Houseplant of the month – August: The Aloe
Caring for Aloe plants
Aloe is easy to care for – it is after all a succulent. This plant stores moisture in the thick rosettes of leaf which helps it to get through periods of drought. Water your Aloe fortnightly. You can let it dry out between waterings. It does like a nice light and sunny spot and it can go outdoors to the patio or decking in the summer too. Feed monthly during the growing period. An Aloe can flower after a short dormant period in the winter. Water and feed only sparingly over that period. The flower will develop as the days gets longer and then you can start properly watering and feeding it again.
The Aloe vera is a succulent classified under Asphodelaceae and has grown on the Arabian peninsula for millions of years. The name Aloe comes from the Arabic for glossy and bitter which refers to the cooling gel-like sap of the leaves. The vera part of the name roughly translated means ‘the one and only’. There are 300 different varieties of Aloe. As a desert plant, aloe needs to be able to survive the extreme conditions so the plant has developed 75 different elements to help it through. If a leaf is damaged in any way, the ‘wound’ will immediately heal via clotting sap in order to keep as much moisture in the leaf as possible – rather like blood in humans. The active ingredient of Aloe sap has proved to be just as healing to us too. Ancient Egyptians called the aloe ‘the immortal plant’. It was first described in Europe in papers from 1655. Today Aloe grows wild around the Mediterranean, Indonesia, Mexico and the Caribbean.