Aloe plicatilis is native from South Africa, where it is confined into the Western Cape province, from the mountains of Franschhoek to Elandskloof in the north. Although it has a limited range of distribution, it’s not threatened of extinction. It grows on acid, sandy, rocky soils, in slops, living in association with Ericas and Proteas.
Aloe plicatilis, now called Kumara plicatilis, is a stunning Aloe tree that can reach the height of 5-6 meters. The plant is composed of a trunk which bifurcate many times into smaller branches, and at the top of each branch there is a group of leaves. Aloe plicatilis is a dichotomous species: which means that the branches and leaves arrangement tend always to bifurcate forming a straight angle between each others. The leaves don’t form a rosette as it happens in other Aloes, but they develop on opposite sides of the stem. The entire leaves arrangement resemble a fan: that’s the reason of the common name of Aloe plicatilis, “Fan Aloe”. The leaves are long and narrow, and they have the shape of a tongue. They are greyish-bluish green. The distal ones are longer, and the central ones are shorter. The inflorescence is a single cylindrical raceme, bearing many red flowers. From each leaf group develops only one inflorescence. In its natural environment, it flowers in late winter-spring, so from August to October. Here, in Northern Hemisphere, the blossoming season would instead go from February to April.
Aloe plicatilis can be successfully grown either in pot, or in open soils. It needs to be exposed to bright light, but in aerated and cool places (the air shouldn’t be humid). Aloe plicatilis requires a well-drained acid soil, composed of one third of sand or pebbles, to prevent roots rotting. It needs watering in winter and spring, unlike other aloes. Pay attention not to wet the leaves while watering, because they are also sensitive to rotting. Before each watering, it’s better to wait until the soil is completely dry. Aloe plicatilis can survive to temperatures around 0ºC, but, to avoid damages, it’s better to protect it or putting it indoors in winter.
Propagation is usually realized by branch cuttings, planted in a drained soils. Also it can be grown from seeds, but it’s not so advisable, being the plant really slow-growing.
Aloe-based products (and in particular Aloe Vera varieties) have been experiencing a period of intense commercial exploitation for some years, which is only partially justified by the actual plant properties. Morover, Aloe species are frequently cultivated as ornamental plants both in gardens and in pots because they are highly decorative and are valued by collectors of succulents.