Aloe aristata (Lace Aloe)

Aloe aristata, now classified as Aristaloe aristata, is commonly known as Lace Aloe or Torch Plant. It´s a small evergreen succulent perennial that forms round rosettes of fleshy dark green leaves with white bumpy spots and non-stinging pointy teeth on the edges. 

In Summer, the rosettes are topped with tall spikes of coral-pink tubular flowers.

This very decorative sculptural plant is native to South Africa and is both hardy and drought-tolerant.

Aloe aristata plant (Lace Aloe, Torch Aloe)

Quick Overview

TYPE

Type herbaceous

HEIGHT & WIDTH

aloe aristata height and width

BLOOM TIME

aloe aristata bloom time

SUNLIGHT

full sun / semi shade

HARDINESS

hardiness (-8ºC / 17º F)

DROUGHT TOLERANCE

drought tolerance aprox 4 months

ORIGIN

Origin South Africa

Hardy Aloe Scientific name

  • Botanical name: Aloe aristata (AL-oh  ah-rih-STAH-tah)
  • Family: Asphodelaceae (as-foh-del-AY-see-ee)
  • Common name: Lace Aloe, Torch Plant, Bearded Aloe
  • Synonyms: Aristaloe aristata (the latest botanical classification)
NameMeaning
Aloe Derives from the Arabic word “Alloeh” which means “shining bitter substance”
aristataderives from latin word “aristatus”  meaning “awned” or “bearded”,refering to the awn-like projections (small pointed structures) found on the leaf margins.

How to identify Aloe aristata

Aloe aristata plant (Lace Aloe, Torch Aloe, Aristaloe aristata)

Plant

Aloe aristata is a small, evergreen succulent perennial. It does not have stems, and the fleshy, lance-shaped, spotty leaves spiral around the centre, forming a neat, compact rosette.

Eventually, it will spread through offsets forming a mat of many small clumps close to the ground.

During summer, tall flower stalks emerge from the rosette carrying racemes of pink-coral tubular flowers.

The plant’s foliage is 20 to 30 cm (0.6 to 1 foot) high, and the flower stem is around 50 cm (1.6 feet) long. The width is 30 to 60cm (1 to 2 feet).

Aloe aristata flower stem (Lace Aloe, Torch Aloe, Aristaloe aristata)

Stem

Aloe aristata does not actually have a stem, it only grows leaves in a rosette form. However, the inflorescence will emerge from this rosette on a tall stalk, that can reach up to 50cm (1.6 ft)

As new leaves emerge at the centre of the rosette, the flower stalks move away from the centre.

Aloe aristata leaf (Lace Aloe, Torch Aloe. Aristaloe aristata)

Leaf

The leaves are dark green, waxy and fleshy, storing water to help them tolerate drought periods. They are covered with white bumps on both sides and soft cilia-like teeth along the edges and a soft white spine on the tip. Hence, the common name is Lace Aloe

The shape is lanceolate i,e, lance-shaped (they are wide at the base and taper to a point).

The leaf length can be up to 15 cm (6 inches) long.  However, the length will vary depending on the age of the plant and the growing conditions.

Aloe aristata flower (Lace Aloe, Torch Aloe, Aristaloe aristata)

Flower

The inflorescence can be branched into 2 to 6 racemes of approximately  20 – 30 cm (0.6 – 1 ft) length each. The racemes are composed of loosely arranged tubular coral-pink flowers.

Each individual flower is approximately 2.5 to 3.5 cm (1 -1.4 in) long and is greyish-green at the tip.

The flowers bloom during the summer.

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Aloe aristata Habitat

Lace Aloe grows naturally in a wide range of elevations, from hot desert lowland areas to the cooler higher-altitude rocky mountains of South Africa.

Aloe aristata Usage

Ornamental

Lace Aloe is a very attractive sculptural plant.  Its green leaves adorned with white spots create delightful compact rosettes that spread naturally into a low-growing ground cover. During summer, its interest is taken to another level with the tall coral flower spikes, resembling torches, which inspired its common name, Torch Aloe.

Its beauty combined with low maintenance requirements, makes it a versatile and appealing ornamental plant for various garden settings.

