Aloe Vera

The phone call started like this “Jane, I pruned my aloe, do you want the starts?” Well, of course, I do – I take in all stray and homeless plants.

Sure enough, when I got home, there was a bag full of aloe vera starts. What in the world was I thinking? It was going to be a busy week, and the orphaned aloes would have to wait to discover their fate.

Days later, when I was ready to tackle the dropped-off bag, I gathered a few pots and a soil mix, then opened the bag. One quick look, and I knew I was going to need more supplies.

After scrounging around the garage and potting shed, I potted over 14 aloe plants!

Here’s what I learned about aloes. My busy week was really good for the starts. The time let the cuts created during separation from the mother plant heal, so the starts or pups were ready to be transplanted. I did not use a rooting hormone but could have dipped each new plant to give it an extra chance of success.

Aloe Vera plants are succulents, which means they don’t need much water. A gentle watering when planted should last for approximately two weeks, maybe longer. Growing succulents is not my claim to fame, but I know firsthand letting the soil dry out between waterings is important. Overwatering is the leading cause of succulent deaths. When the top third of the soil is dry, test by sticking your finger in the soil – it’s time to water.

Choosing a soil type that will allow the water to drain is important. Potting soil can retain moisture. For aloes, try a cactus or succulent mix. If not available, mix a few lava rocks, or bark chunks, into your potting or garden soil. These additives will help with water drainage.

Keeping with the theme of letting the soil dry out, a porous container such as terra cotta can help. By coincidence, I planted one in a terra cotta pot and one in a glazed ceramic pot-guess which is thriving.
Place your aloe out of direct sunlight. It can scorch the leaves. Indirect sunlight is best. Again, I have one outside under a roof and one on the magic kitchen table where all plants thrive; the inside plant is much healthier. Of course, it is. This table is one of two spots in my house that has perfect houseplant light and humidity; if only it were bigger and not in the middle of my little kitchen.

You can easily recognize the aloe plant because of its thick, plush leaves in the shape of long spears coming from the center of the plant. Along the edges are small “teeth” or tiny spikes that look like thorns but are not sharp.

It’s the gel inside of these fleshy leaves that can be therapeutic. The gel can be a pain reliever when applied to burns or scratches. This is another reason to grow this plant in the kitchen area. Remember, the gel is for topical use only. Do not ingest. It can be poisonous to people and plants.

Back to the 14 pots of aloe. If you have been to the little house on a big hill, glanced this way driving by, had dinner with me, or even passed by me on the sidewalk, I have probably offered you an aloe plant. To date, they have traveled to several different city, county, and state zip codes. I am having fun sharing the gift that was given to me.

After all, isn’t that what gardeners do -we share our harvest, our seeds, and our aloe plants.