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Bloom Highlights

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Sources for "What's in Bloom: Bloom Highlights" listings include the Chicago Botanic Garden's staff and database, as well as the publications and records of other botanic gardens, institutions, and the scientific community.

Candelabra Aloe

Candelabra aloe (Aloe arborescens) is native to South Africa's Cape Province, north to Zimbabwe and Malawi, where it flourishes on rocky outcrops and stony ridges. It was originally planted there as security fencing around kraals, or livestock enclosures. Its unique silhouette—brilliant, tall, orange-red racemes of flower—and habit of blooming in winter, when there is often little color, are most likely the reasons that it's the most planted aloe in the world. Arborescens means tree-like; this species of aloe reaches 10 feet in height. Its multiple stems support large numbers of blue-green, fleshy rosettes with leaves that have soft teeth along the edges. The succulent leaves contain a pulp that is as effective medicinally as the pulp in the other more well-known species, Aloe vera. The pulp is known to soothe the skin, especially from burning and redness, and has many other therapeutic uses. The nectar-filled flowers rise from the rosettes, attracting bees, birds, and butterflies.

Christmas Carol Aloe

With parents native to Madagascar, Aloe ‘Christmas Carol’ is a small succulent that produces rosettes smaller than 1-foot tall and wide with 6-inch-long leaves. The deep green, lance-shaped leaves have soft but spine-like, vibrant, dark red, raised markings down the center and along the leaf margin and are stippled with creamy white dots. The flowers, which bloom in fall and winter, are reddish-pink, though their color is often described as orange. This Kelly Griffin hybrid is what Kelly calls a multigeneration hybrid that possibly includes the legendary and beautiful Aloe 'Doran Black' as a parent, or at the very least, shares some of its characteristics. Christmas Carol aloe has all the beauty of 'Doran Black', with the addition of vibrant red colors in the leaves. It is successful when used as small-scale ground cover in rock gardens or containers. It thrives in full sun, where its color will be brighter, but it can also be planted in light shade. It requires well-drained soil with occasional irrigation in USDA Zones 9 to 11.

Delta Lights Aloe

Aloe 'Delta Lights' seldom flowers, but the exquisite pale green, creamy bands that contrast with the underlaying dark green layers make this a show-stopper foliage plant. Broad triangular leaves grow in spirals around the center of the plant. Plant in well-drained soil and grow in sunny locations for the best results.

Dwala Aloe

The flowers of the dwala aloe are produced in multibranched panicles and can come in orange, coral pink, or red colors. The attractive turquoise-colored leaves take on a pinkish tinge when grown in full sun. Plants can produce large clumps over time in climates where they are hardy outdoors, in USDA Zone 9 and higher. Container-grown plants should be potted in well-drained soils containing decomposed granite.

This aloe was discovered in the early 1950s in southern Zimbabwe at the base of a dwala (granitic outcrop) with populations comprised of large masses of plants. The discoverer was a hunter who collected a specimen for his friend, John A. Chabaud, a well-known gardener in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Chabaud passed the specimen on to a taxonomist who named the species in his honor. Original populations have not been found since.

Hedgehog Aloe

Coral pink tubular flowers appear on an unbranched spike in winter in Chicago. Their coloration contrasts nicely with the grey-green leaves with spikes along their edges that recurve back towards the base of the plant so that when not in bloom it looks like a spiky ball - hence the cultivar name Hedgehog.

It will be perfectly happy outdoors in full sun in the warm months, but will need to come in when temperatures drop below 50.

Little Gator Aloe

Little gator aloe (Aloe 'Jimmy') grows upright to 4 inches tall with bluish-green leaves decorated with rough white bumps and spots. The edges of the leaves are spiked with light green teeth. Hardy outdoors in USDA Zones 9 to 11, this aloe is a low-maintenance, drought- , heat- , and clay-tolerant evergreen succulent that prefers full sun or dappled shade. Grown primarily for its foliage, in mid-winter, little gator aloe is graced with salmon-pink flowers on simple spikes to 6 inches in height.

Spider Aloe

During what is winter in North America, spider aloe (Aloe × spinosissima) produces a profusion of unbranched spikes of brilliant orange-red flowers—a favorite of hummingbirds in its native growing region of South Africa. This hybrid will tolerate temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods of time, but it grows best in full sun, in frost-free environments with well-drained soils.

The specific epithet of this cultivar refers to the abundance of blunt-tipped spines along the leaf edge.