The long blooming racemes of brightly colored Aloe flowers are attractive to sunbirds in Africa and hummingbirds in the West. When in bloom, hummingbirds will visit every few minutes, going from plant to plant and yard to yard, fertilizing hundreds of flowers as they make their rounds. Aloes readily hybridize not only with other Aloes, but also with Haworthia and Gasteria. This has brought a wealth of named and unnamed hybrids, many occurring naturally where two or three species grow together, many man made, many of ‘garden origin’. The classical references on Aloe are, The Aloes of Tropical Africa and Madagascar and The Aloes of South Africa, both by G.W. Reynolds.
Hybrids of “Garden Origin” are those produced by natural cross pollination, or a gardener with a small brush and a short memory. Many of these hybrids are of species that are geographically distinct, and grow together only in the gardens of collectors. They are often found plants, not only hybridized naturally, but sown by the wind and nurtured without human intervention, until they are big enough to be noticed. This casual method of hybridization has produced some strikingly beautiful plants, many of wich are now cultivated on their own merits.
Some of the best hybrids have been created by John Bleck of Santa Barbara. A second hybridizer, working with slightly large scale plants is R. Grim of San Jose. Grim hybrids appear to be mostly unnamed, with only the parentage given. Larger than the others they are spectacular additions to any garden.
Aloe ‘Doran Black’ is a spectacular hybrid. It is a complex cross, created by R. Wright. Parentage is unknown.
The Huntington has an extensive history of Aloe hybridization, starting with the garden’s first curator, and continuing today. Most of the efforts have gone into larger specimens such as Aloe ‘Pink Perfection’. They make a great addition to any garden.
Aloe hybridization is easy, and well within the capability of any grower. Seeds are plentiful and readily available. Germination is very high and only careful selection to the seedlings for quality is required. A formal breeding program will quickly produce interesting results, and the hummingbirds are happy to do most of the work.
Printed with permission and condensed from an article by Tom Glavich.