Botanical Name — Aloe vera
Common Name — True Aloe, Burn Aloe, First aid plant
Plant Family — Asphodelaceae
Aloe vera is a succulent plant originating from the Arabian Peninsula, but commonly found in tropical and subtropical climates around the world. It is grown ornamentally but also has a range of cosmetic and medicinal applications. Aloe vera is commonly found in beverages, skin and hair care cosmetics, and ointments for burns. The gel from the leaves can be applied directly to scars, burns or scabs to help heal and reduce scarring.
Aloe vera will thrive in a few hours bright, full sun daily. Late afternoon sun is ideal, as intense afternoon sun will cause the leaves to blush a pinkish or yellowish color.
Aloe plants are semi-arid and will tolerate some humidity but do not require it. Ideal temperatures for Aloe vera are between 55 and 80 ºF.
Aloe plants are extremely drought tolerant, storing large quantities of water in their thick, succulent leaves. During the warm months, water these plants thoroughly and deeply, only once the soil has completely dried out. When the temperature cools down, cut down on watering, to about once every two months.
Aloe vera require a gritty, well-drained mix. Use a soil made for cacti or succulents, or amend potting soil with pumice or sand up to 50% to improve drainage.
Aloe vera plants flower during the summer. Pinkish-red flowers are borne in clusters at the terminal end of a spike about 35 inches tall. Aloe vera plants rarely flower indoors.
Aloe vera do not require fertilization. If you want to give them a boost, it is ok to fertilize sparingly, no more than once a month, using a balanced fertilizer diluted to half-strength, or one specifically formulated for cacti and succulents.
Aloe vera is easily propagated by separating pups that sucker from the base of the plant. Aloe vera also germinates readily from seed. Keep the soil evenly moist and create a humid environment to encourage growth until the plant has established itself, at least a few months.
Aloe vera are not particularly susceptible to pests or disease though there are some common infections to be vigilant of.
Aloe rust is caused by a fungus and causes black or brown spots on the leaves. The disease is self-limiting as lesions will oxidize and seal themselves off from the rest of the plant and prevent spread.
Root rot and soft rot on the leaves are other infections that can be either fungal or bacterial. Overwatering and the accumulation of water in the crown both increase aloe’s susceptibility to these issues. Prevent this by watering only when the soil is thoroughly dry, and avoid direct overhead watering.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
Little to no maintenance is required to care for Aloe plants. Repotting should be done infrequently as Aloe have shallow root systems and prefer to be root bound. Once every two to three years up-pot aloe into a container about two inches larger in diameter.
Topical use of Aloe vera is not associated with significant side effects, and in fact, has been shown to have some medicinal benefits. Oral ingestion, however, can be potentially toxic and can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea in both pets and humans.