In the middle of the winter time and there is not a lot of warm colour around but one group of plants give us yellow to orange to red colours. They are the group of plants called Aloes. Aloes tend to flower mostly autumn and winter and a few in the spring.
These plants belong to the Asphodeloideae sub-family of the family Xanthorrhoeaceae which includes flax and daylillies . A very close relative is the Kniphofia or Red Hot Poker, the form Winter Cheer giving lots of colour over the late Autumn. With selection of species and cultivars, Kniphofia can be flowering in the garden all year.
Aloes are generally very drought resistant, succulent leafed plants which vary from small ground coverers to bulky trunked trees up to 18metres high. Some form rosettes on the ground, others are single stemmed, while others branch. They all have racemes of flowers in colours from white to yellow through to pink and red. These flowers are a source of nectar for bees and birds. Waxeyes are particularly fond of this nectar and are working the flowers on our bank all the time.
If they like their position, they are very easy, no-care plants. Many will stand light frost and some such as the Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla) can survive snow over them. Some though can’t stand any frost and hate wet, cold weather.
They must have good drainage and are best in full sun. Some are very salt tolerant. I have seen a hedge of Aloe arborescens growing in a low coastal area where a big storm had killed all the grass due to salt water being driven in, yet this Aloe was quite happy, though they wouldn’t like salt water all the time!!! This species also has the advantage of having the same health giving properties as Aloe vera which I find is particularly good for sunburn.
Aloes can also be grown as container plants which has the advantage of not needing to water them if you are away.
A tough dependable family of plants with interesting form and flower, what more could you want.