HOW TO GROW THE SPIRAL ALOE - Aloe polyphylla?


How do you grow the Spiral Aloe - Aloe polyphylla?

Native to the South African Drakensberg mountains situated in the Kingdom of  Lesotho, the Spiral Aloe - Aloe polyphylla is a gorgeously architectural and surprisingly hardy evergreen succulent perennial. Looking at it at face value, Aloe polyphylla is very similar in looks and habit to many of the smaller, more tender and fancier Agave species and cultivars such as Agave Victoriae-Reginae and A. filifera. However, despite its exotic African origins, Aloe polyphylla is regularly subjected to being covered in deep snow as well as experiencing very high levels of summer rainfall. Two climate criteria which make it an almost perfect match for growing in southern English gardens. So how do you grow the Spiral Aloe - Aloe polyphylla?

Aloe polyphylla
Unfortunately, Spiral Aloes are particularly difficult to find as it is a criminal offence to remove plants or seed of Aloe polyphylla from their natural habitat. To make matters even more troublesome, they are also difficult to cultivate without understanding their specific requirements and will often die if lifted and removed once established in the ground. 

Anyway, assuming you have purchased a specimen, what do you do with it? Well its quite simple really, plant Aloe polyphylla in a sheltered position which receives full sun. A south facing or west facing site will be perfect. The soil will need to be well drained so add horticultural grit-sand to the soil before planting to help avoid water-logging. Water moderately when in growth from spring to early autumn, but then only very sparingly when dormant over the later autumn, winter and early spring. Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser 2 or 3 times during the growing season. For best results when planting, slightly angle the plant to ensure rainwater runs freely from the crown.

When growing further north, plant under glass in a loam-based potting compost with added extra grit. 

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Berberis darwinii

Berberis darwinii is an early flowering, hardy evergreen shrub and arguably one of the finest of all ornamental flowering species within the genus. Commonly known as 'Darwin's Barberry', it was first described for the scientific community by the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) in 1844, and published in Hooker's Icones Plantarum.

Native to Chile, Chiloe and Argentina, Berberis darwinii was discovered for Western science in 1835 by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the 'Beagle'. It was eventually introduced to English gardens by renowned plant collector William Lobb in 1849.

Berberis darwinii berries
It has a bushy habit, with a height and spread of between 8-10 ft. The leaves are small, dark-green and glossy, and three-pointed similar to holly leaves. The blooms appear in clusters during April and May. Each flower is approximately 1-1½ inches long and depending on conditions will be a rich yellow or orange tinged with red. Once pollinated these are followed by edible blue berries although they may cause a mild stomach upset. In fact there is evidence that these berries have been eaten by the prehistoric native peoples of the Patagonian region for over a thousand years.

The best time to plant Berberis darwinii is either from September to October or March to April. It is adaptable to moist soil types including clay, chalk and sandy loams so long as they are moist and well-drained. Berberis darwinii will be happy in a position of full sun to semi-shade and has proven to be tolerant of exposed conditions.

Berberis darwinii received the First Class Certificate (FCC) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1967 and the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1984.