How to Grow Aloe Vera

How to Grow Aloe Vera

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis), aka ‘the burn plant’, is a plant that has been grown for thousands of years, both for its beauty and medicinal purposes. In ancient Egypt, the plant was called the “plant of immortality” and it is believed Cleopatra regularly applied it to her skin. The name “aloe vera” literally means “true aloe”. It’s prized for its medicinal uses, but it’s also an attractive houseplant in its own right. Aloe vera is also very easy to grow, and you can get started growing your own useful and attractive plant today with these tips.

It’s a Succulent

Aloe vera is a succulent in the cacti family. It is thought to have originated from the dry Arabian Peninsula, but nowadays it is grown worldwide. Its long history of cultivation has resulted in numerous names/synonyms in the past. Some of these alternative scientific names include Aloe barbadensis var. chinensis, Aloe elongata, and Aloe perfoliata var. vera. Although there are plenty of other aloe species, but aloe vera is the most popular and well known one.

aloe vera blooming

Treat the plant as you would any other type of cacti – give it dry conditions and plenty of sunlight. As with all succulent, aloe vera has thick, fleshy leaves that store moisture, and over-watering is the plant’s number one enemy. Therefore be careful with your watering.

Did you know that aloe vera can produce flowers in conducive conditions? When these flowers die off, they will produce seeds. These seeds can then be replanted and sprout new aloe vera plants that way. However, if grown indoors, aloe vera rarely produces flowers.

aloe vera blossoms up close
Aloe vera blossoms up close. These are not as red as others.

Planting

You can grow aloe vera with or without a container, but growing the plant inside a container helps you control how much water it is going to get. As far as containers go, a terra cotta planter works best for growing aloe vera, the terra cotta pulls moisture out of soil to help prevent the roots from drowning.

Use a potting soil mix that is formulated for growing cactus. Regular potting soil will work also if you add sand or perlite to it. Place gravel in the bottom of container to promote good drainage. As a sub-tropical plant, certain species of Aloe vera can be planted in-ground and grown outdoors year-round in warm climates. However, the popular variety, Aloe barbadensis, is best grown in a container indoors. It can be placed outdoors in its container during the summer, then brought back indoors for the winter months. Aloe vera is one of the most suitable indoor houseplants that you can grow.

You might wonder if it could grow huge. Yes it can, but growing it indoors in a pot seems to limit its size. If you want it to grow them to huge size, plant them outdoors. Aloe vera can typically last a very long time under the right soil and water conditions, as in over twenty years.

aloe vera grown indoors
Aloe vera grown indoors in a container. This type has small white flecks on its leaves, and has been called Aloe vera var. chinensis by some.

Growing Location

A bright and warm location where the plant will receive indirect sunlight (or artificial light) for at least 6 hours each day should suffice. Aloe vera does not like cold temperatures and needs to be in a room where temperature remains 60-80 °F (13 and 27 °C) at all times. Keep the plant away from drafts caused by vents or exterior doors. If you find the plant is not growing well or the leaves are drooping, it probably needs to be given more sunlight.

Watering

Allow the potting soil to become completely dry before watering. Saturate the soil until the water begins to drip out of the bottom drainage hole of the container, then stop watering.

The plant will typically only need watering once every 10 days, but climates vary and the dry soil will let you know the best watering schedule for your aloe vera. This is one of the easiest plants to grow, since it requires little watering; overwatering is the number one cause of aloe vera plants dying!

Feeding

Aloe vera plants do not need to be fed, but a yearly feeding in spring won’t hurt the plant. Use a water soluble, phosphorus-heavy fertilizer mixed at half strength to feed.

aloe vera pulp in leaves
Aloe vera leaves cut open to reveal the inner gel or pulp.

Harvesting

Aloe vera gel, which is located inside the plump leaves, is frequently used to sooth burns and other skin irritations. To harvest and use the gel, cut off a mature leaf (juvenile leaves do not have much potency) and cut the outer skin off to reveal the inner gel. The gel can be squeezed out from the leaf and then applied directly to your skin. The gel is a great moisturizer. Some people prefer to simply place the cut leaf gel-side–down on top of the affected body part.

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