Aloe Vera goes by several names including Aloe, the Burn Plant, and the Medicine Plant. It is a member of the lily family and has more than 250 species. Because of its sturdy nature, it makes an ideal and easy-to-care-for houseplant. Aloe is a simple plant to grow requiring few elements of care. This makes it a good choice for beginners or children.
Soil and Fertilization
Aloe plants are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean and prefer well drained soil. For use as a houseplant, plant in good potting soil with extra coarse sand or perlite added; or prepackaged cacti mix can be used as a planting medium. Aloe plants can be fertilized in the spring with a fertilizer used for blooms with a 10-40-10 composition. The pot should have a large drain hole. When the plant requires a larger pot, opt for one that is wider rather than deeper, because the aloe plant has shallow, wide spreading roots.
Aloe plants are 95 percent water, which makes them both drought-resistant and frost tender. In the winter the plant seems almost dormant and uses very little water. Watering should be kept to a minimum during this period and done only when the soil is completely dry. Throughout the summer months, the plant should be watered until the soil is saturated, but then allowed to dry out completely before watering again.
Sun and Warmth
The Aloe prefers hot climates such as those found in Africa and the Mediterranean. As a houseplant, a windowsill with a southern or western exposure will provide ample light and warmth. The plant can be moved outdoors for the summer, but should be brought in before any threat of frost exists.
Starting new aloe plants from existing plants is literally a snap. Young shoots, called pups, will sprout around the outside diameter of the plant as it ages. These can be snapped or cut off at the base when the shoot is a couple of inches tall. Allow the broken edge to dry out and form a scab for two to three days before planting in potting soil.
What to Expect From Your Aloe Plant
Aloe plants take four to five years to reach maturity and can last as long as 25 years according to Earlham College' Biological Diversity web page. The mature leaves can reach heights of 3 feet and are bordered in soft spikes. Flowers can bloom in the spring in colors ranging from yellow to coral to red. The small fruits are of little value other than for seeds.