When you hear “aloe”, I bet you think “Aloe vera”, but it is actually a vast genus of succulent plants.
They are known for their medicinal properties, but also for their beauty, long lasting blooms and exotic personality.
They are very common in many warm regions, where they are now naturalized. Most aloe species form rosettes of teethed tongue shaped leaves. So, how can you tell them apart?
There are 550 species of Aloe plants, not all are cultivated. The shape of the all aloe plants is usually quite similar, but you can distinguish aloe plant by the size, leaf and flower color, and often by the leaf shape as well. These also give them qualities that make them suitable to different settings, both indoors and outdoors.
Before you choose from these many species, you need to know which one you are looking at…
Once you have read this article, you will be able to recognize and grow the most popular types of Aloe, as indoor or garden plants. In fact, of the many natural species, we have chosen the best aloe plant varieties for cultivation.
How To Identify Different Types Of Aloe Plants?
Most people now can recognize an aloe plant, of most species. Maybe they can’t tell them apart, but they know that it is an aloe. There are actually some differences between species, but the vast majority has some common traits:
Here are few methods to identify what types of aloe plants you own:
Growing Aloe Plants
Most aloe plants like similar conditions, especially when it comes to light requirements, soil and watering. So we will see them now.
Other care tips depend on the specific species, for example if they are suitable for indoors, the hardiness etc. We will see these individually.
But first, a few more words about this amazing genus of plants!
Aloe: Not Just Aloe Vera
The 550 species of aloe originate from southern Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan and the Indian Ocean.
But people have known the medicinal properties of this plant, especially Aloe vera, for a long time. In fact, it was already known in Ancient Greece.
What doe this mean? That it has been cultivated especially around the Mediterranean area, India and now also Central and South America.
Aloe vera is the most famous, for its well known medicinal properties. It has soothing qualities, laxative qualities, and (hear, hear!) it even prevents cancer.
But aloe also has wonderful qualities for gardens or in pots. Of course, here you will mainly look at the shape and size.
Most aloe plants are “unruly” when it comes to their growing habit. Buy this I mean that they are mainly upright, but the foliage is so thick and wild looking that they only fit large spaces and compositions. At least when adults.
Some, however, can grow indoors too, like the tiny but beautiful Aloe aristata, or the evocative sunset aloe (Aloe dorotheae).
And now you know lots about aloe in general, let me introduce you to our star species!
15 Types of Aloe Plants for Outdoors and Indoors
Here are a 15 of the best aloe plants types to grow at home or in your garden, plus, how to care for them.
They are all beautiful and different, and experienced gardeners can recognize them.
However, it is also true that all aloe plants share some common traits, and you will see them next…
1. Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
We could only start with the most famous and most popular of all aloe species: aloe vera.
We all know about it; we drink it, we find it in medicines, we use it in cosmetics, it’s everywhere, even on toilet paper! But most people only know the image of the cut green leaf…
Have you ever seen a whole plant?
If you have, you will know how striking they are. They form large “shrubs” with their now famous succulent leaves, which look great in gardens, especially tropical and Mediterranean ones. They are striking among big rocks, on slopes, by terraces…
And… their massive blooms are just amazing!
The color of the flowers can range from red to yellow via orange. Some plants even have flowers of two different colors (red and yellow).
The blooms can last for months on end, especially where the weather is warm and dry.
2. Torch Aloe (Aloe arborescens)
Torch aloe is the lesser known sister of aloe vera. It takes its name from the beautiful scarlet flowers that hang, you guessed, like candelabra from tall stems that hang over the foliage.
It too has excellent medicinal properties, and for this reason, people are starting to grow this species too on a massive scale.
But if you want it in your garden, you will appreciate the very beautiful, starfish like rosettes of long and slightly twisting leaves with teeth on them and the long blooms.
The leaves can be green, but they can turn to red and purple shades where light is strong.
3. Guido Aloe (Aloe ‘Guido’)
Guido aloe is a small hybrid, clear contrast with the natural and big candelabra aloe. Why? To start with. It is very small, so it will fit into modest sized containers.
