There are about 400 species of aloes. This perennial grows rosettes of thick, fleshy leaves that can be covered with spines. Most aloes grow upright, succulent leaves and a few species send their leaves creeping along the ground. Aloes produce tubular-shaped blossoms high on tall flower stalks. The flower colors include cream, yellow, orange and almost red. Aloes propagate easily through offsets that grow around their roots. All aloes are considered tender when it comes to cold temperatures.
Aloes are plants that like to be left alone. They are not fussy plants and thrive on neglect. During hot summer months, an aloe is watered every two weeks. It is watered once a month during the cooler months of the year. Allow the aloe to completely dry out between waterings. Fertilizer pellets are used during the spring and summer. Only lightly fertilize aloes.
Aloes can be transplanted into the ground in warm climates. They like full sunlight but can tolerate light shade. Aloes will die if they sit in water, so be sure the soil drains water quickly. Aloes grow well in soil low in fertility, so there is no need to add compost before planting. Keeping the aloe dry for one week after transplanting is a key to success. This forces the roots to seek moisture deeper in the soil.
Aloes need to be potted up in cold climates, since this makes it easier to move the aloes inside during freezing temperatures. Aloes flower mainly in warm climates and rarely flower in cold climates. Re-pot aloes every one to two years in order to refresh the soil with nutrients. Re-potting can also reduce crowding of the roots by removing any damaged pieces and pups. The pups can be potted up and given away as gifts to plant-loving friends. Do not replant your aloes right away if they have any cuts on their leaves or roots. Leaving them in a shady area for a couple of days will cause a scab to form over the wounds.
Aloes are planted as decorative houseplants or as unique features in a landscape. The gel inside the leaves has medicinal properties and promotes healing. Fresh gel cools scalds and sunburns. Blisters and scrapes also benefit with an application of aloe gel. Aloe gel is also used cosmetically in treating acne and skin blemishes.
Fresh aloe gel is unsafe to take internally. It is known to cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, red urine and skin irritation for people who are sensitive to latex. According to a study by the University of Maryland Medical Center, pregnant women should not ingest aloe since it can cause uterine contractions that can lead to a miscarriage.