Also Known As: Spider Aloe, Dwarf Aloe, Gold Tooth Aloe
Category: Small to Medium Clumping Aloes
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b-11
OverviewThe Aloe x spinosissima South African hybrid is one of the more manageably-sized aloes, growing to about 3 ft. tall in flower and spreading into clumps of the same width. A delightful aloe with a hurricane-esque overall form, due to the slight curvature of the ends of each leaf, and a beautiful bluish color.
DescriptionThe name Aloe x spinosissima suggests something ferociously spiny but the teeth that line the leaf margins are not very large or sharp. This plant has the basic shape of Aloe arborescens, only a bit more compact, and the wartiness of aloe humilis. Fleshy, grey-green leaves with soft spines narrow to a point, growing upright and then gently curving down at the tips. New rosettes grow from the base of the old ones resulting in a wide-spreading clumping form. Clumps grow to be 3 feet tall by 3-5 feet wide.
FloweringAloe x spinoissima blooms with 1 1/2 ft. tall spikes of reddish-pink or coral colored tubular flowers in the late winter to early spring. Once it reaches a good size, Aloe x spinoissima flowers regularly every year, sending up a very tall dramatic scape with gorgeous coral red/orange flowers on a large inflorescence.
Origin / HistoryAloe spinosissima is an old hybrid whose origins seem lost in time. It has long been in cultivation in California as evidenced by its listing in the 1930 publication Cacti and other Succulents: An Annotated List of Plants Cultivated in Santa Barbara that was written by Ralph Hoffman, E.O. Orpet, Eric Walther and James West and edited by Pearl Chase. In this book it is listed as a hybrid between the toothy form of Aloe humilis known as var. echinata and A. arborescens var. pachythyrsa, but both varieties have now been synonymized with their associated species. It is sometimes sold as Aloe arborescens 'Dwarf'. The name is the superlative form of 'spinosus', which means spiny so would mean 'very spiny' or 'superlatively spiny'. Sometimes called the 'spider aloe' or 'gold tooth aloe.. Sometimes sold as Aloe spinossisima, but should be called Aloe x spinosissima. From Aloe humilis it inherits a small compact size, the many knobbly spines which appear on both upper and lower leaf surfaces and its remarkable tendency to produce lots of offsets from the base. From the much larger Aloe arborescens it inherits larger foliage and a more dramatic presence. For this reason it has often been called Aloe arborescens 'Dwarf', the stemless habit of Aloe humilis predominating over the arborescent habit of Aloe arborescens.
Care / CultivationAloe spinosissima is a great midsized landscape aloe for mild climates but unfortunately seems quite attractive to aloe mite. It requires full sun and well-drained soil and should be watered only sparingly. Best grown in a large pot with plenty of grit mixed into the soil. In cooler climates over wintering in a greenhouse or conservatory is recommended. It is fast-growing with a regime of full or partial sun and a very free-draining substrate with plenty of water in the growing season but an easing off of watering as Autumn approaches and stopping altogether during the winter.
Frost TendernessHardy to 22-25 F. It is cold-tolerant and will take occasional sub-zero temperatures but not substantial frost and is suitable for outdoor cultivation in the UK only in very favorable microclimates in urban areas and south-west coastal districts.
Use in the GardenBecause Aloe x spinosissima forms large clumps in the landscape, it is best to plant it where it can spread out. It looks beautiful planted with finely textured, drought-tolerant ornamental grasses. The leaf shape and color contrasts with 'roundy moundy' types of plants. In practice, it makes for a more manageable-sized plant particularly in cool climates like the UK where it does not survive outdoors except in very favorable locations and thus makes for a wonderful houseplant, ideal in a terra-cotta container in a light sunny aspect or a conservatory.
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