With its numerous benefits, Aloe vera is a wonderful plant to have around. This succulent plant has been known worldwide for its medicinal properties, though it would look as good as an ornamental houseplant. In different regions, the varieties are also known as First Aid Plant, African Aloe, and Miracle Plant. Some planters choose this plant because of its benefits and the undemanding character of the Aloe vera plant care.
Aloe vera Origin and Characteristics
Despite its popularity, it is known that Aloe vera was originally found only in Southwest of the Arabian Peninsula. For centuries, the plant has been spread and naturalized in other countries like Sudan and Spain. Aloe vera was introduced to China around the 17th century, and now it can be found in almost every region in the world.
Just like other succulent, Aloe vera has the ability to lock moisture inside its body and survive in the dry season for a long duration. It grows on rosettes with small or no stem appearing. It can grow up to 100 cm in height with thicker leaves on tall plants. The leaves are more like shoots growing from the base. It is thick and fleshy with a sort of gel texture when sliced open.
Each of the leaves has a row of with teeth on the sides. These white teeth are like the spines that you can find on cacti. In summer, the plant may grow yellow flowers hanging from an upright spike. It reproduces via its offset, which means the mother plant is dividing mitotically, giving the offspring identic genes.
Furthermore, this succulent plant absorbs mineral and nutrition by forming Arbuscular mycorrhiza, a fungi colony that symbiotically lives on the plant’s root. The fungi colony allows the mineral and nutrition from the soil penetrates into Aloe vera’s root.
Caring for Aloe Vera plant
There are plenty of reasons why Aloe vera plant care is undemanding. The characteristic of the succulent is one of it. It tends to retain water, resistant to hot weather and pests and does not need a particular schedule of watering and fertilizer.
Aloe vera plant care favors a lot of light but less direct sun. Too much sun may cause stress to the plant, making it easier to catch mites, diseases, and pest attacks. If you are planting in pots, give the plant 2 – 3 hours of direct sunlight and place it under the shade for the rest of the day. To avoid the sunburn, you may want to place the plant on areas that are facing South or West.
The best temperature for an Aloe vera plant care is around 13˚ C – 27˚ C. In winter, you might want to keep the plant indoors with artificial light. Remember that the leaves consist of thick gel-like texture on the inside—low temperature may cause them to freeze. There are grow lights that can be bought at the store to replace the natural light through the season.
The right water amount is the key in caring for Aloe vera plant. Water it deeply on a pot that drains well. Then, how often to water Aloe? A healthy Aloe vera may only need around a month between each watering. They retain water well in the soil—make sure that it has already dried before you get to water it again. In freezing weather, the watering frequency may be decreased, around once every two months.
To avoid rotting from overwatering, you can take the plant out of the soil and leave it for a couple of days until the soil is completely dry. The plant would live and balance their water level. Once it dries, place it back on the soil.
Soil Condition and Fertilizer
The best soil to use is a succulent potting mix. It is essential to use the right soil for Aloe vera because you need to have the plant on a well-draining soil. A standard potting mix would retain water longer and cause the roots to rot. Meanwhile, fertilizing can only be done once a month in spring or summer. Use a houseplant fertilizer formula with half-strength.
Propagating, Harvesting Aloe Vera, and Storing It
A matured Aloe vera would produce offsets or new rosettes. Check the area around the base to see if there are shoots from new offsets. You may use a sharp pruning knife to cut the shoots from the stem. It is best to have at least half an inch of stem on the new plant.
While repotting Aloe is a rather easy task to do, make sure that you don’t put it directly on another pot after cutting it. Leave the plant out of the soil for at least two days so you can allow the cut wounds to heal. Basically, the wounds should not be in direct contact with the soil.
Now that you have your Aloe vera growing well and healthy, it’s time to know how to use it. As a plant with many benefits for medicinal and cosmetic use, raw Aloe vera can only be used topical and should not be consumed. To do it, cut a matured leave lengthwise and you can start seeing its thick gel inside. Slice it open to get more access to the gel, and you can apply it directly to the demanded area.
In storing the Aloe vera, remember that oxidation may spoil the quality of gel. Thus, the best way to store it is in its whole leaf. Wrap several leaves with an airtight plastic wrap and refrigerate it. This way, the gel stays in its prime condition, and you can always cut a few inches each time you want to use it.
The Benefits of Aloe vera
The easy Aloe vera plant care makes it a wonderful plant to have. Keeping a small one around the kitchen makes a nice decoration and a first aid kit at the same time. These are several benefits that you can take from growing Aloe vera:
- Relieve skin burn
- Provide relief to itchy skin caused by insect bites
- Moisturizes hair
- Soothe sunburnt skin
Some would advise drinking its processed juice has several health benefits. However, you should never consume it raw as it may cause toxicity. If you are looking for a stress-free houseplant to take care and has plenty of benefits, Aloe vera is the perfect plant to consider.