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20 Types of Aloe Plants (With Pictures)

aloe vera plant

Humans have cultivated the aloe plant for thousands of years. We’ve used it for decoration and as a medicinal plant internally and topically. The aloe family of plants is as diverse as it is beautiful and helpful. According to the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families1, there are over 580 different species of aloe plants.

We’ve only covered 20 of those species in this list, but you’ll find everything from tiny dwarf aloe plants to 30-foot-tall aloe trees. If you’re interested in growing an aloe plant, we’ve also included some metrics to help you determine if a particular plant is suitable for your garden or home.

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The 20 Most Common Types of Aloe Plants

1. Golden-Toothed Aloe (Aloe nobilis)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 6–12 inches
Exposure: Full Sun

If you’re looking for an aloe plant with personality, the golden-toothed aloe will give you what you want. Its plentiful yellow spiked and pink-tipped leaves are bursting with life. Occasionally, the medium rosettes produce reddish-orange spikes in bright light. Due to its size, this aloe plant looks great in a dish garden. It contrasts nicely with other succulents.


2. Red Aloe (Aloe cameronii)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 1–2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

The red aloe gets its name from the brownish-red leaves that look like a sunset bursting from your garden. A first-time red aloe grower may be shocked when its green leaves turn red. Dry conditions enhance this color change. So, to encourage this plant to turn its vibrant color, ensure you’re not overwatering it. Fun fact about the red aloe: it was named in honor of Kenneth Cameron. He first discovered it in South Africa and sent it for further examination in 1854.


3. Lace Aloe (Aloe aristata)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 7–10
Height: 6–9 inches
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

The beautiful lace aloe is a unique aloe plant because of its cold tolerance. Even temperatures as low as 19°F aren’t deadly to this incredible plant. It also requires more shade than many other aloe plants. However, for all its resilience, too much water will kill it because it’s susceptible to rot.

Due to its small size, the red aloe makes a wonderful container plant. So, caring for it is relatively easy as you can move it around. Just ensure it has well-draining soil, and you’ll be enjoying this plant all year round inside.


4. Short-Leaf Aloe (Aloe brevifolia)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 8–11
Height: 4–6 inches
Exposure: Full Sun

The short-leaf aloe is also a reasonably resilient aloe plant. Though not quite as temperature resilient as the lace aloe. This one will survive temperatures as low as 25°F overnight. In addition, it does not have high water needs and prefers minimal rain or water. Typically reaching around four inches in height, the short-leaf aloe makes a beautiful ground cover plant. Its leaves are gray, but sometimes they get small streaks of orange when kept as an outdoor plant.


5. Sunset Aloe (Aloe dorotheae)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 10–11
Height: 6–12 inches
Exposure: Full Sun

Like many other aloe plants, the sunset aloe thrives in the sun. The best way to make its vibrant orange and salmon colors burst is to ensure it has the most sun possible. It is a low-growing plant that typically reaches a max height of around a foot if you grow it in a container. During the winter, sometimes flower spikes grow that have orange flowers. The sunset aloe is relatively common in North America. However, in its native area, it’s an endangered plant species.


6. Tiger Tooth Aloe (Aloe juvenna)

Native Area: East Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 9–12 inches
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

In name, the tiger tooth aloe sounds fearsome and at first glance, the toothy spikes on the leaves look the part. However, they are soft and flexible. Other than looking neat, the spikes don’t offer the plant any defense.

As long you live in a warm or hot climate, this plant will thrive outdoors. When given a full exposure spot in the sun, you’ll get a lovely reddish-brown plant. Plus, you’ll be rewarded with long, red flower stalks during the summer months.


7. Malagasy Tree Aloe (Aloe vaombe)

Native Area: Madagascar
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 8–12 feet
Exposure: Full Sun

Many aloe plants consist of a rosette of leaves with no stems. The Malagasy tree aloe breaks the mold by being a tree that reaches up to 12 feet. Originally, this aloe tree was from Madagascar. However, using careful propagation techniques, many gardeners have grown it in other areas around the world, such as Arizona or New Zealand. The main requirements it has are lots of sun and temperatures that never drop below freezing.

These trees begin producing early spring clusters of red flowers upon reaching maturity. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love these flowers, so you’ll get a beautiful show as this tree matures.


8. Snake Aloe (Aloe broomii)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 1–3 feet
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

You might guess that the snake aloe gets its name from the toothy foliage. However, it’s actually the unique blossom shape that lends to its name. The flowers themselves are covered in long leaves. This gives them a snake-like appearance.

Like most aloe plants, the snake aloe needs a warm and dry climate to thrive. In fact, this plant is sometimes known by another name—mountain aloe—due to growing well on rocky slopes where not much else likes to be.


9. Soap Aloe (Aloe maculata)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 8–12
Height: 1–2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

The soap aloe has sharp spines on each leaf that are reminiscent of a cactus. It’s a hardy plant that requires very little maintenance other than clipping off dead blossoms. This plant gets its name from its use in South Africa—the locals there use the sap as a form of soap. However, it’s not recommended that you try this with your plant because it’s slow-growing and often will not grow back the same way. So, it may lose its aesthetic appeal.


10. Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–12
Height: 9–12 inches
Exposure: Full Sun

Spiral aloe plants aren’t the most common aloe cultivar for most growers. However, because of its incredible spiral shape, it’s easily one of the most commonly photographed aloe plants. It also has a unique way of growing. It won’t typically grow higher than a foot, but it often grows up to two feet across. This design makes a cool plant for a rock garden or a poolside container.

Regarding its unique spiral shape, botanists theorized that the spiral aloe grows in a spiral because it ensures the plants receive the maximum amount of light. It also requires the least amount of energy from the plant to create the repeating pattern.


11. Sand Aloe (Aloe hereroensis)

Native Area: Central and South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–12
Height: 1–2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun

While they aren’t truly color-changing, sand aloe plants have changing hues depending on how much light and water they get. They might appear pale green, pinkish, or even silvery gray. Their spines might be small, but they are sharp and will cut you. So, when you’re planting or weeding around them, wear a pair of gardening gloves. The sand aloe doesn’t just look tough; it will endure temperatures that reach 25°F overnight.


12. Tree Aloe (Aloe barberae)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 20–30 feet
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

If you thought the 12 feet that Malagasy tree aloe grew to was impressive, you’ll be blown away by the 30 feet that this aloe plant—simply named “tree aloe”—can reach. What makes it stand out is that it doesn’t drop leaves or its rosy-pink flowers very often. So, it makes a great poolside tree. However, if you live in a climate that drops below freezing, this aloe plant will not do well.


13. Mountain Aloe (Aloe marlothii)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–12
Height: 8–12 feet
Exposure: Full Sun

The mountain aloe reaches heights comparable to Malagasy tree aloe and loves arid, hot climates. As this large plant matures, it forms a trunk-like stem. Old leaves surround the stem to give it a layered look, just like some palm trees. A mature mountain aloe plant will bloom with vibrant red and yellow flowers during the winter. These flowers make a nice contrast to the spiny leaves of the plant.


14. VanBalen’s Aloe (Aloe vanbalenii)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 2–3 feet
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

VanBalen’s aloe does well with full sun exposure or partial shade. However, the more sun you let it have, the more incredible its red color becomes. Also, the long leaves curve to a point and can resemble tentacles. Because of its size, this aloe plant makes a great landscaping or conservatory addition. Most aloe flowers do not have powerful aromas, but VanBalen’s aloe flowers have a unique spicy smell when you crush them.


15. Rosii Aloe (Aloe deltoideodonta)

Native Area: Madagascar
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 9–12 inches
Exposure: Indirect light

The rosii aloe plant is a beginner-friendly aloe species. It requires little water or maintenance to thrive. The only thing to remember is that direct sun will brown the plant’s leaves quickly. So, keep it out of direct sunlight and rotate it occasionally to spread the exposure. It has a wonderful star-like shape that produces lovely orange-red flowers from late summer to fall.


16. Climbing Aloe (Aloe ciliaris)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–13
Height: 8–12 feet
Exposure: Full Sun

The climbing aloe is an impressive plant specimen. Its thin stems and leaves will reach up to 12 feet without pruning. It prefers sunny, arid climates—the more sun it gets, the taller it grows and the more vibrant its orange-red flowers. One major care tip with a climbing aloe is to ensure that it has well-drained soil. It’s susceptible to root rot if it sits in water for too long.


17. Fan Aloe (Aloe plicatilis)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–12
Height: 4–8 feet
Exposure: Full Sun

The fan aloe gets its name from its unique fan-like leaf arrangement. It makes a great shrub or tree addition to your garden, depending on how big it gets. The leaves are often tipped with orange shades to give the plant a pleasing aesthetic appearance. Fan aloe plants are resilient and resist critters and disease. They are also drought-resistant but susceptible to root rot from too much watering or poorly drained soil.


18. Coral Aloe (Aloe striata)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 1–2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade

If you live in a colder climate, the coral aloe is a more frost-hardy plant than many other aloes. It grows to an impressive 18 inches wide, and its gray-green leaves turn pinkish if in full sun. The edges of the leaves also turn a vibrant pinkish-red in the late winter and early spring. This is a great aloe plant for adding subtle color additions to your garden.


19. Cape Aloe (Aloe ferox)

Native Area: South Africa and Lesotho
USDA Growing Zones: 9–12
Height: 6–9 feet
Exposure: Full Sun

While it requires full sun, it grows best if given artificial or indirect sunlight. Each cape aloe leaf is filled with brown spines along its edges. These spines contrast the blue-green leaves of the massive rosettes. The cape aloe is also an adaptable aloe plant that is reasonably frost-hardy. It requires minimal watering as it’s drought-resistant, and it needs to be in well-drained soil.


20. Cape Speckled Aloe (Aloe microstigma)

Native Area: South Africa
USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
Height: 1–2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun

The cape speckled aloe fits the bill if you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant. It requires almost zero water in the winter. Plus, you can often get away with only watering it once a week during the summer. One standout feature of this aloe is that the leaves turn purple or red when the plant is stressed out. This gives you a good indicator of the plant’s overall health.

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Conclusion

Aloe plants are incredibly diverse in their size, color, and looks. As a result, there are cultivars for almost every garden. Whether you are doing a small succulent container garden or a full-sized landscaped masterpiece, you’ll find an aloe. And don’t forget that many of them also come with medicinal benefits that you can take advantage of.


Featured Image Credit: joanshannon, Pixabay

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