If you are like most beginners to gardening, you have ever seen an aloe vera plant; you’ve probably wondered if it’s a cactus. After all, they look pretty similar.
So, is Aloe Vera a cactus? Even though aloe vera may look like a cactus, taxonomically, it is not a member of the cactus family. Aloe Vera is a succulent that you can grow indoors as a house plant or in moderate zones as an outdoor perennial, according to North Carolina State University.
Read on to discover the differences between these two types of succulents so you can better care for your Aloe Vera or Cacti garden.
You might also enjoy reading: Why Is My Aloe Vera Plant Drooping: 8 Causes And How to Fix Them!
What Is a Succulent?
A succulent is any plant that stores water in its leaves, stems, or roots in order to survive drought conditions. Succulents come in many shapes and sizes and include cacti and aloe vera, two of the most popular varieties.
While cacti and aloe vera may look similar at first glance, some key differences between cacti and aloe vera will help you tell them apart.
There are two types of succulents: leaf succulents, such as Aloe vera or echeveria, store water within plump, broad leaves and stems succulents, such as euphorbia trigona.
The Basics of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a succulent, popular worldwide for its many uses; it can be used medicinally for skin care, as a food supplement, and even as a cleaning product (Source: NCCIH)
Most beginners confound Aloe Vera with cacti because both plants have thick, spiky leaves that store water, and both are popularly grown in gardens and homes as ornamental plants. But despite their similarities, aloe vera is actually not a cactus.
The table below contains the general characteristics of an Aloe Vera plant.
|Aloe Vera Common Names
– Aloe Vera
– True Aloe
– Barbados Aloe
– Medicine Plant
– Medicinal Aloe
|– Herbaceous Perennial
|– Height: 12 to 24 Inches (30.5 to 61 cm)
– Width: 6 to 12 Inches (15.24 to 30.5 cm)
|– Aloe Vera thrives in full sun and does well with at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.
– Aloe Vera also does well with partial shade under direct sunlight only part of the day, about 2 to 6 hours
|Preferred Propagation Strategy
|Best Soils For Aloe Vera
– Loam (Silt)
|Aloe Vera thrives in good drainage and occasionally dry soil.
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
|10 to 12
|Diseases and Other Plant Problems
– Leaf spot
– Aloe rust
– Sooty mold
– It is recommended to avoid overwatering Aloe Vera as it can lead to the roots rotting.
Cacti Vs. Aloe Vera: How Do They Differ?
Cacti are characterized by their thick spikes or needles, which help them store water more efficiently than other types of succulents. They also typically have fewer leaves than other succulents because they don’t need them to collect sunlight or moisture from the air like other plants.
Cacti are native to deserts and arid regions, where they have adapted over time to survive long periods without rainfall or access to nutrient-rich soil.
On the other hand, Aloe Vera has thick fleshy leaves resembling swords or daggers with sharp points at the end of each leaf. These leaves contain a gel-like substance that helps them retain moisture even when it’s scarce.
Unlike cacti, aloe vera is not native to desert climates but instead grows in tropical regions around the world where it gets plenty of sunshine and moisture.
Is Aloe Vera a Succulent Or a Cactus?
Aloe vera is a succulent plant species within the genus Aloe. Most Aloe vera plants are stemless or short-stemmed with greenish, thick, and fleshy leaves, allowing the plants to retain moisture in arid areas.
Aloe vera grows well in dry conditions and full sun. If you want your Aloe Vera to flower, provide it with bright light.
When positioned in front of a window, occasionally rotate to ensure that all sides of the plant receive adequate light. Furthermore, allow the soil to dry thoroughly between waterings and water your plant less frequently in the winter.
Caring For Aloe Vera
- Lighting: I encourage you to place your aloe vera in bright or indirect sunlight. You can also use artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. If you keep your aloe in low light, it will become leggy.
- Temperature: Aloe vera thrives between 55 and 80°F (13 and 27°C). Between May and September, you can move your aloe plant outdoors without any issues but do not forget to bring it back inside in the evening if nights become cold.
- Fertilizing: It is best to apply fertilizer at most once a month and only in the spring and summer.
- Repotting: It is suggested to repot your aloe vera when root-bound.
- In general, it is recommended water your aloe plant approximately every 2 to 3 weeks in the spring and summer and irregularly during the fall and winter.
- When watering aloe vera, water aloe deeply but less frequently.
- Let the top third of potting soil dry out between waterings to ensure you’re not overwatering your plant.
Which One Should You Choose?
Both cacti and aloe vera plants are great additions to any garden! Both require minimal care and can survive long periods of drought with ease. However, due to their different origins, they will thrive best under different conditions; cacti prefer drier conditions, while aloe vera plants prefer wetter ones.
So when deciding which one to add to your garden, consider where it will be placed and how much sun and water it will get!
What to read next:
- How to Propagate Succulents with Honey: A Complete Guide.
- How To Repot Overgrown Succulents Like A Pro: A Quick Guide.
- How to Successfully Propagate Haworthia Succulents.
- What is the Difference Between Sempervivum and Echeveria?
Aloe vera is not a cactus! While both plants share many similarities, such as their spiky leaves and adaptations for storing water, only one type of plant can be classified as a true cactus.
Knowing the differences between these two types of succulents can help you better care for your own garden, whether it’s full of Aloe Vera or Cacti!
Both cacti and aloe vera plants can be excellent additions to any garden thanks to their minimal care requirements and ability to thrive under different conditions.