How to Grow Aloe Vera

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Their genus includes over 300 species. They originate in Southeast tropical Africa, Madagascar and Arabia. The name is of Arabic origin, aloe, which means shining in translation. Aloe vera is most commonly grown in hot and deserts, but it is adaptable and grows on the coast as well as in mountainous areas, in flowerpots and greenhouses. Today, Aloe vera plantations are located in Africa, Australia, Mexico, Russia, Japan, and Spain, Greece and Israel Caribbean, Hawaii, as well as in North, Central, and South America. Aloe thrives in the warmest tropical zone but does not survive in areas where temperatures are below 0ºC for longer periods.

They differ in shape and size of the growth. Height ranges from 10 cm, while some specimens can reach as high as 10 m, like trees. They belong to succulent plants (they keep water in their large and fleshy swollen leaves). In our region, it is grown in a pot as a houseplant, and is also called a home pharmacy, while in folk medicine it was called the cactus for wounds, because of the benefits it provides the epithet “Queen of medicinal plants”. The aloe leaf contains about 100 active ingredients (essential amino acids, vitamins, rare minerals like Zn, Mg, Fe, Cr, Br, Selenium). The most famous species is Aloe vera, which has medicinal properties. It was discovered by botanist Miller on the island of Barbados and included in the register of medicinal herbs.

The ancient African aloe plant, Aloe vera, first recorded on the Mesopotamian plate dating back to 2200 BC, is today far famous and popular herbs due to its medicinal properties and wide application in the cosmetic industry. With demand in world markets, the area under Aloe vera plantations is constantly increasing, but it is easy to grow it at home, even as a houseplant.

This plant is a perennial cactus of fleshy leaves resistant to drought. Like succulent, it collects and stores water in the leaves. Similar agave but — Aloe leaves are watery, and agave leaves are fibrous. Although there are about 400 known species of the genus Aloe in the world, not all species are medicinal. They belong to the Liliana family, the most famous being: Aloe vera, Aloe arborescent and Aloe ferox. The plants of the genus Aloe differ from each other by stem type, leaf shape, and dimensions; from miniature to huge. Large-leaf plants are used in phytotherapy, most commonly Aloe vera and Aloe arborescent. Aloe vera has a short stem from which green, fleshy leaves protected by thorns grow near the ground, and Aloe arborescent has a tall tree from which fleshy leaves branch.

Belongs to the genus succulent. This means that it stores water in its leaves so it can survive dry periods. The leaves are with jagged edges. It has no stem but leaves grow from the base of the plant in multiple layers. And from the middle, here is a flower petal that ends with yellow or reddish flowering flowers clustered in clusters. It usually blooms from year 3, between March and May. Depending on the species, it can grow from 80 to 100 cm. The flowers are tubular, yellow, pink, red, clustered in dense flowers. The flowering stem is erect, with a very decorative inflorescence at the apex. The crown of flowers is ingrown, red or yellow.

The aloe leaves are lanceolate, thick, with a pointed tip and with a serrated rim, in a rosette. It should be noted that there are also types of completely smooth edge. With these strong plants, the leaves can reach a length of 50, 60 cm. The flower stem is erect, with a very decorative inflorescence at the apex. Depending on the species, the flower stalks are 10 cm long and up to one meter long. The crown of flowers is ingrown, yellow or red. It flowers from the third or fourth year, from March to May. It reaches maturity at the age of four, with a height of 60 to 90 cm, pale green leaves with thorns 40–50 cm long. Aloe arborescent, compared to Aloe vera, has narrower and pointed leaves with a thicker outer layer of skin, which makes the plant more resistant to inclement weather.

Growing and breeding Aloe vera in pots

The benefits of growing this plant are enormous, so if you have one in your home you will be satisfied. That is why every house, apartment, yard or terrace should have this decorative and useful plant. In addition to being extremely beautiful, it is easy to maintain, not too demanding and does not require special growing conditions. It just takes a little dedication and attention that will be reciprocated many times thanks to the benefits of growing this plant. Anyone who chooses to grow Aloe will quickly see the benefits of such a decision and recommend it to their friends.

Aloes can be grown in pots stored on the sunny south or east side of windows. The size of the plant and the amount of aloin in the leaves is proportional to the amount of light the plant receives. Older plants like the sun and younger plants are more suitable for shade. If you are taking the Aloe plant out of the enclosure after winter, do not immediately expose it to direct sunlight as the leaves will turn yellow. Instead, put it first in the shade.

Aloe vera has a shallow root (20–30 cm) so plant it in a wider and shallower pot. It is best to apply a layer of stones into Aloe Vera cultivation vessel, then a layer of sand and then add earth. Containers must be one quarter filled with drainage material and compost. The ideal temperature for growing Aloe vera as a pot is 20 to 24ºC in the daytime and 10 to 14ºC at night. Since there is as much as 95% water in the leaves, the temperature should never drop below 5ºC due to the risk of freezing. If you bring it indoors in the winter, it should not be a warm living room, but a foyer or a cooler room with less light, where it will hibernate comfortably.

