Family: Aloaceae

This genus of succulents is native to Africa. Some species have also become naturalized in other parts of the world such as the Mediterranean and eastern India. Many of the species have been used medicinally for over 2000 years. Today, several species are still used in medicines and also in cosmetics. There are about 300 known species, as well as many natural hybrids and cultivars. They range widely in habit from large trees down to creepers and tiny stemless plants. The leaves are usually arranged in rosettes and are mostly very fleshy. They contain a clear, thick, bitter sap. Attractive cylindrical flowers in pink, yellow and shades of red appear in summer or autumn in long-stemmed sprays. Most are self-sterile.


Most of the species described below are from South Africa, unless otherwise mentioned.

A. arborescens, a well-known, popular species, has become naturalized in many countries. It has a shrubby habit, dense rosettes of fleshy, toothed leaves and red flowers. This species is both salt- and drought-resistant.

A. aristata is a small, stemless rosette of dark green leaves, with bands of white tubercles across both surfaces, serrated margins and spikes at the tips. It produces orange-red flowers and offsets from the base.

A. distans, a sprawling plant, which branches from the base, has small, triangular, sharp-pointed leaves, with warty spines and yellow teeth along the margins, and red flowers.

A. ferox is rather striking. The dense rosette is comprised of toothed, lance-shaped leaves, irregularly spined in reddish brown on both surfaces. The vivid scarlet-orange blooms appear in summer on erect, closely packed spikes.

A. polyphylla is quite a rare species and highly sought after. Almost stemless, the rosettes comprise numerous leaves arranged in ascending, spiralling rows. Under Cultivation, the plant generally loses its spirals and grows flat. The flowers are green with purple tips.

A. saponaria forms a stemless rosette. The leaves are marked with white and toothed in brownish yellow on the margins. Pinkish coral flowers appear on tall, branched stems.

A. variegata, partridge breast, is a stemless, thicket-forming species, with terminal clusters of flesh pink blooms. The green leaves are heavily marked with white. It offsets from the base.

A. vera (Synonyms: A. barbadensis) from the Mediterranean is widely cultivated, especially in the Caribbean, for the juice from its leaves which is used extensively in cosmetics. The juice also has possible medical applications. A. vera grows 30-50 cm (12-20 in) and has yellow flowers.


In frost-prone Climates, aloes are grown in a cool greenhouse or conservatory, or as house plants, but they can he placed outdoors for the summer if desired. They are grown outdoors in relatively frost-free regions such as southern California. In pots under glass, plants need a well-drained, gritty potting compost and full light. Give very little Water when plants are dormant. Outdoors, plant in a well-drained, sandy, moderately rich soil in a place that receives the morning sun and some shade. Propagate from offsets or seed in spring or summer.


Zone 9 and above.

Alocasia      Alonsoa