- Author: Michelle Krespi
On the corner of my property sits a mature Aloe arborescens, commonly known as a Candelabra Aloe, or Torch Aloe. Aloe arborescens is a species of flowering succulent perennial plants belonging to the genus Aloe, (yes the same one as Aloe vera!) and is a South African native. It is from the Asphodelaceae family. The plant is used in South Africa as a living fence for livestock enclosures. The name arborescens means “tree-like” in Latin. This plant grows in a dense, multi-branched shrub format reaching heights of up to 9' tall and wide with its coral red conical flowers rising two feet above the foliage in the late fall and early winter. Mine, pictured to the right has been in bloom for the last couple of weeks. While many other plants still lie dormant, this drought tolerant shrub springs forth with coral red inflorescences. It rose to popularity in the 1700's when plants from the South African cape were brought into Europe for the wealthy. It was initially intended as a medicinal plant to help heal burns, but its popularity as a houseplant grew due to its easy cultivation and attractive appearance. The plant is native to the countries of South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe and does well in zones 9b to 11b, perfect for Fairfield!
Unlike other Aloe species, the plant has a varied habitat and grows from sea level up to the cliff edges on rocky mountains. It is the most widely distributed of all the South African Aloes. They can live for years and are fast growing. They grow as rosettes which can reach 18” in width. They have thick sprawling leaves that are blue-green in color, are spotted and have toothed margins. They liked to grow in well-drained cactus mix, (a combination of equal parts sand, perlite and potting soil, adding gravel to the base.) While other types of aloe are acid friendly this aloe requires a neutral pH and a much higher potassium content. Most aloes do well with a balanced 10-10-10 NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) ratio mix except for this one which is much happier with a 10-40-10 mix. Fortunately this plant has a high tolerance for neglect although it's not crazy about temperatures below 55 degrees.
You can grow this plant indoor or outdoor. If you choose to place it outdoors as mine is there are a handful of pests to watch out for.
- Fungus gnats can infest the soil around your aloe, with the maggots munching on your aloe's roots while feeding on fungus.
- Gall mites adore aloe plants and will cause a condition known as gall cancer.
- Plant scale will attack just about anything and feed off of plant sap, attracting ants in the process.
- Snout beetles are perhaps the most dangerous aloe pest, and their larvae will burrow into the leaves, causing them to rot and whither.
- Spider mites are another common pest that can be especially damaging to aloe.
Fortunately all these diseases can be killed by giving your plant a regular Neem oil soak treatment. Remember if grown indoors to treat the pot as well!
Lastly this plant is not only easy on the eyes and easy to maintain, it is loved by birds, bees and butterflies! It has been naturalized in the Western Mediterranean, Australia, South Korea, Japan, the Marshall Islands and of course in California! Why not try one in your yard or on a windowsill. You won't be sorry!
 San Marcos Growers
 Plant Care Today- Aloe Arboresens Plant: growing and Care of Candelabra Aloe
 Wikipedia- Aloe arborescens