No doubt you’ve heard of the miracle properties of aloe, both for your skin and internally. Did you know that this beautiful succulent is also relatively easy to grow? Plus, it adds a wonderful architectural element to your home or garden.
Houseplants are a great way to bring nature inside your home, but not all houseplants are multifunctional. Aloe vera is one of those plants that not only look lovely in or outdoors, but you can harvest the gel for use.
Let’s take a look at how to grow aloe and how to harvest the soothing gel!
Get to Know Aloe
You can spot aloe plants by their distinctive thick, succulent leaves. When in bloom, the plants have spiky flowers that appear on a long stalk in yellow, red, or orange colors. The leaves are full of a watery gel which is used for its soothing properties.
The plant grows quickly and takes around three to four years to reach maturity. However, if you want to have flowers bloom then you will have to wait a few more years for that. In the meantime, just enjoy those gorgeous leaves.
The right temperature is between 55 ℉ and 85 ℉, although it can survive 40℉. Any chance of frost? Your plant must be protected.
For those people living in USDA Growing Zones 8-11, you can grow this plant outdoors. Otherwise, either grow them indoors, grow them in a container and bring them in during the winter, or protect them during cold spells using cardboard or some other cover.
Best Aloe Species and Hybrids
Did you know that there are dozens of species of aloe? Some are petite little plants and others grow as tall as trees. Some common choices include Aloe vera, Barbados (A. barbadensis), soap (A. maculata), spider (A. humilis), golden toothed (A. nobilis), tiger tooth (A. juvenna), and lace aloe (A. aristata).
Candleabra (A. arborescens) and cape aloe (A. ferox) are particularly cold-hardy if you live in an area that is cooler than this plant generally prefers.
Some beautiful decorative aloe hybrids for growing include A. ‘Crosby’s Prolific,’ A. ‘Kelly Blue,’ A. ‘Kelly Griffin,’ A. ‘Hercules,’ A. ‘Moondance,’ A. ‘Pink,’ and A. ‘Pink Blush.’
Propagating and Planting Aloe
There are two easy ways to propagate aloe plants. The first is to simply buy one at a store. The second is to take a “pup” from an existing plant. A pup is just a little offshoot from the parent plant.
To propagate a pup, the first step is waiting for the offsets to grow to the correct size. Ideally, you want them to be a fifth of the size of the original plant. Then, you can gently take the plant out of the pot and trim away the pups. Take care to include roots with each pup.
Finally, plant the pups in well-draining, sandy soil or a cactus potting mix, and water well.
When it comes to transplanting aloe, you can either place it indoors or outdoors. The soil needs to be sandy or rocky and very well-draining if you’re growing outdoors. Inside, just use a cactus or succulent soil mix.
Place the transplant in a hole that is as deep and twice as wide as the container that the plant was in. Fill in around with soil and water. If you’re planting in a container, use one that isn’t much larger than the existing container.
How to Care for Aloe
Aloe needs to be in direct sun outdoors and in an area with bright, indirect sunlight indoors. If the plants are placed in a spot with too much light indoors, the sun can burn and damage your plant.
Outdoors, don’t even think about planting your aloe in anything but very well-draining soil. This plant can’t handle even a little bit of standing water. Work in lots of sand, rocks, and well-rotted compost if your soil isn’t loose and well-draining.
Indoors, use a cactus potting mix to ensure that your aloe has the right medium for healthy growth.
Pick a pot that is just slightly larger than the root ball of the plant. If you use a pot that is much larger, you won’t be able to water your aloe appropriately and you run the risk of root rot.
Speaking of, nailing the right amount of water is important in growing aloe. Before you grab your watering can you should check that the soil is completely dry. However, you shouldn’t leave the plant dry for too long as it will cause the leaves to shrivel.
As soon as the soil is dry, water thoroughly by pouring a stream of water into the center of the plant. Gardeners make the mistake of watering too much or don’t give the soil enough time to dry out, so you really need to make sure you’re paying attention to moisture levels.
Remember to test the soil for dryness and monitor the watering levels to avoid killing your plant.
Although this type of plant doesn’t need fertilizing often, feed it once a year in the spring. Use a cactus or succulent fertilizer like Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food.
If your plant develops brown leaves, remove them to keep your plant healthy. All you need is a pair of clean garden shears or scissors to cut off the dead leaves.
If your plant begins to become too large for your liking, you can also prune the leaves at the base, which will encourage new growth. If you want to give an aloe plant to friends then you can propagate the shoots as described above.
Pests and Diseases
Indoors, aloe vera is vulnerable to mealybugs, scales, and mites.
To treat mealybugs and scale, wipe away any insects and treat with insecticidal soap. Our guide explains this process more thoroughly.
To treat spider mites, visit our guide for tips.
Aloe Vera Companion Planting
If you are growing your aloe plant outside or inside, but you want to combine your aloe with something else, it’s a good idea to grow it with other succulents. They have similar requirements and will do nicely next to each other.
Never grow aloe near something that likes a lot of moisture or heavy clay, such as hostas, rhododendrons, heathers, ferns, or Japanese maples.
Harvesting and Using Aloe
We all know that aloe can be harvested for its medicinal gel. To use the healing gel topically, all you have to do is simply cut off a leaf and rub the wet end onto your skin.
One of the most popular uses for aloe is in skincare and hair treatment. The gel is great for keeping your skin hydrated, as well.
Aloe also has internal uses. For instance, there is research to suggest it can regulate your blood sugar. If you take as little as two tablespoons a day of aloe, it has the potential to regulate your blood sugar levels.
Historically, aloe has been used to soothe burns, as an antioxidant, and improve gum health. Aloe might not be the first thing you think of when brushing your teeth, but give it a try!
Instead of using store-bought toothpaste, which has a lot of chemicals, try a natural alternative like aloe.
A Plant With More Than One Purpose
Growing aloe is a fantastic choice for people looking to grow a lovely houseplant that can also be added to your medicine cabinet. Using the gel from your plant can ease burns or make your hair shine.
You don’t even have to be an expert gardener to grow it.
Even if you aren’t interested in its medicinal properties, it sure is beautiful to look at!