Most of us recognize Aloe as a medicinal plant that is great to have around when you have cut or burned yourself. The genus Aloe includes about 500 species of succulent plants native to Africa, Madagascar and the Middle East.
Two species are available at the nursery now, Aloe x spinosissima or Spider Aloe and Aloe vera, the well known medicinal Aloe.
Aloe x spinosissima or Spider Aloe
Common name: Spider Aloe. This plant is a hybrid between the species Aloe arborescens and Aloe humilis. They are succulent plants that must be kept above 50 degree temperature and have short stems (sometimes they have several) that can reach 3 feet in height if grown outdoors, but usually do not exceed a foot or so when grown indoors and they will be smaller if kept in a smaller pot. The leaves arise in a spiral rosette and the flowers appear in clusters above the leaves and are orange-red in color. They bloom in the second half of winter and begin blooming as a young plant. The Spider Aloe is much more likely to bloom for you than it’s cousin the Aloe Vera.
As it likes to form large clumps, it’s best to plant it in a large enough pot that it can spread easily in. It will provide you with numerous pups and they can be snipped off in fall to provide new plants, or left to make a pot full of Spider plants.
It’s easy to grow as a house plant or potted plant in the garden. Just like its very well-known cousin Aloe vera, this one has multiple medicinal uses, but is poisonous if eaten.
Drought-proof, it enjoys full sun and if kept outdoor for the summer, it must come inside when the temperature drops below 50 degrees at night.
The aloe vera plant is an easy, attractive succulent that makes for a great indoor plant. Aloe vera plants are useful, too, as the juice from their leaves can be used to relieve pain from scrapes and burns when applied topically.
The plant is stemless or very short-stemmed with thick, greenish, fleshy leaves that fan out from the plant’s central stem. The margin of the leaf is serrated with small teeth. If it’s happy, new babies called pups, will pop up around the edges.
They are happy in a location that offers bright, indirect sunlight (or, artificial sunlight). However, don’t put them in sustained direct sunlight, as this tends to dry out the plant too much and turn its leaves yellow. They should be kept on the dry side, watering too much can actually kill the plant, as it will rot the roots. Minimum temperature should be 50 degrees, if kept outside for the summer, be sure to bring them in before it even hints of getting cold at night.
It doesn’t happen often when they are in pots, but mature aloe vera plants occasionally produce a tall flower spike—called an inflorescence—from which dozens of tubular yellow or red blossoms appear. These are very similar to the flowers of the Spider Aloe. This certainly adds another level of interest to the already lovely aloe!
Please note: The gel from aloe vera leaves can be used topically, but should not be ingested by people or pets. It can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea or indigestion and may even be toxic in larger quantities. Although, my cat uses it as an emitic and so I keep it up, or she gets more than her share of my plant.