in around them with smaller aloes or other companion plants
– Dig holes large enough to accommodate the root ball of each individual aloe
– Place aloe in planting hole at right depth and make sure that the plant is facing the correct way
– Fill in around the root ball and trample down the soil around the plant
– Level out the soil around the plant and then proceed with the next aloe
– Once planting is complete water well to settle the plants in

FERTILISING AND CARE

– Tall aloes need to be staked to prevent wind damage whilst they are establishing in the garden
– Mulch the surface of the aloe garden with small rocks, pebbles or gravel to create a neat and tidy finish
– Apply granular fertiliser in spring and again in summer (3:1:5 slow release nitrogen is suitable)
– Shrubby and climbing aloes may need to be pruned if they get to large and start overwhelming surrounding plants
– Water aloes that are growing in pots under the roof overhang every 2 to 3 weeks as they miss out on rainfall
– Most aloes take care of themselves but benefit from supplementary watering during dry periods

PESTS AND DISEASES

– Aloes have a number of pests and diseases that need to be identified and controlled with suitable pesticides
– White scale – tiny insects that are found in rows on the leaf surfaces – treat with suitable insecticide
– Aloe rust is a fungus that causes ugly black spots on the upper and under surface of the leaves – treat with fungicide
– Snout beetles tunnel into the crown of the aloe to lay eggs which hatch as white larvae which eat the inside of the plant causing it to collapse – treat with a systemic insecticide
– Aloe cancer or galls distort both leaf and flower bud growth. This is caused by an infestation of aloe mites which live in the plant tissue and on the leaf surface – treat with suitable miticides and insecticides or a combination of both. Cut off infected parts of the plant and burn

GARDEN USES

– Splendid in aloe gardens or mixed with other succulents
– Superb in rock gardens or hot dry banks
– Many species are important in indigenous only landscapes
– Excellent feature plants especially those with a statuesque shape
– Good specimen plants in pots and containers, both large and small
– Combine well with cycads or proteas interspersed with ornamental grass
– Aloe arborescens makes a good security hedge

SUMMARY

1. Aloes make a splendid display during winter when many plants are dormant
2. They grow best in full sun and well drained soil
3. Prepare the planting area correctly to ensure optimum drainage
4. Check for pests and diseases and treat immediately upon detection
5. Select plants wisely according to size, performance and cold hardiness

SHOPPING LIST

– Tools for digging and preparing soil for planting
– Compost and bone meal for enriching the soil
– Rocks and pavers for hard landscaping
– A range of healthy aloe plants
– Decorative gravel or pebbles for surface mulch
– Hose pipe or watering can