By: Justin Butts Photo by: Rachel Benavides
Aloe is a miracle plant. It is one of the most beneficial and medicinal plants in nature, yet also one of the easiest plants to grow!
A succulent native to warm, dry climates, aloe is easy to care for, but has a few specific requirements to help it thrive.
The biggest hazard is too much water. Aloe should be watered deeply and infrequently. Overwatering causes the leaves to become yellow, soft, and weighted down. Also, aloe cannot stand wet feet. If the soil or pot does not allow perfect drainage, the plant will die.
Although it’s a desert plant, aloe can get too much sun in the blistering summers of the Coastal Bend. Plant it outside in a space with afternoon shade and a windbreak to prevent freezing from the north wind – a frost or freeze can kill it.
The ideal temperature range for aloe is 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it the ideal indoor potted plant. Give indoor aloe as much sunlight as possible, and water only once per month or so in summer and even less in winter. Use your finger to check to the soil to know when to water. Outside aloe plants, depending on heat and wind, need more frequent watering.
The list of uses for aloe is exhaustive. It’s commonly added to cosmetics, skin care products, sun tan lotions, and other commercial products. Aloe can be used as a mouthwash for oral health, as a lotion to treat acne, and especially as a balm for sunburn relief. But be careful of ingesting even small amounts, as it will act as a purgative.
Growing Up: Space aloe at 12” to 24”. The tender leaves grow to 20” or more in height. In winter, gorgeous yellow flowers may grow on a stalk up to 36”. Grows best outdoors in full sun with afternoon shade in summer. Does well in any soil, but must have perfect drainage. Fertilize in spring or not at all. Mulch with rocks. The leaves grow in a circular pattern called a rosette.
Profiling: Older aloe plants (two years or greater) have higher concentrations of medicinal benefits. To harvest, clip a leaf at the base from the outer band of the rosette. Never clip more than 2/3 of the plant at once, then allow it to regrow. Have several aloe plants available to harvest from if using often, to allow regrowth. Squeeze gel from leaves or split and open leaves to from a poultice.
Local Recs: Aloe vera is known for it’s soothing, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties. Aloe is also an excellent natural moisturizer, rich in minerals, amino acids, and enzymes all of which strengthens skin tissue, preventing premature aging. For a natural skin enhancement, try Aloe-Rose Toner. This easy recipe consists of 3-TBL aloe vera gel and 1 TBL rose water, mix thoroughly, and pat onto your face with your fingertips. – Tina Lain @golddustcosmetictattooing
Fun Facts: Aloe are easy to propagate. Clip a shoot from the base of a mature plant when the shoot is a few inches long. Leave out to dry for a couple days, then prepare a pot with holes at bottom and a sandy soil or cactus soil blend. Plant the shoot and add rock mulch at top to hold shoot upright. Do not water for one week, then care for plant as normal.