There are over 400 species of aloe, according to Illinois University. Having been used for 4,000 years, the aloe plant provides several uses, especially medicinal. It is widely used as a topical aide for burns, wounds and other skin ailments. The leaves are split in half, with the inner pulp being rubbed on the skin to offer its soothing effects. While aloe can be found on many kitchen windowsills, there are many differing varieties and sizes. The aloe tree can grow as high as a two-story house.
Aloe castanea grows well in USDA zones 9B to 10. This variety of aloe is commonly referred to as Cat's Tail Aloe. It prefers temperatures of 50 degrees but is frost resistant. It is a small tree with few branches. When mature, the aloe castanea can grow to 12 feet high. It spends its summer growing, while remaining dormant in the winter. For this reason, the plant should remain dry in the winter months when it is blooming a dark orange blossom.
Aloe Ciliaris is a frost tolerate variety of aloe that prefers light shade for optimal growth. It originated in South Africa along the Eastern Cape Province. A rambling shrub, the aloe ciliaris can grow stems up to 10 feet or longer, with rosettes 20 to 24 inches in diameter. It is a spring grower, needing water at that time. It can remain dry throughout the winter in its dormant period.
Aloe Distans grow well in USDA zones 9 to 11. Originating in South Africa along the western coast of Southern Cape Province, this clumping leaf has rambling stems. The bulk of the plant will reach a head of 5 inches in diameter, growing mostly over the winter. While dormant in the summer, the aloe distans must remain dry during that period. It blossoms orange flowers during its dormancy.
Aloe Ferox is commonly referred to as Bitter Aloe. This plant grows best in USDA zones 9B to 11. It can tolerate a frost up to 25 degrees, but the blossoms begin to see damage at temperatures of 28 degrees. This aloe variety is very heat tolerate and prefers full sun to a light shade area for planting. It originated in the Orange Free State of South Africa and offers a vibrant orange flower in the winter months to early spring.