The aloe vera can look back on glorious times: where it grew, aloe plants stood on the kitchen window sill until the late 20th century to immediately help with minor burns and cuts. This natural variant of the healing plaster was pushed back by the variety of products in the pharmaceutical industry until knowledge about the healing power was no longer generally available. But the aloe comes back, below you will learn how to recognize the “pharmacy for the windowsill” and how to deal with it.

The real name of real aloe

If you want to cultivate a real aloe vera, you also need to know what it is called “real” (officially), because there are lots of aloes. Over 500 species, arboreal and climbing and growing into works of art, just no aloe vera.

If you are looking for a real aloe vera, the one with the healing ingredients, you will come across aloe ‘Vera’, ‘Barbadensis’, ‘Miller’, ‘Linné’, in all possible combinations of names. All the same, the correct names are “Aloe vera” and “Aloe bardensis”.

True aloe was named by two botanists: in 1753 by Carl von Linné (Aloe perfoliata var. vera, which became Aloe vera in 1768) and in 1768 by Philip Miller (Aloe barbadensis). Since both botanists are quite famous, it goes by both names interchangeably.

Cultivate your own aloe vera

In the 1990’s, aloe vera was rediscovered, enthusiastically marketed in home care and other products, often in pyramid schemes, often processed (eg, heat treated) in ways that rendered the ingredients ineffective. On the other hand, the IASC (International Aloe Science Council, association of aloe vera growers, processors, marketing companies, doctors, scientists) works with quality control and seal of approval, it looks like this:

It is more convenient to have your own A. vera on the windowsill, then you do not need to look for a seal of quality, but can simply help yourself fresh from the plant:

Grow and plant aloe vera

You can buy aloe vera seeds and grow your own aloes at well-stocked succulent stores. This shouldn’t be a problem:

  • Sow seeds on/in shallow pots/growing trays with moist cactus soil
  • in spring/early summer, the young plants get summer light
  • Potting soil: 2 parts sand, 1 part garden soil, 1 part compost
  • Press lightly and barely cover, aloes germinate in the light
  • Ambient temperature between 20 °C and 25 °C
  • Cover transparent and airy and keep moist
  • After three to four weeks the seeds will germinate (or later, please be patient)
  • After about a year, the seedlings are big enough to be isolated
  • Then they should be around 15 cm tall, before that the fine roots are very sensitive
  • After moving, slowly get used to the sun

If A. vera is to become your kitchen pharmacy, however, sowing has a major disadvantage: it only develops its healing ingredients in effective quantities at the age of 3 to 4 years.

A. vera grows well from cuttings. This will give you some time to mature. Simply snap off (cut) and plant. The cut surfaces should be disinfected to prevent fungal infestation.

The quickest way to your natural medicine cabinet is to find someone whose aloe vera is just ready to divide, or buy an aloe vera that is the right age.

Buy aloe vera

Buying an aloe vera of the right age is quite possible and even a test of whether you have come to a knowledgeable dealer. The aloe plants should have been grown organically, in certified organic soil, with organic fertilizers and without chemical pesticides.

The aloe vera should be removed from the sales pot after a short rest period. High-quality soil is rarely used, and the same applies to the root space: you will often read that the aloe vera gets along with a rather small pot. That’s right, the only question is whether a small pot is really best for the A. vera:

The eternal question of pot size

When growing in its natural location, a plant forms exactly the size of root balls that it needs to supply the plant mass above. A free-growing aloe vera grows to a height of a meter with mighty leaves. Since each of the succulent leaves is 6 to 7 centimeters wide at the base and around 2 cm thick, the aloe reaches a significant girth at the base of the root. The root system of the desert plant corresponds exactly to the upper growth: It branches out widely in order to get even the last drop of moisture out of the desert sand.

If you want to support the most natural development possible with an aloe vera in a pot, you need a larger pot. Then their roots can not only spread without hindrance, but a harmonious relationship between roots and above-ground plant mass could also have a positive effect on the production of the healing ingredients. If you keep the desert plant in a pot and eventually a container that gives it a little more room to grow naturally, it could grow quite tall.

The hobby gardener can take two important insights from all of this:

  • The pot size is not irrelevant, but has a lot of influence on plant development shortly after sowing
  • The gardener can make plants grow faster in larger pots and slow them down with smaller pots

You can also cultivate your aloe vera in the usual pots, in which its roots will not be very big. However, a larger pot is better for plant development and therefore probably also for the development of beneficial substances – when growing the aloe vera is definitely given a lot of space for development.


Where aloe vera grows naturally or is cultivated, it is much lighter than here. Warmer too, aloe vera are only hardy from USDA zone 9a (maximum winter cold average between -3.9 and -6.6 °C). We start at zone 8 and go down from there. So, aloe vera needs to be kept indoors during the winter.

Our normal living room temperatures are fine with aloe vera in the pre-season and post-season. During her peak summer growing season, she should be placed outdoors once the temperatures outside are equal to those indoors. The more light she gets in the summer season, the more likely she will develop high levels of desirable ingredients. It is here that the boundaries of the aloe vera culture are touched in our climate. The aloe vera can only go outside when it is nice and warm. Plants grown indoors do not manage to develop the same amount of ingredients as plants growing in a favorable climate – but an aloe vera does not want to be moved too often either. It would probably be best kept in spring and autumn on a window sill that can be opened when the temperature is high enough


Caring for aloe vera is actually pretty straightforward – if you can resist the temptation to drown your aloe.

As already mentioned, the aloe is a desert plant – when its water reservoir (leaves) are nice and full and turgid, it is satisfied and definitely does not expect constant watering. Always let the soil in the pot dry out on the surface before adding water. In addition, drainage and (functioning) water drainage in the bucket are mandatory. The plant does not want to stand with its roots in the wet. She also doesn’t want to get water from above on the leaves, which should ideally remain completely dry when watering.

In the growing season in summer, the A. vera gets fertilizer, normal cactus fertilizer (or green plant fertilizer with little nitrogen, that is what distinguishes the cactus fertilizer). “Little” means a nitrogen content of less than eight percent, and fertilizer is applied about once a month.

She has no demands on the potting soil. Aloes grow in everything that is loose and permeable to water. The mix could look like this:

  • Half of garden soil and half of sand
  • Garden soil, sand, potting soil each a third
  • Finished cactus soil


In its homeland, aloe vera grows all year round, where the climate and light intensity allow for continuous growth.

Not here, our plants shed their leaves in winter to survive the cold season. Aloe vera has not learned this in its evolution and will not learn it afterwards. Outside she would simply freeze to death in winter. Indoors in the warmth it tries to continue growing, although it does not get enough light for sufficient photosynthesis, so it is starving. The result is called Geiltriebe, long thin shoots desperately stretching for possible light sources.

You can avoid the “compulsory diet” with a lot of light from plant lamps or by forcing the aloe to rest in winter. For this purpose, it is placed in a cool (around 10 °C) and as bright a room as possible and kept very dry. In a cool winter place she really hardly needs any water; She gets no fertilizer at all.

Aloe Vera is easy to grow, but it takes a few years before it contains enough of the active ingredient. If you are in a hurry, buy a four-year-old plant. She is easy to care for, but is not infrequently (caringly) drowned. In winter it is much too dark for an A. vera here. She needs either extra light or a rest period to start the summer season vigorously.

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