Gonialoe variegata is classified as a dwarf aloe and is grouped together with various other aloes that reach a height of no more than 250 mm. Plants may be found as solitary individuals but are most commonly encountered in small groups of up to 7 or 8 plants which form dense rosettes through underground suckers.The leaves are lanceolate-deltoid, about 150-200 mm long, and are arranged in three ranks of 6-8 leaves each, have a ridge or keel along the lower surface and are without spines or prickles. On occasions the leaves form a very attractive spiral twist as the plant ages. The leaf colour may be variable depending on the habitat and climatic conditions: deep green in good years or chocolate brown when plants have experienced drought stress. White markings, spots or blotches that form irregular transverse bands, decorate both surfaces of the densely overlapping leaves. The leaf margins have closely spaced small teeth along a white horny edge.