Although you’re probably already familiar with Aloe Veras plants, there are hundreds of varieties of aloe plants that are each unique. Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera plants are similar since they’re both aloe plants. Still, they have very different growth patterns and looks.
Aloe Vera is widely known because of its gel, which is often used to heal burns or skin problems or added to skincare products. However, not all aloe plants have the same gel-like sap, so it’s essential to know if you’re growing Aloe Vera or another variety.
Even if you’re growing these plants as lovely houseplants or in your garden, they’re different enough that you’ll need to know which is which!
Please note: A-Z Animals does not recommend plants or herbs for medicinal or health use. We present the following information for academic and historical purposes only.
About Aloe Plants
Aloe is a genus of plants that includes over 500 species, so you can imagine the vast difference between some of these types of aloe. Aloe plants are a type of flowering succulent, with each species having a different flower.
However, these plants typically don’t flower when grown as houseplants because the temperatures aren’t warm enough. But if you’re growing an aloe outdoors and live in a warm climate, there’s a good chance you’ll see its magnificent flowers!
Aloe plants are commonly grown indoors as houseplants, partially because they can’t handle cold temperatures but also because they’re super easy to grow. Many aloe plants are tough and perfect for beginners or those who don’t necessarily have green thumbs!
Keep reading to learn about the difference between these two aloes and how to care for each of them.
Climbing Aloe vs. Aloe Vera at a Glance
|Climbing Aloe||Aloe Vera|
|Species||Aloiampelos ciliaris||Aloe barbadensis|
|Looks||Grows vertically, like a vine; sometimes resembles a small tree||Low to the ground with a large spread|
|Size||Max. 30 feet outdoors; 10 feet if grown indoors||2-3 feet tall, indoors or outdoors|
|Flowers||Bright orange or red; about 1 inch long||Yellow or green; 4-5 feet tall; blooming with a large cone of flowers|
|Water||Higher tolerance for frequent rains; likes constant moisture||Very drought tolerant and needs infrequent watering|
About Climbing Aloe
As the name suggests, Climbing Aloe plants grow upright and tend to climb up structures similarly to vines. Climbing Aloes have long stems that eventually form into a trunk as the plant grows higher up and make the plant look like a small tree or dracaena plant.
Climbing aloes are native to South Africa. The native climate is hot but not as arid as other parts of Africa and Central America, where you’ll find many aloe plants.
Its South African origins make this plant much more tolerant to moisture than other aloe plants native to desert climates.
One of the most critical differences between Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera is that all parts of Climbing Aloe are toxic and should not be consumed! For pets and humans alike, the skin and sap of Climbing Aloe plants will cause serious digestive problems.
About Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera plants are super common as houseplants or grown for medicinal purposes. However, most people don’t know that Aloe Vera plants are just one among many aloes!
Aloe Vera is sometimes called True Aloe to distinguish it from other aloe varieties that don’t have the gel. Aloe vera is also sometimes called Chinese Aloe or Indian Aloe since it’s often used in Chinese or Indian medicine.
Aloe Vera isn’t as toxic as Climbing Aloe, but the skin of the leaves still shouldn’t be eaten. Aloe Vera is toxic for cats or dogs, so keep your pets away!
Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera grow in very different ways, so it’s easy to tell them apart just by looking at them. Especially after several years, when the plants have matured, they have their whole form, and it’s evident to tell the two apart.
Climbing Aloe grows upward and only has leaves at the top of the stems, with the bottom half of the plant bare. They also don’t grow very wide. In contrast, Aloe Vera plants are typically wider than tall.
Aloe Vera plants also have thicker plump leaves with Aloe Vera gel.
Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera grow in a rosette form, meaning they have a strong core stem, and the leaves grow out from the center. However, since Climbing Aloes have longer and more pronounced stems, the rosette look is weaker than it is with Aloe Vera plants.
Climbing Aloe leaves are bright green with soft, almost hair-like teeth lining the edges and are several inches long, often 5-8 inches.
One of the most significant differences between the leaves of Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera is that Climbing Aloe leaves are curled and curve downward at the edges. Aloe Vera leaves are straight and pointed at the tip.
Aloe Vera leaves are less green and have a slight gray or bluish-gray tint. Some varieties of Aloe Vera have tiny white speckles on their leaves, but this depends on the plant. Aloe Vera leaves are much larger, about 2 to 3 feet long, and have sharper teeth along the edges.
Their leaves are very telling of problems for both types of aloe plants. Their leaves will turn brown and brittle if the plant is too dry or brown and soft if it’s receiving too much water. These leaves will turn red or even dark purple if the plant is going through drought stress.
