Probably the very best month of the entire year for seeing the flowers of succulents is February. This article is mostly a visual display for those who might want to know what is in store for them should they want to visit a succulent garden in a warm temperate climate in February, or have succulents of their own that are not dormant and getting enough light to warrant blooming.
December and January have been great months for Aloe flowers, but February is probably THE month for Aloe flowers, at least in southern California.A few of the earlier winter flowers are memories, and some of the later spring flowers are just starting to emerge, but a good 90% of all ‘commonly' cultivated aloes are in flower this month.But this is also the month many ‘ice plants' (the ground-cover Mesembs) start to flower.Visiting a botanical garden that is succulent friendly (some are more native friendly and have very few interesting plants) can be an awe-inspiring experience in southern California in the winter.The following are some of the flowering succulents (and succulent relatives) blooming in February.
Aloes Many of the tree aloes are particularly visible this month, and all the Aloe arborescens hybrids are either still blooming, or in their peak blooms in February.This is also a month for many other non-trunking aloes as well.I apologize ahead of time for the large number of photos in this section.
Maculate aloes in bloom (not sure what species these are, but either hybrids or some Aloe greatheadii relative) in February
Like last month, Febrary is a particularly good month to see Tree Aloes in bloom:
Aloe africana (left) blooms for many months of the winter, but February is its standout month; Aloe lineata var. muirii (right) is a February bloomer and this blooming times is one of several ways this variety can be distinguished from the 'type' species, which blooms in the late summer to early fall.
Aloe alooides blooms over several months, but, again, February is its best month and most reliable one to find it in flower
Aloe excelsa is a stately tree aloe that usually flowers reliablyl in February, though it can often still be found flowering into March
Aloe castanea, the Cat-tail Aloe, blooms a bit unreliably, though if it blooms at all, it is always in February if not extending a bit into March. It is known for its odd, laterally pointing, long, solitary inflorescences that tend to flower mostly on the upper sides
Of course, there are exceptions. Left is an Aloe castanea with somewhat less typical flowers that are blooming upright. Both this, and Aloe littoralis (right) are tree aloes, but these two photos show flowering examples of younger plants, still not forming a trunk yet.
Aloe marlothii is a spectacular aloe and one that is always blooming in February, though often in other months as well. There are many forms of this species, though the most common and recognized is the one above with the spread out inflorescence and orange flowers that all point towards the sky
But other forms can be found in flower in February as well. Left is the KwaZulu form (named for the area of South Africa it occurs in), aka Aloe spectabilis, with its bicolored, upright inflorescence; left is a less common red-flowering form of Aloe marlothii.
And one of the most spectacular forms of Aloe marlothii is the bicolor form (possibly a hybrid)
Though January seems to be Aloe ferox's month, they continue to bloom into February, and the commonly seen hybrids of this species seem to bloom a bit later, always showing their best this month (both photos above are of hybrid forms)
Aloe mawii flowering at the Huntington Gardens in February- this is moderately short tree aloe. It is inflorescences that are sort of combination of Aloe canstanea (lateral, solitary inflorescences) and Aloe marlothii (single side orange flowers all pointing to the sky)
Close up of Aloe mawii flower (left); Aloe mudenensis flower in full bloom February (right)- this is one of the few maculate (spotted) aloes that form trunks
Aloe munchii is in full bloom in February though it starts to flower in January
This Aloe ferox hybrid: Aloe 'principes' (with Aloe arborescens probably), is a bicolor form and makes a striking scene at the Los Angeles arboretum in February
Aloe speciosa flowers in February primarily. Though these flowers are enormous, it always amazes how ephemeral they are (often taking only a week to completely flower and then gone!)
These two Madagascan tree aloes reliably flower every February, though Aloe vaombe (left) is normally finishing up in early February, while Aloe vaotsanda (right) is just getting into its full flower this month
Aloe rupestris, though usually a solitary tree aloe, usually suckers in cultivation as that is the form that is most commonly available. Flowers start pale orange but turn to a deep pinkish red as the reproductive floral parts emerge giving these flowers a 'hairy' look from a distance.
One of the most peculiar tree aloes, Aloe sabaea, looks a bit like a melting wax facsimile of a tree aloe. February is its month to shine, though, usually with bright orange multicolored flowers, but some forms have reddish perianths
Tree Aloes are not the only aloes blooming in February, not by a long shot. Nor are they actually the most spectacular, either.
Aloes aculeata (left) and betsileensis (right) are in full flower this month
Aloe acutissima is grown mostly for its striking blue-green to purple leaves, but this is the time it flowers as well (left); Aloe burgersfortensis is not all that unique being a spotted, green aloe, but its flowers are unique (right)
Though sadly most Madagascan aloes have very similar unexciting pale red flowers, these two are exceptions. Aloe capitata (left) has brilliant capitate yellow flowers and Aloe conifera (right), a close relative of Aloe betsileensis above, has cone-shaped brilliant yellow flowers this month
Aloe cameronii is known for developing amazing red leaves in winter (and other times of year if severely stressed), but it has relatively nice February flowers as well.
