Aloe is a plant of the succulent family. Native to Africa, aloe is a fat plant of the Asphodelaceae family. Depending on the species, it can be shrubby, arborescent or creeping. Its thick stems are filled with juice and serve as water reserves during periods of drought.
Very famous in cosmetics, the juice of the aloe vera has multiple virtues! Aloe vera gel was already well known during the Mayan and ancient Egyptian eras and has healing, soothing and moisturizing properties.
Where to start an aloe vera?
Sloping ground with natural drainage, such as rock gardens and embankments, are good places to plant aloe vera. Otherwise, the plant requires a very well drained soil that does not retain water in winter.
Full sun is required outdoors, for the growth and flowering of the plant. In greenhouses and verandas, it needs a very bright situation, but avoid placing the pot just behind a window during the hot hours in summer. In apartment, it is the same thing, better to take the plant out on the balcony than to let it roast behind a glass.
When to start an aloe vera?
Planting is done in spring or summer. In pots, repot the first year after purchase and then every two to three years.
How to start aloe vera?
In the ground
- Leave some space around the plant, as there are many offshoots.
- Also avoid placing the plant too close to the edge of walkways, as the thorny leaves can hurt.
- Dig a hole wider than it is deep, to allow the roots to spread out better in loose soil.
In a pot
- Choose a clay container, as plastic ones do not allow the soil to breathe and therefore retain more moisture after watering. As the roots of the aloe are superficial and extend horizontally, it is better that the container is wider than high.
- A mixture of potting soil and coarse sand is recommended or a potting soil for cacti.
Maintenance of the aloe vera
Watering the aloe vera
In the ground
- Water little, aloe vera is generally satisfied with rainfall on our coasts and dew that concentrates on the leaves and trickles down to the ground.
In a pot
- Water the aloe vera with water at room temperature, as water that is too cold can stress the plant.
- Water sparingly, and do not leave any residual water in the saucer. Take the time to moisten the entire root ball (by watering in several times at 5 min intervals) so that it swells and allows the plant’s roots to replenish the water reserves in the leaves.
- In winter, water once a month, only to prevent the substrate from drying out completely.
In full ground
Fertilization is not necessary.
Apply half a dose of water-soluble fertilizer in late spring and late summer.
In the ground
In case of prolonged frost, wrap the aloe with a winter veil. But this protection is not easy to place, because the plant blooms in winter. Growing aloe vera in a pot allows to bring the pot into the greenhouse.
In a pot
The pot should be placed in a greenhouse, a veranda or a very bright interior during the winter period when temperatures are low or negative.
Pruning of the aloe vera
Aloe vera cannot be pruned. Only clean the faded flower stems and cut off the dry leaves if necessary.
Multiplying aloe vera
The easiest way to multiply your aloe vera is to replant the offshoots that it could make at the base of the mother plant. To replant the shoots, you just have to detach them from the base and repot them separately in the same soil as the original plant.
Sowing is also possible if you collect the seeds from the flowers and plant them in the ground the following spring.
Attacks and diseases of aloe vera
An aloe cultivated in good conditions, warm and without excess of water, remains free of diseases and parasites. But it is particularly afraid of the humidity of the ground. If aphids and mealy bugs appear, clean the aloe leaves with a cloth soaked in methylated spirits and then rinse with water.
Use of aloe vera
Aloe vera gel is rich in water and is used in cosmetics as a moisturizing agent. The juice of aloe vera has laxative properties, it is present in the pharmacopoeia treating constipation, but must be dosed with care.
Aloe vera is a plant with soothing and healing properties that is now very successful. It is used in cosmetics as well as in dishwashing products. It is therefore tempting to grow it yourself in order to harvest the leaves and prepare your own potions. But some parts of the plant contain a high level of aloin which can be highly toxic. Indeed, only the pulp of the leaves collected with care is beneficial. If the entire leaf of the aloe vera plant is used, it is toxic.
Since aloe vera is known to absorb VOCs from the atmosphere, it is also safer not to use the leaves of the one you are growing indoors for herbal use.
In conclusion, it is best to grow aloe vera for its decorative properties and leave the extraction of the pulp and its beneficial compounds to the professionals of organic farming.