Care Diary: Designer Aloe Hybrid “Krakatoa”

Aloe Krakatoa

Written byJen Greene

Animal lover, plant enthusiast, and addicted to the sunshine and warmth in San Diego.

December 11, 2020

Aloe hybrid “Krakatoa” – designer aloe cultivar

These are funky, fun looking hybrids. The word Krakatoa is Indonesian-ish in origin (people who study word etymology could probably give you a more detailed answer on that, but I present Wikipedia as where I’m grabbing this info), and could refer to either a volcano, island, or archipelago in Indonesia between Sumatra and Java. I looked up the word and the island in hopes that there was some sea monster or legend that was the reason for the name, but nope. Similar to Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, which are also island volcanoes, I think the person creating these hybrids is/was on a volcano kick for these. I think it looks vaguely like a sea monster, so that’s what I’ll stick with.

I snagged my Krakatoa in mid-June, like the other aloe hybrids featured this week. When I picked it up, it was green, with funky patterning and orange edging. Compared to the other hybrids, this one grows in a nice, upright shape with sword-like leaves. It also pups like crazy, readily filling up its pot. As with other designer aloes, it’s not the fastest grower, but it’s steady.

Here it is in June, when I first picked up the group:

Aloe krakatoa

Similar to the Sidewinder I grabbed at the same time, this aloe was quite green, only hinting at the colors it could later develop. A happy, carefree Krakatoa is a green Krakatoa.

I repotted it into a 6″ azalea pot, again, like the other hybrids. For a nice, tidy appearance, ease of maintenance, and room for plants to grow, I set them all up to look quite similar. The soil I used was primarily a boutique blend I find here – EB Stone Cactus and Succulent blend or I may have still had some black gold desert mix at that time.

Aloe krakatoa

Potted up and started to react to the increased sunshine. If you look on the left, near the center where the flower stalk is emerging, you can see a small amount of sunburn from the aloe being moved out to full sun too fast. I used some marble chunks for top dressing, to help keep moisture in the soil and for a nice presentation. Darker stone, such as the black lava rock that was easy to get earlier this year, ended up burning several of my plants with the rocks getting so hot in full sun. As a result, I stick to either organic top dressing (orchid bark for my tropicals) or lighter colored stones, such as pea pebbles, white marble, or pumice.

Aloe krakatoa sun stress

Here it is in early September, after a summer of sunlight, heat, and challenging water schedules. You can see some sun bleaching on some outer leaves, as well as note the tight shape of the rosette from the aloe “huddling up” to preserve water during the hot weeks. With the sunlight came the darkening leaf color base, turning a deep green or brownish color. The white markings became more pronounced, with some leaves developing pinkish tones on the raised texture portions.

And of course, those leaf edges became a much deeper or more brilliant red.

aloe krakatoa

Pomeranian for scale.

The photo above shows you the general placement of my aloe hybrids – top of a retaining wall, receiving nearly full sun all the time. Planted in the ground along that edge are other designer aloes, although they did not fare quite so well with the summer sun and heat.

Aloe Krakatoa

Above is a photo from November, when the cooler nights had started to have an impact. You can see that the rosette is still fairly tight, so it hadn’t started to really retain more water as the others had by this time. You can also see part of the phenomenon that I enjoy most about it: I don’t rotate it or move it, so one side of the plant is distinctly sun-darkened, and the other side isn’t. Based on my in-ground aloe species, I suspect it’s the angle of the sun hitting the plants as the sun goes down, especially when the weather is warmer.

Cold nights, more water, and a bit of fertilizer have made the Krakatoa wake up a bit as winter has started to move in, leading to the plant in early December shown below:

Aloe Krakatoa

Above is the sun-stressed side, with tons of pinks, peaches, and orange showing through. You can also get a peek of the non-sun-stressed side on the right.

Aloe Krakatoa

And the above is the shaded side, which still has plenty of neon coloration and contrast, but lacks the darker colors of the sunny side. To me, this aloe looks like a sea monster, something with tentacles reaching up out of the depths.

This aloe hybrid, as well as the Aloe Sidewinder and Aloe Purple People Eater, are all exposed to the elements as we head into winter. They have been experiencing nighttime drops to the high 30s and low 40s, and receiving water in the morning so they have time to dry off as well as absorb it while they are warm and sunny. I water cautiously this time of year, as I don’t want to water if we’re likely to get rain, nor do I want them to have soggy roots if the nights get too much cooler than 35F.

It’s currently December, and our coldest weather is generally January and February – so we’ll see if I have the nerve to keep these where they are for the coldest nights, or if I bring them indoors or to a more sheltered area. I’m able to keep tropical plants such as Monsteras outdoors all winter, even with nights that dip into the high 20s, as long as they are in a sheltered corner of the patio that keeps the ambient air slightly warmer. Comparing that corner to my mini-greenhouse, which is left open and against a fully exposed wall, there’s often a 5 degree difference at night lately. I suspect that during the coldest months, that sheltered corner will continue to rarely drop below 40, while the more exposed areas further into the yard will hit the 28 – 32F lows we’ve seen in the past. These types of nuances are important when it comes to growing your plants and knowing what they need, and why I recommend getting to know your house, your light exposure, and the overall conditions of your area to adapt any care advice to your situation.

If you’d like to get a Krakatoa or the other hybrids highlighted this week, I briefly had them available in my Etsy shop, and they may become available again. They are all patented hybrids, so I can only offer them when they are released at my wholesaler. They tend to cost quite a bit more than other hybrids, even wholesale, so just be warned that pricing might be relatively high compared to more commonly available designer aloes.

Thank you for reading! Enjoy your plants, and share yours with me @TrexPlants on Instagram!

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