Aloe Vera plants, Aloe barbadensis, are perennial plants in the Lily family that are known for their healing and soothing properties. The thick, succulent leaves are pale grayish-green with lighter spots and points along the edges. The center of each leaf is filled with a viscous gel. The plants are vase-shaped, and spread by shallow roots.There are around 450 species ranging in size from a few inches to a few feet.
Aloe Vera is closely related to Aloe ferox and Aloe brevifolia, both popular ornamental succulents.
Aloe Vera Plants Growing Conditions
The plants like a very well-drained potting mix, containing sand, perlite, pumice or sharp grit. Indoors, place your plant in bright light. If you would like to move it outdoors in the summer months, do so gradually, placing it at first in dappled light. Remember that Aloe cannot stand any frost. Help your plant readjust to indoor conditions by bringing it inside before nights get cool in autumn. Outdoors, Aloe can grow in full sun to partial shade. Aloe Vera is considered hardy in zones 9 through 11 and is often grown as a house plant year-round.
| Scientific name - Aloe barbadensis |
Common name - Aloe vera
Planting time - Spring
Bloom time - Spring or summer
Habitat - Rocky slopes
Uses - House plant, garden, medicinal
| Kingdom - Plantae |
Division - Magnoliophyta
Class - Magnoliopsida
Order - Liliales
Family - Liliaceae
Genus - Aloe
Species - Barbadensis
| Height - 8-24 inches |
Spread - 12-36 inches
Habit - Rosette, colonizes
Texture - Coarse
Growth rate - Moderate
Leaf - Grey-green, pointed
Flower - White to orange
| Light Requirement - Sun to part shade |
Soil - Sandy, well-drained
Drought Tolerance - High
The cultivation of Aloe Vera presents a number of specific challenges that growers should understand. These challenges most commonly relate to watering, temperature, and soil.
Aloe Vera is classified as a "succulent" plant. This means that the plant has thick, waxy leaves that are designed to retain moisture and sustain the plant during the long dry-spells commonly experienced in its home range. Due to this, cultivators should take the following precautions when watering Aloe Vera.
- Allow soil to completely dry before you water again.
- When you do water, be sure to thoroughly drench the soil so water runs out the bottom.
- Water less in winter months when plants take up less water than normal.
Temperature and Sunlight
The temperature that is best suited Aloe cultivation is that which would mimic the average temperature of hardiness zones 9 through 11. This equates to a maximum low temperature of 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much higher than the majority of areas throughout the country experience. This is why most cultivators decide to grow their plants indoors near windows that allow them access to full sun for at least half of a day. Remember that Aloe Vera is a plant that developed over generations as a desert succulent that is accustomed to growing on rocky outcroppings.
There are some very specific soil requirements that should be recognized by all Aloe growers.
- Soil should be well-drained with a high ratio of sand.
- If you add sand yourself, search for river sand instead of beach sand, as it more closely mimics the soil of Aloe's natural environment.
- In potted Aloe Vera plants, soil nutrient renewal can be best achieved using worm casings and compost teas.
Aloe Vera Uses
Aloe Vera has been known for generations to have a number of different uses.
- Medicinal uses: Aloe Vera's use as a medicinal plant can be traced back roughly 6000 years. Throughout the generations, Aloe has been most commonly used as a laxative and a topical analgesic. It is currently used in a large number of skin care and medicinal skin products. Aloe can be used either in a prepared form from stores or by simply cutting off a leaf from the plant and squeezing the liquid out onto a burn or cut.
- Food use: Aloe is sometimes used as a food additive. However, The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns that a National Toxicology Program two-year-long study showed that rats given non-decolorized aloe extract in their drinking water developed intestinal tumors. It's not clear yet how that information translates to humans.
- Landscaping: Many people use Aloe Vera grown in clumps as a landscaping tool. This is most often called Xeriscaping. Aloe is a very drought-tolerant plant, which means it can be used to make landscapes attractive without having to use much water. This makes the plant most popular in places like Utah and Arizona, or other places where water bills are higher due to a lower availability of water.
Grow Aloe Vera at Home
Aloe is one of the most widely cultivated potted plants in the country. It is renowned for its ability to survive nearly anywhere and it is a popular plant for its multiple uses. Whether used in landscaping or as a tool for treating skin problems, Aloe Vera has a great many uses and quite a lot of potential.