5 Things to Know About Aloe Plants

by Lynn KirkJul 26, 2021

aloe vera plant

(Aloe vera plants can grow up to 3 feet tall at maturity, which takes about 3 or 4 years.)

What 5 things should you know about Aloe plants?

1. Not all aloe plants are healers. A plant with natural healing powers is kind of magical, don’t you think? But don’t get confused: Not all aloe plants have healing potential. Myriad medicinal values are attributed to the aloe known as aloe vera,  perhaps the most well-known and most well-used aloe in the world. But we need to remember that there are another 549-or-so other aloe species! So, let’s learn about aloe plants in general, then we can talk specifically about the "wonder plant" known as aloe vera (or in scientific terms, barbadensis Miller).

2. The aloe plant can be described in different ways. An aloe is an herbaceous plant, which is a horticulturist’s way of saying that it has non-woody stems.  

It’s also considered an evergreen in plant zones 10 through 12 (and of course indoors) because the climate is warm enough to support vibrant growth all year long. Conversely, in colder climates an aloe is deemed a perennial, meaning that it is a “repeat performer” that grows to full height, flowers, and then dies down during the winter season. . . only to return the following spring (as long as it’s provided the right growing conditions).

An aloe has yet another title: flowering succulent. This label means that the aloe plant produces showy, spikey flowers and its fleshy leaves are filled with a watery sap. The latter enables it to be drought-resistant, plus it explains the aloe’s reputation for being an easy-to-care-for plant.

Last but not least, some aloe plants grow sideways, so they’re called sprawlers, while others grow large branches in groupings, so they’re classified as shrubs.

Now on to what you’ve waited for: ALOE VERA!

 3. Aloe vera comes from "Arabia": As for the ever-popular aloe vera species, most agree that it originated on the Arabian Peninsula, probably in the arid region of Oman (think desert, sand, and sea).

4. Aloe vera has an age-old history: Records tell us that aloe vera's sap-like gel has been used as a skin treatment since the fourth millennium! Ancient Egyptians and Chinese broke the leaves and applied the sap directly to burns and rashes. They recognized aloe vera’s traditional healing attributes, as did explorers and travelers who took cuttings home to other parts of the world. Over the millennia that followed, aloe vera began to be widely cultivated in places far from its Arabic origins. Eventually, the plant became naturalized in parts of Africa, Spain, and Portugal, which indicates that the aloe vera wasn’t native to those areas but soon made itself at home. Unfortunately, in some places it became a nuisance as an invasive species, but overall, aloe vera became one of the world’s most studied and most respected herbs.

5. Aloe vera has multiple uses: Your first thought is probably that aloe vera is strictly a medicinal plant. True, its sap-like gel is topically applied today, as in the past, as a natural way to ease pain from minor burns and sunburns. That’s why it has earned the nickname “burn plant.”

Aloe vera sap also is an ingredient in commercially manufactured healing gels and medicinal ointments that pharmacists and traditionalist healers recommend for minor wounds and skin irritations. And though used by some as an oral medicine, ingestion is no longer recommended due to potential toxicity and unwelcome side effects.

Aloe vera is an additive in numerous other consumer products, too – from moisturizing body lotions, soaps, facial tissues, and cosmetics to juice-based beverages, yogurts, and desserts. That’s why aloe vera is commercially produced on a large scale in places like China, Mexico, Africa, Australia, and yep, America!

Not into natural remedies or sap-based potions? Then consider aloe vera from another perspective: It is an awesome ornamental plant. Its stiff, grey-green, upright leaves boast serrated edges that add unique interest to the landscape and container plantings. In summer’s season of blooms, its delicate orange flowers droop with captivating color and charm.   

So now that you know all about aloe and aloe vera plants, check out these photos that are sure to whet your appetite:

All these, plus a four-pot collection of aloe plants, are easy to order via the Succulent Market website. Prices are good; shipping is free on orders over $65; and everything is cultivated here in America. 

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden