Finger Aloe

Finger Aloe


Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga 'Flavida' – Finger Aloe

Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga 'Flavida' is an attractive succulent with long, grayish-white, chalky-looking, finger-like leaves. The plant spreads out to form a small…

Cotyledon Species, Chalk Fingers, Finger Aloe, Grey Sticks, Pig's Ear

Family: Crassulaceae (krass-yoo-LAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cotyledon (kot-EE-lee-don) (Info)
Species: orbiculata var. oblonga
Synonym:Cotyledon canaliculata
Synonym:Cotyledon canalifolia
Synonym:Cotyledon crassifolia
Synonym:Cotyledon flavida
Synonym:Cotyledon oblonga


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual


All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

From herbaceous stem cuttings

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Vista, California(9 reports)

Gardeners' Notes:

On Jan 17, 2012, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

this plant is sometimes known as the purple chalk fingers thanks to its striking purplish color in times of drought and stress. Flowers all year round in California, though primarily in later winter and early spring. But there are few months that one cannot find at least one plant in flower.

Cotyledons in general are toxic plant, and this one is no exception. most animals will not eat it as it tastes terrible, but chronic grazing on it by cattle and sheep happens when it grows among grasses, and severe toxicities can develop. Meat from cattle that eat this is toxic as well.

On Jul 25, 2010, unhappykat from Stockton, CA wrote:

This plant is a native to Southern Africa, its a small shrubby ground cover that grows rapidly in the presence of water and blooms prolifically each spring. The gray green foliage can become discolored with application of fertilizer or pesticides, the flowers and new growth may be subject to infestation by aphids but otherwise the plant is disease and pest free. Protect from the heaviest of frosts or move indoors as a potted specimen during the cold months of the year.

South Africa has a few similarities with Southern California. Both are hot spots of biodiversity. South Africa, like California, is recognized as a floristic province. That means that both have been identified as having distinct plant life that is endemic to their region and not native to anywhere else in the world.

South Africa, like Southern California, has a Mediterranean climate. We are both accustomed to wet winters and dry summers. Our climate similarities mean that plants from one region are well suited for introduction to the other. I love South African plants not only because they are well adapted to our climate, but because of their unique characteristics.

Plant South African aloes (Aloe spp. and cvs., Zones 9–11) sporadically throughout a field for a simple and elegant upgrade. Photo: Cara Hanstein

Many plants from South Africa have distinct appearances that add great points of punctuation to gardens. They are eye-catching specimens that really pop as focal points. The plants I am going to highlight here all have this in common. Let’s take a look at some bold South African beauties to enhance your plant palette.

Galpin’s conebush has frosty blue foliage that contrasts well with its orange stems. Photo: Cara Hanstein

Galpin’s conebush

Leucadendron galpinii, Zones 9–11

This plant has an interesting, unique texture. Galpin’s conebush is a member of the protea family and has conelike flowers. It’s not only beautiful but is virtually pest and disease free. This conebush makes a great specimen plant. It uses little water and can be used in xeriscaping. If left unpruned, it will grow 6 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide but can also be cut hard annually for a more compact habit. Plant in full sun with good drainage.

This tree aloe adds structure and height to drought-tolerant gardens. Photo: Cara Hanstein

Tilt-head aloe

This small tree aloe is a favorite of mine. It reaches 8 to 10 feet tall in maturity and has beautiful blue-green foliage that forms a large rosette atop its trunk. Tilt-head aloe blooms in Southern California around March. I love the gradient of color on the inflorescences. Shifting from white to orangish pink, the flowers emerge like giant candy corn and summon nearby hummingbirds. This aloe is super drought tolerant and best planted in full sun.

Plant lion’s tail next to salvia (Salvia spp. and cvs., Zones 5–11) for brilliant contrast. Photo: Paula Gross

Lion’s tail

Leonotis leonurus, Zones 8–11

The orange flowers on this perennial will draw hummingbirds and your eye. Lion’s tail is a member of the mint family. It is very hardy, drought tolerant, and loves full sun. This is one South African native that does extremely well in Southern California. Cut it back relatively hard in February for a fresh flush of growth and a renewed appearance. Lion’s tail flowers from late spring all the way to fall. It will reach 4 to 6 feet tall and wide and needs fast-draining soil.

