This is a tough and uncomplaining family of plants, with striking good looks. The foliage is stiff and architectural and ranges in colour from blue-grey to blue-green. The flowers, which are rich in nectar and draw honey-eating birds into the garden, generally appear in winter, warming what can be a dull and chilly scene.
Aloes thrive in containers or in the ground, and handle heatwaves and laser-strong sun – these are plants that will look good on that challenging west-facing balcony! In pots use a succulent potting mix and in the ground make sure the position is well-drained, as wet roots will be their downfall. Aloes in the ground won’t need to be watered once established, though plants in pots should be watered once a week or so through the warm months.
This stiff leaves of this aloe are shaped like tongues. They come off a single stem symmetrically, forming a fan shape. Each stem makes its own fan, so that the plant can look like a multi handed creature waving its multi-fingers in the air. The leaves themselves are blue-grey with a white bloom, giving an effect a bit like celadon or milky jade. As if this wasn’t enough, spires of orange-red flowers are produced at the end of winter.
The tree aloe is sculptural all year round, with numerous Medusa-like heads exploding from a single trunk. The pink flowers appear in winter. It takes full sun or part shade in a pot or in the garden. If it is planted in the ground, make sure you allow enough space for its roots and canopy as it can become a large tree, up to about 5m. One of the benefits of this plant in a courtyard is that it offers the height and form of a tree, but with no leaf drop. The tree aloe is easy to propagate. Cut off an unnecessary branch, let it dry for a week or two then plant into a pot with a free-draining mix.