What you need to know about aloe vera
Name: aloe vera. The common name is the same as the scientific name (aloe vera).
Height: about half a metre in ideal conditions, but usually less in gardens and pots
Foliage: evergreen, succulent, mid-green foliage.
Climate: prefers sub-tropical and tropical regions, but will grow in cold temperate, warm temperate and arid/semi-arid conditions, provided there are no frosts.
Soil: needs a soil with excellent drainage.
Position: full sun outdoors, but will grow indoors if there’s lots of light.
Flowering: clusters of yellow to orange flowers on the top of an upright flower stem.
Feeding: occasional feeding with a balanced, controlled-release fertiliser
Watering: adapted to dry climates, so minimal watering is required.
Appearance and characteristics of aloe vera
Aloe vera is an evergreen succulent that forms a cluster of leaves rising almost straight up from the base. The leaves are green to grey-green, and sometimes feature small white spots and short stripes on the upper and lower surfaces. Each leaf is thick and fleshy and has a run of short thorns along each side, though these are not very sharp.
Uses and medicinal properties of aloe vera
Aloe vera can be grown both indoors and outdoors in pots, as part of a collection of succulents.
Aloe vera is also often grown for the medicinal properties of its leaves. The gel contained in the aloe vera leaves has soothing properties and is used to treat sunburn, and other skin conditions, as well as constipation and asthma.
How to plant and grow aloe vera
Aloe vera should be grown in full sun in a spot with good drainage and no frosts. If your soil is heavy or you live in a wet area, consider growing your aloe vera in a raised garden bed, and add some coarse gravel to improve drainage.
You can grow aloe vera in a garden pot or container. Use a cacti and succulent potting mix to ensure good drainage. If growing the plant indoors, make sure it is in a very bright part of the house.
Plant your aloe vera at any time of the year, and water it in well to settle the soil. Because these plants grow from the middle out, it is important not to damage the central growing point.
Give it a controlled-release fertiliser once a year, just before the main growing season.
Caring for aloe vera
It is important to remember that this plant is naturally adapted to very dry conditions, so you can let it dry out considerably between waterings.
Diseases and pests affecting aloe vera
Aloe vera has few problems. Sometimes, especially when grown indoors and in small courtyards, it can be attacked by small sap-sucking insects, such as scale, mealy bugs and aphids. Keep your eye out for these, and control with a garden insecticide if they occur.
How to grow aloe vera from cuttings
The simplest way to propagate aloe vera is from the small plants that form at the base of the plant. These are known as ‘pups’. Dig gently around the base to reveal the pup and its young stem. Break this away from the main plant and pot it in a container of cacti and succulent potting mix, or in a well-drained sunny spot in the garden.
If you like this then try
Desert rose: a succulent with showy flowers that is suitable for growing in pots.
Cactus: a range of plants adapted to extremely hot and dry conditions.
Agave: a group of succulents with a similar appearance to aloes.
Jade plant: a succulent with rounded leaves on a small, tree-like structure.
Yucca: rosettes of grey foliage and spikes of showy white flowers in summer.
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