|Propagation:||From division, seed|
|Adult size:||up to 2m|
|Watering:||Let the soil dry completely before watering|
|Fertilization:||Monthly during active growth|
|Soil:||Extremely well drained|
|Toxicity:||Slightly toxic if large amounts ingested|
|See more Aloe|
Cape aloe, Bitter aloe
Aloe ferox is a succulent in the Asphodelaceae family. They are adapted to long periods of drought and can make excellent, low effort houseplants. It is native to South Africa.
Aloe is derived from the Arabic word “Alloeh”, meaning a “shining bitter substance” in reference to the sap of the plant.
Ferox, meaning ferocious, in the botanical name of Aloe ferox, was given to the species due to the thorny sharp reddish spines of the leaves.
A. ferox has fleshy leaves with a glaucous tinge and have reddish-brown marginal spines and - particularly when young - also have spines on both leaf surfaces.
The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 90 cm (35 in) tall, each flower being pendulous and red and yellow.
Aloe sap has many uses in traditional and herbal medicine, including as a laxative, for soothing skin irritation and as an antiseptic.
A. ferox wants high light. As much direct light as possible should be provided, a south or west facing window (in the northern hemisphere) would be ideal. When placing this plant in direct sunlight it should be slowly acclimated over a few days to avoid the risk of leaves scorching or yellowing.
Use an extremely well draining soil mix (see succulent soil) and water thoroughly, allowing excess to drain. Do not allow the plant to sit in water. Allow the soil to dry through completely before watering again.
Moving the plant from a low-light indoor aspect to a bright, south facing window or outside in direct sun will lead to leaves bleaching and scorching. When moving the plant outdoors, choose a spot in shade or that gets dappled or screened sunlight. Let the plant slowly acclimate to being outdoors and never move the plant into direct sun without slowly building up a tolerance first. Some direct morning or evening sun is fine but hot midday light will scorch the leaves without acclimatisation.
Succulent plants can experience a slow decline and death in the home. You are giving the plant lots of direct light and watering only when the soil is completely dry and yet the plant is still slowly dying. This is almost always because the soil and substrate the plant is in is too moisture retentive. The soil used by growers is often peaty and retains too much moisture, or becomes extremely difficult to rehydrate once it has dried through. This means your plant experiences extreme drought followed by long periods of being waterlogged.
Repot your plant using an extremely well draining succulent soil, stripping away as much of the existing substrate as possible. With a soil that is mostly inorganic minerals you can get away with watering your plant frequently, and knowing the substrate will be dry within a day or two. You should see an almost immediate change in your plants condition within a week or two.
Exposure to the right temperatures can be the difference between a thriving plant and a plant that looks ugly and unhealthy. A. ferox will survive cold temperatures but can only handle extremely brief and mild frosts.