Garden Aloes

Aloe maculata

Also Known As: Soap Aloe, Aloe saponaria

Category: Small to Medium Clumping Aloes

USDA Hardiness Zones: 8b - 11


Aloe maculata is a stemless aloe, that reaches 18 inches (45 cm) tall and 2 feet (60 cm) wide that can sucker freely or grow solitarily. Native to South Africa, this is a very hardy aloe, making a large group of suckers and its quite thorny too. The Soap Aloe is a delightful spotted succulent with distinctive flat-topped inflorescence in hues of orange, red and yellow that provides striking texture year round.


The 'Soap Aloe' is usually stemless, clumping, often overgrown in succulent gardens. Foliage color depends on light intensity - pinkish red in hot sun and bluish-green in part shade. The leaves are broadly triangular and vary considerably in length and shape, but are mostly recurved towards the dried, twisted tips. Aloe maculata is a common species with linear spots that are distinctively 'H-shaped'. The foliage is dark green at the tips with a reddish tinge; the lower part of the leaf fades to a light green and is marked by faint white spots. The margins are lined with prominent and sharp, brown teeth able to draw the blood of an unwary gardener. This is one of the more aggressive and 'invasive' aloe species, sometimes showing up many feet away from the parent plant. Mature plants can form large groups, spreading via stolons (Stoloniferous plants send out stems that grow at the soil surface or just below ground.)


Aloe maculata is very variable but its distinctly flat-topped inflorescences and usually uniformly colored flowers distinguish it from most other spotted aloes occurring in the same area. Flowers are held in on a multi-branched inflorescence over a long period in summer. Flowers of A maculata 'saponaria' usually yellow, but color ranges widely from yellow and red to salmon-orange. Flowering can occur any time of year, but usually in mid-winter in southern California. This is a very pretty aloe when in flower, especially if one is not that attracted to the spiky form of most aloe flowers. Seeds are reputedly poisonous.

Origin / History

This plant has long been in cultivation under the name Aloe saponaria but the correct name is now Aloe maculata. The specific name of saponaria is from the use of this plant for soap in its native South Africa. It has been suggested by some botanists that the better-known and long-used name, Aloe saponaria, be conserved as it is the name for the type plant for the section Saponariae. They occur in a variety of habitats, ranging from rocky outcrops to thicket and grasslands. Aloe maculata has a wide distribution from the Cape Peninsula through the Western and Eastern Cape Province. Plants usually prefer the milder coastal climates but are also found as a component of the higher altitude Drakensberg flora.

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Care / Cultivation

This plant is drought tolerant and ideally suited for full sun although is quite shade tolerant as well. Aloe maculata is a relatively fast grower and very easy to cultivate. Grows in thick, poorly draining soils as well as better quality soil. It is a very variable species and hybridizes easily with other similar aloes, sometimes making it difficult to identify. Aloe maculata adapts to an extensive range of conditions – soil, seasonal and quantities of rain, temperature.

Frost Tenderness

Hardy to about 20-25 degrees F.

Use in the Garden

Though it can be a bit invasive it is not hard to control and is good for growing under trees or in exposed spots with poor soil where other plants have trouble. Also often added to pots with a variety of other succulents and sold at garden outlet centers. Although essentially a summer garden plant, it is indeed a garden plant for all seasons. There is always something of interest, even in mid winter when the vivid red and yellow to orange flowers stand out against the background of faded dry grass.

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The information on this page about Aloe maculata has been gathered and summarized from the sources below. Visit these pages to learn more.

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