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Plant Highlight: Aloe brevifolia
One species of aloe which performs very well in California gardens is Aloe brevifolia. Its Latin name means “short leaf”, and this chubby little plant is quite compact as well as stemless. However, it produces offsets to make a clump which expands over time. The leaves are glaucous-green in color, and in full sun they take on tinges of purple and pink. The flower stalks emerge in April, and the tubular orange flowers open in late April and May (in its native home of South Africa the seasons are opposite, and so the flowers are produced late in the year). The flower stalk is unbranched and rises to a height of a foot or two.
In nature, Aloe brevifolia grows just north of Cape Agulhas, to the east of Cape Town. This area gets most of its rain in winter, and this is undoubtedly part of the reason for the ease with which it grows in California. It does well in partial sun, but the leaves are more colorful in full sun. Plants can be massed for use as a ground cover, or used as a clump amongst other plants. It also does well as a potted specimen. It has not suffered from cold even when temperatures have plunged to 20° F (-7° C).