Aloe parvibracteatas are best planted en mass as they all bloom at nearly precisely the same time (left) making a great flower show; Aloe dawei has several forms and flower colors (center)- this form is sometimes known as 'Jacob's Ladder'. Aloe verdooniae (right) is a spotted aloe with large pink-red blooms this month
Aloe claviflora (left) is a somewhat reluctant bloomer (needs all day full sun), but when it does bloom, it puts out some curious laterally pointing inflorescences; Aloe glauca (right) is a somewhat similar looking aloe, but with a very different bloomer. This species is much more reliable, usually blooming in February, but sometimes into mid spring as well.
Aloe debrana (left) blooms only if in full sun, but looks great when planted in large groups; Aloe globulogemma (right) has an attractive but unusual looking inflorescence that always seems to come up exactly mid February
Aloe vanbalenii (left) tends to bloom slowly over several months, but February is generally the last one flowers are seen on this species; Aloe rabaiensis (right) is another yellow flower producer, but it blooms off and on all year round, though February is one of the more visible months.
Aloe rubroviolacea (left) usually produces rosey orange-red blooms, but some forms make these gold flowers; Aloe microstigma (right) is getting near the end of its flowering evet in early February
Aloe cryptopoda (left) is almost always in bloom for at least part of February, but it blooms off and on for 3-5 months of the cooler time of the year; Aloe longistyla (center), a somewhat reluctant bloomer, puts out relatively enormous inflorescences in February; Aloe rivae (right) is a less commonly planted species, but always blooms this month and is an easy to grow plant
Aloes gracilis (left) and humilis (center) have similar flowers, but Aloe gracilis is a rare, climbing species while Aloe humilis is a very small clumping form; Aloe pictifolia (right) is also a pretty small plant and has less than dramatic blooms, but makes a nice plant for open, sunny areas of the garden
Aloes harlana (left) and hereroensis (right) have similar shaped flowers, but the colors are quite different (the latter comes in a variety of colors, but dark red is not one of them) and the plants look different (Aloe harlana is heavily spotted with long streak-shaped spots while Aloe hereroensis is maybe lightly spotted but often very pale
Aloe sinkatana has nice yellow or orange blooms and blooms repeatedly throughout the year... but this is one of the best months to catch it in action
Aloe lutescens goes through a spectacular but fairly short flowering spectacle showing off its bicolored yellow and red flowers (left); Aloe macrosiphon (center) is still a bit less common in cultivation but has need deep red flowers this month; Aloe spinosissima (right) is a hybrid 'species' but a relatively commonly planted landscape speceis in botanical gardens
Aloe maculata, probably one of the most common grown aloes in cultivation, flowers in various colors, though pale red is by far the most common. Above are some examples of yellow and orange flowers this species makes in February
Aloe flexilifolia started to bloom in January, but it is a slow plant to flower and peak flowering is normally this month (left); Aloe hardyi (right) is another plant that tends to keep its flowers looking great for an extended amount of time.
Aloe petricola is one of my favorite February aloes and the Huntington Gardens has several large colonies of this species. I have seen them in private gardens, too, and most of those are a red and white variety (right below)
For those who like yellow- flowering aloes, February is a great month. Not only are there the yellow varieties earlier in this article, but Aloes schomeri (left), tenuior (middle) and Aloe vera (right) are also reliable February bloomers. The latter two can be seen other times as well- Aloe tenuior almost all winter long, and Aloe veras bloom intermittenly throughout the entire year.
Aloe striata (left) is probably one of the most planted aloes in the southern California landscapes (public as well as private) and is a very reliable February bloomer, with nearly all the plants erupting in flower at the same time; Aloe variegata (center) is another common aloe, though less useful in public landscaping, but excellent as a potted plant and also a February flowerer. Aloe neiburiana (right) is a relatively rare species in cultviation, but has some uniquely colored flowers and is also a good potted plant as well as a good aloe for open, hot xeriscaping.
Aloe secundiflora is a very colorful plant and flowers are nice, too, though this species blooms periodically throughout the year (left); Aloe 'Sophie', a plant the Huntington has placed in several spots in their garden, is nearly always in bloom, 12 months of the year, though February seems to be a bit of a peak month (right)
Bulbine frutescens is a very commonly planted landscape bulb relative of Aloes that bloom off and on, but usually in February (left); Bulbine latifolia is a very aloe-looking plant and seems to bloom primarily in February (right).
Some Gasterias bloom in February, like this Gasteria glomerata (left); Haworthias tend to bloom periodically all year round, but certainly can be seen in February... though no one would travel out of there way to see these in flower- tiny, nearly always white and nearly always identical species to species (right). These two genera are also close relatives of Aloes
Though aloes definitely are the premiere February flowerers, there are plenty of succulents in the family Crassulaceae that also bloom this month (though many of these also bloom other months as well).
Many Aeonium species and hybrids bloom this month and make dramatic statements in the landscape (though usually signaling the end of that particular plant or branch of that plant).