It is also very striking for its leaves. In fact, they have a striking pattern of light green and dark green dashes.
They look like they have been painted on by an artist. The effect is a bit like that of a check board!
The flowers are less showy than other species, but still beautiful. They come on stems and they do not form a thick and numerous inflorescence.
Each stem will have about a dozen elegant and well spaced, white, yellow or amaranth red flower heads.
4. French Aloe (Aloe pluridens)
Back in the world of giants with French aloe, a outdoor aloe species that can grow up to feet tall (6 meters)! It is a stunning plant for large gardens.
This aloe variety looks a bit like a palm; the old dried leaves stay on the stem and form an upright “trunk like” support for large, tropical looking green rosettes.
The amaranth red flowers are large, bright and thickly packed on the stem above the rosette, and they look down, like lengthened bells. This is a variety you will want in parks, large gardens, more like a tree than a flower bed plant.
5. Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla)
Spiral aloe has a rare quality in this genus: it is a very sculptural plant. This is because the rosettes form globes of very regularly arranged short and pointed leaves.
These look like short, Roman swords, and they are slightly curved, with big teeth.
The color is silver green blue, but the shape makes it into a living statue. Look at it from above and you will see that the leaves form an impressively regular spiral!
The flowers come on long stems and they form short spikes, or downward looking “tufts”, like candelabra; they are red, yellow and orange.
This aloe variety is a perfect indoor plant, but also one you will want for a highly decorative, sculptural garden or patio. Perfect for urban and gravel gardens too.
6. Carmine Aloe (Aloe ‘Carmine’)
Carmine aloe is a perfect cultivar for indoor spaces. It is small, beautiful and it has beautiful, gray green rosettes with lighter green gray “bumps” (warts) on them and an amazing array of bright orange teeth.
The leaves are pointed and triangular, which makes it quite sculptural.
The flowers are few, sometimes two or three per stem, and red in color.
This is a perfect plant for a coffee table, or a lovely companion on your work desk. It projects a vibrant, lively and energetic personality.
7. Lace Aloe (Aloe aristata)
Lace aloe is maybe the most popular and traditional indoor aloe. It is small but very pretty. In fact, its beautiful, globular rosettes have fairly regular pointed leaves that form a small three dimensional star…
But there is more, the leaves are green, starting off with a very light and bright shade of green and then turning dark.
But this plant is famous because on these leaves you will see many white spots that look like snow flakes.
Looking at them closely, you will see that the are like tiny, pointed white teeth.
The inflorescences have a fair few flowers, orange red in color. This is unusual in small aloe varieties is perfect as an indoor plant, in most settings.
But you can also grow in in beds and outdoor containers. It is also hardy compared to other aloe species.
8. Uitenhage Aloe (Aloe africana)
Uitenhage aloe, of African aloe is an excellent succulent plant for gardens and parks. It forms striking rosettes at the end of green stems.
The leaves look a bit like the tentacles of an octopus. They are green but the tips and lateral teeth are actually red. This gives a great effect, with bright contrast.
The inflorescence is on a stem coming from the center of the plant. It is very thick, it almost looks like a corn cob when closed.
When the many flowers start to open, this spike looks a bit like a pagoda! The thickly packed flowers are bright orange or yellow. This aloe variety is excellent for urban and gravel gardens, as well as for patios and terraces.
9. Flexing Aloe (Aloe flexifolia)
Flexing aloe has a playful character. Its leaves bend and “flex” as the name suggests, which makes this plant excellent to add movement to borders and beds.
They form large rosettes of floppy but very succulent bluish green leaves with a soft look, unlike other aloes. In fact, the teeth are only a hint, and the plant loos very smooth indeed.
The flowers come in small groups on various fairly short stems just above the leaves, and they are bright orange red in color.
This aloe specie is excellent for patios and terraces, but you could find use for it in gravel, urban and xeric gardens too. It can also grow indoors.
10. Sunset Aloe (Aloe dorotheae)
Sunset aloe – the name says it all! It is a medium to small succulent with amazing bright crimson laves! They look like they are on fire, in fact.
