“Lily of the desert” and “The silent healer” are exotic-sounding names for a plant that rightly deserves these melodious names. Aloe barbadensis Miller, the Latin term for the well-known aloe vera, is still enjoying steadily growing popularity even after decades. The original range of the plant is in the Canary Islands and Africa, reason enough for all representatives of the more than 250 species of aloes to have their own water reservoir. For dry periods, the succulent plant stores the water in the form of gel in its fleshy, green-colored leaves. While the gel is used in many places as a medicine and dietary supplement, this plant-based water supply makes aloe vera interesting even for beginners. If you like to forget to water your houseplants, finds in aloes an easy-to-care-for and non-resilient plant. Because getting by without the precious water for some time is not a problem for the desert dweller.
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Well over 250 types of aloe vera are known. While the smaller varieties develop leaves of just 20 cm, the fleshy leaves of other members of the aloes family can reach a height of up to 20 m.
As a houseplant, Aloe barbadensis Miller rarely produces seeds. However, if you come into possession of these seeds, they can be grown all year round at a temperature of approx. 20 ° C to 25 ° C indoors.
- Well-drained and nutrient-poor soil is recommended for sowing.
- Press seeds into moist soil and cover lightly
- Place the planter in a warm, sunny place
- keep moderately moist
- Germination time is about 3 – 7 weeks
- From a size of around 15 cm, the seedlings can easily be pricked out and repotted.
The right location and planting the aloe vera
As a desert inhabitant, the plant loves sunny, dry places, but a partially shaded location is also accepted by it. The plant is also very good to keep as a container plant on the terrace or in the garden in summer. However, stable temperatures are a prerequisite for this. In the cold season, a protective place on the windowsill is preferred. In order to plant the aloe vera, the following points are important:
- Choose a larger flower pot or tub, because the plant will sprout strongly if properly cared for.
- A loamy, sandy or calcareous soil that does not tend towards moisture and is permeable is preferred.
- Special succulent soil, sand or granite grit are also suitable.
- Irrigation water must be able to drain off in order to avoid waterlogging.
- With constant temperatures in summer, the plant can also be planted in the garden.
Young plants can only tolerate direct sunlight outdoors to a limited extent. In order to avoid damage to the leaves, the aloes should be slowly accustomed to the sun in partial shade. One possibility here would be to choose a location with temporary morning or evening sun, for example. Whether the place has been chosen correctly can be seen from the colors and formation of the leaves.
Aloes are by no means suitable for decorating the bathroom. In the worst case, the warm and humid climate of this area can cause desert plants to vegetate.
In order to survive long periods of drought in the hot desert regions unscathed, the aloe vera pulls from its own water reservoir during these times. These reserves are temporarily stored in the fleshy leaves. If the plant has to fall back on this supply, the leaves lose their rich green color. To prevent this situation, the following applies:
- The root ball should be supplied with water in summer when the earth is noticeably dry.
- Water significantly less in winter, dry periods of 4 weeks are not a problem.
- Avoid waterlogging and under no circumstances pour directly over the leaves.
- Keep young plants moist – not wet.
Supply with succulent or universal fertilizer every two to four weeks in summer. It is not necessary to add nutrients during the winter months.
The right consistency and composition of the potting soil can replace the addition of fertilizer. If this addition of nutrients is missing and fertilizer is to be avoided, regular repotting of the aloe vera is advisable.
The right cut for the desert plant
The members of the succulents also need a cut from time to time, as is the case with many other garden and indoor plants. Whether root or leaf pruning depends on various factors. In order to control the growth of the plant to some extent, the roots can be shortened by a few centimeters.
In order to get to the valuable gel of the aloe vera, a leaf cut is unavoidable. However, there are other reasons that may make it necessary to remove the fleshy runners. For example, the inadequate supply of light and water causes the leaves to die off. But excessive contact with water – especially with waterlogging – is often noticeable through withered, yellowish leaves. Pests and diseases are another reason for removing the leaves. Incorrect pruning rarely harms the plant, but it can make it look unattractive.
