The Egyptians called it the "plant of immortality." The aloe vera plant, native to Africa, is a succulent plant widely used for its medicinal properties for over 6,000 years. The gel in the leaves help to soothe burns. According to the National Institutes of Health, aloe is also used as a laxative, and as a possible treatment for chronic diseases such as diabetes. Aloes are tropical plants, suited as houseplants in cooler climates.
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The aloe vera plant is much like a cactus; it needs a dry, bright, extremely warm location. A night-time temperature of 12.8 degrees C or warmer is recommended for the aloe vera plant. Choose a deep, wide-mouthed pot with a peat-lite type potting soil mixed with sterile sand. Do not fertilise the aloe vera plant.
Improper watering accounts for more houseplant problems than any other factor. The soil should drain well and never become waterlogged. Water the plant only when the soil is completely dry. During the winter, water very sparingly---about once or twice a month.
Problems and Pests
The aloe vera plant has few problems and pests, but it is sensitive to over-watering. Waterlogged, soggy soil can cause blight, water mould, crown rots and fungal leaf spots. The aloe vera is amazingly resistant to most pests, but is sometimes attacked by the mealy bug. Manual removal of the pest or a spray of half-water, half-methylated spirits will repel the insects. The best preventive measure is to avoid over-watering.
Once mature, the aloe vera plant will produce small "pups" or offshoots. Pluck them off and plant in separate pots, if desired, to propagate the plant. Do not allow the babies to become too large, or they will draw nutrients away from the mother plant.
The aloe vera plant can grow to be quite large, over 4 feet in some cases. When the plant becomes too top-heavy for the pot, it is time to move the plant to a larger pot. Choose a deep, wide pot with a peat-lite type potting soil mixed with sterile sand. Set in a sunny location and do not water for a few days to a week.
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- National Institutes of Health: Aloe Vera
- University of Missouri Extension: Caring for Houseplants (see Cultural preferences of plants often grown in the home)
- College of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences: Aloe Vera
- North Carolina State University : Interiorscape Integrated Pest Management (see Table 5).
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Systematic Review of Herbs and Dietary Supplements