It’s no surprise that as your plant obsession grows, you begin to find the more exotic, curious and sometimes bizarre selections the most interesting, and perhaps most beautiful. Aloe, Haworthia and Gasteria fit that bill us.
A number of years ago, we visited California succulent breeder Dick Wright (now in his 90’s) in search of his famous Echeveria hybrids. Dick’s new obsession was miniature Aloe, and he turned us onto this whole new group of succulent hybrids. He, along with other CA hybridizers such as John Bleck, Kelly Griffin and Karen Zimmerman, were hybridizing many Aloe species resulting in selections as minute as 1″ to up to 2′ in height, in a vast array of foliage colors and textures. Their small stature makes them more suitable for container culture than in the landscape, and since they do not winter over outdoors here in MA, that was just fine with us.
Our first acquisitions were species hailing from Madagascar, Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the more well known hybrid selections ‘Delta Dawn’, ‘Christmas Sleigh’, and ‘Firecracker’. We also brought home other forms which had not been introduced and were distinguished only by initials and numbers, like the little dark Aloe above.
We also began paying attention to the closely related genera Haworthia and Gasteria, since they are known to be more tolerant of low indoor light conditions. There are many species and hybrids of both, and you will likely come across names like x Gasteraloe and x Gastworthia, as these genera are often crossed with each other, resulting in even more diverse selections.
Blooming time for Aloe, Gasteria and Haworthia is primarily during the winter months and early spring usually with strikingly colored flowers. A number of the Aloe selections also bloom intermittently throughout the summer for us and are a hummingbird favorite.
Consider growing these easy care plants for your fall and winter plant “fix”. They ask for so little: provide a sharply drained soil mix, a bright south or western exposure for Aloe, an eastern or northern exposure will be fine for the Gasteria and Haworthia. Water only as needed. The frequency will depend on how warm and arid your home conditions are. In fact, a cooler home is perfect!