Aloe Vera – Details, Growing Tips

Aloe vera details and tips for growing them well.

Aloe vera plants are easy to grow inside and out.

Common Names

Aloe Vera, Chinese Aloe, Indian Aloe, Barbados Aloe, True Aloe, First Aid Plant, Burn Aloe, Medicinal Aloe, Savila, Aloe Indica, Aloe Barbadensis

Scientific Binomial Name

Aloe vera (or the synonyms Aloe barbadensis or Aloe barbadensis miller)

Description of Aloe vera

Aloe vera plants are very short stemmed and grow individually in a large rosette shape.  The leaves are edged with small white soft spines.  The leaves circle one another in layers.  Depending on the growing environment and the age of the plant it may have a mottled appearance and have various shades of green.  The leaves are most often a thick, fleshy greenish-grey.  Very young Aloe vera plants usually have small white spots.

Mature Size:  Outside they can grow 2 feet high and 3 feet wide.

Outside Spacing:  18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

Uses:  These are popular plants to grow inside and out because they are so hardy and easy to maintain.  They are great plants to use with xeriscaping.  Indoors they are listed as one of the plants that helps clean toxic indoor air pollution.

Growing Conditions for Aloe vera

Light:  These thrive with full direct sunlight.  When growing them inside make sure they are in a place where they can get a full day’s sunlight.  They seem to do best in west or south facing windows. Outside they prefer full sun will tolerate partial shade.

Soil:  Use a well-draining gritty or sandy soil. A commercial cactus potting soil mix will work well.  You can use a standard potting soil if you also add sand or perlite.

Flowers:  These flower with 3 feet tall stalks that have numerous bright yellow flowers.  Plants growing in the desert or outside will usually flower each spring but may randomly bloom any time of the year. Be patient since it may take 3-4 years for an Aloe vera to produce its first flowers.  Aloe vera grown as houseplants will rarely if ever bloom.

Hardiness Zones:  8,9,10,11

General Care for Aloe vera

Water:  Very drought resistant.  Only water every other week and only when the top inch of soil is dry.

Fertilizer:  Generally these do not need to be fertilized at all.  If needed fertilize once a year with a half strength phosphorus heavy water based fertilizer.

Pests and Diseases:  Deer resistant. Virtually disease free. Watch for mealybugs and scale insects.

Pruning:  You can cut or tear away leaves at the base of the leaf.  You can harvest many leaves each year without stressing the plant.  Taking leaves from the bottom will expose the plants stem but that doesn’t seem to weaken the plant at all.

Propagation:  Aloe vera plants produce lots of pups or offsets. It is easy to cut these away from the mother plant and it is best to do that when they are about 2 inches high.  Allow the bottom of the pup to heal for a few days and then plant it in new potting soil.  Set it in a good sunny area and it will take root.  It is also possible to propagate by dividing of rhizomes and tubers.  The seeds are easy to collect from dried seed heads.

Repotting:  Repot only when it has outgrown its container.  When repotting it is usually best to divide off any pups and plant them in separate pots.

Signs of Stress and Poor Health

Brown leaf tips are rare but are a sign that the plant needs more water.  Overwatering will cause black spots on the leaves.  Be careful not to allow water to collect for too long inside the rosettes as this may lead to rotting.

Medicinal and Other Uses

We have numerous articles about the well-documented medicinal uses of Aloe vera.

Cautions

According to the ASPCA, Aloe vera is toxic to cats and dogs when ingested.

Native Distribution

SW Arabian Peninsula, South Africa

Other Botanical Synonyms

Aloe vulgaris, Aloe perfoliata var. barbadensis, Aloe lanzae, Aloe indica

Other Tips

The flowers attract butterflies, bees and birds.

 

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