The aloe vera plant (also known as Aloe barbadensis) has been grown for thousands of years.
Although many are under the impression aloe plants are somewhat tricky to grow, they are in fact extremely easy to cultivate.
How to grow aloe plants
The first step in aloe plant care is to realise that this plant thrives in dry conditions. This is because it’s a succulent. For best results, use a regular potting soil or a cactus potting mix, blended with additional perlite or building sand.
It’s important to make sure the pot you use for your aloe plant has plenty of drainage holes – although these particular species require plenty of water, they are unable to withstand standing water. To avoid this, make sure the soil is completely dry before watering your plant again.
Aloe plants require good light. If you can, place them in a west or south-facing window. Aloe plants don’t normally require a fertiliser, which makes them relatively maintenance free. If you do decide to use a fertiliser, opt for a half-strength, phosphorus-heavy, water-based variant and apply in the spring.
The aloe vera plant can be susceptible to fungal problems, which tend to cause leaf spotting. Other ailments include being attacked by insects, which can damage the leaves. One pest to avoid is the mealybug, which can cause cottony – white puffs to show on the leaves, which sometimes turn into dark spots.
Too much cold weather can also affect the aloe plant, which can cause the leaves to wilt and the roots to rot. However, if the plant shows no sign of rot, you may need to water it more sparingly – this should help to perk the leaves up in a day or two.
Asides from being easy to grow, the aloe plant has many uses in the home, including acting as an ailment to minor burns and rashes. It produces two substances, both of which are used in medicine. The gel is found in the plant’s cells, which sit in the centre of the leaf, and the latex, is found in the cells just beneath the leaf’s skin.
The majority of people use aloe gel as a skin remedy for a number of unwanted conditions, including sunburn, burns, cold sores, frostbite and psoriasis to name but a few. It’s also a natural remedy for stomach ulcers, asthma, diabetes and depression.
Those with a penchant for succulents will hugely enjoy growing the tiger aloe. This specie boasts thick, classic, sword-shaped leaves and a healing sap. In its native environment of Namibia and South Africa, dappled tiger aloe comes to life in July and blooms all the way through to September.
Plants grown in the home are able to produce similar blooms with the right care and plenty of bright sunlight. They house three sets of six to eight leaves, which sit around a central rosette. These leaves have slightly jagged edges and a thick waxy coating with mottled white and green patterns.
Tiger aloe plants can grow an impressive 12 inches high and nine inches wide. The flowers sit on a stiff, willowy stalk and come in shades of pink, salmon pink and orange. The leaves measure four to six inches in length and just a few inches wide.
When grown in their natural habitat, they are found in gritty soils, where rainfall is uncommon. They’re able to endure long periods of drought, through stowing moisture in their leaves, which they are able to conserve using their waxy cuticles.
How to care for a Tiger Aloe
Tiger aloe plants have the same necessities as traditional succulent aloes. They prefer warmer zones but can still withstand the outdoors in the summer months.
When the temperatures drop however, your aloe plant must be taken inside. For best results, when growing in cooler climates, it’s important to grow the plant inside in a plant pot, on a windowsill alongside a group of other succulents. Water generously but rarely, and always allow the soil to completely dry out between watering.
Although this plant grows slowly, it still requires re-potting every three years. When doing so, it’s important to use a quality mix of potting soil, cactus mix or sand. The single biggest killer of the aloe plant is overwatering, which can cause the plant to rot.