GROWING ALOE VERA
HOW TO CARE FOR ALOE VERA PLANTS
The aloe vera plant is an easy, attractive succulent that makes for a great indoor companion. Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. The plant is stemless or very short-stemmed with thick, greenish, fleshy leaves that fan out from the plant’s central stem. The margin of the leaf is serrated with small teeth. Before you buy an aloe, note that you’ll need a location that offers bright, indirect sunlight (or, artificial sunlight). However, the plant doesn’t appreciate sustained direct sunlight, as this tends to dry out the plant too much and turn its leaves yellow, rendering them subpar for use. Keep the aloe vera plant in a pot near a kitchen window for periodic use but avoid having the sun’s rays hit it directly.
Aloe vera plants are useful, too, as the juice from their leaves can be used to relieve pain from scrapes and burns when applied topically. More about harvesting later.
BEFORE PLANTING A NEW ALOE VERA
It’s important to choose the right type of plant container. A pot made from terra-cotta is recommended, as it will allow the soil to dry between waterings. A plastic or glazed pot may also be used, though these will hold more moisture. When choosing a container, be sure to pick one that has at least one drainage hole in the bottom and select a container that’s about as wide as it is deep. Aloe vera plants are succulents, so use a well-draining potting mix, such as those made for cacti and succulents.
(Hy-pro Rootstimulator) To encourage your aloe to put out new roots after planting, use Hy-pro root stimulator for (at least) the first 5 waterings.
HOW TO PLANT (OR REPOT) AN ALOE VERA PLANT
If your aloe plant has grown leggy, has gotten too large, or simply needs an upgrade, it’s time to repot it. Remove the aloe vera plant from its current pot and brush away any excess dirt from the roots, being careful not to damage the roots. If your plant has any pups, remove them now. Fill the new pot about a third of the way with a well-draining potting mix, then place your plant in the soil. Continue filling in soil around the plant, bearing in mind that you should leave at least 2cm of space between the top of the soil and the rim of the pot. The bottom leaves of the aloe plant should rest just above the soil, too.
After you’ve placed your aloe in its new pot, don’t water it for at least a week. This will decrease the chance of inducing rot and give the plant time to put out new roots.
HOW TO CARE FOR AN ALOE VERA PLANT
Place in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. Aloe that are kept in low light often grow leggy. Aloe vera do best in temperatures between 15 and 25°C. The temperatures of most homes and apartments are ideal. From May to September, you can bring your plant outdoors without any problems, but do bring it back inside in the evening if nights are cold. Water aloe vera plants deeply, but infrequently. To discourage rot, allow the soil to dry at least 1 to 2 inches deep between waterings. Don’t let your plant sit in water. Water about every 3 weeks and even more sparingly during the winter. Use your finger to test dryness before watering. If the potting mix stays wet, the plants’ roots can begin to rot.
Fertilize sparingly (no more than once a month), and only in the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant formula.
REMOVING & REPLANTING ALOE VERA OFFSETS (PUPS)
Mature aloe vera plants often produce offsets—also known as plantlets, pups, or “babies”—that can be removed to produce an entirely new plant (a clone of the mother plant, technically). Find where the offsets are attached to the mother plant and separate them using pruning shears, scissors, or a sharp knife. Leave at least an inch of stem on the offset. Allow the offsets to sit out of soil for several days; this lets the offset form a callous over the cut, which helps to protect it from rot. Keep the offsets in a warm location with indirect light during this time. Once the offsets have formed callouses, pot them in a standard succulent potting mix. Put the newly-potted pups in a sunny location. Wait at least a week to water and keep the soil on the dry side.
HOW TO GET YOUR ALOE VERA TO FLOWER
Mature aloe vera plants occasionally produce a tall flower spike—called an inflorescence—from which dozens of tubular yellow or red blossoms appear. This certainly adds another level of interest to the already lovely aloe! Unfortunately, a bloom is rarely achievable with aloes that are kept as houseplants, since the plant requires nearly ideal conditions to produce flowers: lots of light, sufficient water, and the right temperature range. Due to these requirements (mainly lighting), aloe flowers are usually only seen on plants grown outdoors year-round in warm climates.
HARVESTING YOUR ALOE VERA PLANT WITHOUT DAMAGE
Besides providing pretty decoration, aloe leaves contain a clear gel that’s a popular home remedy. According to research, this substance may shorten the healing of first- and second-degree burns and promote wound healing. Applying aloe gel to the skin could also help reduce acne and redness caused by mild to moderate psoriasis. With this in mind, you can snip off an aloe leaf (as close to stem as possible) when you need it and rub the juicy end on a sunburn or sore spot. Some people also like to use aloe vera juice as a hair conditioner, makeup remover, or even brow gel. You can get more of the juice by slitting the spike lengthwise and scooping out the contents with a spoon. Never harvest more than 20% and as long as your plant stays healthy, it’ll just keeping making more!
Please note: The gel from aloe vera leaves can be used topically, but should not be ingested by people or pets. It can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea or indigestion and may even be toxic in larger quantities.