Finger aloe blooms in masses of sunny, light orange flowers. Photo: Brenda Ruiz

Finger aloe

Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga ‘Flavida’, Zones 9–11

This aloe is another striking foliage addition plant for any Southern California garden. It has a chalky, white, succulent appearance that offers unique texture and contrast. Finger aloe is more compact than other selections mentioned here, standing at about 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It makes an excellent specimen mass planted or as a ground cover and could also be a great addition to your rockery. The flowers look like parasols and are quite charming. Finger aloe has low water requirements, and full sun is required for the best blooms.

‘Safari Sunset’ conebush has dark red petals with a lovely translucence that lets sunlight shine through them. Photo: Cara Hanstein

‘Safari Sunset’ conebush

Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’, Zones 9–11

Add this conebush to your garden as a dramatic specimen plant. The deep red of this plant’s flowers is striking. You can keep it more compact with pruning, but left on its own it can reach up to 6 feet tall. The flowers can be cut for arrangements and are long lasting. This is an adaptable cultivar that is even tolerant of clay. ‘Safari Sunset’ conebush wants full sun, and I recommend finding a spot facing west where it can get backlit by the setting sun.

For more South African plants for Southern California, see Reflecting on Mirror Plants.

—Cara Hanstein is a head gardener at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.

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Comments (5)


another pic. i think the foliage of cotyledon orb oblonga is nicer than senecio blue!

Wantonamara Z8 CenTex

It could be because it itroduction into the trade was not picked up by the big growers. It is all about the marketplace. What are the hardiness differences between the two? S. madreliscae's is 15-20F. C. orbiculata is rated at 25-30F. The big growers are going to grow the Senecio because they can sell it to more people for outdoors growing. We all don't live in Succulent heaven of southern California. I grow senecio outside in Central Texas . It gets killed on the big freezes every decade or so. I do like the Pigs Ear but i would have to protect it by bringing it in.

Another reason that it is not as wide spread is that its introduction into the trade might have happened after the senecio, and people are just becoming familiar with it.


I like this plant much better too. Ok major growers, I submit my vote to grow more of this. The flowers are much nicer. The plant looks a bit more compact too.


Beautiful plants shown! I think you should be careful about posting copyrighted pix from other sites/forums. May get you in trouble. As you can see on the photo, it says "unauthorized use is prohibited". Palmbob is a member of this forum as well (using a diff moniker). He may not mind, but then, maybe he will. Sorry to be the Photo Police, but I don't like it when folks use my pix without permission.

Something that may or may not be helpful.
Okay, I hate to rain on your parade. BUT. the plants shown, plus others at Dave's Garden are NOT Cotyledon orbiculata v. oblonga. What they are, is debatable. I have seen 2 plants on the market recently that are this grey w/purplish color (I agree, it is gorgeous). Both I have come across at Home Depot. I should've bought one of each so I could have as examples, but you know how hindsight goes! I believe the names they used (whether or not valid names) were Cotyledon 'White Sprite' (not to be confused with Dudleya 'White Sprite') and Cotyledon mini Oophylla.

Now, the coloring IS similar to Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata 'Oophylla'. The shape & size of the 2 plants I saw was different than the one I just named. No telling if they are forms of it! The flowers of the plant shown are definitely Cotyledon. If you can figure out exactly which plants these are. then you can beg the growers to make more of them!! =)

As for the common names used at that site, Pig's Ear is the only one I have ever heard anyone use in connection with Cotyledon orbiculata (the species), as it slightly resembles one. Most of the varieties & cultivars do not. :P

Hope you find some of this helpful. although I imagine it just muddies the water!

Beautifully colored succulent. I agree, more,more, more!

Watch the video: I Tried The Apple and Aloe Collection By Taliah Waajid. Finger Coil Out On TWA #BlackGirlFridays