Climbing aloe (Aloiampelos ciliaris, formerly Aloe ciliaris) sets itself apart from the other 300 or so aloe species because of how quickly it grows. This scrambling succulent can reach heights of 30 feet or more in the right sunny, frost-free outdoor conditions. Grown indoors, it tends to be markedly smaller. Very tough and easy to grow, it's an ideal starter plant for gardeners with brown thumbs.
This aloe has white, hair-like teeth on the edges of the stems and leaves and striking, orange-red drooping flowers that can bloom at any time of the year, but usually in the spring. It's ideal for trailing along sunny fences or trellises, although the leaves can have a straggly appearance.
|Common Name||Climbing aloe, Common climbing aloe|
|Botanical Name||Aloiampelos ciliaris, formerly Aloe ciliaris|
|Plant Type||Perennial, Succulent|
|Mature Size||Up to 30 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil pH||Acid, Alkaline, Neutral|
|Flower Color||Red, Orange|
|Hardiness Zones||9-11, USA|
|Native Area||South Africa|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and pets|
Climbing Aloe Care
Climbing aloe grows equally well in the ground or in containers when conditions are warm and sunny. Because of the fast-growing, long stems, it will need support, like a garden trellis.
You’ll need to position your climbing aloe in full sun for it to thrive and produce abundant, bright blooms. This differs from the popular aloe vera because too much direct sun can burn the flesh of its succulent leaves.
Climbing aloe grows in most soil types, but good drainage is an absolute must. As with most succulents, poor drainage will often result in root rot. Loose, sandy, gravelly soils that mimic native desert soils work best for the plant's shallow root system. When growing in a container, add some sand, pumice, or perlite to the potting mix and make sure there are adequate drainage holes.
Getting watering right is the key to a healthy, fleshy climbing aloe. As with most aloe species, Aloiampelos ciliaris is fairly drought-tolerant because of its ability to store water in its fleshy leaves and stems. Interestingly, it can still grow well in areas that receive high rainfall, as long as it doesn't stand in waterlogged soils. Keeping them moist but not saturated encourages faster growth and lusher, plumper leaves. If you're climbing aloe doesn't get enough water or too much, the leaves can start to brown. The watering schedule will vary depending on rainfall, humidity levels, and time of the year.
When there is plenty of rain or high humidity, additional watering can be infrequent. When the weather is warm and dry, water deeply and then let at least the top few inches of soil dry out completely before watering again.
When you grow the plants indoors, they will need less frequent watering than those outdoors, especially if they don't get as much natural light.
Temperature and Humidity
Climbing aloe can't cope with frost, so in cooler regions, you'll need to grow your plant indoors (typically when temperatures drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit). Just make sure it has a sunny position where it can get full sun for a decent portion of the day.
Climbing aloe is more likely to flower prolifically if it receives a feed of organic matter like compost monthly.
Because of how fast climbing aloe grows, you'll need to do a little pruning to keep it from getting out of control and scrappy looking. It can cover other plants, and its stems can break or brown when they get too long. Trim leaves to about a third of their original size when tidying them up. It's a good idea to do the bulk of the tidying in the spring as this allows stems to regrow during their active summer growing season.
Propagating Climbing Aloe
Aloes are easy to propagate, and climbing aloe is no exception. Simply cut a stem below a node on leggy growth or select an offshoot (known as a "pup") from around the main plant's base. Let it dry for a few hours to allow a callus to form on the cut wound, plant it in a container or in the garden in a moist but not wet medium and watch it take root and grow. Selecting a succulent potting mix that has good drainage works best.
How to Grow Climbing Aloe From Seed
Climbing aloe grows easily from seed, too. You can sow them in the spring or summer, and you will usually be able to plant them out out within a year. Flowers should appear after two to three years. Follow the steps below for a chance of success:
- Sow close to the surface of a seed tray filled with a well-drained, loose potting soil
- Select a warm (ideally around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit), shady position and keep the potting soil moist but not saturated
- Germination typically occurs within three weeks and transplanting can occur once the stems begin to harden
Potting and Repotting Climbing Aloe
Like most other aloe species, the climbing variety has a shallow, spreading root system that grows close to the surface. This means that when the plant needs repotting, you should opt for a wider pot rather than focusing on something that is deeper. Choose a pot at least 2 inches wider.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Climbing aloe is a hardy plant, but it can attract a variety of pests. Some common ones include mealybugs, scale insects, and mites. Sometimes it's enough to wipe the insects off after spraying with water, insecticidal soap, or alcohol. Other times, when the infestation is more severe, pruning off the infested parts of the plant might work better.
How to Get Climbing Aloe to Bloom
Climbing aloe produces striking orange-red tubular flowers that are around 1 inch long. With the right care and conditions, they can flower through the year, but fall through to spring is the most common time for abundant flowering. In cooler regions, the flowering season won't typically last as long as in the warmer southern regions of the U.S., and even a light frost will mean blooms are unlikely.
Common Problems With Climbing Aloe
When your climbing aloe isn't receiving enough sunlight, you might find the leaves start to droop and then eventually break off. Overwatering is a major problem for the plant too. It can result in root rot and premature death.
How fast do climbing aloe grow?
Aloe ciliaris (Climbing aloe) will reach a height of 15 ft. and a spread of 10 ft. after 10 to 20 years.
What's the difference between climbing aloe and aloe vera?
While popular aloe vera is also a fast-growing succulent, it doesn't grow as quickly as climbing aloe. Its mature size is much more compact too, with it typically reaching just 1 to 2 ft. tall.
Can climbing aloe grow indoors?
Climbing aloe grows well in containers, providing that you can give the plant enough sunlight indoors. It will still thrive although it won't grow as quickly or produce as many flowers as it does in an ideal outdoor position.
Aloiampelos ciliaris. Royal Botanical Society.