Aloes in bloom are rare. If the flowers do develop, remove the stems immediately after they have withered. This prevents the formation of seeds and the plant can use its energy to grow and develop new shoots and leaves.
- If leaves are cut off for the purpose of obtaining gel or regulating growth, the outermost leaves must be chosen. Cut off close to the ground with a sharp knife.
- Also cut off withered and diseased leaves with a sharp knife as low as possible. The surrounding leaves must not be injured.
Aloe barbadosiensis Miller is very sensitive to the cold. If the outside temperature drops below 10 ° C, the plant must be brought inside. To prevent damage to the aloe vera, it needs longer periods of dryness and a cool room in winter.
If the right location conditions are met and the plant is supplied with water and nutrients according to its needs, no special care is required.
Repotting the aloe vera
The desert plants tend to grow enormously in size within one to two years. For this reason, it is important to move the aloes into a larger planter on a regular basis. This point in time is reached at the latest when the leaves have reached the edge of the pot and the plant can only be watered directly over the fleshy leaves.
- Let the soil dry out completely.
- Carefully crumple the flower pot to loosen the plant including the roots from the container.
- When using clay pots, carefully cut all around with a knife.
- To avoid damaging the leaves, grasp the plant as low as possible.
- Carefully remove it from the plant pot – if there is resistance, repeat the previous steps.
- Prepare the new, larger flower pot.
- For better water drainage, we recommend pottery shards, which are then filled directly with earth.
- If necessary, take offshoots from the aloe vera.
- Place the plant in the new container and fill it with succulent or conventional soil.
- Carefully tap the container on a firm surface so that the earth can settle. Top up if necessary.
- The root ball of the plant must be completely covered with soil.
- Immediately after repotting, water generously and place the aloe in a light spot.
Aloes are relatively straightforward to cultivate, and if the needs of the plant are met, it will produce abundant cuttings. It is best to take a cuttings or side shoots during repotting.
The pulling of offshoots:
- Cut off the young side shoot from the large plant with a sharp knife.
- The cut surface needs to dry for about two days.
- Then cover with sandy soil.
- Water the offshoot regularly until roots and other leaves form.
It works more simply with the secondary plants, which push themselves out of the roots of the aloe vera:
- Lift the mother plant out of the earth.
- Carefully loosen some secondary plants.
- The root system must not be massively damaged. Neither through the use of force nor through the use of scissors.
- Plant the cuttings in a well-drained soil.
- Each offshoot and the mother plant must be placed in a separate container.
Diseases and pests
Succulents can also be attacked by some pests and diseases, but with a little care and little effort, the aloes can be quickly rid of these:
- The harmful visitors to the Aloe barbadosiensis Miller include mealybugs. These small insects form white nests on the infected leaves and stems and can also be recognized with the naked eye. Mealybugs belong to the mealybug family and suckle away important nutrients from the host plant. In the worst case, this can lead to their death. Immediate treatment is urgently required, various options are available to eliminate the annoying insects. For example, various chemical agents are commercially available. However, if you need aloe vera to obtain its gel, you should take other treatment options. One would be hosing down with a strong jet of water and wiping the infected areas with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab. This method must be repeated regularly.
- A close relative of the mealybugs are root lice. As their name partly suggests, the pests prefer the roots, prick them and feast on the plant nectar. Even before the infested aloe clearly cares, the unwelcome visitors are noticed by their white nests on the ground, the roots and on the inside of the plant pot. The same countermeasures apply as is the case with the related mealybugs.
- As with many other plants, too frequent watering promotes root rot. Aloes need a well-drained soil and watering is only done when the soil has dried out noticeably. Root rot itself is not treatable. An immediate remedy would be to drain the plant by repotting it and remove the affected roots immediately. However, this method of treatment does not always work and the succulent must be destroyed.
Aloe vera is an undemanding houseplant that does not require a lot of care and special attention. The plant is also forgiving of some mistakes and does not need anything other than moderate watering and a warm, sunny location. The exotic beauty forms numerous offshoots under the right conditions, so that one does not have to worry about the reproduction of the well-known succulent plant.