Also, for both plants, when the leaves die, they wilt and dry up but stay attached to the plant’s main stem. If your Climbing aloe plant is very tall, the leaves will eventually fall.
Aloe plants don’t flower very easily, but when they do, it’s really spectacular! These plants bloom with a large stem that bolts from the center of the rosette.
Climbing Aloe plants have 1-inch tubular flowers that are bright orange or scarlet red. These flowers can bloom at any time during the year. Still, they’re most likely to bloom in early spring or even during the winter, depending on the climate they’re growing in.
Aloe Vera plants bloom with a flower on a tall stalk from the center. Sometimes the stalk will bloom with several flowers at the tip, producing 2 to 3 large flowers. These flowers are yellow or green-yellow with a dark brown stem.
Aloe Vera flowers blossom in a large cone resembling a corn cob! The cone is a cluster of smaller flowers that aren’t seen from a few feet away. Aloe Vera flowers will bloom in late spring or summer.
It’s also effortless to tell the difference between Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera by their mature size. Because Climbing Aloe grows upright, it can grow much taller than Aloe Vera.
If grown outdoors, Climbing Aloe can grow to 30 feet tall! Although it’s usually grown indoors and in normal home conditions, it will grow to 10 feet tall. Because of its size and upright growing habit, Climbing Aloe is an excellent choice for balconies or container gardens.
Aloe Vera doesn’t grow nearly as tall and tends to be wider than it is tall- often about two feet tall but three to four feet wide.
Climbing Aloe is one of the fastest-growing species of aloe plants and can reach its mature height in only a few years. It’s also one of the few species of aloe that grows vertically so much.
If grown outdoors, Climbing Aloe plants will grow up a tree or along a trellis and can be directed to grow in a specific direction. If not given any support to grow along or to hold it up, Climbing Aloe plants will grow in a very wonky way and may even tip over!
Aloe Vera plants are pretty flat, although sometimes their leaves will be upright. When the leaves first form, they come directly out of the center of the rosette and stick up, but they flatten over time and as they fill up.
Neither Climbing Aloe nor Aloe Vera are cold-resistant plants and thrive in warm temperatures. Climbing Aloe is slightly more cold-resistant and can grow outdoors in zones 9 through 11, but Aloe Vera can only grow in zones 10 to 12.
Growing Climbing Aloe vs. Alove Vera
Both are very easy, low-maintenance plants that resist heat, droughts, and sun. The only things to avoid with aloe plants are cold weather and too much water.
Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera are popular houseplants because they grow quickly and thrive indoors. Either of these can be grown outdoors, but only if you live in the zones where they grow. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep them indoors to protect them from cold.
Aloe plants are also deer-resistant and almost entirely disease or pest free since they’re adamant! However, with Climbing Aloe, you may need to check for problems often if it’s growing around a tree, which may be hosting some insects.
It isn’t necessary to prune a Climbing Aloe plant, but since it grows so much, it is helpful to prune it to keep its size manageable or to shape it. You may need to prune the older stems because they will get weak over the years and can break.
All types of aloe are very easily propagated from cuttings or can be grown from seeds, which come from the flowers.
Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera are adaptable to different soil types. Since aloes are desert plants, they usually prefer dry, loose, and sandy soils. They can grow in loamy or rich soils as long as they have good drainage.
Aloe plants can’t grow in wet, dense soils and struggle if their roots are in the water. Aloe plants are susceptible to root rot, a fungus that grows on roots when there’s sitting water in the soil.
Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera plants have similar water needs since most aloe plants are drought tolerant and need infrequent watering. However, Climbing Aloe has a greater moisture tolerance and can receive more water. In contrast, Aloe Veras really should be watered sparingly.
If grown outdoors, Climbing Aloe can handle frequent rains as long as the water drains from the soil quickly. Climbing Aloe leaves will become shaggy and a bit limp if the plants aren’t given enough water. Although, if you’re growing Climbing Aloe indoors, they don’t need as much water if they’re not in direct sunlight.
Just Two of Many Aloes
As explained above, Climbing Aloe and Aloe Vera are aloe species- a genus that includes at least 500 different species. So, there are many, many more kinds of aloe plants you can learn about!
All the species have many things in common and grow similarly, but aloe plants still have an incredible variety.
- 10 Houseplants That Are Nearly Impossible to Kill
- Discover 10 Resilient Plants That Can Thrive in a Desert
- Succulent vs Cactus: What’s the Difference?
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ladykhris/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.