An entire section of the Desert Botanical Gardens is devoted to the Aloe family. There are many varieties and all seem to do well in Phoenix although Aloes are not native to Arizona.

In our area you may want to try the medicinal A. barbadensis or Aloe vera in a protected area. However, it is sensitive to frost and may be more successfully grown indoors. This is the plant that soothes minor burns, sun burns, and some insect bites so it is useful to keep on hand. Just pinch a piece of the leaf off and apply the mucilage to the affected area.

Carolyn and Gary Gruehagen have successfully grown A. saponaria around "rock islands" in their back garden forming attractive meandering paths through the yard. The orangish-red blossoms are on a stock that can reach more than three feet tall and are very striking. The blossoms are similar in color, texture, and shape to ocotillo blossoms. In the Gruenhagen's garden the aloe usually blooms twice a year - spring and fall and at sunset the hundreds of blossoms give the garden a beautiful reddish glow.

Hummingbirds, bees, and even orioles feast on the nectar of these plants. Aloe clumpings create a useful and pleasant habitat for wildlife. The cold winter temperatures can play havoc with the fleshy leaves of A, saponaria, but the plant rebounds with new growth if it does receive frostbite. The plants form broad clumps which spread rapidly and occasionally they need to be separated.

A very noticeable planting of A. saponaria can be seen against a fence just north of the Coronado and Golf Links intersection in Sierra Vista.

The form and texture of aloe lends itself well to our Southwestern location. They are members of the lily family and actually are succulents. Please bear that fact in mind when contemplating a place for them as they will require a protective micro-climate to do their best. The leaves of the different aloes are varied, each with a distinctive pattern which shouts at you for notice. Couple this with blossoms that also demand attention, extreme drought tolerance, and you have a plant which can satisfy high expectations.

Barbara Kishbaugh
May, 1993