Aloe castanea is one of the larger ‘shrub’ aloes available to the home gardener. In its native environment has the ability of growing into a small tree. It has a single main trunk at ground level with several spreading branches higher up, lower branching to form a dense shrub-like mass 6 to 10 feet tall. The leaves can grow up to 150cm (60in) long with the margins armed with firm, small, brown teeth. The height and spread can be manipulated greatly if the plant is appropriately pruned from a young age.
Commonly known as the Cat's Tail Aloe, the rosette gives rise to multiple, fuzzy, orange racemes which are held upright and curve like a cat’s tail. They appear during mid-winter and are formed along the inflorescence and are very ornamental
Plant this aloe in full sun, even in desert heat, in a well-draining soil. It is drought tolerant but seems to bloom better if planted in rich soil and given some summer water.
Hardy to minus 5°C (22°F) it withstands moderate frost, but 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. Also, surprisingly, this Aloe prefers rich soil, so adding a layer of compost every year would be a benefit.
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. The soil should be moderately fertile and fast draining. Established plants will survive a drought quite well.
If you live in a more temperate are it's 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 castanea is native to the Northeastern South Africa from Witbank in the Mpumalanga province north to Polokwane in the Limpopo province.
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 specific epithet 'castanea' is the Latin word for ‘chestnut’ in reference to this aloe's orange-brownish coloured flowers.
It is commonly known as the Cat's Tail Aloe, the rosette gives rise to multiple, fuzzy, orange racemes which are held upright and curve like a cat’s tail.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Family Aloaceae Genus Aloe Species castanea Common Name Cat's Tail Aloe Other Common Names African 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