isiXhosa: Umhlaba

Afrikaans: Kanniedood

Bitter aloe

Bitter aloe

Aloe ferox

Scientific name

Aloe ferox is a tall, single-stemmed aloe, that can grow to 10 feet (3.0 m) in height. Its leaves are thick and fleshy, arranged in rosettes, and have reddish-brown spines on the margins with smaller spines on the upper and lower surfaces. The leaf surfaces of young plants are covered in spines, however, as they get taller and less vulnerable to grazing, the leaves begin to lose most of their spines except for those along the leaf margins.

Aloe ferox plants are propagated mainly from seed and head cuttings, with plants sowed with approximately one meter separations. From seed, it takes about 4 to 5 years for the plants to reach the first harvest. At the time of harvest, each leaf weighs about 1.5 kg to 2 kg. Aloe ferox prefers dry-tropical climates, open areas, sandy-loamy soils, full sun, and moderate watering with a good drainage system.

Be aware that aloes will hybridise with any other aloe flowering at the same time.

IsiZulu: iNhlaba; Umhlaba | IsiXhosa: umhlaba; iKhala | Sesotho: Hlaba; Lekhala La Quthing | English: Bitter aloe | Afrikaans: Bitteraalwyn; Bergaalwyn

Propagation instructions

By seed

Aloe ferox may be grown from seed. Be aware that aloes will hybridise with any other aloe flowering at the same time. Sow seed in a well-drained medium in shallow trays and cover lightly with sand or the seed will blow away. Once the seeds begin to germinate, keep moist but watch out for overwatering as the seedlings could rot. Transplant into small pots or bags once they are about 4cm high (approximately 6 months).

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.
We currently have no seeds of this species in our seedbanks. Do you have any seeds or do you know where we can get some? Get in touch!
Nursery Quantity
Arundel Nursery 15
Brooms at Basil Nursery 4
Carol's Nursery 1
Total 20

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #6 Delft 2
Site #10 Delft 3
Site #11 Delft 8
Site #16 Rosebank 2
Site #16 Rosebank 2
Site #44 Rosebank 50
Site #46 Rosebank 5
Total 72

Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

This is a bird-friendly species

It provides medicinal value


Good potplant

Suitable for clay soil

Suitable for sandy soil

It provides food for:


Southern double-collared sunbird

Aloe ferox is indigenous to: Cape Flats Dune Strandveld

This species is not very suitable to be grown in bare terrain. However, if other vegetation is already established then it makes a good addition. After a year of care, little watering will be necessary.

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