Aloe Vera

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Aloe Vera is a succulent. This means that, same as a cactus, Aloe vera holds water in its tissues and thus can go for long periods of time without rain, or other watering. It is a wonderful xeriscape plant, because of its easy care as well as for its interesting bloom.

When Aloe vera blooms, it sends up a single stem, sometimes up to 3 ft tall, which then opens into yellow bell-shaped flowers. Color can vary, though, and I have seen an orange-pink color on some of my plants. There is apparently no way to predict the color… offshoots may well not have the same color as the parent plant. And, to add to the confusion, Aloe vera doesn’t necessarily bloom every year!

When grown in pots, Aloe vera requires very well-drained sandy potting mix and bright sunny conditions in northern climates… but in very hot, humid tropical or subtropical climates, protect your Aloe vera from direct sun and rain. You can easily tell if your plant is getting too much sun… it turns a reddish-brown color. Move it into more shade and it will recover its usual bright green hue. Too much rain and it will simply turn to mush. There is no recovery from that.

Use a good cacti/succulent potting mix to assure the best drainage.

I prefer a clay pot for Aloe vera over plastic . Clay is porous and allows the plant to “breathe”. Plastic holds in every drop of moisture and thus can contribute to the death of your plant if you overwater. Allow the plant to dry completely before watering. Too much water and you end up with mush. Think ‘dead plant’.

When repotting, place the crown of the plant at soil level. You don’t want any roots or stem showing, but you also don’t want the “branches” below the soil.

Most Aloe vera will produce pups pretty quickly. Pups are baby plants that just pop up near the big plant. And Mommy Aloe has no sense whatsoever when it comes to producing those pups. You rarely get just one… instead, almost overnight, it seems, your Aloe vera plant is jammed into a crowd of smaller plants, totally filling the pot. When this happens, simply pull them gently from the soil. If they resist, clip the exposed root with scissors. Leaving the pot too crowded invites various pests, which you don’t want. You can transplant these pups, whether or not they have actual roots, to make more plants for yourself or to give as gifts to your friends.

What do I do with all this Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera is like a little medicine cabinet on your windowsill or in your garden.

Use it for burns, including sunburn. Simply snip off a nice fat leaf, slit it open to expose the gel, and gently rub this onto the burn. Or you can just lay the split leaf, gel side down, directly onto the burn. Wrap it with gauze to hold it in place and the relief is almost instant.

Aloe vera will sooth almost any rash or skin irritation. Use same as you would for a burn.

Aloe vera helps to heal cold sores

It moisturizes hair and scalp… massage some of the inner gel into your hair and scalp if you have problems with dryness

Taken internally, it will aid digestion…

Treat constipation…

Boost the immune system…

And it provides antioxidants and reduces inflammation

Aloe vera is edible, either cooked or raw. It is commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines. You can use aloe on salads or in drinks where it adds a refreshing taste. Just remember though, Aloe vera is a natural laxative so be careful not to overdo it.

The outer green skin is edible, but it is usually bitter and tough. The best way to prepare your Aloe vera for eating is to peel away the skin with a sharp knife, and then crush the “meat” inside to release the juices and the gel. That’s the part you would normally eat.