Aloes are becoming more and more popular, but despite their rugged looks, they are not all as hardy as one might expect. So if you want to plant aloes, it makes sense to consider the aloes that occur naturally on the Highveld.
“Never underestimate frost!” warns Gretchen Grenville of Grow Wild nursery. “Many people think that indigenous plants are automatically hardy to frost and drought and are low maintenance.” In reality, the best we can hope for is that the plants are frost resistant, unless we are going to protect them against harsh Gauteng winters. And considering many aloes flower in autumn and winter it would be a pity if we had to wrap them up in frost cloth.
Aloe arborescens [krantz aloe (English), kransaalwyn (Afrikaans), ikalene (Xhosa), inkalane or umhlabana (Zulu)] has the third widest distribution of any aloe in the country.
Aloe Davyana [spotted aloe (Eng.); Transvaalaalwyn, grasaalwyn (Afr.); kgopane (Tswana)] is not a very striking plant until it flowers – and then it is spectacular. It is a plant that will cheer up any highveld garden in winter
Aloe marlothii [mountain aloe (Eng.); bergalwyn (Afr.); inhlaba or umhlaba (Zulu)] makes the top five flowering winter aloes list. This large, evergreen aloe is usually single stemmed.
Aloe verecunda [Modest Aloe (Eng.)] is commonly found along rocky ridges and rocky slopes on the Witwatersrand and Magaliesberg.
Aloe zebrina [zebra leaf aloe, spotted aloe (Eng.)] is listed in the top five autumn flowering aloes. Aloe zebrina is a small, variable, compact succulent. Succulents are plants that are able to store water in their stems, leaves or roots, and so enabling the plant to survive in arid conditions and in times of drought or water deficiency.
Aloes are interesting from another point of view: wherever different Aloe species flower together in the wild one is likely to find natural hybrids. Hybridisation happens when a bird or an insect accidentally deposits pollen from one species on the flower(s) of another.
In South Africa most aloes are also protected, with very few exceptions, by environmental legislation in all nine provinces.