Types of aloe plants: our favourite aloe varieties


Having grown up in the countryside, nature and self-sufficiency have always been big part of my life. I live and breathe nature and had the chance to delve even deeper into this interest during my studies in agricultural systems science at university.

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You have surely heard of the most common type of aloe plant: Aloe vera. But there are plenty of other types of aloe plants! Discover some of the less well-known species of aloe.

Aloe polyphylla spiral aloe leaf shape
The aloe genus includes more than just Aloe vera, for example, Aloe polyphylla [Photo: Powerofflowers/ Shutterstock.com]

The aloe genus is made up of many more species than just Aloe vera. Read on to find out some of the most beautiful species of aloe!

Types of aloe plants: how many aloe varieties are there?

There are many different types of aloe plants; in fact, the aloe genus includes over 500 plant species. But how can you tell them apart? Leaf colour, toothing, and shape, as well as plant height and flowering style are all features to look out for. And it is from these characteristics that we can divide aloe plants into three groups: tree aloes, shrub aloes and stemless aloes. Generally, all types of aloe can be cultivated as houseplants. They just need proper care, a suitable location, and enough space. Selecting the correct soil is also essential for healthy aloe growth. Thankfully, since all aloes are succulents, watering and fertilising techniques that work for one species, work for most of them.

The most beautiful aloe species

There is a tremendous amount of aloe varieties; from dwarves to tall-growing trees, and plenty of different leaf colours. Here is a brief overview of our favourite types of aloe plants.

1. Aloe vera

The most well-known type of aloe is Aloe vera. Aloe is derived from the Arabic word alloeh, meaning ‘bitter and shiny substance’ and vera comes from verus in Latin, meaning ‘true’. The other botanic name for Aloe vera is Aloe barbadensis, from which it gets its other common name, Barbados aloe. The aloe vera leaves grow 30 to 40cm long and its flower stalk can reach 90cm high. Aloe vera flowers are strikingly yellow-orange. Probably, the most popular type of aloe vera plant is Aloe barbadensis ‘Miller’. Check out our article on aloe vera to find out more! 

Aloe vera type leaves
Aloe vera is known and loved around the world [Photo: Sunwand24/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: aloe plants can only develop healthy and strong leaves if they are given sufficient nutrients. A high-quality, houseplant fertiliser, such as our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food, is ideal. It contains microorganisms that promote root formation as well as nutrient uptake. What is more, our liquid fertiliser contains no animal products. You can find more care tips in our article on aloe vera plant care.

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2. Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens, also known as krantz aloe or candelabra aloe, is a type of aloe plant with candelabra-shaped branches that grow out of its short, woody trunk. Candelabra aloe is a tree aloe that can grow very old and up to 2m tall. It forms several bare, pseudo-trunk stems with toothed leaf rosettes at their ends. Aloe arborescens forms a stem from the heart of each leaf rosette, from which emerges its beautiful scarlet inflorescences. Candelabra aloe is less widespread than aloe vera but is, nevertheless, one of the most beautiful types of aloe plants. Within 3 years, it will produce side shoots to propagate new aloe plants. 

Candelabra aloe is particularly tolerant to short periods of frost, and, like types of aloe vera plants, has some healing properties. You can apply candelabra aloe to the skin to relieve itching. However, medical experts advise against consuming this ornamental species of aloe. If it is not processed correctly, the succulent is toxic.

The most common variety of krantz aloe is ‘Miller’, which has striking bright red flowers.

Tip: aloes belong to the monocots — single embryo seeded plants — which do not form stems. However, some aloe varieties form a mock stem from old leaf sheaths.

Aloe arborescens red flower and toothed leaves
Striking scarlet flower and teeth of Aloe arborescens [Photo: Dmitry Taranets/ Shutterstock.com]

3. Aloe aristata

Aloe aristata is a different type of aloe plant that is also known as the lace aloe or guinea-fowl aloe. It is distinctly spherical. This dwarf aloe grows completely stemless and forms 15cm long leaves that are edged with prominent, white teeth. In late spring, lace aloe produces an orange flower. Older plants form lots of side shoots as offspring for propagation. Like some other species of aloe, the lace aloe is poisonous and has no health benefits. Among the most well-known aloe varieties are ‘Cosmo’ and ‘Magic’.

