Aloe is a large genus of flowering succulent plants native to Africa. Though there are hundreds of aloe species, aloe vera (meaning "true aloe") is one of the best known, most commonly cultivated varieties. Soap aloe (Aloe saponaria) is also a frequently cultivated aloe species. Aloe plants can be grown in the home as house plants or outdoors in warm climates with a little care.
Aloe plants grow in the wild in hot, sandy environments. Aloe plants will do best in a well drained, gravelly or sandy soil, according to online reference Floridata. If cultivating an aloe plant indoors, use a commercial cactus potting mix, or make your own by mixing in coarse sand with a general purpose potting soil. Soap aloe is an ideal choice for outdoor gardens located on the coast, as the plant has a very high tolerance of salt.
Aloe plants love sunlight, but they can definitely receive too much. Plant aloe in a location that gets at least a little shade in the afternoon. Planting aloe where they can get some shade with help keep their succulent leaves a bright and rich green. Aloe vera grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8 to 11, while soap aloe prefers the slightly warmed 8B to 11. Indoor plants should be placed in a bright location where they can receive plenty of daily sun.
Aloe plants are highly drought tolerant, and over watering is one of the easiest and quickest ways to kill any plant of the aloe genus. Soap aloe may start to whither during intense summer drought, so water occasionally if the plant looks sickly or yellow. Indoor plants will tolerate more frequent watering--try not to let the soil become completely dry to the touch during the growing season.
If your aloe has soft leaves or rust spots, fungus or bacteria is usually the cause. Treat a plant infected with fungus immediately by applying an anti-fungal and accessing the cause. Fungus can be caused by too much humidity and moisture, or soil that isn't well draining enough, causing the plant to stand in water. Soft, squishy leaves may simply be from too little sun.
Ants can often be a problem, as they carry aphids. Putting moth balls on top of the soil can help prevent ants from going to close to the plant. Many small pests can be removed with water and dish soap, rather than harsh garden insecticides.