Aloe hybrids certainly are not a new phenomenon. Aloes have been successfully hybridized for decades. Recently, a trip to a friend’s garden just reconfirmed my belief that many true species won’t have a place in nurseries much longer. Frankly, many of the new hybrids that are coming out at an alarming rate are big improvements over the parents in terms of flower or foliage color.
While I typically buy true species plants or cultivars, the allure of buying hybrids is there and prevents me from being a purist. This becomes especially evident after you tour a private garden that is loaded with amazing aloe hybrids like the garden I just visited earlier this week. More of a cycad guy, the owner still had over 100 aloes growing on his one-acre lot.
The first aloe hybrid to he had to show was also one of the nicer ones in terms of solid flower color. This is Aloe ‘Erik the Red.’ This aloe comes from famed aloe hybridizer Leo Thamm of Sunbird Aloes out of South Africa.
This is a beautiful new hybrid between an Aloe capitata and a white flowering Aloe ferox.
Another Aloe capitata and white-flowering Aloe ferox cross showing the variation that happens in hybrids—even amongst the same seed batch.
This is some large, unknown aloe hybrid. It has a nice bicolor flower.
The best guess here is some Aloe ferox hybrid.
Aloe ‘Blue Elf.’
The most impressive aloe hybrid in the garden was this unknown Aloe vaombe cross. The best guess from those I polled is that the other plant in the cross is an Aloe thraskii. This aloe hybrid flowers profusely, as you can see below, and uncharacteristic of true Aloe vaombe, this hybrid has a bicolor flower.
While the garden had many more aloe hybrids planted out, most were either not in flower or had flowered just before my visit. Of course the garden was well represented with true species aloes as well. One of the more impressive was the rare variegated Aloe vaombe.
Aloe ferox with Aloe vaombe in foreground.
Aloe marlothii with a smooth leaf surface.
A more traditional Aloe marlothii with the spines covering the top and bottom of the leaves.
Triple planting of Aloe speciosa just coming into full bloom.
Aloe tauri is closely related to the more common Aloe spicata and Aloe alooides.
Aloe aculeata when grown under some stress has brown coloration. Coupled with the spiny leaves and bicolor flowers, it makes for an attractive aloe.
Aloe peglerae is always found in an aloe collector’s garden.
Aloe petricola has become a popular plant recently because of its bluish leaf and bicolor flower.
Now to close out with some Malagasy aloes. This is Aloe capitata var. gneissicola.
Aloe capitata ‘Green Form.’
And my favorite form, which I was lucky enough to see in habitat during my trip through Madagascar—Aloe capitata var. quartziticola. This one is being attacked by snails.
Aloe betsileensis. This one is just starting to open its flowers. Beautiful plant.
Winter is easily my least favorite season of the year. However, aloes at least make it bearable for a plant guy like me because in a garden where nothing is in bloom, aloes save the day. With the water restriction that won’t be going away in Southern California anytime soon, and with the amazing new aloe hybrids being produced, I would expect to see interest in this genus only grow.
UPDATE: March 1st, 2016
I was back at Bob’s house almost two weeks after I wrote this post. I had to come back and show an update of his beautiful unknown Aloe vaombe cross in flower.
Ah,that is a beautiful Aloe collection. Aloe capitata is also a star at the Berkeley Botanical garden.Just a stand out. Even foliage in summer has color.
Aloe thraskii with the big water buffalo (or Brahma bull,my description changes all the time-lol) leaves is one I wanted but never got a hold of.
Great post Len!
Very impressive collection! Thanks for the tour.
Do you see any risk that hybrids grown in gardens near wild Aloe may cross pollinate and alter genetic pool of wild species?
Different species may be geographically separated. Actively hybridizing plants and creating otherwise impossible hybrids may alter the course of evolution if such hybrids turn-out viable.
Len Geiger says
I know a lot of botanist (not just aloe specialist) that hate hybrids. They drive them nuts and are very vocal about. For many reasons including what you mention. Aloes, more than many other plants, hybridize very easy. Unless you protect your flowers from open pollinators, you are almost guaranteed to get hybrids in your seed set if you have a few other species around flowering. While it can be an issue to get true species in cultivation without some protections, thanks to the amount of seed one plant can produce, I don’t ever see an issue with extinctions. Just means you will need to buy wild collected seed or seed from a very trusted source in future if you want true species.
cliff brown says
I agree with the above whole heartively. Orchids, tillandsias and on and on. True collectors perk up when discussing species though
where do you get your aloes from? Very beautiful by the way!
Len Geiger says
From all over San Diego John. Many places here to buy.