How to Grow Aloe Vera
No kitchen is complete without an aloe vera plant on a sunny windowsill. Burn yourself while cooking? Break off a leaf and squeeze the juice on your burn. Hands dry from washing dishes? Break off another leaf and smooth the juice on your hands as a moisturizer. Breaking off a leaf or part of a leaf will not hurt the plant. Aloe vera juice also works well on sunburns. Aloe vera is reputed to have anti-microbial properties so the juice is often used in place of commercial anti-biotic creams on scrapes and shallow cuts. It’s practically a drugstore in a flower pot!
Aloe vera is a succulent that originated in the Mediterranean and dry areas of Africa. It is a tropical plant hardy in zones 9 through 11 where it can be grown outdoors year-round. It is often used in xeriscapes because of its drought tolerance. In the ground outdoors, it will attain a height of 3 feet.
Those of us in colder regions grow it as a houseplant. Confined to a pot indoors it will only grow to 1 to 2 feet in height. It should be grown in a pot that is wider than it is deep. Aloe vera has shallow roots. Well-drained soil is critical. Aloe vera does not like wet feet. Use a potting soil that is formulated for cactus for best results. Place it in a sunny window, water throroughly and then wait until the soil is dry before watering again. You can bring your aloe vera plant outdoors during the summer being careful to not place it in direct sunlight which can burn it.
Although not grown for its flowers, aloe vera will bloom. Be patient. It could take up to four years before your plant blooms. It will send up a stalk that will have small yellow pendant flowers. If your aloe vera is not blooming, it could be because it is not getting enough light. Move it to a sunnier location or place it outside in the summer which is its normal time to bloom.
Propagating your aloe vera is simple. Most plants will develop offsets or pups which can be carefully removed from the main plant and planted in their own pots. Share them with your friends! They make a great housewarming gift. Another way to make more plants is to take a cutting by cutting off a piece of the top of a leaf about at least 3 inches long. Put it aside for a few days to allow a callous to form where you cut it. After the callous has formed, dip it in rooting hormone and insert it, callous side down, in a pot filled with potting soil formulated for cactus. You can bury up to half of the cutting in the soil. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Roots should form within a few weeks.
Easy to grow and propagate, and useful for first aid, no home should be without at least one aloe vera plant.
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