Aloe vera is known for its medicinal properties. Native to countries in the Mediterranean region, this succulent is also called the "Desert Lily." Aloe vera plants prefer warm, humid conditions and cannot tolerate prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. There are about 180 species of the aloe vera plant, according to the University of Arkansas. Of these, only three are commonly used for their healing properties: Aloe ferox, Aloe socotrina and Aloe barbadensis.
Aloe ferox is a showy-type of aloe vera plant. In the wild, it can produce bright, orange-red flowers up to 6 feet tall. Often called the "bitter aloe," the spiny leaves of the plant contain a yellowish gel that has been traditionally used to treat wounds, according to the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website. Aloe ferox is quite hardy and can grow even on poor, rocky soil. The nectar of the plant is attractive to birds, insects and even monkeys.
Aloe socotrina (Aloe perryi)
Aloe socotrine (also called Aloe perryi) is a hardy aloe plant that is highly drought resistant. It is not as cold hardy as other types of aloe. While most types of aloe can withstand brief freezes, Aloe socotrina cannot tolerate any temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is often grown as a houseplant in many areas of the United States, although it can be cultivated outdoors in United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) growing zones 9 through 11. This type of aloe has brownish leaves heavily edged with red spines, and thin, slender, matching red flowers.
Aloe barbadensis is the most commonly grown of all the aloe vera plants. This slow-growing-type forms a neat rosette of thick, succulent leaves that contain a soothing gel that is often used to treat burns. Commonly grown as a houseplant, Aloe barbadensis rarely blooms, according to the University of Florida, but when it does, it produces tall stalks lined with yellow or red flowers. This hardy type of aloe will grow in full sun, partial shade or even full shade if the temperatures are warm enough. The plant is drought-tolerant and will grow in all types of soil except very soggy or overly wet soil.
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