One of the most attractive and floriferous of Aloes of South Africa, Aloe microstigma, forms solitary or small clumps of beautiful rosettes of blue green leaves. Commonly called the Cape Speckled Aloe, the leaves are adorned with conspicuous white spots, which contrast nicely with the reddish teeth along the margins.
The leaves of this aloe are protected from the intense summer sun by anthocyanin pigments that give them a deep red glow. They help to cool the plant, the upper leaves providing shading for the lower ones. This plant has an interesting adaptation, the leaves fold inwards during the hot summer months and unfold again in cool weather. This helps to protect the softer and younger leaves from extreme temperatures. In juvenile plants, the leaves are ranked in vertical rows but once the plant matures they arranged in spiraled rosettes that grow up to 30cm long.
Aloe microstigma is one of the most floriferous aloes in South Africa. The plant produces several unbranched spikes of flowers, 90cm (36in) tall that are usually red in bud and open to orange and yellow flowers. The conical flower head atop the stalk is made up of many tubular flowers that open from bottom to top over a period of about two months. Noted for their bicolour look, the wonderful towering inflorescence brighten the landscape, the flowers that are reminiscent of flames on candles.
Plant this Aloe in full sun, even in desert heat, in a well-draining soil. Although hardy to minus 5°C (22°F) and will withstand moderate frost, it is normally grown as a potted plant, indoors or on the summer patio. It is drought tolerant but it blooms better if given some water in the summer, but it does need good drainage.
Because Aloe plants consist of 95% water, they are frost tender. If they are grown outdoors in warm climates, they should be planted in full sun, or light shade. Established plants will survive a drought quite well. If you live in a more temperate area it is best to leave your Aloe plant in a pot, indoors and place it near a window that gets a lot of sun. You can move the pot outdoors during the summer months. Grown with Agave, cacti or other succulents, they make stunning indoor displays.
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time of year.
Fill small pots or trays with a light and well drained compost. (John Innes Seed Compost, with the addition of ½ gritty sand). Stand the pots in water, moisten thoroughly and drain. Scatter the seed onto the top of the compost and cover lightly with sand. Secure a polythene bag around the pot or cover the container with glass or and place in a warm shaded place. If possible, germinate in a propagator. Care should be taken to prevent the pots drying out.
The majority of seeds germinate at temperatures of 22 to 24°C (70 to 75°F). Some seedlings may appear at around 30 days others will take longer, up to 180 days.
Once germination has taken place, remove the plastic and move into a good light. Be careful to keep the top of the compost damp but watch out for overwatering as the seedlings could rot. Transplant into pots once they are about 4cm high (6 months). Always use a pot with a hole and put a layer of small gravel at the bottom of the pot and also one inch on the top of the soil to prevent stem rot.
Aloes have a shallow, spreading root system, so when it is time to repot choose a wide planter, rather than a deep one. Use a planter with a drainage hole, or provide a 3 to 5cm (1 to 2in) layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot to ensure adequate :drainage. Use a good commercial potting mix with extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand added. You may also use a packaged 'cacti mix' soil.
During the winter months, the plant will become dormant, and utilise very little moisture. During this period watering should be minimal. Allow the soil to become completely dry before giving the plant warm water. During the summer months, the soil should be completely soaked, but then be allowed to dry again before re-watering. If you use rainwater, be careful as it could be acidic. Fertilise annually in the spring with a dilute (½ strength), bloom fertiliser (10-40-10).
Aloes are easily grown from seeds, but also can be propagated by removing the offsets produced around the base of mature plants, when they are a couple inches tall. Be aware that aloes will hybridise with any other aloe flowering at the same time.
A position in partial to full sun suits most species of Aloe. The larger Aloes enjoy more direct sunlight than the smaller species as they would normally grow through and above protective vegetation. However, strong sunlight may be needed to develop the attractively bronzed foliage that some Aloes develop in their habitat. Many Aloes produce spectacular racemes of packed tubular yellow, orange or red flowers and are of considerable horticultural merit for the tropical garden or larger glasshouse. Numerous small species can be grown and will produce their showy flowers on a sunny window ledge.
The genus Aloe is native to Africa; species are found in southern Africa, the mountains of tropical Africa, various islands off the coast of Africa including Sardinia, Madagascar, and the Arabian Peninsula. There are more than 450 species of aloe, varying in size from diminutive pot plants to large clumps. They inhabit dry, often rocky and exposed areas.
Aloe microstigma is native to Namibia and South Africa, from the southern Western Cape to Albany in the Eastern Cape, and north through the semi-desert region of the Little Karoo, extending into southern parts of the Great Karoo. It can be found in a variety of dry habitats comprising flat open areas, steep rocky slopes, or amongst bushes. Where they grow, they are near to invisible between rocks and dry bushes.
The APG II system of plant classification published in 2003 by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group places the genus Aloe in the family Asphodelaceae, a placement which is reflected by the Plants of Southern Africa Checklist, however the International Plant Names Index still lists aloes as being in the lily family (Liliaceae), and this is apparently still more widely accepted. Some authorities have also placed it in a family of its own, the Aloaceae.
Pronounced: AL-oh, the genus was named by Linnaeus (1753) and derives from the Greek alsos meaning ‘bitter’.
The species name refers to the white-flecked leaves, as microstigma means ‘little spot’ in Greek.
It is commonly called the Cape Speckled Aloe, occasionally the Cape Spotted Aloe and the Red Cape Aloe.
It has the synonyms of Aloe arabica, Aloe brunnthaleri, Aloe juttae Dinter and Aloe khamiesensis.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Family Aloaceae Genus Aloe Species microstigma Common Name Cape Speckled Aloe Other Common Names Cape Spotted Aloe, Red Cape Aloe Other Language Names Afrikaans: Blouaalwyn; Makaalwyn; Gladdeblaaraalwyn Hardiness Tender Perennial Hardy Succulent Time to Sow Sow indoors at any time of year. Germination 30 to 180 days at 22 to 24°C (70 to 75°F) Notes Succulent