How to grow an aloe vera
Aloe vera is a favorite herb for household remedies. This perennial native of the tropics also grows wild in parts of Mexico and Texas. In Zones 9 and 10, it can be found growing in many gardens, and is a favorite houseplant in cooler climates. Similar in appearance to the agave plant, its basal rosette sends up spiny, narrow leaves up to 2 or 3 feet long.
The gel inside aloe vera’s long fleshy leaves soothes burns, insect bites, and chapped skin. Its medicinal properties include emollient, purgative, and vulnerary. Herbalists value its ability to draw out infections and improve wound healing, and commercial skin care products contain aloe vera gel. Learn how to have your own supply of fresh aloe vera.
Select planting method.
You can transplant an entire aloe vera into your garden or new container. Garden supply centers usually sell potted aloe vera plants. You may also want to propagate from an offshoot. To obtain an offshoot, remove the mother plant from its pot by gently rocking it until you can pull it out. Pull the offshoot from the base of the mother plant. This plantlet will already have developed roots, and is ready to plant in your garden or container.
If needed, choose container.
North of Zone 9, your aloe vera will need to grow either as a houseplant, or in an outdoor container and overwinter indoors. Choose a 10 to 12 inch container with a drainage hole. An unglazed clay pot will provide adaquate aeration and prevent excess moisture buildup.
Choose a well-drained, moderately fertile soil. A good quality potting mix is suitable; you may need to add coarse sand to create sufficient drainage. Aloe vera prefers soil with a neutral (7.0) pH reading.
In Zones 9 and 10, you may transplant your aloe vera into your outdoor garden at any time. North of Zone 9, you must transplant into a container and overwinter your aloe vera indoors. With a trowel, prepare a hole deep enough to cover the aloe vera’s roots. Transplant aloe vera into the soil and cover the roots. Place the plant in an area that receives full sun; allow a space of 1 to 2 feet between plants.
To prevent root rot, avoid overwatering. Aloe vera thrives in dry, desert-like conditions. Water slowly and thoroughly only after soil has nearly dried out.
Harvest leaves at any time after they reach a length of 5 or 6 inches. The best method is to cut the oldest leaves from the base of the plant.