Every canning season I’m happy that we are growing aloe vera plants on our property. Why? Because I always burn myself at some point in the canning season. I try to be careful but it just happens.
I believe no home should be without an aloe vera plant. In fact, I often give aloe vera as a housewarming gift, it’s a great gift…useful and doesn’t clutter.
Aloe vera is also on the list of plants that NASA tested for improving indoor air quality. Fortunately, aloe vera is just as easy to grow inside as it is to grow outside.
Planting Aloe Vera
Aloe vera can be started by seed. Mature aloe vera plants will send up a flower stalk and set seeds. The mature seeds will be dark brown. If the seeds are light colored, they won’t germinate.
The easiest way to start growing aloe vera is planting divisions or transplants. If you know someone who has aloe vera, save your money and ask for a “pup” which are small plants that form at the roots.
If you don’t know anyone with aloe vera, then purchase a small plant at your local nursery. There’s no need to spend money on a large aloe vera plant. They grow very fast and are quite prolific.
If it’s being planted outside, plant the aloe vera during the spring or fall. This will give it time to acclimate to the climate before the harsh conditions of summer or winter. If you live where it freezes, the aloe vera will need frost protection.
I live in a zone 9 and don’t always cover my aloe vera. I’ve found that as long as we’re just having a light frost the aloe will recover. But I also have many plants so if I lose a couple it’s not a big deal.
If you live in a cold hardiness zone 8 or colder, consider planting your aloe vera in pots so they can be moved to shelter during the winter. If your not sure what cold hardiness zones are and what they mean for your garden, we have a short ecourse on understanding your climate that will help you understand gardening zones and other climate metrics.
If it’s being planted inside it doesn’t matter when it’s planted. But it does need a sunny window or bright room to grow in.
Aloe vera needs to be planted in well draining soil as it can become waterlogged very easily. This is true for indoor growing and outdoor growing. If you’re planting it in a pot consider using potting soil mixed specifically for succulents.
Their roots are pretty shallow so when it’s time to transplant chose a wider pot not a deeper pot.
Over time “baby” plants will form at the base of the Aloe Vera. These can be removed and planted in another container to start a new plant.
Enemies of Aloe Vera
Too much water is THE enemy of aloe vera. When aloe vera get too much water they are susceptible to root rot, soft rot, fungal stem, and leaf rot.
This is especially true if you’re growing aloe vera indoors or in a pot. Aloe vera really just likes to be ignored. Let the soil completely dry out before watering.
If you’re growing aloe vera indoors or in pots on a patio, the stem might get tall and leggy. This just means their reaching for sun and don’t have enough. Move the pot to a sunny window or off the porch at times and that will fix it.
Aloe Vera can sunburn if it’s moved to full sun from indoors or a shady area. I’ve never had aloe vera that was planted in the ground get sunburned but I have had aloe vera that is planted in pots get sunburned. When that happens, I just give it some water and move the pot to a shady area. It will recover in a few days to a week.
There are very few pests that will bother aloe vera when it’s planted outside. Our chickens do snack on it some but not enough to do damage so we just let them. Aloe is actually very good for chickens.
Aloe vera planted inside can be attacked by household scale or mealy bugs. You can swab the leaves with rubbing alcohol and hopefully that will take care of the problem. If not, try organic solutions such as neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Harvesting Aloe Vera
You can harvest aloe vera as needed. Just take a knife or a pair of scissors and cut a small portion of a leaf off. You don’t need a full leaf for most uses. To open the leaf, cut it lengthwise to expose the gel.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Aloe Vera
The flowers are edible. Pick and eat before they fully open. We’ve never eaten the flowers but it’s nice to know we can if we ever need to.
The leaves are also edible and actually have two parts; the latex and the gel. When you skin an aloe vera leaf you’ll see some yellow juice right under the skin. This is called the latex and some people are allergic to it.
The latex can be used to help with constipation but it shouldn’t be used regularly as it can become habit forming.
The aloe vera gel is the clear mucilage part inside the leaf. The gel is also edible and has many nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, E and several B vitamins, minerals such as calcium, sodium, iron and magnesium, and fatty acids.
The aloe vera gel is used to help with digestion, support the immune system, lower blood sugar and help with chronic inflammation. However, just like any other medicinal herb there are people who should not be taking aloe vera internally. If you are pregnant or breast feeding, have diabetes or kidney problems, or are under 12 you should not use aloe vera internally.
Aloe Vera is most commonly used on burns but it’s also good for insect bites, sunburns, poison ivy and other rashes and skin abrasions. I like to make aloe vera poultices with gauze and keep them in the freezer; similar to how to make comfrey poultice.
Do you grow aloe vera? Feel free to share any tips with us in the comments.