Garden Aloes

Aloe mutabilis

Category: Large Clumping Aloes

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b - 11


A beautiful, medium size, shrubby aloe with bi-color blooms and a trailing stem up to 1 meter long with offshoots. This aloe typically grows 3 to 4 feet tall and topped by 18 to 24 inch wide rosettes of narrow soft-toothed blue-green leaves. A hanging or cliff-dwelling aloe; the plants often grow precariously suspended over steep kloofs in strikingly inaccessible spots.


The branched stems of Aloe mutabilis may reach about 1 meter in length, mostly curved or trailing to support the rosettes among the uneven rock or cliff edge situations of their normal habitat. The succulent rosette is about 2 feet high and wide of slightly arching, softly toothed evergreen leaves. Over time a trunk forms, sometimes upright, but more often creeping along the ground. Its stem hangs downward with the rosettes of leaves turned up at an angle. Leaves are thin, pale green to bluish green with prominent teeth and somewhat bendable, in very open, almost spiral rosettes. Aloe mutabilis is similar and closely related to the more common Aloe arborescens. Both bloom in winter but Aloe mutabilis is a smaller plant with less dense branching and bluer leaves. This aloe has many leaves, 60-70cm (2+ feet) long. The upper surfaces are glaucous green to dull green with brownish to yellow margins. The leaf margins are armed with harmless, yellowish orange teeth. The shape of the spaces between the teeth is straight, not rounded as with the commonly known Aloe arborescens.


During Winter a simple branched inflorescence up to 90cm (roughly 3 feet) high, is borne with bi-colored flowers. The flowers of Aloe mutabilis change color as they mature, with the red-orange buds opening to display yellow flowers. The flowers of some forms of Aloe mutabilis are uniformly red. Aloe mutabilis flowers are also on short pedicils with flared petals.

Origin / History

Aloe mutabilis grows naturally on vertical rock faces of Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden at the Witpoortjie waterfall near Johannesburg, South Africa. First described in 1933 by South African botanist Neville Stuart Pillans, for whom Aloe pillansii was named, though some maintain that Aloe mutabilis is close enough to Aloe arborescens that it should be classed as a subspecies or a Highveld form, rather than a species in its own right. The plant's name is the Latin word for 'changeable' and it is thought that this is a reference to the changing color of the flowers as they mature but may also describe the variability of the plant. Aloe mutabilis is today considered as a specific form of Aloe arborescens.

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Care / Cultivation

Plant in full sun to light shade. Provide excellent drainage for best health. It’s extremely drought tolerant needing no additional water along the coast. Can withstand long periods of drought, but will grow and flower better when soils is slightly moist during the growing season. Pests and diseases: White scale, aloe rust and cancer, snout beetle; more attacked when growing in un-favourable conditions (poor drainage and sunlight)

Frost Tenderness

This drought tolerant plant does great in coastal California without any supplementary irrigation and is cold hardy to about 21° F.

Use in the Garden

This plant is attractive to hummingbirds and bees and deer resistant. Makes a showy addition to a low-water garden. Its bicolored racemes make it a popular garden plant. It makes a magnificent rockery specimen when grown at the highest point of the rockery with the rosette hanging downward. Use in containers and as bold clumps in the landscape.

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

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