Native to South Africa, the plant mainly grows in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Cape Peninsula, and eastern and southern areas of Southern Africa.
However, it is also seen in other parts of the region and has also been naturalized in eastern and south-eastern Australia.
Known for its attractive foliage and colorful flowers, the plant is also referred to as Aloe Leptophylla and Aloe Saponaria in the botanical world.
The plant got the name Aloe Saponaria because its sap was previously used to make soap – the word Saponaria comes from the Latin word sapo meaning soap.
Aloe Maculata is generally known with the following common names:
- Soap aloe
- African aloe
- Zebra aloe
- Broad-leaf aloe
The local people of South Africa informally call it as Lekhala, in the Sesotho language, and Bontaalwyn, in Afrikaans.
Aloe Maculata Care
Size & Growth
The stemless succulent perennial aloe species grows up to 18” inches in height and up to 24” inches in width.
It features short, lance-shaped leaves adorned with tiny, but sharp teeth along the edges.
While the leaves are originally pale to dark green in color, the color changes according to the plant’s exposure to the sun.
When grown in partial shade, the leaves have a bluish-green color.
But, when planted in full sun, the foliage exhibits a beautiful pinkish-red color.
Regardless of their base color, the leaves feature white spots and form rosettes as they grow.
The plant is hardy to USDA hardiness zones 8a to 11b.
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Flowering and Fragrance
Aloe maculata produces panicles of cylindrical flower racemes on long (up to 3′ feet tall) branched stems typically from late winter to spring.
However, the blooming period may vary across different varieties; some may also flower in summer.
Just like the blooming period, the flower color also varies across different varieties; it ranges from orange flowers, to bright red and yellow.
Light & Temperature
African aloe grows best in strong, bright light and once acclimated, it can withstand full summer sun.
While the plant prefers warmer temperatures, it will survive temperatures down to 40° degrees Fahrenheit (4.5° C).
However, extreme winters may cause the leaf tips to turn purple and die partially and temporarily; they do not require any treatment and recover on their own.
Watering and Feeding
Like all other aloe species, African aloe is highly drought tolerant and only needs occasional watering, once established.
Overwatering, on the other hand, damages the plant, so make sure to never water it too much or let it stand in stagnant water.
Feed the plant with a succulent fertilizer during the active growth season i.e. in summers.
Stop feeding in winters as the plant becomes dormant in cold weather.
Soil & Transplanting
In addition to being drought tolerant, striata also have a high tolerance for salt.
The plant easily grows in different types of soils – gravelly or sandy, dry or moist – but, it has to be well-drained.
Like many other aloe species, soap aloe grows at a slow rate and hence, rarely needs repotting.
Grooming and Maintenance
Aloe Leptophylla is a virtually zero maintenance plant.
Remove dying flower spikes and offsets, as desired, to improve appearance.
How to Propagate Soap Aloe
Soap aloe will propagate through seeds, stem cuttings, and offset divisions through its suckers.
If growing through seeds:
- Collect them soon after flowering and sow in sandy soil immediately as fresh seeds germinate quickly.
- For best results and quicker germination, maintain a temperature between 68° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit (20° – 24° C).
- As seedlings begin to emerge, keep the soil moist and ensure it is well-draining.
Propagation through stem cuttings and offset divisions are performed throughout the year.
- For best results, cut the stems below nodes as these cuttings root easily.
- Let the cuttings dry out for a few hours or until a seal is formed on the cut and then place them in the rooting medium.
- Keep the soil moist, but make sure it is not wet.
- Wait till the roots form and then plant in the ground or pot.
Soap Aloe Pest or Diseases
These succulent plants are not only hardy to different environmental conditions, but they are also resistant to diseases and are considered virtually disease-free.
However, it is recommended to watch out for mealybugs and scale insects.
While the plant is deer resistant, its inflorescence attracts bees and hummingbirds.
Aloe Maculata Uses
Since zebra aloe plants can easily grow in dry and salty sites, they are considered ideal for rock gardens, seaside gardens, and as ground cover.
They are also great additions to Mediterranean gardens, coastal gardens, and for beds and borders.
The plant is not safe for consumption and can cause severe discomfort.
Therefore, it is recommended to keep children and pets away from it.