Growing Aloe Vera
A Quick Guide to Growing Aloe Vera
If you take a look at any of the ingredient lists of many skin lotions and medications, you will find that aloe vera is often one of the ingredients, and that means that somewhere growing aloe vera is a big-time business. It is said to be the most used of any medicinal plant. Originating in Africa, growing aloe vera is now done around the world and there are references to the plant going back over six thousand years.
Aloe vera is a succulent and there are around 180 species of the plant. It grows outside in deserts and that is the only place where it flowers. The plant looks like a rosette and it spreads out underground with rhizomes. It has a cluster of plump leaves with soft spikes around the outside edge. In a full-size desert aloe vera plant, the leaves can be as long as eight inches to a foot, while the flower stems themselves are two to three feet high with an abundance of yellow flowers.
Growing aloe vera as a houseplant usually meets with excellent results and you won’t have to worry about it reaching the mammoth size of the desert plant. It can be started using the offsets, called pups, which grow at the base of an adult plant. Once they get to be around two inches high, just go ahead, get a sharp knife and cut off as many as you want and plant each one in a single pot. Before starting them, however, let the pups sit out in the air for two or three days so that the cut scabs over.
You can use a commercial potting mix to start your plant but you might also want to add some sand or extra perlite. The aloe vera plant likes to grow in soil that is well-drained so make sure your pot has a hole for drainage and it wouldn’t hurt to put a few stones down in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage. Those of you who use synthetic fertilizers might want to add a little bit of 10-40-10 every spring.
While growing aloe vera can be initiated with seeds, this situation is usually disappointing when you are trying to grow a houseplant. Seeds work best with plants that are grown in greenhouses. So, the best option is to find a friend who has an adult plant, and see if you can get a pup or two to start your own plants. Growing aloe vera is an excellent experience for beginners because after the initial planting, aloe vera needs very little care to remain healthy.
Aloe vera is an ingredient in all types of skin lotions and creams. Thousands of cosmetics have as their major selling point, the fact that they contain aloe extracts. That means that a lot of aloe is commercially grown, with most of it coming from Florida, Texas or the Caribbean. The leaves are cut open and the liquid inside is extracted. While you can apply this to your own skin, commercial producers take it one step further by evaporating the liquid into a crystallized substance, called aloin.
If you do any research on the medicinal qualities of aloe vera, you will find claims that it does almost everything--it heals skin conditions, helps reduce blood sugar levels, helps with swelling caused by arthritis, digestive problems, and there are even those who report that the aloe can help cure AIDS and various forms of cancer. Most of these, of course, have not been scientifically proven and probably never will be.
The one thing that is true about aloe vera, is that it is wonderful when it comes to healing burns. And, that is a major advantage in growing the plant at home. If you should burn yourself while cooking, all you need to do is go over to your aloe vera plant, cut off a leaf, open it up to reveal the sap inside, and then apply that sap to the burn. After a few applications, your burn will start to feel better and you will notice that it will heal faster as well.