They start off bright green and quickly turn flaming red, especially with good lighting. The teeth are very regular and well marked, which adds to the striking effect of this plant.
Because the color is so striking, sunset aloe is especially appreciated for its foliage, indoors or in gravel gardens and rock gardens especially.
But it does blossom too. The flowers are orange red or yellow with green tips, and they top are quite beautiful.
11. Green Flowered Aloe (Aloe viridiflora)
Green flowered aloe is really unusual and you can guess why. The flowers are perfectly green, and they come in globular groups at the end of stems.
So, no problems identifying this type of aloe. The flower color makes it ideal for original gardens, but you can grow it indoors top.
But this aloe is also original when it comes to the leaves. They grow in rosettes under the blooms and they look very sharp, hard, like the leaves of agave, unlike other aloe plants, that look soft.
These are light green in color and they can dry up and burn fairly easily.
12. Grass Aloe (Aloe albida)
I would like you to know grass aloe because it is very unusual. As the name suggests, thus succulent looks like grass.
This is because the leaves are thin and long, like blades of grass. They are green and they do not form very regular rosettes; they look a bit wild, unruly, just like grass.
It is also fairly unusual because of the flower color. In fact, they are snow white.
You will only get a few on top of very long stems, but they add to the overall effect, which is one of a mix between exotic and succulent and temperate and wild prairie. Just unique!
I forgot, it is also unusual aloe species because it likes light shade and not full Sun outdoors.
13. Snake Aloe (Aloe cryptopoda)
Snake aloe is another unusual looking garden aloe plat variety. It has long, almost tubular and pointed leaves, but unlike other varieties, they have a very upright habit.
The sleek and snaky look is completed by the fact that you will hardly see the small brown teeth on the leaves.
The ensemble looks like bluish green tongues, or snakes coming from the ground and pointing to the sky.
The flowers are bright red with yellow tips and they come in small but showy groups on top of long and strong stems.
It is an excellent plant for a cactus garden, or a xeric garden, gravel garden or rock garden.
14. Tiger Tooth Aloe (Aloe juvenna)
Tiger tooth aloe is a decorative and fairly small variety. It will form like “towers of rosettes” in clumps. These rosettes are very regular, with perfectly shaped leaves, triangular, in star formations.
They look very “oriental” as plants. They are the sort of plants that would look good in a Japanese garden.
The foliage is bright green with many dots corresponding to a as many teeth of an even brighter color.
The flowers come on very long stems for this plant, and they are bright red, with a yellow green mouth. But there won’t be many on each stem.
This is an excellent choice for classy indoor spaces or tidy outdoor gardens, like gravel gardens and urban gardens.
15. Mountain Aloe (Aloe marlothii)
Mountain aloe can put on a massive show in each garden. It is easy to recognize, because it blooms with thick cob shaped inflorescences, but, unlike other aloes, they are horizontal, on many branches stemming from a central one, and not upright!
They are yellow to bright red, and they form like a ring of fire, or a strange modern sculpture.
The leaves too are extremely sculptural. They are sharp and they loom shiny and hard, like those of agave, broad, very regular and pointed, they have very interesting shades of green to purple, almost metallic in quality.
Excellent for very artistic patios, gravel gardens, urban gardens or outdoor rooms.
The Refreshing World of Aloe
Now you know much more about aloe than the refreshing and medical qualities of Aloe vera! I bet you didn’t expect as many different shapes, personalities and sizes.
There are about 500 more aloe plat variety, like the stunning and wild looking fez aloe (Aloe peglerae), which is rare and protected. Many are not now available as indoor or outdoor plants.
But the ones we have seen are, and the choice is very wide and rich indeed, so… just take your pick!
Updated on by Amber Noyes
Amber Noyes born and raised in a suburb Nebraska town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from University of California as well as an BS in Biology City College of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers markets, and potted plants she understands what makes plants thrive and how can we better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially Indoor gardening, houseplants and Growing plants in a small space.