Aloe vera – History
Historically famous as the “plant of immortality”, the first reference to aloe vera can be dated back to Chinese and Sumerian texts from 3000 BC. In the time of the pharaohs, the Egyptians sang praises and documented its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties in their papyrus texts. It is also said that Cleoptara used aloe vera on a daily basis and aloe vera plant is also said to come to the aid of the injured soldiers in the World War.
Aloe vera till date is an irreplaceable plant for both medicinal and beauty uses and recently we have developed the technology to stabilise the gel to be used extensively in the beauty industry and a small segment of the beverage industry is also introducing it in the prepackaged drinks.
Ideal soil for aloe vera plant
Aloe vera,as such, is not very finicky about the soil it grows in and can survive almost anywhere. But the bottom line is that it is a succulent plant and thrives more in a dry climate. So if planting an aloe vera plant at home in a pot, use a well-draining soil mix. A good mix of red soil with large sized gravel or perlite/vermiculite is a good option. You can also use Ugaoo Pot-O-Mix and red soil in equal quantity for the same. Make sure your pot/planter has a good number of drainage holes at the bottom. The idea is to avoid loamy soil that retains water and drowns the roots leading to rot.
Correct watering for aloe vera plant
You aloe vera plant is a succulent, and trust me when I say this, it loves to be treated as one. Water your aloe vera plant only when the soil is completely dry. You can use either your finger to poke into the soil to check if the soil is still wet under the topsoil or you can try lifting your planter up and check (wet soil weighs heavier than dry soil). With aloe vera indoor plants it is always better to veer on the side of under watering, the plant loves being dry in between watering. Although if you see your leaves losing some of their plumpness, it has probably stayed dry for too long.
Sunlight for aloe vera plant
Just like any other succulent plant, the aloe plant loves the sun, the more the merrier. However, it can live happily in either partial sunlight or bright indirect light, though it doesn’t do well in medium or low light areas. Partial sunlight is when your plant gets a few hours of sun during any time of the day, while bright indirect sunlight is when your plant is kept on a south or west facing windowsill, or near it, and while it doesn’t get direct sunlight, it receives the brightest possible natural indirect light through the day.
One major point to be kept in mind if you are keeping aloe vera indoors is that the availability of light affects the amount of water it needs and the speed at which it grows, just like any other plant. Also, if the spot where you are keeping your aloe vera does not receive the ideal amount of light, you can place your plant in the sun every weekend to recharge its batteries to carry it through the week.
Fertilisation for aloe vera plant
The aloe vera home plant does not require any fertilisation on a strict basis, but appreciates an occasional feed with a generic house plant fertiliser like Ugaoo’ Plant tonic. Plant tonic is an all-inclusive seaweed fertiliser with all the essential nutrient plants might need. Using this is simple, dilute the fertiliser as per instructions on the packaging and feed your aloe vera with it instead of water once a month.
Harvesting aloe vera plant leaves
However beautiful an aloe plant looks, most of us grow for its gel and learning the right way to harvest and store your aloe plant is essential. Always harvest the lowest (closest to the root/ soil) and most mature leaf first.This not only gives us more gel per leaf, but also gives the younger leaves a time to grow.
Always use a very sharp clean knife and cut the leaf as close to the stem as possible, even if you want to use only a part of the gel. Store the unused part of the leaf in a closed container in the fridge.
Aloe vera plant care
Aloe vera plant is very easy to care for and does not require any effort on the gardener’s side, other than the occasional watering. Here are some tips for aloe vera plant care.
- Leave your aloe vera alone. Just like most succulents, it likes to be left alone.
- Give it as much sun as you can manage to give. More sun means bigger plumper leaves that have more gel.
- Water the aloe vera plant only when the soil is completely dry till the bottom of the planter. In fact, wait for a couple of days post that too before watering.
- If you see blackening of the stem and leaves, it’s a case of root rot due to overwatering. Remove the plant from the soil and check its roots, if the roots have gone black and mushy then remove the lower leaves till you see a healthy white firm stem and cut it. The idea is to remove the rotting stem and root. Now plant this in a fresh, dry, and well-draining potting mix to propagate.
- If the spot you are placing your aloe vera plant in does not have the optimum amount of light, give it weekly sunbathes for a few hours.