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They range in size from little one inch miniatures to massive plant colonies consisting of hundreds of 2 foot diameter plants. Although most Aloes have some medicinal or commercial value, the most commonly known is the Aloe barbadensis... better known as Aloe vera. All Aloes are semitropical succulent plants, and may only be grown outdoors in areas where there is no chance of freezing (USDA zones 10-11). However, they make excellent house plants when they are given sufficient light. Potted Aloes benefit from spending the summer outdoors. Older specimens may even bloom, producing a tall stock covered with bright colored coral flowers. Aloe flower nectar is a favorite of hummingbirds! The medicinal properties of Aloe vera have been known, and recorded since biblical times. It has been used for a variety of ailments, and as an ointment for burns, cuts, and rashes, as well as an ingredient in various beauty preparations. The sap of the Aloe is a thick, mucilaginous gel. It is this gel which is used medicinally. Because Aloe plants consist of 95% water, they are extremely frost tender. If they are grown outdoors in warm climates, they should be planted in full sun, or light shade. The soil should be moderately fertile, and fast draining. Established plants will survive a drought quite well, but for the benefit of the plant, water should be provided. During the winter months, the plant will become somewhat dormant, and utilize very little moisture. During this period watering should be minimal. Allow the soil to become completely dry before giving the plant a cup or two of water. During the summer months, the soil should be completely soaked, but then be allowed to dry again before re-watering. Aloes have a shallow, spreading root system, so when it is time to repot choose a wide planter, rather than a deep one. You may also use a packaged 'cacti mix' soil. Aloes are propagated by removing the offsets which are produced around the base of mature plants, when they are a couple inches tall (or larger). They may also be grown from seed.
Species and varieties:
Aloe 'Delta Lights'
The rosettes of Aloe speciosa are often tilted to one side, to allow the plant to obtain the maximum amount of light. In the southern hemisphere, the tilt is usually towards the north, and in the northern hemisphere, towards the south, but a plant growing in a shady position would tilt its head in the direction that it receives the most light, which is not necessarily the north/south.
Aloe striata is a stemless aloe with blue green leaves and attractive coral red flowers.
Gold-Tooth Aloe has large, sharp, dark green leaves and clusters of red-orange flowers that bloom in summer.