Aloe vera does not tolerate much moisture, so it should not be watered more than once a week. During the winter months, when all the processes of the plant are slow, water it once a month. The pot must have holes in the bottom through which excess water can flow so that the root does not rot. Then the plant gives a very diluted gel and becomes moist, flaky and wrinkled which is a sign of irregular watering. Therefore, drain excess water from the saucer regularly. As a houseplant of Aloe arborescent, it is advisable to keep it in the south and west windows where there is plenty of light. Watering during winter should be reduced compared to summer to stop growth as much as possible. Watering should be reduced, but not completely interrupted because the plant is warm. In most cases, if the plant is in a heated room during the winter, there is no rest period and it grows throughout the year. In the winter, the days are shorter and therefore less light. Then the plant sprouts light green, thin leaves, and the stem will elongate. It is for this reason that it is recommended that the plant is in a cooler place to stop growth.

The soil between the two watering must be well dried, otherwise, the plant will decay and rot. When cold weather arrives, watering should be stopped. The plant should be brought into a cool room (5-10 C) with plenty of light. During winter, you can water it 1 to 2 times, with very little water, or not water it until spring.

In the spring it saves on fertilizers rich in phosphorus and promotes flowering during June. Aloe vera should be fertilized during the growing season so that the soil is mixed with gravel and 30% compost. Many growers add oak leaf humus to the soil with pebbles, thereby enhancing the growth of Aloe vera.

The simplest way to propagate Aloe vera and to plant the shoots is to carefully separate the shoot bud and plant it. The parent plant drives the shoots as early as the second year of growth. They can be transplanted when they grow from 2.5 to 5 cm. The best time is in May and June, during the period of the most intense growth and development of the plant. When growing the plant as a pot, Aloe vera should be transplanted in the spring or before flowering. They can also be propagated by leaf cuttings, which is also the most common method of propagation of this species. It is enough for the garden shears to separate the leaves with part of the stem and plant them. Rooting Aloe usually takes at least a month.

Aloe vera has an average life of 12 years, but after 4 years they reach maturity and are ready to be harvested. The plants are harvested every 6–8 weeks by removing the 3–4 end leaves of the plant. The leaves are cut at the base so that the total amount of gel remains in the leaf until processing. The leaves must be handled gently to prevent damage to the outer bark and to prevent leaf-based bacteria from entering.

Use and healing properties

Aloe vera was used as a medicine six thousand years ago. In ancient Egypt, it was called the plant of immortality, and over time it was also called the Wonderful Plant, the Elixir of Life, the Blessing of Paradise, and others. Although about 200 species of this plant are known, only four of them have medicinal properties.

Aloe vera contains over 200 bioactive, natural compounds that can be used to nourish, fight disease and maintain the well-being of the whole body. Although in the west, aloe is very popular for the care and regeneration of damaged skin.

Aloe vera is one of the herbs that help to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation and detoxify the body. It is also used in skin problems and is effective in acne, itching, allergies, rashes and skin diseases in general. According to research conducted by Asian scientists, daily use of aloe vera gel can improve skin elasticity and get rid of wrinkles. Preparations made based on this herb are useful in situations where it is necessary to accelerate wound healing or treat burns on the skin.

Scientific experiments have shown that Aloe vera stops the growth of several types of harmful bacteria and that the gel can be applied directly to infected skin and to post-surgical wounds to speed recovery time.

We know that in cosmetics we are increasingly finding aloe vera among ingredients but in small quantities. This herb is becoming a real trend among women, and those who are familiar with the magic of pure aloe vera do not want to think about buying expensive preparations.

This plant will gradually remove blemishes and imperfections from the face. It works great in the fight against wrinkles and in general as an anti-aging product. And, no wonder, because aloe vera is quickly absorbed into the skin and is very rich in nutrients: it has 19 essential amino acids, group B vitamins (and B12), vitamin C and E, calcium, iron, magnesium…

Initially, when its medicinal properties were discovered, the gel squeezed out of the aloe leaves was used in its raw state, that is, its original state. Today it can be found in various drinks, juices, yogurts, as functional foods, then cosmetic milk, shampoos, creams, lotions, and other products.

With the multidisciplinary approach of chemists, botanists, biologists, toxicologists, and pharmacists, today we have a plethora of aloe vera formulations that are used for a variety of purposes. Something maybe a myth, but it certainly has no negative effects. Many facts support the healing properties of aloe and its effect on long-lasting youth.

Sources:

. Vrtni centar Urban Garden www.urbangarden.rs

. Baštovanstvo www.bastovanstvo.rs

. “Lekovite i aromatične biljke” /Medicinal and aromatic plants/

Autor: Prof. Dr. Jan Kišgeci

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