Believe it or not, there’s a whopping 550+ varieties of aloe out there, hailing all the way from Africa and Arabia, with a smorgasbord of types in each!
So, if you’re a die-hard plant enthusiast looking to spruce up your room or container garden with a bit of the unusual, you’ve hit the jackpot with this genus.
Let’s dive in and explore some of the most eye-catching and out-of-the-ordinary aloe varieties!
- 1- Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla)
- 2- Fan Aloe (Aloe plicatilis)
- 3- Partridge-breasted or Tiger Aloe (Gonialoe variegata)
- 4- Hedgehog aloe (Aloe humilis)
- 5- Aloe Rosii (Aloe deltoideodonta)
- 6- Cape Speckled Aloe (Aloe microstigma)
- 7- Millot’s Aloe (Aloe millotii)
- 8- Prickly Aloe (Aloe aculeata)
- 9- Mountain Aloe (Aloe marlothii)
- 10- Tiger Tooth Aloe (Aloe juvenna)
- 11- Cameron’s Ruwari Aloe or Red Aloe (Aloe cameronii)
- 12- Coral Aloe (Aloe striata)
- 13- Torch Plant or Lace Aloe (Aloe aristata)
- 14- Black Spiked Aloe (Aloe melanacantha)
- 15- Short-Leaf Aloe or Blue Aloe (Aloe brevifolia)
- 16- Mountain Aloe or Snake Aloe (Aloe broomii)
- 17- Somali Aloe (Aloe somaliensis)
1- Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla)
This endemic species from the small mountainous country of Lesotho in South Africa stands out due to its incredibly decorative spiral arrangement of greenish-gray leaves. Because of its origins, the plant doesn’t tolerate high temperatures well.
Yet, it is one of the few aloes that can withstand consistent moisture, frost, and snow in winter, given that it is grown in highly permeable, well-drained soil. Its flowers are pink, occasionally yellow.
2- Fan Aloe (Aloe plicatilis)
In its native South Africa, this aloe grows as a tree or shrub, often found on mountain slopes. You can host a mini-version of it at home.
Its dull green elliptical leaves are arranged unusually for aloe on the branches of a short stem: in a fan-like pattern with two rows, each containing 10-16 leaves. The flower is bright red with a yellow-green top.
3- Partridge-breasted or Tiger Aloe (Gonialoe variegata)
This South African stemless variegated species boasts wide triangular, juicy-green leaves with uneven light green sections.
Often, the leaf edge showcases a white, toothed border. The flowers can be pink, orange, or dull red and bloom fairly readily.
4- Hedgehog aloe (Aloe humilis)
This South African low-growing, sun-loving aloe has light green, fleshy, pointed leaves gathered into dense rosettes and literally covered with thick white (sometimes yellow or pinkish) spines on both sides, making it easily mistaken for a cactus. Its flowers are very large, either orange or red.
5- Aloe Rosii (Aloe deltoideodonta)
Native to Madagascar, this plant presents a distinct star-shaped rosette. Depending on the variety, its short and broad-based leaves can be either pure green or variegated, speckled with yellow, white, or light-green short streaks. Its tubular flowers are orange with white or green tips.
6- Cape Speckled Aloe (Aloe microstigma)
This succulent can truly be called a ‘chameleon.’ Not only does it exist in a multitude of varieties with pure green, variegated white-green, or reddish leaf colors, but even the most ordinary-looking plant can change its leaf color to red or violet, depending on the dryness of the air and soil, as well as light intensity.
The flowers of this aloe are also striking – two-tone red-yellow, orange-green, or red-orange.
7- Millot’s Aloe (Aloe millotii)
Meet Millot’s Aloe, a petite beauty hailing from island Africa. Its unique charm lies in its thin stem with alternating slender and lengthy succulent leaves, often twisted and pointed.
These leaves are smooth, a pretty light green, sometimes speckled with lighter dots and adorned with small whitish teeth along the edges. Its flowers are bright red or occasionally yellowish and bloom in clusters.
8- Prickly Aloe (Aloe aculeata)
Next, we have the Prickly Aloe, an African succulent boasting long leaves, broad at the base and sharp at the tip, growing in a rosette pattern. The leaf surface is spiked all over, hence the name.
Usually green, the leaf tips and outer sides can take on a reddish hue, and sometimes even turn entirely red-orange, depending on light exposure. This Aloe puts on a show with its yellow and red-orange flowers.
