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Turquoise Puya

Aloe polyphylla

One of nature's amazing works of art!  Aloe polyphylla is a rare beauty with a spellbinding spiral statement!  This unique succulent grows to 3 feet across, with dozens of overlapping leaves that spiral either clockwise or counter-clockwise.  This stunning plant is challenging to grow, preferring cooler, sunny conditions.  Unfortunately it is endangered and threatened with extinction in its homeland of southern Africa.  Fake seeds of it are being distributed from China.  I guarantee that my plants are genuine!

Spiral Aloe

A left-turning spiral

Aloe polyphylla is fast-growing and can reach full size in 5 years.  The leaves hold a considerable amount of water and are quite plump.  At about 1-2 years old, the leaves begin to spiral either to the right or to the left, when viewed from above.  The spiraling arrangement gives the leaves maximum light exposure in the least amount of space.  It flowers in spring, with a large, branched stalk that is very pretty!  The plant is found only in the mountains of Lesotho, a small country within South Africa.  It has been dwindling in numbers due to over-harvesting, and because its only pollinator, a local species of sunbird, is disappearing.

Spiral Aloe

It comes from high elevations, where the climate is cool all year.  It does best in mild temperatures, with growth slowing or stopping when temperatures get above the low 80s (28C).  It might not thrive in consistently hot areas, especially if nights are warm (over 65F / 18C).  Mature plants reportedly can handle 10-15F (-12C), but younger plants should be protected from freezes.  It grows well in a large pot, and can be moved indoors in winter if given supplemental light.

Aloe polyphylla

A right-turning spiral

It enjoys full sun here in San Francisco, but it will need afternoon shade in hotter climates.  It does best in fast-draining soil that is free of lime.  A typical mix is 1 part potting soil, 1 part pumice rock or lava rock, and 1 part perlite or coarse horticultural sand.  Keep the soil evenly moist - do not let it dry out.  If you can meet its basic needs, it's a fun and rewarding plant.

Flowering in the Spring

 

 

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