Growing Aloe Vera

The essential kitchen windowsill plant. Aloe vera gel (inside the leaf casing) is wonderful for soothing minor burns. I couldn’t do without an Aloe Vera in the house!

Medicinal uses for Aloe Vera

The medicinal uses for aloe vera are well documented and various. One particularly benefit is a treatment for burns. The sap in the leaves can be applied directly to a minor burn. It aids the body in its healing process and the wound will be much relieved.

The sap also relieves pain from stinging insects and plants. It will also soothe sunburn.

An interesting feature of aloe vera plants is that they continue to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide at night which makes them suitable plants to keep in the bedroom.

About Aloe Vera

Historical evidence suggests that aloe vera originated in Africa although it is now grown in many countries. In moderate climates, aloe is often grown as a houseplant and thrives well in containers. It will grow happily in humid conditions as long as the roots aren’t in water. The plant will tolerate very high temperatures as well as very cold air temperatures. But low ground temperatures will damage the roots.

The use of aloe vera in medicinal preparations has been recorded for more than 2000 years. The sap from the leaf of the plant is a thick gel and it is this gel that holds all the healing ingredients aloe vera is becoming more and more well-known for. There is a wide commercial trade in aloe vera and it has been proved to cure many minor ailments as well as some chronic conditions.

The plant is 95% water and is therefore frost tender. It is normally grown indoors as a houseplant in the UK and similar climates. In warmer climates aloe vera can be grown outside in full sun or very light shade.

Growing

Aloe vera has become very popular in recent years and is available in the form of ready grown plants from many garden suppliers. Plants should be kept on a sunny windowsill and kept indoors for most of the year. During warm summer months, pots can be put outside during the day. Don’t forget to bring them in before the temperature drops.

Offsets:

The quickest way to propagate aloe is to take the offsets from the main plant and re-pot immediately using new compost and a container that can be positioned in the sun. Offsets should be 3 or 4 inches (8-10cm) high or more with 3 or 4 leaves and removed carefully so as to minimize damage to the mother plant.

All pots and containers must be very well-drained. Add extra sand or gravel to compost before planting. Water immediately after planting and then let the soil dry out almost completely before watering again.

Use the offsets as they become large enough to remove from the plant, to produce new plants. Give them away if you have too man.

From seed:

Aloe vera can be grown from seed although it can take anything from one to six months to germinate. It must be kept warm during this time. It should be started in well-drained trays or pots of warm fresh compost and kept damp. Water gently but regularly.

When the plants are large enough to handle, prick out carefully into individual pots and keep warm. Position in a sunny spot, either in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. If you are planting outside choose the sunniest spot in the garden away from draughts and frost pockets.

Protect with a cloche or other cover during the night until the plant has become established, and during the next cold season. Remember aloe vera is a tropical plant and likes warm humid weather and plenty of sun.

Re-potting:

Plants will need re-potting every year or so, depending on the size of the pot, how well it grows, and also the quality of the original compost.

Aloe vera has shallow wide spreading roots and it should be re-potted into a container that is wider but not necessarily deeper than its current one. Always use fresh compost when re-potting and mix in some sand to help with the drainage.

During the summer months, aloe vera should be watered well and then left to dry out completely before watering again. During the winter months, the plant rests and requires very little water. When the soil is completely dry add a cup or two of water. The plant is a succulent so holds a lot of water within the leaves and roots, and will rot if watered too much and too often.

Storing

Aloe Vera is an evergreen succulent and available for use all year round. The gel inside the leaves can be stored and is widely processed in aloe vera preparations. However, in commercial processing, it is usual to use the whole leaf as it is more cost effective.

“One of the most practical plants you can grow indoors that doesn’t really need much looking after.”

Linda x

P.S. This article was stolen from 20 Occasional Herbs. Listed on the Herb Books page if you’d like to know more.

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