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It's right around this time of year every year that I start to really crave spring, and all that comes with it. While we all still must wait patiently, beauty and color can still be found in the depths of winter. There are many succulents that love to bloom when the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler, specifically, succulents hailing from the southern hemisphere. Many Aloe species are winter bloomers, and beyond their colorful blooms is their brilliant foliage. Almost every color one could imagine can be seen within this diverse genus of around 500 species. Aloe are all Old World plants, arising from South Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, Socotra, and other parts of Africa. They are currently placed in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae and are all succulents. They range in size from the size of a golf ball to the size of a tree. Their leaves may be spiny along the margins, or completely smooth with a glossy sheen. There is an Aloe out there for everyone!
Aloes are widely available through many nurseries locally as well as mail-order nurseries online. The amount of beautiful hybrid Aloes will send your head spinning! They are quite easy plants to grow as long as you do a little research into the particular plant you have. For the most part, Aloe like to be watered regularly, as long as they are allowed to dry out between waterings. They are not heavy feeders, and appreciate a well-draining mix and a bright sunny spot. The more sun they receive, the more reliably they bloom, and the more colorful their leaves become. Aloe are not hardy in our cold Colorado climate, but they do love to be displayed outside during the warmer months, and in fact, benefit from the bright sun, as long as they are returned to their windowsill before the danger of frost.
Many of us are familiar with Aloe vera. It's healing properties are quite well documented, but be aware, not all Aloe share these medicinal properties. Never rub Aloe sap on a burn or on your skin unless you are certain it is Aloe vera. Some Aloe have toxic sap that would likely do more harm than good on your skin. Aloe ferox is another species with medicinal properties, although it is more uncommon to find.
So, if you're in need of some winter color in your house, start an Aloe collection! Many of the hyrbids are sized perfectly to fit into a window sill and come in every color one could imagine, do a little searching online and you're guaranteed to find an aloe or two to suit your needs. Happy gardening!