9- Mountain Aloe (Aloe marlothii)
Mountain Aloe is another show-stopper from the South African highlands. In its natural habitat, it can reach a height of 13 feet (about 4 meters) with each leaf extending up to 6.5 feet (about 2 meters).
However, at your apartment, it will grow as a low rosette of sturdy, thick, sharply pointed leaves of a silver-blue, often blushing pink color.
Edges and both sides of the leaves are lined with small, but very rigid red or brown teeth. It blooms with orange or yellow-orange flowers.
10- Tiger Tooth Aloe (Aloe juvenna)
Hailing from Kenya, Tiger Tooth Aloe can grow upwards to about 12 inches (30 cm). Each sprout will be densely covered with rosettes of small, flattened, triangular succulent leaves overlapping each other.
The leaves are spiked, light green, and sprinkled with white spots. With brighter light and dry conditions, the primary color can change to a reddish-brown. The flowers are salmon-pink.
11- Cameron’s Ruwari Aloe or Red Aloe (Aloe cameronii)
If you’re tired of seeing green-leaved aloes, you might want to check out Cameron’s Ruwari Aloe, a slow-growing succulent native to Zimbabwe.
Its narrow, pointed leaves with teeth along the edges can be copper-red or red-violet, depending on light exposure.
This plant is hardy, handling periods of drought as well as cold and damp weather with ease. It blooms with red-orange, and occasionally yellow, flowers.
12- Coral Aloe (Aloe striata)
The Coral Aloe, also known as Aloe striata, sports flat, lanceolate-shaped leaves that form a wide open rosette.
There are varieties and hybrids with pure green, white-green striped, or white-green speckled leaves that can change color based on light intensity.
Don’t be confused by its other name – ‘Coral’ – it’s not about the leaf color but the stunning orange-coral shade of the flowers that bloom on tall stalks.
13- Torch Plant or Lace Aloe (Aloe aristata)
The Torch Plant, a succulent from South Africa, is another popular houseplant. It looks like a large, striped Haworthia but spiky – its green leaves are also dotted with white spots.
However, limited by the pot size, this Aloe won’t grow too big indoors. The tips of its pointed leaves have thin hair-like extensions, hence the name Torch Plant.
During intense drought, the leaf rosette may close into a ball, and the leaves can change to a reddish-brown color. Its flowers are red-orange.
14- Black Spiked Aloe (Aloe melanacantha)
A small rosette plant from the arid regions of South Africa, the Black Spiked Aloe features curved succulent leaves with a rough, coarse surface, lined along the edges and underside with black spikes and sometimes even “metallic” black-bronze spots.
Normally, the leaves are green, but they can turn red and slowly close up under temperature stress. The flower is pink-red, subtly fading to yellow.
15- Short-Leaf Aloe or Blue Aloe (Aloe brevifolia)
This slow-growing Aloe, native to the hilly savannas of the Cape Province in Africa, is known for its unique species.
The Short-Leaf Aloe lives up to its name – the fluffy, compact rosette of 30-40 very succulent leaves is only about 3.5-4.5 inches (9-12 cm) tall.
The leaves are bluish-green and studded with small whitish spikes on top. The plant takes on a reddish-brown color when exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged period. The red or yellow flowers are densely packed together.
16- Mountain Aloe or Snake Aloe (Aloe broomii)
The Mountain Aloe is an evergreen succulent that grows in the form of a short-stemmed rosette. It can reach substantial sizes when planted outdoors.
It has very succulent blue-green leaves with darker vertical veins, and the edges are lined with rigid brownish teeth.
In the face of intense heat, the rosette closes and the leaves acquire an orange-red hue. The shade of the flowers varies from yellow-orange to bright red, and they bloom in dense spikes.
17- Somali Aloe (Aloe somaliensis)
In the wild, this evergreen succulent inhabits the mountain slopes of East Africa, favoring limestone and sandstone soils.
It sports a wide, open rosette of flat, smooth, pointed leaves with reddish spikes all around – they’re either dark green or striped with white and cream streaks.
Depending on the season’s weather, the primary leaf color can shift within a broad spectrum from yellow and red to almost violet and brown, making this plant truly unique in any garden. The flowers are pink or red.
I’ve just listed 17 of the most beautiful Aloe species, but there are many more out there! Moreover, many plants can change their appearance based on external factors, and there are also “colored” hybrids and varieties.
So if you’re looking to diversify your plant collection, make sure to check out this multifaceted succulent.
Finally, the difference between aloe and aloe vera can often be puzzling. I’ve crafted a blog post to dispel any misunderstandings around this topic.