Aloe vera is a plant species of the genus Aloe. It grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses. Aloe is also used for decorative purposes and grows successfully indoors as a potted plant.
TYPE: Hardy annual.
DESCRIPTION: Aloe vera is a stemless or very short-stemmed plant growing to 60–100cm tall, spreading by offsets. The leaves are thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with some varieties showing white flecks on their upper and lower stem surfaces. The margin of the leaf is serrated and has small white teeth. The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 90cm tall, each flower being pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2–3 cm long.
CONDITIONS: Able to survive in areas of low natural rainfall – popular in rockeries.
HOW TO GROW: In pots, the species requires well-drained, sandy potting soil and bright, sunny conditions. Aloe plants can burn under too much sun or shrivel when the pot does not drain water. The use of a good-quality commercial propagation mix or packaged “cacti and succulent mix” is recommended, as they allow good drainage. Terra cotta pots are preferable as they are porous. Potted plants should be allowed to completely dry before re-watering. When potted, aloes can become crowded with “pups” growing from the sides of the “mother plant”. Plants that have become crowded should be divided and repotted to allow room for further growth and help prevent pest infestations. During winter, Aloe vera may become dormant, during which little moisture is required. In areas that receive frost or snow, the species is best kept indoors or in heated glasshouses.
MAIN USES: The sap from Aloe vera is popular as a soothing and healing application for sunburn and other skin irritations.
MEDICINAL USES: Considered good for the digestion.