Plant Highlights

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Plant Highlight: Aloe rubroviolacea

December 2005

Aloe rubroviolacea is a beautiful species from the mountains of northern Yemen and adjacent Saudi Arabia. Its name refers to the violet-red hues taken on by the leaves at dry times of the year. The dense spires of red flowers emerge in winter, and our large clump of this species makes a great show each year. If a cold spell is severe enough, the flowers may show some damage, but more stalks usually follow to keep the display going. The plants themselves are unfazed by temperatures down to even the low twenties (below -4 on the Celsius scale). Not infrequently, stray flowers come along at other seasons, but the real fireworks are always in winter.

In its native haunts, A. rubroviolacea grows in steep rocky places, and the plants are often semi-pendant. However, it does just fine on level spots, where it simply grows along the ground. It usually makes offshoots, though not prolifically, and in time develops a clump. The thick leaves arch gracefully outward, forming a rosette up to about 4 feet across. In partial shade they are blue-green in color, with reddish teeth and margins. In full sun the coloration is enhanced with purple tinges, which increase under drier conditions.

While this attractive plant is seen here and there in gardens from San Diego to Santa Barbara, it is not well-known in the Bay Area. We have often featured it in our plant sales here at The Ruth Bancroft Garden, hoping to see it gain wider recognition.