Aloe & Agave (AL-oh) / (uh-GAA-vay)

Asphodeloideae; Agavoideae

Relatives: Haworthia, Gasteria; Spider plant, Hosta, Yucca

Agave is a genus of monocots (grass and grass like flowering plants) native to the hot and arid regions of both the Americas, although some Agave species are also native to the tropical areas of South America. Plants in this genus may be considered to be perennial (fancy word for a plant that lives for at least two years) because they require several (some many, many) years to mature and flower. However, most Agave species are more accurately described as multiannuals, since each individual rosette flowers only once and then dies. Most Agave species grow very slowly - so slow they have earned the common name “Century Plant”.

Aloe is a genus containing over 550 species of flowering succulent plants. The most widely known species is Aloe vera (or “true aloe”), called such because it's cultivated as the standard source for assorted pharmaceutical purposes. Most Aloe species have a rosette of rather large, thick and fleshy leaves. Aloe flowers are tubular and are often yellow, orange, and pink or red in color. Many species of Aloe appear to be stemless, with the rosette growing directly at ground level. In other varieties, they may have a branched or unbranched stem from which the fleshy leaves spring. These leaves vary in color from grey to bright-green and are sometimes striped or mottled. Some Aloes that are native to South Africa are tree-like in form.

Wonder how to tell the difference between and Agave and an Aloe plant? Aloe plants typically have thicker and fleshier leaves than Agave plants. Aloe leaves may feel softer and almost spongy in texture due to the soft gel contained within their leaves. By contrast, the leaves of Agave are generally thinner and more fibrous, and most have sharp serrated edges and pointed tips. Still not sure? The leaves of aloe plants can easily be broken into by just your fingers. Agave leaves require a sharp knife or clippers to cut in two.