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Aloe vera var. chinensis

Aloe vera on the left, “Aloe vera var. chinensis” on the right (late summer 2019)
A. vera and A. vera var. chinensis, 2020

Aloe vera var. chinensis is probably even more common than real Aloe vera, likely due to how prolific it is. Often when you say Aloe vera, this is the plant a lot of people think of. It is definitely not Aloe vera…what it really is isn’t really known, but it’s thought to be either a vera hybrid or different species like Aloe officinalis or Aloe massawana.

Some people will call this the “female” Aloe vera because of how many offsets it produces, some will say this orange blooming plant is Aloe vera while the yellow blooming plant is Aloe barbadensis (or vice versa..just more confusing misinformation!) Aloe plants are NOT either male or female, and Aloe vera and Aloe barbadensis are the same plant. Aloe barbadensis is the old accepted name, and Aloe vera doesn’t need anything extra added to it to differentiate it. Lots of places will call it Aloe vera barbadensis or even Aloe vera barbadensis var. miller…which gives me a headache (Miller is the name of the person who described it as barbadensis, not a variety!) It’s just Aloe vera.

Anyway, Aloe vera var. chinensis isn’t really an accepted name, but since no one has really figured out what it is for sure, that name has stuck. It’s certainly not from China! Aloes are native to Africa and some places surrounding it (Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, etc.) This variety is generally a brighter green, keeps its spots longer, is a little smaller growing, and as I mentioned before, very prolific. If you buy one, you will soon have at least 20 🤷‍♀️ Blooms can sometimes be needed for a for sure ID, I’ve seen photos of plants that for sure looked like “true” vera, but had orange blooms. Aloe vera blooms are yellow and densely packed on the bloomstalk. The “chinensis” variety blooms pink or orange and the flowers are usually more spaced out on the bloomstalk.

People often think this plant stays in the juvenile fan shaped form…I mean, it often does if you grow it indoors in crowded pots. But it will eventually grow into a rosette if you give it the right conditions!

Young chinensis plant

A few websites that sell cacti and succulents sell a plant they call Aloe vera var. chinensis, but it isn’t. The small Aloe in their photos is a smooth form of Aloe ‘Crosby’ Prolific’. Planet Desert, Mountain Crest and Vivid Root for example are selling ‘Crosby’s Prolific’ as Aloe vera var. chinensis. Just because a reputable shop has a plant labeled with a certain name, doesn’t mean that name is correct.

This is not chinensis, this is ‘Crosby’s Prolific’. It is a very variable hybrid, this is the smooth form.
Top – chinensis, Bottom – vera
Young chinensis plants…this growth is what most people seem to be familiar with. They think it stays like this…it often does for a while, especially if left to crowd itself out instead of pulling and repotting pups frequently. Grown indoors or in lower light and it will stay in its juvenile form longer also.
Bloom colors are different..true vera blooms yellow.
Older chinensis plant
Young plants. Left – chinensis, Right – vera
Developing flowers
Flower close up…Aloe flower buds open from the bottom of the stalk up, so the lowest ones start to wither as the rest of the buds open.
Mature plant with two bloomstalks this year
Young plants
One of my other chinensis plants, Nov. 2018…this was given to me by a neighbor earlier in the year and I didn’t give it enough sun at first.
Same plant as the last photo, Nov 2020. I repotted in better soil, removed the pups it had and slowly introduced it to more sun. It bloomed for the first time, but most of the buds died when the temps dropped recently. Removing offsets regularly keeps them from getting so crowded and allows the main plant to grow larger.
Left – vera, right – chinensis
The distichous form that chinensis often stays in longer than vera does
How this variety grows indoors/low light
Another view…I ended up with a few pots of this, might just let one or two keep growing this way.
My oldest chinensis plant. Was a pup from a pot of plants my mom gave me in 2006. This gets full sun here in Texas.
Flower closeup, chinensis
Flower closeup, vera
Flower stalk, chinensis
Flower stalk, vera

Another thing to note, blooming times – my chinensis plants bloom in late fall/early winter (November-ish) and my vera plants bloom in late winter/early spring (March-ish.) Bloom times may vary depending on where you live, and I’ve even seen people say both their chinensis and vera plants bloom more than once a year. Mine only do once a year.

Indoor vs outdoor growth…the indoor plants in front are probably older than the outdoor plant in the back. We’ll see how these indoor ones change with new conditions.
April 2022, previously indoor grown chinensis chunking up nicely.
Oldest chinensis, August 2022.
Aug. 2022

Links for more info –

1. https://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?cat_id=10&plant_id=118

2. https://garden.org/thread/view/45942/Spotted-Aloe-veras-misidentified/

3. http://www.huntingtonbotanical.org/Desert/Cholla/feb06/feb06.htm

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Published by AloeHoarder

I live in Houston, Texas and have been interested in and collecting Aloe plants since 2008, my first Aloe was the “chinensis” variety that I got from my mom in 2006. I am autistic and an English major. Aloes are my “special interest”.

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