Monday, August 02, 2010

Aloe Vera: Planting, Growing, & Harvesting

A couple days ago, I did an overview post of for Aloe Vera, nature's miracle ingredient.  Now, I want to show you how to use fresh aloe vera by growing it on your own!  Now, from what I've read, it takes about 2 years for a baby aloe vera plant to mature to the point where you are able to use it, but it's one of those things that gets better with age.

There are a couple benefits to growing you own aloe vera.  One is that these plants can be grown indoors or outdoors.  However, if grown outdoors, you best live in a warm climate because they are very sensitive to frost (they are made of 95% water, afterall).  But they are pretty resilient, and even if you're a horrible gardener, you could probably manage an aloe vera plant.  Aloe vera also doesn't need much water at all, maybe a cup every couple of weeks.  And by growing it yourself, that means it will always be readily available, when needed.  Finally, your aloe vera plant will begin to produce "pups" or baby aloe vera plants, which you can then sell or give as gifts...

My Aloe Vera Plant
I just planted my aloe vera yesterday.  The plant that we have at work, has a pretty large quantity of baby plants growing around it, so this is what I used.  I didn't plant it right away, though.  I allowed it to sit for a couple days because I wanted it to callus.  And then today, I purchased a bag of cactus potting soil for $4.48 and a small clay pot and base, for $0.85 each.  I misted the soil with some water from a spray bottle (misted, not soaked) and then set my plant outside, in a location where it will receive sunlight,  but not be sitting directly under the sun.

Planting & Growing Your Own Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera can be started a few different ways.  The first is by seed, although this takes awhile and is a bit difficult.  Another way is by taking a clean cut piece of leave, and then finally by planting a pup.
Needed Conditions when Growing Aloe Vera
First off, Aloe Vera is a succulent, which means that it's water needs are minimal.  You will need a good draining soil and a pot with a hole at the bottom for drainage.  You'll want to look into cactus soil for your plant.  Other types of soil to look into are those with perlite, granite grit or sand.  You'll also want to choose a pot typical clay pot with a hole at the bottom or you can put a layer, about 1-2 inches, of gravel at the bottom of the pot.  

Also, the roots stay pretty shallow, so if at all possible find a wider pot as opposed to a deep pot.  However, this may be hard for the smaller pot sizes that you will want when starting your new plant.  You don't want a pot that is much bigger than the root system itself, because the roots or very capable of root rot.  By keeping your plant in a smaller pot, this means that there is less soil to dry (therefore it'll dry faster) and the roots should be okay.

Your plant will also need sunlight, so you'll want to find a great indirect source of sunlight.  When growing in the house, windowsills are great (however, aloe vera grows much better outside and should be put outside during the summer months).  If put in direct sunlight all day, you risk scorching the plant.

It is also easier to overwater your plant as opposed to underwatering it.  Make sure the soil is COMPLETELY dry before watering.  If you're unsure about whether you should water it, wait a couple days.  When you do water, you will want to drench the plant until water soaks through the bottom of the pot.  It'll be a couple weeks between waterings.  And in the winter months, you'll water even less often because the plant will take in less water. 

Growing Aloe Vera Pups
Once an aloe vera plant is matured, it will begin to create baby plants around its base.  However, these babies will take from the mother plant (like a weed).  So, once they are about 3 inches tall, they can be taken from the pot and replanted.  

If at all possible, you could pull all the plants from the pot and lay down to separate the root balls.  However, in my case, this was not possible, so I just gently tugged on the baby plant that I chose.  I broke off the individual roots, but still maintained a good chunk of the stem.  Because I broke the roots, I let the plant sit to callus over, because this will prevent disease from the soil entering the plant.

After planting, give the plant a light spritz of water, so not to overwater it.  You'll want to spritz it until new roots are formed and the plant is anchored in the soil.  This may take a couple weeks.

Growing Aloe Vera from a Cutting
From what I've read up on, there is a debate about whether or not you can grow aloe vera from a leaf cutting.  However, I have found some tips if you would like to attempt this method (although you're obviously guaranteed better results by planting the pup or a seed).  

You'll want to take your leaf cutting and let it sit for a couple days, to allow it to callus over (for the same reason we did this for the pup).  After a couple days, you're able to plant the cutting in soil in the same conditions as we grew the pup.  Just plant the leaf, cut side down, a couple inches under the soil.  

Harvesting Aloe from your Aloe Vera Plant
The easiest way to get the gel from your plant is to squeeze it straight from the leaf.  For example, if you were to burn yourself, you could tear off a chunk of leaf and rub the open section directly on your burn.  

Once your plant's leaves are somewhat horizontal and are thick and green, they are ready to be harvested.  You'll want to focus on the leaves closest to the soil, because the new growth is at the top.  Since the leaves won't grow back after being cut, you don't want to damage this new growth.  

You'll want something sharp to harvest the leaves, like a heavy duty pair of scissors.  Keep the cut as clean and straight as possible, and close to the base of the plant.  

Next, you want to prop the leaf, open side down, to allow the sap to drain.  This step is especially important if you plan on consuming your aloe vera, because the sap is a laxative.

Now you can harvest the gel.  You fillet the leaf in order to get it.  So, you'll want to cut off the tip of the leaf, with a sharp knife, and then cut down each side where the two pieces of leaf attach.   You should now be able to separate the leaf into two parts, a front and a back.  Finally, you can use a spoon or butter knife to scrape the gel from the leaf.  Just be careful not to scrape too hard or you may end up with some sap!

Helpful Aloe Vera  

Keep an Eye Out for My Next Part of this Feature, How to Use Fresh Aloe Vera!

Much Love!  xoxoxo  

1 comment:

  1. great info, thanks!

    i'm following back from MFM



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