The Aloe Barbadensis plant is one of the more commonly known houseplants because of the Aloe Vera gel you find inside its leaves. If you go into any chemist or department store, chances are you will find a product for sale which contains Aloe Vera gel and has a picture of this plant on the packaging.
Aloe Vera Gel is sold to treat a lot of different aliments, from burns to helping support the health of the digestive system and because of the gels popularity it's not surprising that the plant itself has become easily recognisable.
We don't recommend only buying an Aloe Vera plant for its purported medicinal uses, because this indoor plant is actually fantastically easy to care for and a mature well cared for Aloe Vera can look incredibly striking and beautiful.
Obviously the gel aspect may have have some advantages, so by all means keep the plant at hand in the event you get a small burn.
When it comes to other possible medical uses, we do get asked a lot if "the Aloe Vera plant is edible?" This is because it's reported to help with stomach complaints.
We really don't want to encourage you to cut bits off to eat, unless you truly know what you are doing (some parts of the Aloe Vera plant are toxic and others can create laxative effects!)
If you're a serious Aloe Vera Gel believer it's best if you stick to the official products that have been created specifically for purpose. So again please no D.I.Y. experiments with the leaves unless you know what you're doing.
There are several different types of Aloe plants you can buy and even more types of Aloe available. The majority make good houseplants, and grow very fast when compared to other succulents.
In general, unless you're searching in specialist shops the plant will simply be labeled as "A. vera". Different types can be sought although they all have similar care requirements as detailed below.
Sitting your Aloe Vera plant in any South facing window is a great choice because it will get lots of sunlight. Like most succulents, it's literally designed for such places and as a result you will get lots of good quality and even growth.
However Aloe's will also be quite happy in a north facing aspect, growth will be slower and you will have to rotate the plant pot every month or so to ensure an even look. In general the Aloe Vera plant is adaptable when it comes to light and it's difficult to go wrong.
Good strong light - even with some direct sunlight - will help you to grow a quality looking Aloe
During Spring and Summer water thoroughly every time the soil has dried out. Where you decide to put the plant will dictate how long it takes for the soil to dry out and therefore how long you need to wait between watering's. Anything from a week up to three would be normal.
Aloe's can use a lot of water in hot weather so don't let the watering can be a stranger.
In Autumn (Fall) and Winter, water much less frequently. Some people don't water their plants at all during Winter and if it's in a very cool spot this is probably a very good idea in order to prevent root / stem rot.
Humidity is really not important for almost all succulents and this includes the Aloe Vera plant.
Too much fertiliser on Aloe Vera's can produce very soft and bendy leaves which is normally undesirable in the rigid structural striking varieties. It's a good idea therefore to feed only once in Spring and once again in Summer with either a cactus or an all purpose feed. Only feed established plants.
Like it's light requirements, an Aloe Vera will take very high temperatures in its stride so don't worry about overheating. It will expect a cooler temperature in Winter though, but not less than 5°C / 41°F.
In a short space of time, Aloe Vera plants usually produce a lot of offsets or suckers which will gradually fill the pot. Repot when the pot becomes very congested.
You can either keep all the plants together in a bigger pot if you prefer a "busy" appearance, or separate some of the offsets for propagation or to give away as gifts.
When it comes to Aloe Vera plant propagation it's good news. It's very easy! Offsets or suckers from Aloe's are very straight forward to get going, as they do it mostly by themselves with little assistance from us.
When you repot, gently separate the offsets from the parent ensuring each one has at least a few roots of its own. Use a free draining compost mix and water well, wait a few weeks before you water again and never heavily until the offset has properly established.
Your Aloe Vera plant growth will be moderately fast in good conditions. Very little growth should be expected if conditions are poor and of course over the Winter months when everything slows down.
They normally only reach 45cm / 18in in height. But spread (over many years) can be immense due to the offsets which fan out around the plant.
The Aloe's do sometimes flowers indoors. Some types will flower annually and others less.
To flower the plant needs to be established and have reached maturity (4 - 6 years old). Good light conditions are also needed. They can flower at any time of the year and the flowering stem comes shooting out so quickly you might not notice it until it's already pretty long.
Some people can have adverse skin reactions to the Aloe Vera sap, but most people don't have any issues when it's applied topically. However it can be toxic in high levels when consumed and the plant is poisonous to cats and dogs.
These plants get heavy. Really heavy. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble if you pick a pot which is wider than it is tall, i.e. a typical cactus style bowl that is wide and shallow. This will drastically help prevent the plant from tipping over when it starts to become unbalanced. Failing that, be sure that the container is heavy otherwise it will tip over at some point.
There are black spots on my Aloe Vera leaves
Normally this is caused by over watering.
Mushy leaves / Plant death
Again normally caused by over watering, or exposure to sub zero temperatures.
Wrinkly / droopy / almost transparent leaves
In most cases this is the plant begging for water. It normally only gets like this when all its internal water supplies (inside the leaves) are depleted. This will be some weeks or even months after you last watered it.
However if you're sure you're watering the plant often, it is quite possible you have actually overdone it instead. Take the Aloe out of its pot and check the roots, if they are dead or mushy then you have Root Rot and this is the cause of your wrinkly / droopy leaves.
- Take the plant out of its pot to get a look at the roots. If most of the roots are healthy cut off the dead and mushy ones and then repot with fresh gritty compost. Go easy on the watering going forward. Your plant should reestablish itself quickly.
- If most or all of the roots are dead, you are likely going to lose the plant. Either try the first point, and hope for the best, or cut off the biggest leaves reducing the plant size by about half. While not a guarantee, it's possible with less leaves for what little roots are left to support them, the plant will pull through.
Broken / snapped off leaves
This has probably been caused by naughty people, perhaps curious about the Aloe Vera gel inside the leaves. If you know who it was and you have an offset to share, give them a plant of their own!