plant of the month
krantz aloe
Aloe arborescens

The beautiful krantz aloe, aloe arborescens, is a spectacular addition to any garden and one of the most widely cultivated aloes in the world.

From May through to July, it bears flowers in fiery shades of either deep-orange, salmon pink, a deep orange-red, a bright yellow or in striking bi-colours in the case of hybrids.

The plant grows up to 2 to 3m tall producing a multi-headed shrub with striking green leaves armed with sharp teeth at their margins and arranged in attractive rosettes.

It’s a great accent plant, particularly in larger gardens, and can be grown into an excellent almost impenetrable hedge.

In many parts of South Africa Aloe arborescens is planted around kraals as a living fence. It often happens that the position of old kraals can still be seen many years after they have been abandoned because the aloes persist.
Cuttings intended for use as barrier plants are sold in muthi shops.

In the wild the krantz aloe is concentrated mainly in the eastern summer rainfall areas, but it can also be found from the Cape Peninsula and along the eastern coast, through KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.
It occurs in low coastal scrub to high mountain tops, and although it is adaptable to many habitats, favours exposed sunny ridges and rocky outcrops.

The krantz aloe grows quickly and is a great low-maintenance water-wise plant. It does well on both the coast and inland, tolerating moderate frost and drought. This beauty is incredidly easy to cultivate.
Simply take a branch or stem cutting, and allow it to dry for a day or so until the wound has healed, and then plant directly into well drained soil.
Just make sure you don’t over water the cuttings, as they may rot.
Apparently they are relatively easily to cultivate from seed, which can be sown in spring, and take about 3 to 4 weeks to germinate.
I’ve never personally tried growing them from seed, (cuttings just seem so much easier), but I am led to believe it is not difficult.

Adding some compost to the planting hole with a generous helping of bone meal will get your plant off to a good start. Mulching around the roots in autumn with compost or kraal manure should ensure spectacular blooms in winter.

The Zulu people use the leaves of this plant, dried and pounded into a powder, as a protection against storms. Decoctions of the leaves are also used in childbirth and in treating sick calves.
In the Transkei it is used for stomachache and given to chickens to prevent them from getting sick. In the Orient, this aloe is grown in domestic gardens as a convenient first-aid treatment for burn wounds and abrasions

The flowers produce significant quantities of nectar which attracts birds, and in particular sunbirds, as well as butterflies, bees and other insects.

I have noticed with some of the cuttings I have planted around my garden that their first flowering isn’t always spectacular. However the numbers of flowers seems to increase each season, (and of course as the plant gets larger)

This plant is ideal for perking up the garden at a time when other plants are dying back with the onset of the colder weather.

References:

  • gardeningsouthafrica.co.za
  • pza.sanbi.org