Also Known As: Cape Speckled Aloe
Category: Single Head Stemless Aloes
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b - 11
OverviewAloe microstigma is a very attractive and relatively common South African species with lots of speckles of leaves and wonderful leaf as well as flower colors. One of the most floriferous Aloes in South Africa, Aloe microstigma is a medium size, easy, relatively fast growing plant, tolerating summer watering and some shade, as well as poor soils.
DescriptionRosette-forming succulent that is usually solitary or sometimes found in small clumps to 2 feet tall with long tapering white-spotted blue-green leaves. Young plants are stemless, while the older ones develop a short decumbent stem up to 50 cm tall and 10 cm wide, which is usually covered with remains of old leaves. The rosette of leaves helps to cool the plant in that the upper leaves provides shading for the lower ones. Rosettes about 1 to 1.5' feet in diameter, uprightly oriented. The leaves are adorned with conspicuous white spots, which contrast nicely with the reddish teeth along the edges. An interesting adaptation is the inward folding of leaves during the hot summer months. This helps to protect the softer and younger leaves from extreme temperatures. Leaves unfold again in cool weather. In winter, leaves can become incredibly colorful showing pinks, purples, yellows and greens. Leaves not very bendable. The leaves of this aloe are protected from the intense summer sun by anthocyanin pigments that give them a dull red glow. In shade leaves have a more turquoise coloration. Leaf surfaces are smooth, leaf margins are armed with sharp, stiff reddish-brown triangular teeth.
FloweringFrom it's rosette Aloe microstigma produces several unbranched (simple) inflorescences up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall. This plant is a beautiful aloe which usually produces two or three profuse, flower spikes simultaneously in early winter. The bicolored flowers are red in bud and open to orange and yellow orange. In some places, however, the buds and open flowers may be uniformly red or yellow. Noted sometimes for their bicolor look, the cheerful flowers brighten the dull winter landscape with their towering warm colors reminiscent of flames on candles. Flowers are tubular in shape and slightly swollen in the middle.
Origin / HistoryAloe microstigma is common in the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces of South Africa, and the species extends northward through the Great Karoo into southern Namibia. The name accurately describes the distinguishing feature of the plant, microstigma means 'very small spot'. It is found in a wide variety of habitats, in flat open areas, steep rocky slopes, or amongst bushes. Where Aloe microstigma grows, it is almost invisible between rocks and dry bushes.
Care / CultivationThis aloe is a common and widely distributed plant in the dry inland areas of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces and is a great plant in cultivation in sparsely irrigated California gardens, but it can tolerate more regular irrigation if soil drains well. When grown in a sheltered area and kept out of cold winds Aloe microstigma does well in cultivation. Aloe microstigma is best grown from fresh seeds that are sown in summer or autumn. A coarse sandy medium must be used and seeds are sprinkled lightly and covered slightly with sand. If kept moist, (not wet) seeds germinate within two weeks. The most common pests on Aloe microstigma are scale, the aloe snout beetle, and aphids. These can all be successfully treated with contact or systemic pesticides. If plants are to be fed, use only organic based fertilisers in a liquid solution. These can be applied as a soil drench or sprayed on plants once a month. Plant in full sun.
Frost TendernessThis plant has been noted as hardy to the low 20s by Brian Kemble at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. The winter flowers may sometimes be damaged by frost.
Use in the GardenThey make particularly nice low maintenance garden plants which are especially attractive when in flower in the barren winter months. Plants do exceptionally well in cultivation and prefer dry gardens. Aloe microstigma can also grow in wetter gardens, if drainage is good. They are ideal plants for a difficult or neglected part of the garden and with the addition of other suitable plants can create stunning rock gardens. Companion plants such as Cotyledon orbiculata, Tylecodon paniculatus, Crassula arborescens, Aloe dichotoma, Aloe brevifolia, Pelargonium crithmifolium, Pelargonium sericifolia, etc., are ideal to start a rock garden. It is a common and widespread species that transforms the dull winter landscape into a wonderland with its towering warm colors that resembles flames on candles.
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