Also Known As: Aloe pienaarii, Aloe wickensii, Aloe wickensii var. lutea, Aloe wickensii var. wickensii, Aloe cryptopoda 'wickensii', Aloe cryptopoda
Category: Single Head Stemless Aloes
USDA Hardiness Zones: 9b - 11
OverviewThis plant is one of the most beautiful and showy of the South African species of Aloe. Aloe wickensii has solitary, stemless rosettes densely packed with upright, curved smooth turquoisey-grey leaves with small sharp reddish-brown spines along the margins. A very attractive and unique Aloe with spectacular display of bi-colored blooms when in full flower.
DescriptionAloe wickensii doesn’t produce offsets, sticking with a singular rosette comprised of slender, chalky blue-green, smooth leaves. The leaves are narrow and oblong, up to 3 feet (90 cm) long and up to 6 inches (15 cm) wide, ascending in a dense apical rosette. Leaf color varying from uniform (without spots) grey-green to dark olive green or turquoisey-grey with a pronounced velvety or rough leaf texture, often tinged purplish in dry conditions. The leaves of Aloe wickensii are stout but slender, stiffly erect and curving slightly inwards. Like many aloes, leaf tip browning can occur if conditions are too dry. Leaf margins have reddish-brown to dark brown deltoid teeth. It grows alone or in small group, usually stemless or has a short, decumbent, hidden stem. Sap bright yellow, drying purplish.
FloweringThe super cool bi-colored red and yellow flowers appear well above the leaves in branched racemes in winter with red buds opening to yellow flowers from the bottom of the inflorescence up. The inflorescence of Aloe wickensii is an erect panicle up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, bearing up to 8 racemes.
Origin / HistoryAloe wickensii is from an area east of Pietersburg to Burgersfort south to near Marble Hall and Nebo in an area that receives much of its 20-25 inches of rainfall in the summer. It was named for a Mr. Wickens who with a Mr. Pienaar (honored by the very closely related Aloe pienaarii) found this plant 25 miles south of Pietersburg in Northern Transvaal in 1914. This plant is often included into Aloe cryptopoda but this bi-colored form has long been grown under the name Aloe wickensii with Aloe cryptopoda being a more uniformly all yellow or all red form. In the newest book on aloes Aloes: The Definitive Guide (Kew Publishing 2011) it is stated that: 'This striking species is easily recognized by its usually bi-colored racemes of dark red buds opening to bright yellow flowers ... it has been confused with A. cryptopoda from the northern regions of Zimbabwe but can easily be distinguished by its long-acuminate, broad floral bracts and by its flower color'. The similar Aloe lutescens, has the bicolored flowers but is a clump forming plant with yellow green foliage with a narrower inflorescence and blooms a bit later than A. wickensii.
Care / CultivationAloe wickensii is native to Summer rainfall regions of South Africa, be sure to give it excellent drainage if it's planted in a garden with wet Winters. It needs full sun to part shade, but plants grown in partial shade usually look healthier and more succulent. It is however very hardy when grown in full sun with the minimum water.
Frost TendernessHardy to 20°F.
Use in the GardenWith it's sculptural form and large number of branched inflorescences, Aloe wickensii makes a great specimen in a large pot. Plants can be used as living pillars along driveways or fences or less formally as scattered feature plants in the garden landscape. Aloe wickensii is excellent in succulent and cactus gardens or mixed with other plants in xeriscape gardens. The plant’s flowers attract wildlife – hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
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