Grow Spiral Aloe?

March 14, 2013

Botanical Name: Aloe Polyphylla

Common Name: Spiral Aloe

 

spiral aloe

We owe the cultivation of this months featured plant in From the Front Porch Journal to Alan Beverly, a professional landscape designer (ecotree.net) from Santa Cruz, CA.

When he discovered this plant in 1970 he was a Peace Corps volunteer and had just graduated from college. He traveled to the rugged mountains of Lesotho in central Africa to find this elusive gem. Perched on nearly vertical north-facing terrain the spiral aloe with its beautifully Fibonacci swirl seduced him and has been seducing plant aficionados since. 

Aloe Polyphylla is a challenge to grow here in Southern California as they don’t like our hot summers. I’m thinking I would be willing to give it a try, although an expensive try (prices start at $60) along our coastal region in full sun with northern exposure.

Aloe Polyphylla

I would be inclined to have ice water running over it daily (to replicate it’s habitat) just for the opportunity to own one. I know I’m a plant-o-phile what can I say. It’s a sickness I inherited from my Grandmother. 🙂 Note: I am no expert on this plant so move forward at your own risk…

Other important items to know about this plant are the following: Aloe polyphylla needs extremely well-drained soil. Does best planted on a slope, the steeper the better. In it’s natural habitat it’s roots are continually washed over by ice water and it’s often snow –covered.

The plant will spiral either to the left or right. Don’t expect it to bloom. Unlike other aloes, it tolerates temperatures from 10-90 degrees. Herd overgrazing and near-extinction of the plants natural pollinator make it a rare plant. Make sure you purchase seed-grown plants they are more disease tolerant than those grown from tissue culture and most certainly do not purchase plants that have been harvested from the wild.

Happy Gardening!!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Griffin September 10, 2015

While I would not negate what Alan B has said. I would suggest a few additions to it. The way it is phrased, it seems that Alan “discovered” it and it comes across like that on his web page. The plant was discovered in 1915 and then later described in the 30’s by Dr Scholand ex Pillans.

Also you state the steeper the better is somewhat misleading as is the constant running of ice water. We found the plants to be on a grade of perhaps 40% and not cliff like. The ground was dry and the plants were in flower late october. They are Alpine and get much light but little heat so that is the tricky part of cultivation at or near sea level. It does well in Santa Cruz and San Fran coastal as it is moist and cooler weather but certainly not in the shade!

Finally, I wanted to say that I took pictures of Malachite sunbirds on the open flowers of Aloe polyphylla and also would note that there were seedlings present and the population looked healthy (Oct 2014) Lesotho. So maybe the plants have a future in situ some 37 years after Alan B’s account.

Reply

rosemaryjoles October 16, 2015

Thanks Kelly! Great addition to the info already provided.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: