Want to know how to grow your own aloe vera plants? The succulent aloe vera is an easy houseplant to care for, and it will reward you with a little extra bonus. The juice and gel from the aloe vera plant’s leaves can be used to soothe sunburns and other minor skin irritations. It is also used by some to relieve mild stomach irritation, to treat acne, to relieve the symptoms of eczema, and even to stimulate hair growth.
With all of these amazing healing and health qualities, it’s a handy plant to keep right in the kitchen. It is also a plant that can be grown in the ground in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. Aloe vera makes a perfect container plant to move indoors or outdoors according to the season.
Aloe vera plants originated in Africa. The earliest known use of aloe dates back about 5000 years. Throughout history, aloe has been a valued plant for its varied medicinal uses. Today, it can be found growing wild in tropical and subtropical regions around the globe. It is also found in households far and wide for the same reasons that people throughout the ages have enjoyed its use.
For an in depth coverage of the many health benefits of the aloe plant, see http://sacredsourcenutrition.com/top-12-benefits-of-aloe-vera/
With its spiky leaf appearance, aloe vera is sometimes categorized as a cactus. However, it is a member of the Lily family. Aside from being a practical plant, an aloe plant will produce a lovely, fragrant lily-type flower usually in the fall. The flowers are most commonly yellow, but there are some varieties that boast shades of red and even purple. The foliage ranges in color from grey to deep-green.
How to plant and care for an aloe vera
An aloe vera plant has a shallow but wide root system. You can choose a large, shallow container that allows for outward growth rather than downward growth. The container you choose for your aloe plant should have at least one drainage hole. Or, you can create a layer for drainage when you place rocks along the bottom of your container.
An aloe plant produces offsets that can be pulled away from the main plant and transplanted. Gently separate the roots of the baby away from the mother plant until they are divided completely. You may have to slice the root with a knife. This is the most common way to propagate your own aloe plant. You can buy an aloe vera plant at most garden centers and nurseries, too.
Whether planting in the ground or in a container, aloe is not finicky about its soil. It will grow in just about any type of conditions, but your plant will be happiest when its soil is extremely well draining. For container planting, mix 2 parts potting soil to 1 part sand. This will keep the roots nice and dry. Place your new transplant in the soil you have prepared, and cover the roots completely.
Aloe vera is a sun-loving plant. Yours should be placed in a bright location where it can enjoy several hours of direct sunlight every day. Place your indoor aloe on a sunny windowsill. Treat your indoor aloe to fresh air and sunshine in the late spring and summer by moving your plant outdoors. Just make sure to protect your aloe vera plant from temperatures of 40 degrees F or lower. Your aloe may not recover from a cold snap.
An aloe vera plant is in greater danger of drowning than of drying out too much. Its succulent leaves and roots serve as reservoirs of water that help it survive in the driest of conditions. A young aloe transplant should be watered once very well. After that, water your young or your well-established aloe once every two to three weeks. Wait until the soil is dry to the touch before you water it again. During the winter, your aloe plant may require even less water. For more watering tips for your aloe vera plant, read this article on the Aloe Barn.
While the growth of your aloe plant does not require it, you can feed your aloe vera plant. Consider whether you are feeding it for aesthetic purposes or for medicinal purposes. For aesthetics, feed your plant once a year just prior to its blooming season, which is usually in the fall, with half strength mix of a bloom type fertilizer. If your plant will be used for its medicinal properties, use a fertilizer that is appropriate for edible plants in half strength concentration. Watch this YouTube video for more information on feeding your aloe vera plant.
You will find that a well cared-for aloe vera plant is a proliferative little thing. You will be able to share the offsets with all of your friends. You should increase the size of your containers every two or three years as your mother plant grows to keep it healthy, to give it plenty of growing room, and to prevent your plant from becoming root bound. Watch this YouTube video to learn more about splitting and transplanting aloe plants.
Aloe vera plants are good at communicating when its needs are not being met. For example, if your aloe’s leaves are turning yellow or brown, it is getting too much sun. For a quick guide to improving the health of your ailing aloe plant check out these tips.
Different aloe varieties
Not all aloe plants pack the medicinal punch that the most common aloe vera or ‘Aloe barbadensis Miller’ does. This variety can be grown easily in a container, either inside or outside in containers, or in the ground.
‘Aloe reitzii’ is a rare aloe that boasts tall, upright foliage and stunning, spike-shaped red flowers in the summer. ‘Aloe cameronii’ has red leaves when grown in full sun and high heat. The leaves alone set this variety apart, but the fiery-orange blossoms are truly spectacular. These varieties are both good choices for outdoor aesthetic purposes. And the nectar from these striking aloe blossoms are a favorite for hummingbirds for an added reward in your garden.
For a small container plant, try the dwarf variety ‘Aloe humilis’. For more on small aloe varieties, see http://wimastergardener.org/?q=SmallAloes. And for a list of different aloe plant varieties used for health purposes, visit http://agriherbals.com/aloe_vera_varieties.htm.
How to harvest aloe vera gel
With all the talk on the multiple health benefits of aloe, you might wonder how to tap into that resource. Well, it’s simple. To harvest the gel, you can simply pick a leaf, snap it open, and apply the juice and gel straight to your skin.
Another, more thorough way to harvest the goodness within the leaves is to select a leaf from the exterior portion of the plant. Sever the leaf down at the base with a knife. Lay the leaf horizontally on the counter, and slice the leaf down the entire length. Scrape out the gel gently with a spoon, and voila! You have an excellent home skincare balm.
You can peel your aloe leaf with a vegetable peeler, too. Peel beyond the yellowish sticky layer that lies between the skin of the aloe and the gel, especially if you plan on ingesting your aloe. The yellow layer is a bitter flavored portion called aloin. Aloin has a laxative effect, which may be helpful to some, but most choose to avoid this portion of the aloe.
For great information on the many uses of aloe, check out http://www.thealoevera.com/about-aloe-vera.html. And for some yummy and interesting ways to add the benefits of aloe into your diet, check out these delicacies at http://www.aloebarn.com/aloe_vera_recipes.
Kraft Gardens tells you all about how to care for your aloe vera plant on YouTube.