Round-shaped aloe aristata with toothed leaves
The white teeth on the leaf edges of the Aloe aristata are particularly eyecatching [Photo: Luca Piva/ Shutterstock.com]

4. Aloe polyphylla

The aloe variety, Aloe polyphylla, is also known as the spiral aloe because of its beautiful leaf arrangement. The short, egg-shaped leaves taper to a point and are arranged in five rows that spiral in the same direction. The leaves are often tipped purple, making them particularly striking. Older spiral aloe plants form a distinctive rosette, though this will not be as obvious in younger plants. The sap of the spiral aloe is poisonous, so do not apply it to the skin and do not consume it.

Spiral-shaped leaves of Aloe polyphylla
The leaves of Aloe polyphylla are strikingly arranged in spirals [Photo: Gil.K/ Shutterstock.com]

5. Aloe ferox

Aloe ferox is a type of aloe that originates from South Africa. It is also known as the cape aloe or bitter aloe. This species of aloe is a tree aloe, which forms a 3m high pseudo-trunk. The matte-green, sometimes reddish, leaves spread out and grow up to 1m long. Their wrinkled edges are lined with hard brown teeth. Like Aloe vera, cape aloe is healing to the skin. It is often used in industry, as it produces a lot of gel in its thick-fleshed leaves. Its flower stalk grows up to 130cm high and forms striking, bright red or orange flowers.

Aloe ferox flowering
Aloe ferox can be cultivated in the garden in warm countries – here only in indoors or in a greenhouse [Photo: Geoff Sperring/ Shutterstock.com]

6. Aloe variegata

One of the most beautiful dwarf types of aloe plants is Aloe variegata, which is also known as tiger aloe, partridge-breasted aloe or Gonialoe variegata. It grows just 10 to 15cm high and forms lance-shaped, toothless leaves on a short stem. These leaves curl up with age but are striking when stretched out: they have white, horizontal stripes. Young tiger aloes produce beautiful red flowers, which form on the end of a 40cm long stem. But watch out! Tiger aloe is poisonous. A popular aloe variety is Aloe variegata ‘Magic’.

Tiger aloe white striped leaf pattern
Aloe variegata belongs to the dwarf aloes and only grows to max. 15cm [Photo: Yvonne60/ Shutterstock.com]

7. Aloe mitriformis

Although Aloe mitriformis, also known as the rubble aloe or mitre aloe, is a dwarf aloe species, it can form a 2m long, horizontal pseudo-stem. It also forms a rosette of 20cm long leaves, with prominent toothed edges, that become red at the tip. In optimal growing conditions, rubble aloe produces small scarlet flowers. The juice of the Aloe mitriformis can help with some skin problems.

Mitre aloe with toothed, red-tipped leaves
The leaves of Aloe mitriformis have red tips [Photo: simona pavan/ Shutterstock.com]

8. Aloe plicatilis

One of the tallest types of aloe is Aloe plicatilis from South Africa, whose pseudo-stem can grow up to 5m tall. Several pseudo-stems can form at the same time, each supporting a branched crown. It is also known as Kumara plicatilis or fan aloe because of its spreading, fan-like growth. The leaves are very slender in relation to the size of the plant and usually toothless. The flower stem of the fan aloe grows up to 50cm long and produces bright red flowers. The sap of this species is poisonous.

Fan-shaped aloe plicatilis leaves
Aloe plicatilis grows its leaves in the shape of a fan [Photo: Gurcharan Singh/ Shutterstock.com]

9. Aloe aculeata

An interesting type of aloe is Aloe aculeata, which is also known as the red hot poker aloe. It is a stemless aloe variety, and its leaves form a large rosette. The thick, fleshy leaves grow up to 60cm long. They tend to form spines on their surface, from which prominent, often red teeth grow. The botanical name of this species is derived from the Latin aculeata, meaning ‘prickly’. One distinctive feature of the redhot poker aloe is its lemon-coloured flower that grows at the end of a 1m-long stem. The best-known red hot poker aloe variety is the ‘Jurassic Dragon’.

Aloe aculeata prickly, red, toothed leaves
The teeth of the Aloe aculeata are very striking and usually red [Photo: ArliftAtoz2205/ Shutterstock.com]

Looking for more native or exotic evergreen plants for your garden? There are plenty more popular evergreens, hardy shrubs and woody plants.

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