The common Aloe Vera plant (Aloe barbadensis miller) has been valued for its healing sap since ancient times.
There are over 300 different types of aloe in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Most of these plants hail from Africa, particularly South Africa and Madagascar.
In this article, we discuss these interesting plants and share information to help you provide your aloe with the best care. Read on to learn more.
Is Aloe Related To Agave?
Aloe vera looks quite a bit like the agave plant, but is not related to it. Even so, the agave is sometimes called “American Aloe”.
One way to tell the two plants apart is that their flowers are distinctly different in appearance.
Their leaves are also quite different. Aloe spears can be easily snapped off, and this makes it easy to access the gel as needed.
Agave leaves are very tough and fibrous and must be cut with a sharp tool.
Surprisingly enough, aloe is actually a member of the lily (Lilliaceae) family.
What Is Aloe Vera Gel?
These succulent plants contain a thick juice or gel that can be tapped and used in a wide variety of health, cosmetic and personal care applications.
Straight from the plant, the gel works well as a soothing salve for a burn, cuts, scrapes, bruises and minor burns.
To use the gel in this way, many people simply cut off an aloe spear and stroke the gel over the injury.
Alternately, you can split the spear and lay the open side against the wound to stay in place like a poultice. 
There are many aloe health and beauty products on the market. You can add a bit of fresh aloe gel to your beauty and personal care products for its healing benefits to skin and hair.
If you do this, just add a little bit each time you use the product. If you add a lot of gel to a product in advance, it will not stay fresh.
Be sure to only use gel from Aloe barbadensis miller and not the other 250 or so species of the Aloe genus. There are other types of aloe, but they are better suited to landscaping use.
What Are The Most Popular Aloe Varieties?
The types of aloe you are most likely to encounter are:
Tree Aloe (Aloe arborescence) is a large variety typically grown outdoors as a landscape plant.
Also known as the “Torch Plant”, this variety produces large, reddish-orange flowers that are very attractive to hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators. 
Partridge Breast Aloe (Aloe variegata) is a pretty South African dwarf aloe with green leaves and white spots.
This is a low-growing plant that makes a nice ground cover in temperate climates as it does not grow higher than about a foot tall. It can also be grown as a houseplant.
Brush Aloe (Aloe aristata) is a small plant with no stems. It grows in a compact rosette form no larger than six inches across.
This plant will send out side shoots topped with tiny tufts (brushes). The leaves of this artistic plant are speckled white. The flowers are orange/red.
Short Leafed Aloe (Aloe brevifolia) is quite small. It has very short triangular leaves, adorned with sharp little teeth.
Like the Brush Aloe, it grows in small tufts or clumps. The tight rosettes are no more than five inches across. The flowers of this aloe are pure red.
Coral Aloe (Aloe striata) has smooth, pretty, gray/green leaves. Its flowers are orange or coral pink.
How To Care For An Aloe Vera
What Are The Aloe Vera Light Requirements?
These sun-loving African natives like to be in a bright, sunny window. They enjoy being outdoors during warmer months.
Even though they do like full sun, keep an eye on yours.
If it shows signs of scorching, naturally you will want to move it to an area with plenty of bright light but without direct, scorching sun rays.
What Is the Aloe Vera Temperature Tolerance?
As a houseplant, aloe is comfortable with standard room temperature conditions. If you are comfortable, your plant will be comfortable.
Keeping your plant is a slightly cooler setting (60 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter is acceptable.
Outdoors Aloe plants grow in USDA hardiness zones 9 – 11.
Growing Aloe Vera – How Often To Water?
Aloe plant care and because it is a succulent, they do not need a lot of water. During the growing season, water well and then allow the soil to almost dry before watering again.
In winter, reduce watering, especially if you are keeping your aloe in a cool room.
What is The Best Soil For Aloe Plants?
Aloe needs a nourishing, well-draining soil. Mix a good quality potting soil 50/50 with an inorganic grit to ensure good nutrition and good drainage.
Most aloes multiply rapidly, so you will probably need to repot annually and relocate small plants to their own pots.
The Best Method Of Aloe Vera Propagation – Seeds or Cuttings
You can plant aloe seeds or grow the plant from cuttings or pups, but there is usually no shortage of baby aloe plants to choose from.
If you decide to try growing an aloe from a cutting, allow it to dry for a few days before planting it in some gritty peat.
Water sparingly until it sprouts roots and begins showing signs of growth, then care for it as you would a mature plant.
Aloe seed can be purchased online. Like this Aloe seed collection from Amazon.
Aloe Vera Fertilizer How Much?
With the right soil and regular repotting, your aloe should not need fertilizer.
How Do You Choose The Right Aloe Plant?
Because there are so many varieties, take a little care in selecting.
If you are looking for a small, windowsill plant, you may find yourself overwhelmed if you accidentally purchase a plant with the potential to grow sixty feet high.
Do a little research before purchasing or accepting a pup or cutting from a friend.
Many types of aloe are listed as threatened or endangered in their natural habitat.
Always source your succulents and cacti from reputable growers, as opposed to wild sources. 
How Long Do Aloe Plants Live?
Because there are so many different types of aloe, longevity varies.
Smaller plants may have a shorter lifespan individually but reproduce so abundantly so you will always have an aloe to enjoy.
Larger, tree-sized varieties can live for decades. Generally speaking, with proper care, members of the aloe family can live 5-25 years.
Do Aloe Have Flowers?
These plants produce flowers on stems that emerge beside the leaf rosette. Flowers come in shades of yellow, orange and red and are bell-shaped.
On larger varieties, the flower stems may be several feet long. On smaller varieties, they are between four and eight inches long.
The flowers usually have a light, pleasant scent. Generally, flowers appear during the growing season, but in some indoor settings plants may flower in the wintertime as well.
Aloe Vera Plant Care Helpful Tips For Pests And Problems
As with all succulents and cactus, Aloe does not like overwatering. Excessive watering can lead to root rot.
Careless watering can lead to rotting of the plant, itself. Never water from overhead.
Always allow the plant to soak up water from the bottom or water very carefully over the surface of the soil. If water gets between the leaves, soak it up with paper toweling.
Aloe can be attacked by insect pest like most houseplants. Keep an eye out for mealybugs and scale insects hiding between the spears.
Wipe the plant down with a mild Neem oil and water solution from time-to-time to discourage pests and keep the leaves clean and shiny.
What Is The Best Way To Use Aloe Plants?
Smaller, thorn-free varieties are often kept on a kitchen windowsill to keep the gel handy for use on minor cuts and burns.
They are also very attractive additions to indoor cactus and succulent collections.
In the right climate, larger varieties can be grown outside year round.
Uses of landscape aloe as potted specimens are as abundant as the many varieties available. The pairing with a terra cotta pot makes for a perfect combination.
Depending upon the size potential, these plants can be used to delineate property lines, provide privacy screening, create groundcover, decorate your rock garden, attract birds and butterflies and more.