Category: Small to Medium Clumping Aloes
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9a - 11
OverviewAloe longistyla is a small South African, dwarf, aloe that suckers with time to form a group of 6 to 8 inch wide rosettes with upright blue-green leaves. A distinct trait of this aloe are the thick, pale, soft, spines on its lower leaf surfaces and margins.
DescriptionAloe longistyla is a very tough little plant which can withstand several years of drought and looks roughly like a thick-leaved Aloe humilis. This plant is a dwarf, stemless aloe to about 5 inches tall, usually solitary, but may well have 2 or 3 rosettes. Aloe longistyla usually has 20-30 leaves in a compact spiraled rosette at the stem apex in old plants, but in juvenile plants they are ranked in vertical rows. The densely crowded, lanceolate leaves have a conspicuous waxy layer on their surfaces. Colors of leaves are forest green to pale blue or bluish-green. Have lots of long, but not super sharp teeth along leaf margins and backs of leaves. The teeth base is tubercular. It is very slow to sucker if at all. Very drought tolerant, but if not given any summer water, tends to curl in on itself a bit and look ugly.
FloweringWhen in flower it is easily identified in In fall to winter by the short, thick, unbranched inflorescences and broad racemes that can have up to fifty flowers. This species has one of the largest inflorescences in terms of size of plant within the Aloaceae. The tubular flowers are deep orange to salmon red or coral-red and form on a conical raceme. An unmistakable characteristic of the flowers is that their top halves are curved upwards to expose the unusually long stamens. The flowers are followed by large gray fruit capsules. This aloe, when not in flower, may easily be confused with A. humilis and A. brevifolia which superficially look similar but their flowers do not posses the unusually long styles found on A. longistyla.
Origin / HistoryAloe longistyla is mostly in the summer rainfall regions from the Western Cape Province of South Africa, with some overlap into the Eastern Cape. Populations are found as scattered individuals, never in dense groups and often partly shaded by short, scrubby vegetation predominantly of Pentzia, Pteronia and Nestlera species. The plant name 'longistyla' refers to the 'long style' of the exceptionally long stamens which protrude from the mouth of the flower. Aloe longistyla is stated as vulnerable.
Care / CultivationPlant in full sun to light shade in well-drained soil. Very drought tolerant but looks best with occasional irrigation in summer. It is a challenge to successfully grow Aloe longistyla, and is therefore sought after by the enthusiast. Plants should therefore not be removed from the natural environment as they do not respond positively to transplantation at all. Success may be achieved by sowing fresh seeds but even this is not guaranteed to produce size-able plants. It can be grown in large containers. Can withstand long periods of drought, but they will thrive and flower more profusely if watered in the correct season. Incorrect watering, poor drainage or too much shade can lead to attack by pests and diseases.
Frost TendernessCold Hardy to around the low 20's F.
Use in the GardenIt is a very rewarding plant, especially in winter when the flowers add a fiery glow to an otherwise drab garden. In mild climates it can be cultivated outdoors for use in landscaping, preferably planting it in hot and dry rock gardens. Well suited to a rock garden, on a sloping bank or even in containers. Plant in bold clumps.
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