Aloes rocket into bloom


No fooling! Aloes may require protection from the occasional cold winter in Austin, but the payoff comes in early spring, when red or coral flowers rocket skyward. This is ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, which generally blooms a month earlier, starting at the end of February. But this year’s hard freezes delayed its flowering by several weeks.


‘Blue Elf’s tubular flowers are a rich orange-red, and they contrast beautifully with its blue-green leaves.


Two out of three of my Aloe saponaria came through the freezes unprotected, with minor damage to the leaf tips. Now that temps are soaring (yesterday it reached 83 F, 28.3 C), they’re sending up fat bloom spikes.


I can’t wait to see them open.


My Aloe striata, purchased on a whim at Oracle Gorge‘s sale last summer, suffered mightily during the cold snap, covered only by a hastily tossed towel. A budding bloom spike was nipped, along with several fleshy leaves. But recovering quickly, it sent up a new 3-ft. bloom spike that is now open like an explosion of firecrackers.

I have two more aloe varieties that sustained severe damage this winter with no protection: a generically labeled “African aloe” that is probably Aloe maculata, and one from Jeff Pavlat’s garden called Aloe ciliaris. Both are making a comeback, and I won’t be surprised if they rocket into bloom too.

All material © 2006-2010 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

12 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    Those blooms are really firey, especially striata. What a fine collection you have and a perfect introduction to a very hot day in Austin. I’m afraid I lost most of my aloes this year but have one in a very sheltered dry spot which is about to bloom. Even the ones in the greenhouses were damaged. I must look out for some of the ones you show here.

  2. Cyndy says:

    The more I see of the aloe family, the more I want to add to my basic collection. Love the structure they provide, and the blooms are a bonus!

  3. Gail says:

    Pam, You inspired me to showcase my yuccas and add more, but I don’t think I can get these more tender plants! The sedum in the cobalt container looks striking! gail

  4. Rocketing into bloom indeed! Nothing like a shot of foliar fireworks to chase away the last lingering mental detritus of a hard winter. They look spectacular against the blue containers, too. Happy spring, Pam.

  5. floridagirl says:

    Love your ‘Blue Elf’ aloes! I wonder if those are what I saw blooming at Hollis last month. They were so tiny. My soap aloes haven’t shot up bloom stalks yet. Hmmm…Maybe they have. I should go check. Anyway, I love those saponaria photos! Beautiful light and composition!

  6. Stunning! I especially like the top-down view of the Aloe striata—looks like exploding fireworks…

  7. Loree says:

    So glad to read that your aloes are doing well! They look so beautiful topped with their fiery blooms!

    I’ve already planted a couple of Aloe saponaria babies outside this spring…I imagine they will love the summer warmth (when it arrives…we are now where near 83 yet, although we have had 2 70 degree days…) but next winter will be the real test. Luckily the mama plant keeps making more in case they don’t make it…

    Yes, that is one prolific aloe, isn’t it? Here’s to a warm summer in Portland, Loree. —Pam

  8. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I really like these blooms. They are very unusual for our area. I have a blue elf about to bloom too.

    Since yours must overwinter inside, when does it begin blooming in Indiana? —Pam

  9. Nicole says:

    yay! Aloe blooms are so celebratory looking. I had my big show a month ago-when I was traveling. I believe Aloe saponaria and maculata are the same, maculata now being the preferred term. Whatever the name, that is one tough aloe and reliable bloomer.

    Oh, thanks for the heads-up on that, Nicole. I guess I need to do a little more investigation. —Pam

  10. Your aloes are lovely.~~Dee

  11. RBell says:

    Aloes have quickly become my favorite. Have been admiring your Blue Elf over several of the Digging postings (its been added to my wishlist!).

    RBell, I’ll give you a division of mine. I won’t be at the next Design-A-Go-Go, but if you are, I’ll send it with someone. Let me know. —Pam

  12. I was surprised to see quite a few of the smaller red-flowered aloes blooming in the ground in my neighborhood this week. Not sure what kind they are (maybe Aloe striata) because I don’t grow them yet. My huge yellow-flowering aloe vera were mostly turned to mush by the big freeze in January. I pulled up bags of them before the freeze and have replanted but it will be years before they are large enough to bloom. I’ve got three other types of aloe in pots. They are an amazingly diverse set of plants.

    Aloe striata is on the larger side, so maybe you’re seeing the smaller and more invasive saponarias/maculatas. I forgot to mention two other kinds that I’m growing that have never bloomed. —Pam

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