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I have a plant that looks very much like an aloe but has smooth edges on its dark green hard leaves – grew in a menorah shape for several years but now is starting to twirl – biggest leaf is 12″ long – 3″ wide at base – some light green spots on leaves – at least 20 years old – just sent up a branch with 3 spikes with flowers that are chili pepper shaped and pastel pink with green tipped – not opposite more like alternate maybe an inch apart going up stems –
any ideas?

You bet I have some ideas – this is most likely some type of Gasteria, based on your description of smooth edges on the leaves.

These relatives of Aloe have some interesting characteristics, one of which is the ‘Menorah’ type growth habit, at least when young, and longevity.

They can withstand a considerable amount of neglect, and in fact prefer it, especially in winter, when they should be allowed to dry out completely.

They are relatively unknown, and I suspect it’s this dislike of water trait that makes them a bit more challenging to grow, especially for conscientious gardeners who actually like watering; it’s best to grow these separately from other similar plants that won’t mind the odd drink during winter dormancy.

They do well if they routinely get water through the summer – mine do well outdoors in a sheltered sunny and dappled shade area for the summer, pretty much ignored. After a winter under grow lights, in a severely rootbound condition, they thrive.

See more about these uncommon plants here

Happy Succulent Growing!