As an innovator, I am always thinking about 'what's next?' Indoor cacti and succulents have been experiencing a boom over the last few years, but when that interest fades, what type of plant will be the next to trend?
With low maintenance gardens in mind, there's a new buzz word and it's 'xeric landscaping', which is basically gardening in very dry conditions.
Its music to our ears in the UK, as our weather can be so variable we don't always know when the next supply of rainfall will fall. Furthermore, growing in containers can be a bind, and if you've got a penchant for weekend trip away, you'll soon find those watering duties get skipped.. And, the best bit, it includes those succulent plants we know and love!
However, this xeric landscaping concept isn't just for the UK, it isn't just for Europe, this 'dry gardening' concept can benefit those growing in every climate! Our Plant of the Month Aloe 'Safari Sunrise' is a new introduction with a truly worldwide appeal.
How was this plant created?
If you're an avid reader of the Plant of the Month articles (click HERE for all the back issues!), then you'll recognise the developer Andy de Wet. Based in South Africa, Andy is an expert in xeric landscaping and the best plants for it, already having a hand in breeding Agapanthus 'Twister', which sells in big numbers in many regions.
A labour of love, Andy began breeding Aloe back in 1973, that's more than 40 years ago. I'm not even that old. But his dedication to a brand new plant category has been justly rewarded with the introduction of the effervescent 'Safari Sunrise' and it's siblings!
A plant of modern times, 'Safari Sunrise' has been reared through multi-parenting, with no less than 6 parents contributing towards it's genetic pool. Andy was selecting for the beauty of the flowers. Sure, Aloe already had the drought tolerant qualities, but it's the flowers he wanted to make more showy. And, boy, he did that alright!
What’s different about this plant?
You'll probably recognise the name (or the plant) Aloe vera, a relatively straight-forward houseplant whose main reason for failure is over-watering. Usually grown as an indoor plant, it's hard to imagine it being used outdoors in landscaping. However, the 'Safari Series' is actually an outdoor Aloe and has been bred as an outdoor landscaping or patio plant, and it's hardy down to -6C for short periods, so will stay outside overwinter with some protection.
Rosette-forming, succulent plants have evolved to store water, and Andy has been busy selecting for the most showy flowering, with flowers not unlike Kniphofia (The Red Hot Poker flower) but a trifle more exotic!
Where can you plant Aloe 'Safari Sunrise'?
This is where things get rather fun! Chunky plants fill a cubic foot in the border, and could be considered for landscaping in a range of different climates. Staying evergreen in the southern hemisphere, but perhaps appreciate a fleece cover in the north. Aloe 'Safari Sunrise' also makes a striking pot plant for the summer patio or balcony, or in the conservatory or summer house, with foliage being showy all summer and blooms coming later and into autumn.
As a poster boy for xeric landscaping, remember your Aloe has very low water requirements, which makes it extremely forgiving for beginners!
"My best advice is 'make sure you forget to water it often'!"
Aloe appreciate a well-drained soil too, and won't need much fertilisation, just an occasional boost which will provide more flowers. Think about planting an outdoor succulent border, mixing into the rockery or even shocking the neighbours by mixing it in with traditional cottage garden plant. Oh go on, I dare you.
Where can you buy this plant?
Plants are available in garden centres worldwide, or by mail order from the US here. This plant is still in trials for UK purchasing.
How to grow Aloe 'Safari Sunrise':
Flowering time: Late summer onwards
Location: Borders, patio pots, houseplant
Soil: Any dry, well-drained soil
Light: Full sun
Hardy: Survives down to around -5C for short periods in Europe, but would recommend protection (USDA Zone 9-11)
Care: Just take off dying leaves at the base every now and then
Size: 30cm (12”) high x 25cm (10”) in spread
Plant of the Month is sponsored by Concept Plants, a company based in the USA who handle the introduction of new plants into the US marketplace.
It can actually be quite easy to spot new plants, as nature often does the breeding work for you! Natural variation is referred to as a ‘sport’, or you may find a new hybrid has appeared in your garden by itself. To hunt down these new plants, it’s all about noticing differences. Make sure you take time out to get to know the plants in your garden, and if any seem different to the norm, let me know!
See every Plant of the Month here.