Echeveria pallida (left) is planted in large colonies at the Huntington and plants seem to be on a precise flowering schedule as all send up blooms at the same time making a stunning floral display (particularly for an Echeveria) in February; Dudleya brittonii (center), though spectacular all year long, looks particularly great this time of year with leaves all pumped up full of water and a nice new coating of dusting making these look nearly white... and then flowering, too, this month (there is a green-leafed form of this species, but it is not commonly grown in cultivation); Some Cotyledon species (like the Cotyledonhoodii above) bloom this month as well.
Most Kalanchoes are primarily January bloomers, but some continue their flowering cycles into February and even later. Kalanchoe beharensis makes huge blooms which are some of less-than-spectacular from a distance, but actually nice up close (right) and blooms over a period of several months; Kalanchoe mortagei (left) however seems to specifically pick this month to shoot up a bunch of deep red, bell-like flowers
Pachyphytum oviferum has attractive but not very show flowers in February and a few other winter months (left); Crassula ovata 'Gollum' is still in full bloom in Februray, but the Jade Plants are coming to the end of their flowering season in February (right)
Sedums praealtum (left) and pachyphyllum flower in full this month, and look great planted in large colonies
Sedum compressum is another nice colony bloomer in February
Crassula 'Morgan's Beauty' seems to mostly bloom this month
Sedum lucidum is another 'heat hardy' Sedum that blooms February (left); Crassula 'Springtime' is still blooming, and seems to be always blooming, in February and then on (right)
Crassula pubescens is a showy, colorful groundcover, but it looks even more interesting in bloom in February
As winter progresses, more and more Mesembs begin to bloom, and those grown as ground covers become more visible, bathing the landscape with brilliant colors
Cephlophyllum frutescens is one of many Mesembs that begin to bloom in February
Cephalophyllum 'Red Spike' makes a showy spectacle in the landscape this month (left); Cheiridopsis candissima flowers prolifically this month (right)
Cheiridopsis aspera is another 'ice plant' Mesemb that makes striking flowers in February
One of the best landscape color succulents, Lampranthus spectabilis, just starts flowering in February
Though generally not grown for their floral characteristics, some Euphorbias have exceptionally colorful cyathea and bracts and a few of those are showing off in winter
Though most Euphorbia flowers are not that striking, Euphorbia millii (aka Crown of Thorns) is grown for its showy, colorful flowers, and there are many dozens of cultivars of this plant. This month, the landscape forms of this species are often blooming nicely (left); Euphorbia polygonas are blooming well this month, too (right) though certainly less showy
Another species of Euphorbia grown specifically for its flowers is Euphorbia characias, and there are dozens of cultivars of this one, too. Euphorbia 'Tasmanian Tiger' is a pale yellow, very ornamental form (left) that I have growing in my yard and is one of my favorites of all the Euphorbia for floral purposes; Euphorbia rigida also goes nuts flowering this month and is often grown en masse for landscaping purposes (and can even be a bit of an invasive if not kept in control)- right
Some of the columnar Euphorbias were showcased in the January edition of this article, and some columnars are just getting into their flowering modes in February. Euphorbia 'Zig Zag', a hybrid species between Euphorbia pseudocactus and Euphorbia grandicornis (left) is nearly completely yellow when in full flower; right are the bright yellow cyathea of Euphorbiamauritanica
Not too many cacti are seen in bloom in February, though a number of Mammillarias can bloom this month. But a few strolls through the local cactus gardens did not result in too many floral sitings. Still, February is a month that sees some regulars in flower
Paradia warasii was seen in bloom in every garden in which I found it growing this month (left); Cleistocactus strausii seems to bloom much of the year, but this month seems to be a bit more flowery than most (right)
The above cactus is one of my very favorite, though not because of its flowers that are seen in large numbers in February. It is one of the bluest cacti one can grow and I still do not understand why it is not planted everywhere (it is a tad on the cold sensitive side for a columnar cactus). It is a Pilosoccereus species and the best identification guess has been Pilosocereus lanuginosa
Agaves and some of their relatives tend to bloom only once and then the plant's life is over, so a flowering event is not something one can depend on as most of these plants live many years. But interestingly, when they finally do flower, each species tends to have its particular season in which it blooms. One of the most spectacular flowers I have seen from an agave or agave relative (and these are often spectacular flowers) is the inflorescence of Furcraea macdougalli (left), an immense tree-like structure that erupts out the top of an already tree-like plant. The top of the flower must be close to 50 feet high; On the other side of the spectrum, the miniscule flowers of Xerosicyos danguinii, one of the oddest succulents I have growing in my yard (center) appear like clockwork every February; another February bloomer that I often ignore on purpose are the Senecios, of which there are many that make their pitiful flowers this month. They are never nice looking and certainly not worth visiting a garden to see, but if one does visit a garden, one will always see them if one looks for them (right photo is of Senecio articulatus but most of the succulent Senecios have identical flowers)
There are literally hundreds more species I could add in this artlce, but I have already made this month's edition too long. This should at least help you get some idea of what one might expect to see flowering in the succulent world this month, a time of year when much of the rest of the USA has no flowers to see at all.
About Geoff Stein
Veterinarian and Exotic Plant Lover... and obsessive, compulsive collector of all oddball tropical and desert plants.