Aloiampelos (Climbing Aloes), formerly Aloe ser. Macrifoliae, is a genus of succulent plants comprising 7 species found in southern Africa. They are typically multi-branched, climbing or sprawling shrubs, with long spindly stems and a large woody base on the ground. These characteristics, as well as their soft, narrow, triangular leaves whose lower part ensheathes the stem, make them easy to distinguish. The genus is centered in the Eastern Cape, South Africa where they are also particularly common. A few rare species also occur in isolated pockets further west in the fynbos vegetation of the Western Cape.
The Climbing Aloe species that are indigenous to regions with tall, thicket vegetation are tall and erect – often with hooked, recurved leaves that allow the Aloes to anchor their branches and climb up through trees and thickets. In contrast, the species from drier regions with low, sparse, fynbos vegetation tend to be more “decumbent”, rambling along the ground – with no need for their leaves to be recurved.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Due to their hardiness and the wide range of flower colors, these slender succulents have become popular ornamental plants in South African gardens. The commoner species (such as the more widespread Aloes of the Eastern Cape) are increasingly grown in gardens overseas too.
Climbing Aloes require a sunny, well-drained position and are particularly suitable for rockeries. The taller, climbing species are commonly planted along fences and boundaries where they grow up through the surrounding foliage. The lower, rambling species however, are better suited for rockeries, slopes or terraces, which they will naturally cascade down over.
The color of the flowers varies from bright yellow (Aloiampelos commixta and Aloiampelos tenuior) to orange (Aloiampelos striatula and Aloiampelos commixta) to red, pink or even scarlet (Aloiampelos ciliaris, Aloiampelos juddii and Aloiampelos gracilis). There can also be significant color variation among different populations within each individual species.
They can easily be propagated by taking cuttings as well as by seed. Climbing Aloes generally have both male and female flowers on each plant, but an individual plant is usually not self-fertile by itself. However, some of the species are also inter-fertile, and can thus form hybrids.
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