A Winter Explosion of Aloes at the Aloe Farm

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Joburg Weekend Getaways, Johannesburg, Johannesburg Day Trips, North West | 13 comments

Joburg winters are harsh. Temperatures often drop below freezing at night but our houses aren’t insulated, windows don’t close, and central heating doesn’t exist. The air is punishingly dry. Our weather is close to perfect for ten months a year, but the other two months are cold and we hate it. There are a few upsides to Joburg winters, though: bright blue skies, warm sun in the afternoon, and — best of all — blooming aloes.

Red, yellow, and orange aloes at the Aloe Farm in Hartebeespoort
A colorful sea of aloes in bloom at the Aloe Farm.

Like the jacarandas in late spring and the cosmos in early autumn, the aloe is a quintessential feature of South African winter. But I still remember my first winter in Joburg, when I witnessed the aloe ferox tree in my backyard bursting into bloom for the first time. I had never seen such an unusual, magnificent flower. I photographed the blooms every day as they grew taller and brighter, marveling at their beauty.

Since then I’ve tried to do at least one aloe photoshoot each winter. And this year I finally made it to the Mecca of aloe photography: The Aloe Farm near Hartbeespoort Dam.

The Aloe Farm
The Aloe Farm.

The Aloe Farm is to the aloe what Ludwig’s Roses is to the rose. It is THE place in South Africa to see, learn about, and buy aloes of every possible variety. And there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of varieties.

Yellow aloes

Every South African knows the most iconic flowering aloe, the aloe ferox, with its tall, dark-orange cones, but aloes occur naturally in a plethora of other shapes, colors, and sizes. The plant breeders at the Aloe Farm are constantly working to create new aloe varieties, just as the people at Ludwig’s are constantly creating new roses.

Aloe varieties for sale at the Aloe Farm
Interestingly named aloe varieties for sale in the Aloe Farm nursery.

Communing with Aloes

The Aloe Farm is about an hour and 15 minutes from central Joburg, not far from Hartbeespoort Dam. I went late on Sunday afternoon, when the light is best, with Thorsten and his mom. It was totally worth the drive.

Aloes in Hartbeespoort
The garden at the Aloe Farm.

The Aloe Farm is a photographer’s paradise. In addition to the traditional covered plant nursery that you’d find at a normal garden center, there is a huge outdoor garden bursting with aloes. At this time of year the garden is humming (and chirping) with feasting birds and bees — the Aloe Farm is paradise for them, too. The nearby Magaliesburg Mountains provide a perfect backdrop.

I ambled along the dirt track that winds through the garden for ages, taking a million pictures. It made me so happy.

Scenes from the Aloe Farm
Typical aloe scene.

We think of aloe flowers as being mostly orange. But they are also red, yellow, brown, green, whitish pink, and sometimes even multiple colors. The bright yellow ones are my favorites.

Yellow and red aloe field
A sea of orange and yellow.
Yellow aloe tree
I don’t have a garden currently. But I want my next garden to have a yellow aloe tree.
Red aloes
Green aloe flowers
Green with a tinge of pink.
Brown aloe flowers
Burnt orange and white.

I’m also fascinated by the varying shapes of the aloe flowers.

Crazy shaped aloe flowers
Aloe shapes
Aloe variety
I like the shrub-shaped one in the front.
These remind me of pine cones.
Funky aloe flowers
And these are doing a synchronized dance.

Many photographers go to the Aloe Farm specifically to photograph birds. I stupidly didn’t bring a good wildlife lens so bird (and bee) photography was challenging — those little guys move fast. But I did capture one or two.

Sunbird at the Aloe Farm
A sunbird of some sort.
Bee pollinating aloe
Happy bee (about three quarters of the way down the flower), living its best life. Look closely and you’ll see what appears to be a tiny orange knee pad on the bee’s leg. I noticed a lot of the bees had these…I wonder if it’s aloe pollen? Speculation or actual scientific facts are welcome.
White-fronted bee-eaters at the Aloe Farm
There is a large colony of white-fronted bee-eaters living in a cliffside behind the nursery. White-fronted bee-eaters are super interesting, beautiful birds — I will definitely bring binoculars next time.

Oh, and of course @theThinking_Hand made beautiful aloe flower sketches.

Aloe sketch
Aloe sketch
Aloe sketch
My favorite.

And that was our visit to the Aloe Farm. Note there is a small snack bar at the farm but no restaurant. The farm is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The farm is also holding an Aloe Festival from June 24th to July 9th — details are on their Facebook page.

Thanks for making me happy, Aloe Farm.


  1. Barend van der Merwe

    As always, I love your post. All the effort with the beautiful pictures. We do not appreciate the natural beauty our country enough as South Africans.

    • 2summers

      Thanks so much, Barend.

  2. Highveld Girl

    Your post is always appreciated. Highveld winters are a great pleasure, the light, brown grasses, aloes… An early evening drive to the Eastern Cape also excites with bright red candelabra aloes and the setting sun.

    • 2summers

      Love the Eastern Cape aloes!

  3. Albert

    Apparently they recently won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show for one of their plants.

    • 2summers

      Oh yes, I might have seen something about that on their website.

  4. AutumnAshbough

    Below freezing? Really? I thought the climate was similar to SoCal and we rarely ever get to freezing. That is brutal without insulation.

    • 2summers

      Yeah. I just woke up and it’s 40 degrees. But next week the weather says we’ll be below freezing ????

  5. Tania de Beer

    The Aloe Ferox plant is a specific aloe species, also known as the bitter aloe or Cape Aloe.

  6. frankieford

    You write: Look closely and you’ll see what appears to be a tiny orange knee pad on the bee’s leg. I noticed a lot of the bees had these…I wonder if it’s aloe pollen? Speculation or actual scientific facts are welcome.

    Yes, it is pollen.

    More info:
    A single bee can bring back a pollen load that weighs about 35% of the bee’s body weight. Bees carry this pollen on their hind legs on specialized structures commonly called “pollen baskets,” or corbicula.

    • 2summers

      So cool! Thanks for confirming my hypothesis 🙂

  7. frankieford

    I love aloes. About 8-10 years ago, I collected seeds from an aloe marlothii in the garden of an old house in Pretoria. The owners said the aloe was more than 100 years old (dated by an old photograph). About 50 seeds germinated and the plants are right now flowering on my brothers’ farm.



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