Aloe vera is a succulent plant, and has thick and fleshy leaves. Within these thick, fleshy leaves you will find the colorless gel that has made Aloe vera well-known. The Aloe Vera extract is being used in a great array of products.
Scientific name: Aloe vera
Common name: Aloe vera, Chinese Aloe, Indian Aloe, True Aloe, Barbados Aloe, Burn Aloe, First Aid Plant.
Habitat: Cultivated in many parts of the world, but is naturally found in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, through North Africa, and on the Canary, Cape Verde, and Madeira Islands. Natural habitat in dry and rocky areas, also often exposed.
The Aloe vera plant has a short stem with erect, succulent leaves forming a rosette. The greyish green leaves can grow up to about 19 inches (50cm) and are sometimes covered with lighter spots.
The cylindrical yellow flowers are towering over the rest of the plant on its panicle, which can be as long as 35 inches (90cm).
The gel from the Aloe vera plant is widely used for alternative medicine and cosmetics. It is usually used for ailments, such as burns, cuts, and rashes. However, there is little scientific evidence of the beneficial effects of Aloe gel.
Warning: Ingestion of Aloe vera may cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Don’t let small children or pets eat or chew on the Aloe vera leaves.
How to grow Aloe vera
The Aloe vera can be either planted outside if you live in a dry and warm climate, or indoors in a pot. It is not a difficult plant to grow, but requires some care when it comes to soil, light, and watering.
If you plan to grow the Aloe vera outdoors, place the plant in soil that is fast draining and is moderately fertile. The plant thrives best with full sun, but can handle light shaded areas as well. Beware the Aloe vera plant is very sensitive to frost, due to it mainly consists of water.
The Aloe vera is a great plant to grow indoors. Remember to place it in a large pot with good draining and a potting mix for cacti or other succulents. A wide pot is better than a deep pot, since the Aloe vera has a shallow root system. A layer of gravel at the bottom, 1 to 2 inches thick, would help the drainage. If you use normal potting mix, the plant would benefit if you add some granite grit or coarse sand.
The plant needs lots of sun light and should therefore be placed near a window.
Since the Aloe vera is succulent, it stores a lot of water within its leaves and roots. During the summer months let the soil be completely soaked, but then let it dry completely before watering it again. Be aware if you give it too much water, it will most likely rot.
During the winter months the plant is usually not as active, and therefore need less water. When the soil is completely dry just add a cup or two of water.
Give the Aloe vera plant some fertilizer during the spring months, especially if you have it in a pot. You could also place the pot outside during the warmer summer months and bring it in before the first frost of the season.