Primarily South African natives, the aloes range from 6-in. miniatures to trees; all form clumps of fleshy, pointed leaves and bear branched or unbranched clusters of orange, yellow, cream, or red flowers. Different species bloom every month; biggest show comes from midwinter through summer. Leaves may be green or gray green, often strikingly banded or streaked with contrasting colors.
Showy and easy to grow in well-drained soil in reasonably frost-free areas; need little water but can take more. Except as noted, give full sun in cooler climates, light shade in hotter regions. Where winters are too cold for all-year outdoor culture, grow in pots and shelter from frosts. Most kinds make outstanding container plants. Highly valued as ornamentals, in the ground or in pots.
Aloe plicatilis (Fan Aloe) is an interesting succulent shrub with gray colored stems that terminate with a fan-like cluster arrangement of the bluish-gray round tipped leaves. Old plants are typically 3-6 feet tall but others in cultivation have been noted to 8 feet. Plants from the wilds of the high rainfall areas of western Cape Mountains of South Africa are reportedly as tall as 15 feet. Each leaf cluster bears one erect 12″ tall unbranched inflorescence bearing an open terminal cluster of tubular orange red flowers in late winter to early spring. Plant in the sun, but away from the hottest afternoon sun and water occasionally during summer months. Hardy to about 23 degrees F. Old leaves drop cleanly away to exposed the attractive smooth trunk.