Joyce's Diary - March 2007
At an Executive Meeting about six years ago there was a member selling rare Haworthias and Aloes grown by tissue culture. Never being very good at resisting temptation I chose a couple of Haworthia and then spotted an Aloe that I had never even heard of – Aloe haemanthifolia. It was a tiny plant which looked like two small blades of grass. I decided to have that too. When I discovered that it cost £15. I nearly put it back, but was too embarrassed to do so.
When I got home I took out my Aloe book to see what I could find out about it. The book explains that there are easy Aloes, easy but slow Aloes, tricky Aloes and impossible Aloes. I had just spent £15. on a tiny plant that was “impossible”. Impossible is not a word I like very much so I decided to do my best to prove it wrong.
I discovered that Aloe haemanthifolia grows on boggy hillsides where it gets lots of water and is sometimes covered by snow. I tried growing it in peaty compost and giving it plenty of water. I grew well for a while and then started to look dehydrated. I discovered that it had lost its roots. I trimmed off what was left of the roots, left it to dry for a few days and potted it in the compost from a tomato growbag. Once more it grew well for a year or so and then lost its roots once more. I experimented with various compost mixtures but each time it grew well for a while, produced good strong straplike leaves and then lost its roots. I grew it in an unheated greenhouse because it seemed to be better when things were not too hot. I played about with the amount of water I gave it, even let it dry out completely between waterings, but still with limited success.
About eighteen months ago I read an article in the journal, written by John Betteley on How to grow Aloe haemanthifolia. He suggested growing it in orchid compost and growing it outdoors except in extremely cold weather. Much to my delight this method seems to be working and my plant is now flowering for the first time. Unlike my other Aloes these flowers, each over an inch long, are in a dome shaped cluster at the top of a short strong stem. The flower stem emerged from the centre of the plant and now, on either side of the stem, new growing points are producing new leaves. It really is a most attractive plant.
The only snag about this growing method is that the heavy rain damages the bloom on the surface of the leaves and gives them a spotty appearance. I will have to think of some way of getting around this problem!!!
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