Garden Aloes

Aloe speciosa

Also Known As: Tilt Head Aloe, Aloe hexapetala

Category: Single Head Tree Aloes

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9a - 10b


Aloe speciosa is a generally single-stemmed, tall succulent growing up to 10 feet (3 m) that carries its massive rosettes of leaves at a tilt off to one side. The Tilt-head Aloe is a handsome tree-like succulent having decorative blue-green leaves with deep pink to pale red, serrated leaf margins, and dense cylindrical flower heads of red buds, opening greenish white in spring-summer.


What makes Aloe speciosa easy to distinguish is that the head of the rosette of leaves is almost always tilted to one side toward the direction of greatest sun exposure. This tall arborescent aloe grows to 15 feet or more with a single rosette of grayish green leaves at the top. Trunk is usually unbranched and covered by dried leaves. The slender long (to 36 inch) bluish-green leaves have a pinkish tinge at their tips and leaf margins, which also have tiny, soft, pale to deep red teeth. It often grows in association with Aloe ferox, A. africana and A. pluridens, and hybrids can occur.


In mid-winter to early spring appear the short, 1 foot (30 cm) long, cone-like inflorescences that rise and branch close to the crown of the rosette. The inflorescence is solitary (unbranched), but one rosette can produce up to four inflorescences. The cylindrical raceme is about 500 mm long, densely packed with flowers. The buds are a deep red when young and mature to green with white stripes. When the flowers open, the dark brownish-orange stamens and style protrude conspicuously from the tips of the flowers. As they open in succession from the bottom to the top, the entire bloom is tri-colored. The peduncle is short, about 120 mm long, and covered at the base by papery bracts.

Origin / History

The tilt-head aloe is so named because of the way that its rosette tilts to one side, in the direction of the greatest sun. The Latin name 'speciosa' means showy, and was actually given in reference to its ornamental flowers. The species is also known as Aloe hexapetala - also in reference to its flowers ('hexa-petala' means 'six-petaled'). The tilt-head aloe is found in two disjunct spots. It occurs in the south-central part of the Western Cape province, from near Swellendam to the Little Karoo. It also occurs over a large part of the southern Eastern Cape province as far as the border of the Transkei, South Africa. Here its habitat is often dense thickets, especially the Albany Thicket biome.

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Care / Cultivation

Aloe speciosa is best planted in a sunny situation. Rockeries are ideal. It requires full sun and good drainage. Establishment is important; water well initially to encourage maximum root growth. It is an adaptable plant and will grow in various soil types, although it prefers a fertile, sandy loam soil. The soil can be slightly acid to alkaline, and must be well-drained. Enrich the soil with ample bonemeal and provide an annual compost dressing. Once established the plant should be self-sustaining. When growing in exposed or harsh conditions it is usually smaller, and often single-stemmed.

Frost Tenderness

Aloe speciosa is considered to be tender to frost since temperatures in its native habitat rarely are below 28 F.

Use in the Garden

Aloe speciosa is an attractive aloe with great horticultural potential and is often grown in gardens. Being drought-resistant it is an ideal plant for the water-wise garden. A great specimen plant for the garden that is quite attractive to hummingbirds.

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