It can be used in the landscape in the following ways:

  1. Border Plant: It can be used as a border plant along pathways or garden beds, providing a striking contrast with its dark green leaves and conspicuous blooms.
  2. Rock Gardens: ts low-growing and compact nature makes it an excellent choice for rock gardens, where it adds texture and visual interest.
  3. Xeriscape: Lace Aloe is ideal for xeriscaping projects in arid or dry climates due to its low water requirements.
  4. Mixed Succulent Gardens: Lace Aloe is a lovely succulent that can be combined with more succulents and other drought-tolerant plants for a visually appealing and low-maintenance landscape.
  5. Focal Points: Whether single or in groups, its striking, exotic look makes it an ideal focal point in the landscape. It draws attention with its “lacey” rosettes of dark-green leaves with white spots and soft spines. 
  6. Container Planting: Aloe aristata can be grown in containers, making it suitable for patios, balconies, or indoor spaces with plenty of sunlight.
  7. Wildlife Gardens: The flowers of Aloe aristata attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, making it a valuable addition to wildlife-friendly gardens.
  8. Seaside gardens: Its resistance to sea spray makes it a great choice for a coastal garden.

Biodiversity

The flowers of Aloe aristata are attractive to beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies and also to hummingbirds. This makes it an ideal plant to enhance the biodiversity of your garden.

How to care for Aloe aristata

Cold exposure

This plant can tolerate a little frost and cold weather down to -8ºC (10ºF). However, this is possible only if the soil is well drained. Cold, soggy soil can be fatal to it. 

While the plant is not yet established, you should add a thick layer of mulch around the plant’s base to protect the roots from cold temperatures. Using gravel mulch is preferable because organic mulch will stay humid and can cause the plant to rot.

Sun exposure

Lace Aloe can be grown in full sun to partial shade.

In extremely hot climates or areas with intense sunlight, it’s beneficial to shield plants from the harsh afternoon sun to avoid leaf damage. Offering partial shade during the hottest part of the day can shield the plant from excessive heat and strong sunlight.

Soil

Lace aloe thrives in poor, well-drained soils, particularly gritty, rocky ones. It’s best to avoid planting it in damp locations, as it is not tolerant of soggy soil, which can increase the risk of root rot and fungal infections.

If your area tends to become waterlogged, you may need to keep the entire root ball above ground level and fill in with a raised mound of sandy soil, sloping gradually away from the plant’s base.

It prefers neutral PH soil but can tolerate mildly acidic to mildly alkaline soils

Avoid fertilizing the soil if you need the plant to remain robust and better equipped to handle extreme temperatures.

Watering

Lace aloe is drought tolerant and can go for some months without water once it is established (about 4 months of drought if the temperature is not too hot). 

Once established, it usually does not need watering because its leaves are full of water. In fact, excessive moisture can lead to root rot. However, you should water it if there’s a long period without rain or very hot weather.

During its first year, the young plant must be watered regularly. Depending on the soil and the temperatures, you may need to water it once a week, every two weeks, or every three weeks.

When you water the plant, make sure to give the soil to a good soak. This way, the water can sink deep into the soil, helping the roots grow deeper as well. With deep roots, the plant can withstand longer dry periods since the lower soil layers stay moist for a longer time.

Avoid watering overhead as the water can accumulate in the rosettes, leading to diseases and leaf rot.

To preserve the soil´s moisture, mulch should be added around the plant’s root area. Preferably, the mulch should be gravel because organic mulch can lead to leaf rot.

Pruning

Lace Aloe typically doesn’t need pruning, but occasional maintenance may be necessary. 

  • During any time of the year, cut off the diseased or yellow leaves to maintain vigorous growth and a healthy appearance of the foliage.
  • After the flowering period, you may want to deadhead the flower spikes to give it a neater look and avoid self seeding.

When to plant Aloe aristata

The best season to plant is typically in the spring or autumn, but it will depend on your climate. You should avoid planting during periods of extreme temperatures.

If you have mild weather where you live, it’s best to plant in the autumn to give it time to develop the roots during the cooler months before the arrival of the hot summer. In case of very cold winters, it’s better to wait until spring when the risk of frost has passed and the soil is warmer. That way, the plant can have a better chance to grow well and be healthy.

How to propagate Aloe aristata

Lace Aloe spreads naturally by producing many offsets, so the easiest way to propagate it is by separating these offsets to create new plants. This propagation method is called division. 

Division: Spring or autumn

  1. Dig up the mother plant
  2. Separate the offsets from the mother plant, preferably leaving each offset with some roots of its own
  3. Plant them in a well-draining medium. Keep the medium lightly moist (never too wet, or the plant will rot).
  4. When the plants have started to grow, you can plant them out in the garden either in spring after the last frosts or in autumn while the soil is still warm

Check out this YouTube video explaining the process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3PT6XuCqcU

An excellent online source for plant propagation techniques can be found in RHS propagation article.

Sources

Sources of information used for this article

Article from Missouri botanical garden

Article from Kew

Article from Promesse de fleures

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