How to Grow and Care for Aloe Vera
Thamizhpparithi Maari, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
|In This Article|
What Is Aloe Vera?
Cultivation And History
Growing From Seed
Advice On Buying Aloe Vera
Pests And Disease
What Is Aloe Vera?
Although aloe vera may seem like a cactus, it belongs to the Asphodelaceae family of plants, not the cactus family. While A. vera is the scientific name, this evergreen perennial is also known as A. barbadensis, A. indica, A. elongata, and many others. Burn aloe, true aloe, and first aid plant are some more frequent names for this plant. The term aloe comes from the Arabic word alloeh, which means “shining bitter substance,” and the Latin word vera, which means “true.” Long, thick leaves that can grow up to 39 inches long come from a relatively small stem. When young, the succulent leaves are green and speckled, with serrated edges. Greenish-yellow flowers come from a long central spike that can reach 35 inches in height, and they will only bloom if the aloe is grown outside.
Aloe vera is a wonderful houseplant with prickly, meaty leaves with serrated edges. It is a succulent that is native to hot, dry climates and that holds water in its leaves. As a result, it requires little watering, making it a great low-maintenance plant for beginners. Since its sap is used to treat burns, scalds, sunburns, skin irritations, and bug bites, aloe vera is sometimes referred to as the first aid plant. Cut a leaf off at the base, shorten it, and apply the sap on your skin.
Cultivation and History Of Aloe Vera
This interesting plant is indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula, but it is widely cultivated in dry, tropical, and semi-tropical regions of the world. It has also easily naturalised in North Africa, some regions of Spain and Portugal, and the southern United States.
Due to the fact that Aloe Vera’s health benefits probably exist before recorded history, we may never know when they were originally identified. We are aware of the 6,000-year-old plant carvings that were uncovered in Egypt and that, at some time, were given as gifts or used as common funeral offerings for deceased pharaohs; today, these relics may still be seen in tombs. Around 2200 BC, during the Mesopotamian culture, Sumerian hieroglyphic tablets contained the earliest known written mention of aloe vera’s medical uses. Its usage as a laxative was noted in the document.
Grow & Care Aloe Vera
To grow in pots, aloe vera requires sandy soil or a cactus potting media. Plant this succulent among others that have comparable requirements in zones 10 through 12. Aloe may be incorporated into a xeriscaped border planting or used as an entryway focal point by potting it on its own. Potted aloe looks great on decks and patios, and it may also be used to treat burns and bites in an emergency. Blooming occurs outdoors in late spring or early summer; blossoms do not appear on potted indoor plants. In any case, the plant must be quite old to bloom at all, and even then, it may not bloom every year, especially if the leaves are removed for use. Aloe takes little watering and almost no fertiliser, making it an ideal houseplant for inexperienced gardeners.
Aloe Vera requires bright, natural light to grow. Aim for up to six hours of direct sunlight every day, with a little respite in the afternoon. Aloe should be cultivated inside in a window with bright, indirect sunshine. Direct sunlight can burn its fragile skin, but a lack of light causes the plant to grow lanky and brittle, causing the leaves to wrinkle.
Aloe vera grows naturally in nutrient-poor soil conditions on sandy slopes with assured drainage. Use a cactus potting medium or standard potting soil combined with perlite and coarse sand to provide optimum drainage in a container. Aloe favours slightly acidic soil with a pH of approximately 6.0, although it is very versatile and may also thrive in neutral or alkaline soils.
Aloe loves to be watered on a regular basis, as long as the soil thoroughly dries out between waterings. The leaves will shrink and pucker somewhat if the soil is dry for an extended amount of time. When hydrated, the plant will recover; but, prolonged bouts of stress—either prolonged dryness or too much water—can cause the leaves to turn yellow and die. When it rains, avoid watering outside plants. Aloe vera becomes dormant in the winter and does not require any water if it receives adequate water throughout its growth season. Consider growing aloe in gravel or stones if your climate is wet throughout the winter. This allows the water to drain and prevents decay.
Temperature and Humidity
Aloe naturally grows in dry, tropical, and semi-tropical areas, thus replicating similar circumstances will help it to thrive. Aim for a temperature range of 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (most indoor conditions can reach this), and don’t keep your container plant outside if nighttime temperatures are expected to fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Although aloe cannot endure frost, a few mountain types may withstand temperatures near freezing on occasion. Aloe can tolerate dry air and does not require additional humidity. A relative humidity of 40% is ideal.
