Aloe Vera can be treated as a houseplant.
image by JerrySocoa
Native to Africa, all aloes offer at least some medicinal value. But of the over 250 species, the best known is the Aloe barbadensis, or aloe vera. The semitropical succulents are hardy only in USDA Zones 10-11, where they can be grown outdoors with no chance of suffering a killing frost. Everyone else must keep their aloe plants indoors. But the good news is that they're easy to grow and maintain inside. Since aloes are very slow growers, purchase the largest plant you can, particularly if you want to use it for medicinal purposes. The more mature the plant, the more potent the gel.
Choose a clay pot at least 2 inches wider than the growing pot, and make sure that it has holes in the bottom. Aloes have shallow root systems with spreading habits, so wider is better. Clay is best because it promotes drainage and will "breathe," which other materials don't do. If the plant has recently been watered, allow it to dry out to the point of being just barely moist before repotting.
Cover the bottom of the pot with gravel to a depth of about 1 inch. Fill the pot most of the rest of the way with sandy potting soil or cacti mix. Tap the aloe from its growing pot and gently remove most of the medium from around its roots. Spread them out and set the plant on top of the new medium in the clay pot.
Firm the potting medium over the roots gently, positioning the aloe so that it's planted at exactly the same depth as it occupied in the growing pot.
Give the aloe a generous soaking. Place it in a warm spot with plenty of bright, indirect light. The plant will turn brown if overexposed to directly sunlight. Don't water it again until the planting medium has completely dried out.
Water your aloe well during the summer growing months. Give it a good soaking, and then let it dry out before watering again. Water sparingly during the winter semi-dormant period when the plant will require very little in the way of moisture, and only when it has completely dried out. Just give it enough water to barely moisten the soil, and certainly don't drench it.
Fertilize once each spring with a diluted mixture of good 10-40-10 blooming plant food, according to the packaging instructions.