Aloe Vera Overview:
Aloe vera is a succulent plant species found in many warm parts of the world. In the United States, it can be found in warm regions including Texas, Florida and California. Aloe vera is a semi-tropical plant that has attracted attention through history by many great civilizations and utilized for perceived healing powers. Throughout history, aloe vera has been cited as a remedy for numerous physical ailments and was generally considered an all purpose healer. It is often viewed as a first aid plant.
Even today, aloe vera is still considered a healing agent. In the United States, the aloe Gel, a clear colorless semi-solid gel, is marketed as a moisturizer, a healing agent in cosmetics, and as an ingredient for some designer drugs. Right now in the United States, most people are familiar with the aloe vera plant and gel and its ability to penetrate and moisturize. It should be noted though that there is minimal scientific research currently available that proves the healing power and effectiveness of aloe vera extracts, and minimal literature exists detailing negatively associated side effects from using the plant extracts as part of a topical or oral treatment plan.
General Description of Aloe Vera:
There are well over 200 species of aloe grown around the world. The leaves of the aloe plant grow from the base in the rosette pattern and are thick and fleshy. The plant can grow up to 4 feet, but is generally about 28 to 36 inches in length containing a dozen or more leaves.
Research on Aloe Vera:
As stated earlier, there is a lack of comprehensive research out there on the effectiveness of aloe vera extracts. Additionally, the information that is available can be contradicting. From what I have reviewed, studies often cite a lack of hard or strong evidence to support the effectiveness of aloe vera as a protective or healing agent. As most proponents of the plant might conjecture, these results do not necessarily extinguish the medicinal potential of the aloe vera plant extracts. For this reason, many still hold the plant, and its potential healing and protective qualities, in favor. Many seek to grow aloe vera indoors and have even used the gel extract to apply to superficial burns. For me, the gel seems to help reduce the pain and minimize negative skin reactions. Throughout the rest of this review, I will provide a general overview of the basic steps and procedures associated with growing aloe vera in the home setting.
Growing Aloe vera in the Home Setting:
Aloe vera can be grown from the leaf of an existing aloe plant. I have found this method to be relatively painless and have always found success when attempting. Purchase a healthy aloe vera plant from your local nursery and from this plant, many other aloe vera plants can develop. After you purchase the aloe vera plant, the next step will be to prepare soil.
Step 2 – Soil Prep:
I utilize the same process for preparing soil for a majority of my indoor grows. Some growers have asked me if it would be better to use soil from their outside garden. I advise against this practice for several reasons. Number one, it is more difficult to control the variables that lead to proper germination and plant development. The chemistry of outside soil varies drastically from region to region and even from yard to yard and this fact makes utilizing outside soil a more risky proposition. It is much easier to control variables linked to soil chemistry with a type of potting soil. Another reason utilizing outdoor soil could be troublesome is due to the potential for weed seeds to germinate and for outdoor disease spores to infiltrate. Once again, utilizing a potting soil mix reduces potential problems and ultimately provides a more reliable and stable medium in which to grow. The potting soil that I use is mixed with beneficial microbes and fungi which to feed the plant’s root system. For aloe plants, I have mixed in fine sand to the soil in order to increase drainage after irrigation. I introduce the fine sand into my soil mixture at the ratio of 1 to 3.
Step 3 – Fill Planting Pot:
I often use pots that are approximately 6″ in diameter at the top for my aloe vera planting process. Make sure that there are some drainage holes at the bottom of your pot for excess water to drain out of if necessary. I often use terracotta pots, ceramic pots, or plastic pots. I will place several larger stones or pieces of broken terracotta at the bottom over the holes in order to keep the soil in yet filter the excess water out.
Step 4 – Planting the Aloe vera Plant:
Take a leaf from the purchased aloe vera plant. Remove the entire leaf from the existing plant, all the way to the center from where it begins. Place the aloe vera leaf on the surface of the soil mixture you have prepared. Place the leaf in the center of the pot and lie it prone in the soil. Push the leaf into the soil, but only partially. Leave about half of the leaf exposed to the light. Make sure that you place the pot in adequate sunlight or under a grow light for approximately 10 to 12 hours a day. Place an overflow tray under the pot that will collect any excess water that may filter out of the pots drainage holes.
Step 5 – Lighting:
Aloe vera plants require lots of light! So place the plant in direct sunlight or directly under a grow light. If you decide to place this plant in direct sunlight, possibly on a windowsill or on a stand just under the window, choose a window that faces east or west so that exposure time is optimized. Keep in mind though, too much light and brown spots may develop and too little light may cause the leaves to droop downward instead of grow upward. Monitor the plant routinely as the amount of light will vary from plant to plant and from area to area. Although aloe vera generally responds well to abundant light, I have found that each individual plant can respond in its own way. The lighting time that is good for one may not necessarily be optimal for another.
Direct sunlight is great to offer, but may not always be available. Cloud cover and winter can minimize the amount of direct sunlight available and during these times, artificial lighting can support the plant’s development. I utilize LED grow lights when I grow plants outside of natural sunlight.
LED Grow Lights – The spectrum light that an LED can now produce includes, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and white. Although plants absorb a broad range of light during the grow process, red and blue light has been shown to be very important for plant development. The fact that LED grow light products can be designed to emit a certain ratio of light spectra gives them the unique ability to effectively and efficiently act as the proper catalyst to initiate and promote plant photosynthesis during various stages of a plant’s grow process.
Step 6 – Watering:
Water the aloe leaf that you put into the soil right away. Water the soil thoroughly allowing the excess water to drain. After this initial watering, the amount of water the plant and soil require will depend on the conditions which vary a bit from grower to grower like the maintained temperature and as well as the soil mixture. I have found that aloe plants grow best in soil that drains well. As mentioned above, I have grown aloe well in a mixture of potting soil and fine sharp sand. The plant and soil will need watered intermittently whenever you find that the soil is dry. I place my finger in the soil a quarter of an inch and if it is dry at this depth, I water.
Growers should see the aloe begin to sprout after a couple weeks! For additional information on the benefits and effects of using Aloe vera as a beauty product or medicinal treatment, click here.