Aloiampelos, formerly Aloe ser. Macrifoliae, is a genus of succulent plants comprising seven species found in southern Africa and commonly known as Climbing Aloes. They are typically multi-branched, climbing, or sprawling shrubs with long spindly stems and a large woody base on the ground. These characteristics and 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 widespread. However, a few rare species also occur in isolated pockets further west in the fynbos vegetation of the Western Cape.
Climbing Aloes indigenous to regions with tall thicket vegetation are tall and erect, often with hooked recurved leaves that allow the plants 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.
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 species.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Due to their hardiness and the wide range of flower colors, these succulents have become popular ornamental plants in South African gardens. The commoner species 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. However, the lower rambling species are better suited for rockeries, slopes, or terraces, which they will naturally cascade down over.
These succulents 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. However, some species are also inter-fertile and can thus form hybrids.
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