Whilst Aloe is a huge genus of succulent plants, there is one stand out species that most of us are aware of – the Aloe Vera. Widely known for its medicinal uses, this fleshy leaved, architectural beauty of a plant is packed full of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and other compounds that are effective for wound healing and burns. The gel also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is used regularly for juicing – but beware, when ingested unprocessed it is a known laxative.
Aloes prefer to sit in bright, direct sunlight (so ideal for a south facing windowsill) in a spot with low humidity and warm air. During the hottest months of the year they can be placed outside to enjoy the benefits of good air circulation, but will be equally happy to stay inside in a well ventilated area. They are also one of the few plants that will tolerate being sat close to a radiator in winter! Whilst they prefer bright light, they are very hardy and will adapt to tolerate lower light levels in most cases - they will just take a little longer to grow.
As mentioned above, Aloe Vera is a very hardy plant that’s extremely tolerant of neglect. If you’re in the market for a low maintenance plant then this is the one for you! Whilst ideally they want to be watered just before the soil has completely dried out (approx. every 2-3 weeks in summer in a warm and sunny spot), they will be totally fine left un-watered for significantly longer thanks to all the water stored in their fleshy leaves. Over winter reduce watering to approximately once a month, or once the soil has dried out completely.
Make sure your Aloe is always planted into a pot with sufficient drainage and a free draining compost (cactus soil is ideal) so that when it comes to watering you can give it a good soak before leaving it to dry out again. Placing the aloe into a sink and letting water run through the compost for a good couple of minutes is ideal. It doesn’t need to be repotted yearly like most plants, but you can feed your Aloe Vera during the growing months (spring and summer) to keep nutrient levels high for continued regular growth.
Although most of us are aware of the healing properties of the Aloe Vera, its air purifying abilities aren’t such common knowledge - it is one of the best plants for removing formaldehyde and other household chemicals from the air. This paired with their drought tolerance and easy going care requirements is reason enough to have one in your home!
If you have an Aloe, you will probably have noticed a few offsets (or “pups”) appearing from the base of the parent plant. The easiest way to propagate your Aloe is by separating these pups and planting them into their own pots.
It’s best to do this outside of the growing months (winter to early spring ideally) so as not to shock the parent plant, however they are a tough genus and can probably tolerate it through the growing seasons too.
Remove the main plant from it’s pot, knocking off any excess soil until you can see where the pup is attached to the root base. Sometimes they will separate easily and you can just pull them away, but you may need to cut it off with a sharp knife, keeping a bit of the main root section attached to the base of the pup.
Re pot your parent plant but leave your new little Aloe to callus for a couple of days so it doesn’t rot when planted into fresh soil. Once planted, continue to care for your new Aloe as you would the parent plant.