Aloe vera thrives on nutrient-poor desert soil and doesn’t need any fertiliser at all. It grows best in these conditions. However, feeding potted aloe once per spring may benefit in preserving healthy growth. For an annual feeding, a liquid 10-40-10 houseplant fertiliser that has been diluted to half strength works well. Aloe often grows well outdoors without any fertiliser.
Growing Tips for Aloe Vera
Pick a place that receives plenty of sunlight, like a windowsill with a south or west aspect. Plant in a potting mix made especially for succulents that drains nicely. Between waterings, let the top two inches of soil dry off.
Pruning Aloe Vera
Pruning aloe vera is only necessary if the leaves are withered and lifeless. You can also prune those that have been harmed by environmental conditions. Cut back the outer leaves of your aloe vera plant if they turn brown at the tips. Use clean garden shears to either cut off only the afflicted tip or prune the entire leaf at its base. Pruning leaves at the base, whether dead or alive, encourages new development while also improving the plant’s appearance. Never cut the middle of an aloe leaf.
Propagation Aloe Vera
Aloes may be easily multiplied by using the tiny plants, known as offsets, that grow at their base. Wait until the offsets are about one-fifth the size of the parent plant. Gently remove the entire plant from its pot, pull apart the puppies, and separate them, making sure to leave some root connected to each one if any. Allow the bottom nub to dry out for a few days if there are no roots. Alternately, use a sharp knife to remove the offsets. Each plant should be potted in cactus compost or multipurpose compost with lots of additional perlite for drainage. Water in thoroughly, allowing any surplus water to drain.
Growing From Seed
Since it is cheap and easily accessible as plant starts, cultivated aloe is rarely grown from seed. Additionally, aloe plants often don’t produce viable seeds or blossoms until they are four years old. However, if you want to grow aloe from seed, you must first gather the seeds from the fallen blossoms. Next, make a tray with a peat and sand combination. Place the seeds in a scattering, softly cover with the medium, and water until barely moist. Move the tray to a location with strong light and constant temperatures of 75 F, sprinkling the medium as needed (this may require a heat source). It should take two to four weeks for seeds to sprout. Until they have four leaves and are able to be transferred on their own, young plants should be nurtured in a heated environment.
Potting & Repotting
Aloe vera has a shallow, broad root system that spreads out towards the surface. As the plant develops and requires repotting, it is preferable to use a larger pot rather than a deeper one. When your aloe gets root bound or its puppies appear to be overloaded, repot it. Remove the mother plant and puppies from their container carefully, being careful not to harm the foliage. Remove the puppies from the mother, let them dry, and then replant them on their own. Fill a larger container halfway with cactus soil medium. Repot the mother such that the soil line is slightly below the main crown and all of the roots are covered. Water all of the plants well and allow the soil to dry fully before watering again.
Because aloe vera cannot withstand frost, grow it in pots and bring it indoors for the winter if you live in a cold region. Outdoor plants in their hardiness zones can be left unwatered in the ground throughout their dormant phase. To keep your aloe plants warm until the fear of frost has gone, cover them with sheets or blankets if an unexpected frost is forecast.
How to Get Aloe Vera to Bloom
Aloe blooms on a three-foot-tall, rigid stem. Tubular yellow or orange flower clusters resemble red hot poker plants. But aloe vera is a picky grower. Even after reaching the mature age of four, indoor potted aloe vera may never blossom. You need to mimic the plant’s native desert environment in order to attempt to produce a bloom. The highest chances of flowering come from exposing your plant to direct sunlight, mild temperatures, and moderate but occasional waterings. Summertime placement of potted plants outside will increase their likelihood of blossoming. Even when all the requirements are completed, your aloe vera plant could only sprout a single branch and blossom, possibly just once every season.
Advice on buying Aloe vera
Potted plants are frequently available at your local garden shop or nursery. Before carrying your plant home, thoroughly check it for signs of insect damage, as well as yellowing or browning foliage. Always select the plants that appear to be in good health.
Managing Pests and Disease
Red leaves suggest that your plant is receiving an excessive amount of direct sunlight. Place it in a bright area that is not in direct sunlight.
Wrinkled leaves indicate that your plant is dehydrated. Over a few days, water softly and spray the leaves. Don’t oversaturate the compost; aloes dislike sitting in cold, moist compost.
Pale or yellow leaves may indicate that your aloe has been overwatered or is not receiving enough sun.
Overwatering causes brown or mushy leaves.
Scale insects, which appear like brown lumps approximately 5mm long, may be seen on the leaves. Remove with an organic insecticide-soaked cotton pad.