Aloe vera is one of the most popular plants for household uses. Any convenience store will have some basic aloe vera gel on the shelf — but have you ever thought about growing aloe vera yourself?
Growing aloe vera is a great gardening project for both beginning and experienced gardeners. These plants can beautify and upgrade your home or yard, in addition to offering beneficial properties as a topical treatment. When you start growing aloe vera, you’ll reap the satisfaction of a successful DIY project with minimal effort.
What do you need to know to start growing aloe vera? Let’s take a look at the basics that will get you off to a good start with this beloved plant.
Related Read: 17 Benefits of Aloe Vera That Will Blow Your Mind
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a type of succulent, with an easily recognizable shape. Like other succulents, it has thick leaves that store water. But aloe’s leaves come in a distinctive spiky shape with serrated edges, so you can quickly tell it apart from other succulents.
In addition to aloe vera, there are also many other types of aloe. Most of them have similarly-shaped leaves, arranged in distinctive patterns. But aloe vera is the one kind of aloe that’s become famous for medicinal uses around the world.
Aloe vera originally came from the Arabian desert. As early as the 4th century B.C., it was traded and used throughout the Mediterranean. This early trade helped aloe vera catch on in popularity, even more than other types of aloe.
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Your Guide to Growing Aloe Vera
Today, the market for aloe vera products is massive. But growing aloe vera yourself is also a popular way to reap the benefits of this plant without spending extra money. Aloe vera’s distinctive beauty will also complement your home, whether you grow it indoors or out.
Even for novice gardeners, growing aloe vera is easy. These tips will help you succeed.
Growing aloe vera outside
Aloe vera does best in warm climates with bright yet indirect sun. Too much direct sunlight will dry it out, giving you yellow leaves. If you have an outdoor area that offers enough indirect light, try growing aloe vera outside.
A well-drained part of your yard or garden will keep your aloe from getting too much water. An outdoor aloe plant won’t ever need you to water it, unless there’s a drought. They’re excellent at sucking up and storing water from the ground.
If you have a few rain-free months, though, soak your aloe plant thoroughly before letting the soil dry again. Also, make sure to plant your aloe in gravelly or sandy soil, which will drain properly so the aloe doesn’t get too much water.
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Growing aloe vera inside
If your climate drops below freezing at times, you’ll need to grow your aloe plant inside instead.
These plants often do well in terra cotta pots, which help drain the soil so your aloe won’t get over-watered. For the soil, you can either buy a succulent mix or make your own blend of half potting soil and half sand. Avoid soil that holds water, which will cause root rot.
Aloes don’t need much room, so don’t worry about repotting it unless it becomes top-heavy and starts to tip over. Make sure to keep the pot in bright but not-too-direct sunlight.
About every two weeks, give your potted aloe a thorough watering. Make sure the soil is totally dry before you water it again. If you forget to water your aloe for a while, though, it will probably be just fine. And if you notice brown or limp leaves, cut back on the water.
You can also move your indoor aloe outside for the summer months. if you do, make sure to gradually transition it from indoors to outdoors by not placing it in the bright sun right away.
If you notice small aloe plants popping up around the base of yours, congratulations! Your aloe is reproducing, and those smaller aloe pups should be repotted in their own pot to prevent overcrowding.
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Harvesting Aloe Vera Properly
Now, you’ve got a healthy, growing aloe vera plant. These low-maintenance plants are easy to keep happy. But how do you harvest aloe vera to reap the rewards of your (minimal) effort?
First, always wait until your aloe vera plant becomes mature before harvesting the leaves. A mature leaf will often have a slight pinkish tint at the edges.
Don’t take more than a few leaves at a time, since they’ll grow back slowly. Find the leaf you want, and cut it at the base with a sharp knife. Avoid picking leaves by hand, which may damage the rest of the plant.
Now, cut the leaf down the long side to expose the aloe vera gel inside. In a mature leaf, the gel should squeeze or scrape out easily with a spoon.
You can store your harvested aloe gel in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer to keep it longer. Ice cube trays are an ideal way to store the gel in the freezer. You can also store the whole leaves until you’re ready to use the gel inside. Just make sure to seal them with plastic bags or wrap to keep them fresh.
If you have a lot of aloe that you are harvesting, consider freezing in a covered tray for 12-24 hours, then putting the cubes in a plastic bag dated the day you froze them. Lightly coating the ice cube trays with beeswax may make them easier to remove.
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Uses for Aloe Vera
Now that you’ve learned about growing aloe vera and storing the gel, how will you use it?
While some people believe that aloe has medical uses when eaten, experts warn against consuming aloe, as it can have unpleasant side effects. There are also some interactions with other drugs, listed there on the Mayo Clinic page.
However, when applied topically, aloe vera gel is very safe. It may help treat skin conditions like minor burns, small scratches, and more. One of the most popular ways to use aloe vera gel is to treat sunburn.
Aloe vera gel is believed to have been a popular home remedy for skin issues for thousands of years. While studies so far show inconclusive evidence of the benefits of aloe, plenty of anecdotal evidence supports its topical benefits. Why not try growing aloe vera and see the benefits for yourself?
Get Started with Growing Aloe Vera
With this guide, you’re now ready to start growing aloe vera successfully.
It’s a slow-growing plant, so you’ll need to be patient. But with care, sun, and a little bit of water, you’ll be harvesting your own aloe leaves in time.
Even if you don’t plan to harvest it, aloe is still a fun, easy, and striking-looking plant to try growing. What do you plan to do with your aloe plant? Leave a comment and let us know!
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