Cactus and Succulents forum→Aloe plant color and smell

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May 4, 2018 3:37 PM CST
We have a small aloe vera plant in a pot which we purchased at a big box garden center. As you can see form the photo, it appears to be continuing to get new growth both in the center and from the base on the outside (bottom left in the photo), but the plant itself is more of a medium green. My wife is sure that healthy aloe plants are supposed to be a very bright green, and the fact that it has a *very* pungent odor when you cut off a piece has convinced her that it's rotting or otherwise unhealthy. So a couple of questions:

- is it correct that you should expect all healthy aloe plants to be a very bright green, or are there some varieties which are a more medium shade?
- I've read articles which seems to indicate that aloe cuttings are, indeed, very pungent ... is that really the case?
- I've seen references to *really* low watering for these (perhaps as little as once per month), but is that too little for a small plant?

Thanks in advance?

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
May 4, 2018 3:44 PM CST


Aloe vera is green in the shade and a range of colors from grey through brown in the sun, especially during drought. Here are a couple of representative examples. Indoors the plant should be mostly green.

Aloe vera leaves are pretty pumped up, even during drought (see first picture) though the leaves can become somewhat concave in drought stress. Aloe vera leaves have a few white spots when they are young but mostly lose those spots when they're grown up. I have not noticed a particular smell when breaking Aloe vera leaves, at least not real different from breaking other kinds of aloe leaves. There are 500 or so different aloe species in addition to Aloe vera. I don't think what you have is actually Aloe vera but I wouldn't know what to call it. Water well when the soil is dry (maybe once a week in an unglazed clay pot in good light) and provide lots of sun if the plant is going to be indoors, like right by your sunniest south-facing window.

More about aloes, including Aloe vera and how to identify it, on these pages.

The Aloes Database
Aloe Vera (Aloe vera)
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - May 4, 2018 4:01 PM (+)]
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May 5, 2018 4:11 PM CST
@Baja_Costero, thanks for the detailed response! The plant we bought was labeled "aloe vera" but given it was from a big box store, no telling if that's right. Since it's continuing to put out new growth I'll assume it's doing what it should.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
May 5, 2018 4:34 PM CST


Yes, I have seen any number of random plants (including non-Aloes) for sale as "Aloe vera". I guess that's a name that moves product. Smiling The real thing is not at all rare, fortunately (and one of the most common garden plants around here, succulent or not). So if you go out looking for it, you will probably find it without too much effort or expense. I did spend quite a bit of time removing incorrectly identified images from that Aloe vera page, so you can be reasonably sure most of the remaining ones are the real thing.

My advice to anyone seeking a medicinal aloe for regular home use, especially topically for relief of skin problems, would be to spend 5-10 minutes looking at some pictures of Aloe vera, so you have some idea what distinguishes it from the great variety of succulent rosette plants that are in the ballpark. Usually the one your grandmother has is pretty good. Smiling And do not eat any aloe that you cannot definitively identify as medicinal, since there are actually a few poisonous aloes (which fortunately are very uncommon in cultivation).
Name: Jenn
Hudson Florida (Zone 9b)
May 12, 2018 6:29 PM CST
Ive been lucky in my new neighborhood and have been gifted quite a few aloe vera and im not sure where they were located before or how much light they were receiving but they were bright green at first. all have now turned a weird sad looking brown Sad putting them in more sunny locations and they are starting to turn back to green.
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Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
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May 12, 2018 6:52 PM CST
Jenn, your plants look like they were a little stressed - either by temperature, light, or water or lack thereof, or some combination of those.
I have Aloe plants that go through live pretty much looking like that reddish-brown stress color with some green for a while on new growth, it is not always the prettiest but they can grow old that way.

As with the original poster's plant, pretty sure your plant is not an actual Aloe vera. It is definitely an Aloe, but it does not quite look like what you expect from a true Aloe vera. If/when it flowers you can be sure. Aloe vera has closely spaced yellow flowers, which are pretty diagnostic as shown in the pictures for Aloe vera in the plant database that Baja has linked to.
It is what it is!
Oklahoma (Zone 7b)
May 13, 2018 6:13 AM CST
That's a lot of good info on this thread. Thanks. I also have an Aloe Vera plant that was turning a sort of grey color and I thought it was dying from transplant shock. Since I purchased it, not found in the wild, I'll have to do a little research to be sure it is a non-poisonous aloe.

Thanks everyone.

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