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A picture of a Bitter Aloe

Bitter Aloe

Aloe ferox

Also known as

Red Aloe, Cape Aloe, Tap Aloe, Aloe ferox, Bergaalwyn, Bitteraalwyn (Afr.), Inhlaba (Zulu), Ikhala (Xhosa), Cape aloe, Red aloe, Tap alie

Aloe ferox IMG 2679 by [1] (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Full Sun
Moderate care
Light watering


USDA zone


Minimum temperature

Expected size








5 years to reach maturity


  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has no fragrance

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A photo of Bitter Aloe
A photo of Bitter Aloe
A photo of Bitter Aloe
A photo of Bitter Aloe
A photo of Bitter Aloe

Bitter Aloe Overview

One of the best-known South African plants with a long history of medicinal use. This evergreen succulent shrub has a woody stem and blue-green foliage with red-brown spines along the margins, but of course, it is best known for the beautiful tubular, red-orange flower large candelabra-like flower-heads that brings warmth to the winter garden. Aloe ferox forms a beautiful display and attracts many bird species such as sunbirds, weavers, glossy starlings and mousebirds. Insects also visit the flowers which in turn brings yet more birds to your garden. In natural areas, monkeys and baboons will raid the aloes for nectar. Visitors usually leave adorned with large patches of pollen, often causing confusion amongst birdwatchers! Aloe ferox is an excellent garden specimen plant and is adaptable to many conditions. Aloe ferox is able to grow successfully in a wide range of habitats such as mountain slopes, rocky landscapes and flat, open areas. It is mostly known for its medicinal uses, but can also be used for cosmetics, food supplements and the leaves themselves are edible. Aloe - derived from the Greek word for the dried juice of aloe leaves. Ferox - "fierce" or "war-like", referring to the spiny edged leaves. This is a common feature plant. Common names include Cape aloe, Bitter aloe, Red aloe, Tap aloe, Bergaalwyn and Bitteraalwyn. ZA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape.

Common problems with Bitter Aloe

The aloe snout beetle, scale insects, mealy bugs and mites are the primary pests that can be harmful to Aloe ferox. Diseases that are known to hinder Aloe ferox are aloe canker (also called galls), leaf spots, bacterial infections and aloe rust. Few of these will lead to the decline or death of the plant, but will certainly effect their appearance.

Bitter Aloe Companion Plants

How to harvest Bitter Aloe

Leaves can be harvested once a year in winter after about 18 months after cultivation. Seed can be harvested during spring or summer

How to propagate Bitter Aloe


Sow seed in a well drained medium in shallow trays and cover lightly with sand in spring. Once the seeds begin to germinate, keep moist but do not overwater. Transplant when they are about 4 cm high.


Cut a stem under a node and allow to dry for a few hours. Place the cutting in a rooting medium and keep moist without over-watering.


When stems are damaged, the sprouts ca be removed and planted as cutting in sand.

Special features of Bitter Aloe

Attracts birds

Aloe ferox attracts many birds, the most popular of which are sunbirds, weavers, glossy starlings and mousebirds.

Attracts useful insects

Insects are attracted by the flowers and will in turn attract insect-eating birds.

Drought resistant

Requires minimal water.

Pot plant

Attractive flowers

The flowers are usually bright orange-red, bright red, yellow and even white forms can be found.

Other uses of Bitter Aloe

Ornamental, architectural, structural. Grown to make 'bitter aloes' which is used as a purging medicine.


Leaves have medicinal value.


Leaves can be used to make jam.

Other uses


Shrub aloes

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