Care Diary: Designer Aloe Hybrid, “Sidewinder”

aloe sidewinder

Written byJen Greene

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

December 9, 2020

Aloe hybrid “Sidewinder” – designer aloe cultivar

I’ve been slowly accumulating aloe hybrids along with true aloe species, as there’s plenty to enjoy about either. This hybrid, Sidewinder, was briefly available at one of my regular wholesale suppliers earlier this summer. I snagged this along with a few others, and over time it’s really grown on me! 

The thing about many of the more striking aloes, especially hybrids, is that they need some sun stress to really bring out their best colors. When I first picked up this aloe, it seemed neat, but not drastically different than the Firecracker or Oiks aside from leaf shape. 

Aloe sidewinder

Here’s the aloe in June, when I first brought it home. Grown in a nursery greenhouse, well watered, and shaded, it’s pretty green with hints of the pink and orange to come. 

The challenge with aloes like this when you first bring them home from the nursery, they’ve been protected from heat, sun, and given everything they need to grow and thrive. As I’ve learned from experience, the first couple weeks are when it’s easiest to sunburn them or scorch them. I kept this aloe in part shade for several weeks before moving it out to the area with nearly full sun that it’s been in ever since. 

Hybrid aloes are easy to care for in general. I repotted this one into a 6″ azalea pot, which is my preferred pot style for succulents. You get plenty of width, but the pots are more shallow than your typical flowerpot, so the bottom soil doesn’t stay soggy. Aloes enthusiastically fill up their pots, although these small designer hybrids don’t do so quite as fast as others. 

After about a month, I had the aloe potted up and moved to full sun. It had darkened, with the light green turning almost purple, and the raised texture getting a pretty orange-y peach shade. 

Aloe sidewinder

You can see the leaf edges curling somewhat; that’s from lack of water. Some thirst, some sun, and you see the prettiest colors! The photo above is from July, when it was also quite hot, so the aloe was having a bit of a rough time. I thought this was the coloration the hybrid would turn to, but I was in for a surprise! 

A couple more months of our usual summer heat and sunshine, and the aloe was definitely stressed, but also beginning to develop these very pretty deep peach and orange shades. Below is the same plant in September: 

Aloe Sidewinder Sun Stress

The area where I have this aloe gets pretty much full sun, and the full range of temperatures both high and low. Through summer, it was pretty much perpetually thirsty due to the heat and sunshine, resulting in the coloration above. 

Through summer, the aloe was watered at least every week, and depending on my free time, I occasionally was able to water much more often. During heat waves, I made sure to water the aloe and all of the succulents along this edge nearly every day. By the end of September, the weather was cooling off, and it was easier for the aloe (and friends) to retain some of the water they were drinking. 

aloe sidewinder

The photo above is from just a month later, October! There’s new growth, and the color has changed again. It’s plumped up, and while the plant has returned to the paler orange/peach shades from spring, the green hues are more of the purple/slate coloration of sun stress. The oldest leaves that got a little too crispy with the initial introduction to full sun are starting to die back, and there’s plenty of new growth. 

As the nights have gotten colder, I’ve been watering less, and closely monitoring the plants to ensure they have what they need. Aloes bloom in winter, and definitely continue growing through the cooler months, so I don’t let them get dry the way I do for my cacti and other winter-dormant species. 

Only two weeks later, at the end of October, my Aloe sidewinder began showing the gorgeous coloration that I’ve been infatuated with lately! This was in the morning, not long after being watered, and you can just make out a bit of water puddled up in the center. I wouldn’t water in the morning, or leave it puddled up this way, during the heat of summer, but in winter I prefer to give the plants time for the water to dry off the plant bodies before nighttime. 

aloe sidewinder winter

Since the aloe doesn’t move, and has been in the same spot, I could attribute this to either the colder nights, shorter days, or water availability. I won’t be sure about the seasonality of this color change until I’ve had another year or two with it, and go through the seasons again. 

Below is the aloe now, in the first week of December, with my light box set up to capture how brilliant and neon the colors are! 

Aloe Sidewinder

No editing! I brightened the original photo slightly, but that’s it. The aloe looks like it belongs in an early 90’s neon tribute band. 

I do occasionally fertilize it, but it’s a dilute mixture of fish emulsion, and just this week I switched to a dilute blend of cactus-specific fertilizer and Super Thrive. I’d like to encourage it to grow larger and produce pups to fill the pot, which would make for a very pretty specimen plant, hence the extra plant food. 

If you’d like to get one, I briefly had them available in my Etsy shop, and they may become available again. This is a patented hybrid, 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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