3 m - 8 m
Red; spring summer
sun; semi-shade; dry shade; rockery; windy exposed; shrubbery; wildlife bees butterflies insects birds
Woodland forest; bushveld
Subtropical East Coast; Bushveld; Highveld
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The Aloe species that in fact carries the moniker, Bottlebrush Aloe, is quite spectacular but is nowhere near as popular a garden plant as it should be, given its ease of growing. Echoing the top-heavy species like A. thraskii and A. excelsa, plants can eventually grow to 8 m in the wild, though usually only 2 -3 m in cultivation, and it does grow relatively slowly. The stem is sturdy to support the leaf structure, and mature plants carry many dried leaves that cover the upper part of the stem, giving it a rather shaggy appearance. These help to protect the stem from fires and hot sun, and even though they are unlikely to face a fire within a garden setting, should not be seen as an untidy part of the plant in need of removal. Leaves spread out in a spiral formation, and curve downwards (re-curved), a rather dull, dark green in colour, edged with red-brown teeth. The flowers are outstanding; where those of Aloe spicata were long and slim, A. rupestris flowers resemble short, cylindrical tubes, quite broad, either orange or yellow, and all with dark red extended stamens that give this aloe an attractive bicoloured effect. These are held more or less erect. As with A. spicata, the racemes are densely packed with many small buds that open progressively through the flowering season, August and September. The branched Inflorescences can stand up to a meter above the leaves, up to 15 racemes per plant – spectacular and generous. Aloe rupestris grows easily and needs little management if given the preferred situation of full sun and well-draining soils. Occuring in the hot summer regions of Northern KZN, Swaziland and southern Mozambique, this species is drought hardy and will tolerate moderate frost. The Bottlebrush Aloe is well suited to rock gardens, and at the edges of forest, grassland and bushveld, and will take a little bright shade during a hot summer. Habitat: Grows in the summer rainfall area in hot valleys among coastal forest and bushland on sandy soils or over the sun-burned hills on rocky slopes and ridges and cling along low broken sandstone ledges. Propagation: Almost exclusively by seeds planted in autumn, in trays of coarse river sand.