A ferocious Aloe - as the scientific name suggests - beware of its spikes!
Common name : Bitter aloe
Scientific name : Aloe ferox
Family : Aloeaceae
Category : Indoor
Type of plant : Perennial
Aloe ferox - the bitter aloe or Cape aloe - reaches up to 10 feet (3.0 m) in height - so better grown in dry-tropical climates in open sandy-loamy soils and full sun.
It can be distinguished from its closest relatives by its more compact, erect leaves with 6mm reddish-brown teeth on the margins and also on the keel of the leaf near the leaf tip.
Sowing & planting
50 - 300
6 - 7
Identify my bitter aloe
Aloe vera is a succulent with shallow roots, it never loses it leaves, and it grows in small groups or even colonies, because of it's skill at putting out suckers. The stem is a short, woody base that holds alternating, distichous leaves, set into each other. This is most common for young plants, as they age into rosettes.
Plant my bitter aloe
Typically a mild climate plant, aloe vera adapts especially well to the interiors of our homes and apartments. It develops well between temperatures of 18-22°C (slightly cooler in winter, if possible), and it needs light. Be careful nonetheless. Avoid placing the plant directly behind a window with too much sun exposure! It is possible to keep your aloe vera outdoors, in partial shade, if the temperatures in your area don't dip below the fatal zero. Otherwise, keep it inside!
Water my bitter aloe
Aloes don't like humidity, and their water needs are pretty limited — they stores everything they needs inside their thick leaves!
During growth seasons (spring, summer), watering should be regular, about once or twice a month, but make sure the roots don't rot. In autumn, gradually reduce watering until winter, when once-monthly watering will suffice.
Use soft (non-chalky) water, closer to room temperature and not cold, as a significant temperature drop can cause serious stress to your plant.
Spray my bitter aloe
In dry weather, spray your plant with soft water, clean the dust on the leaves: it will be all the more beautiful!
Fertilize my bitter aloe
Never! Aloe vera like poor soil, really!
Repot my bitter aloe
Every 3 or 4 years, at the end of winter, transplant your aloe carefully to a slightly larger pot than it's current, adding a mixture of sand, topsoil and garden soil. Cover the rood nodule, but don't let the leaves touch the ground.
Position the root nodule of your aloe vera just above the soil! Don't water for the first few days after repotting — roots damage by watering increases the odds of rotten roots. Wait a few days and water lightly the first couple times.
Propagate my bitter aloe
Aloe very often produces lateral shoots: they are the ones you will use to obtain new plants ...
These new shoots often appear when the "mother plant" feels cramped in its pot!
They tend to be slightly greener than the leaves of the adult plant and do not have the same thorny edges on their leaves as they emerge for the first time.
When one of these shoots reaches 7 to 10 centimeters, remove the soil at its base to see if it is attached to the mother plant. If it is the case, cut its base with a well sharpened and sterilized knife, making sure that the young plant remains attached to its roots.
Let it dry for a few days until a "callus" appears - it's a small bulge - at its base, normally within a few days.
Plant the young shoot in its own container in a well-drained soil without burying the leaves. As the root knot is likely to be small or nonexistent, you will probably need to support the shoot with a layer of pebbles and press it against another object. The root system should become strong enough to support the new plant in a few weeks!
Water after a few days, gently!
Check on my bitter aloe
If the leaves become flat and droop, increase it's exposure to the sun. Aloe leaves should grow directly up or outwards in an angled manner, towards the light of the sun. If they extend towards the ground or grow straight out to the sides, it means the plant probably isn't getting enough sun. Move it to a sunny space. If it's inside, think about bringing it out for a couple hours during the day.
On the other hand, if the leaves turn brown, reduce it's exposure to the sun.
If the leaves are thin and curled, increase watering! And if the leave turn yellow or sag, stop watering. Yellowed or curled leaves are suffering from an excess of water.
Aloe vera isn't sensitive to disease, unless it's overwatered. It can still succumb to attack from mealybugs, thrips or scale insects, and may suffer from mildew.
Mealybugs are biting, sucking little insects covered in a sort of waxy, powdery carapace. If the leaves stick together or become covered in black marks, and infected parts of the plant dry out, spray on rapeseed oil to suffocate them.
Thrips are a small, ravenous insect, 1 to 2 mm in size, that appeasr in warm or dry weather, somewhat like red spiders. Spraying water mixed with a little bit of soap on the leaves as soon as they appear should hold them off.
In any case, keep a close eye on the frequency of your waterings, and even the air humidity in the room.
Put outside my bitter aloe
Feel free to take your aloe outside for the summer! Avoid simply plopping it down in full sun; let it acclimatize slowly and, of course, keep an eye of watering! Take it inside at the end of the summer.
Shelter my bitter aloe
Bring in your aloe vera before the first chilly nights, ideally in a cool room so it still "feels" winter — a good, cool winter period between 5 to 10°C at night without artificial light is perfect.
Water at least once a month in winter.