Aloe Vera grows best in zones 9-11. This plant can grow between 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. This plant is a succulent and retains moisture with its thick waxy leaves. Aloe needs water during active summer season as its leaves are comprised of 95% fluids. Allow the soil to completely dry before you water again, and water less during winter the months. The soil needs to be well-drained with high ratio of sand. Aloe needs bright indirect sunlight for at least half a day, as it is a plant that developed over generations as a desert succulent that is accustomed to growing on rocky outcroppings. When the leaves turn red/brown they are getting too much sun. Aloe is useful for xeriscaping, as it is quite drought tolerant. Aloe grows well when planted with citrus, lavender, and guava.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Aloe vera is used mostly for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Gel within the leaves has been used in the traditional herbal medicines of many countries/heritage groups for thousands of years to treat burns, wounds, dietary supplement, reduce scarring, fade stretch marks, improve wound healing and skin inflammation and as an oral laxative. (1)
Significance to Cultural Communities
Aloe Vera originates from Northern Africa. The use of this plant has been noted in Ayurvedic Medicine (traditional medicine native to India) and found in Papyrus Ebers (Egyptian medical papyrus dating back to Vienna Dioscurides (an early 6th century illuminated Greek manuscript). In Arabic medicine, the gel within the leaves is applied to the forehead for fevers, as it is believed to have cooling properties. (2) Mexican-American cultures drink the gel with water to treat arthritis and stomach disorders. (3)
"It was a plant I remember my mom used while I was growing up to help treat with burns, stretch marks and using the gel as a hair treatment. It was also best used during the dry season (hamattan) to moisturize the skin." - Obehi's story
1. Johnson, Kimball. “Vitamins and Supplements Lifestyle Guide: Aloe Vera.” WebMD. October 13, 2012. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-aloe-vera.
2. Saeed, M.A., Ahmad, Ishtiaq, Yaqub, Uzma, Skbar, Shazia, Waheed, Amran, Saleem, M. & Nasir-ud-Din. “Aloe Vera: A Plant of Vital Significance.” Quarterly SCIENCE VISION, 9, no. 1-2 (2003): 1-13.
3. Davidow, Joie, Infusions of Healing: A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies (New York, NY: Fireside, 1999).