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Products > Aloe ciliaris
Aloe ciliaris - Climbing Aloe
Image of Aloe ciliaris
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Succulent
Family: Aloeaceae (now Asphodeloideae)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Red
Bloomtime: Year-round
Synonyms: [Aloiampelos ciliaris]
Height: 8-12 feet
Width: Spreading
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Aloe ciliaris (Climbing Aloe) - A succulent vining shrub with a swollen basal caudex from which emerge many long semi-woody stems to 30 feet long with leaves and flowers near the terminal ends. These stems are gray barked with age but toward the growth tips are more pliant with dried leaf bases and striated green markings near the leaf base tips, which hold the soft green narrow spear-shaped spirally arranged leaves that have soft white teeth along the margins that extend around the back of their clasping base. The unbranched 6-12-inch-long inflorescences rise vertically from near the tips of the branches and bare inch long orange-red tubular flowers with yellow tips that dangle downwards - flowers can appear throughout the year but primarily in spring.

Plant in full sun or light shade in a warm sheltered area and irrigate little to occasionally - is drought tolerant but more lush and green with irrigation but plants in un-irrigated sites take on a nice chocolate brown color. This is not considered to be a very cold tolerant. Plants in Santa Barbara have proven hardy to 28 F or even slightly less depending on the conditions - Geoff Stein (AKA PalmBob) reported losing this plant in the freeze of 2007 at 27F in Tarzana, California but in the freeze of December 1990, old established plants were damaged but not killed in gardens that certainly saw short duration cold temperatures below 25 F here in Santa Barbara. This is a great aloe used as a rambling groundcover or as a vine with some support - very nice running up a large palm.

This aloe's natural habitat is the dense thickets of Eastern Cape. It is considered to be the only true climbing aloe and is also thought to be the fastest growing of all aloe species. Aloe ciliaris var. ciliaris was first collected in 1813 in the Port Alfred District by William John Burchell (1781-1863), a British explorer and naturalist, and was named by the British botanist Adrian Hardy Haworth (1767-1833) in 1825. The specific epithet is from the Latin word 'cilium' meaning "eyelash" or "fringed with hair" in reference to the leaf margins that have teeth arranged like an eyelash, particularly near and extending right around their clasping base.

Aloe ciliaris was first brought into cultivation in 1821 by Kew botanist and plant collector James Bowie (1789-1869) and introduced into cultivation in Santa Barbara, California in 1908 by Dr. Francesco Franceschi (AKA Emanuele Orazio Fenzi). In an interesting twist of nomenclature, a recent article in the Journal >i>Phytotaxa 76 (1): 714 (2013), titled "A revised generic classification for Aloe (Xanthorrhoeaceae subfam. Asphodeloideae)" proposes that this plant actually be taken out of the genus aloe and given the name Aloiampelos ciliaris (Haw.) Klopper & Gideon F.Sm., comb. Nov. var. ciliaris and the other scrambling aloes (Aloe commixta, A. gracilis, A. juddii, A. striatula and A. tenuior) also be also put in the genus Aloiampelos, the tree aloes (Aloe barberae, A. dichotoma, A. eminens, A. pillansii, A. ramosissima and A. tongaensis ) be placed in the genus Aloidendron and that Aloe plicatilis, the popular Fan Aloe, to be renamed Kumara disticha, a name that was used to described it by the German botanist Friedrich Kasimir Medikus in 1786. Until such time as this name change gets wider recognition, we continue to call this plant by its original name.

There are three varieties of this species described which exhibit morphological differences and each has a different number of chromosomes with the typical variety being this plant, Aloe ciliaris var. ciliaris that we have sold since 1992 being a hexaploid, with the smaller Aloe ciliaris var. tidmarshii, which we also grow, being a diploid and Aloe ciliaris var. redacta a tetraploid. We also grow a curious robust but lower-growing plant that we long offered as "Aloe ciliaris Hybrid" but now list as Aloe ciliaris 'Firewall' as this plant has been observed to slow or perhaps even halt the advancement of fire. 

This information about Aloe ciliaris displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.