Aloe vera is a succulent, perennial crop whose gel is used industrially in beverage and cosmetic production and locally in the management of burns and pimples. It is also known as Aloe barbadensis Mill. from the family Liliaceae.
Aloes can grow to the height of 1½ – 2½ ft with long, thick and juicy leaves. The two sides of the leaves have thorny structures with a thorny tip. The length of the leaves ranges from 25-30 cm, while the breadth ranges from 3-5 cm. Normally, it flowers during October to January with long inflorescences containing small pink or yellow flowers all round and fruits during February to April
OPTIMAL GROWTH CONDITIONS
Aloes require low humidity and annual rainfall of about 1000 – 1200 mm. It is considered intolerant of low temperatures and grows well in bright sunlight. It is grown in all kind of soils but a well drained soil with high organic matter, is most suitable.
METHODS OF PROPAGATION
- It can be raised vegetatively from offsets or pups or baby plants. Pups ready for transplant are good-sized, at least 4-6″ with a strong root system that can survive when detached from the mother plant. To begin, fill the desired pot loosely with moistened potting mix(cactus mix or well drained soil), make a deep hole with your finger for the plant’s root to be inserted, add more soil, press the soil down slightly with your fingers to remove air pockets and enable the plant to have a solid support which prevents the plant from toppling over once it grows. Do not water after planting until after 5-7days depending on weather conditions. The pups then becomes firmly established with continued growth.
- Aloes can also be raised from seeds. Dark brown viable seeds are obtained from mature Aloe plants aging 4yrs and above. To begin, fill a 15 cm x 7 cm container with moistened cacti mix, place two seeds in each packet, sprinkle the mix lightly over the seeds and keep partly shaded to prevent the medium from drying out whilst getting the warmth required for germination. Sprouts begin to show after 14-28 days. After 30-35 days seedlings, are ready for planting in main land or pot.
- Aloes can also be propagated from leaf cuttings. This method is not often used as success rate is very low. A cutting is made with a clean sharp blade, the incision site is left to dry out for about 1 week to reduce the chance of infection and deterioration. The cutting is then dipped in rooting hormone, planted in moistened cacti mix in a warm environment. The cutting would grow roots and then into a mature Aloe plant.
PROBLEMS OF PROPAGATION
- Aloes do not tolerate Shading. Shady conditions results in disease infestation
- Aloes are i highly sensitive to water stagnation. Stagnation leads to root rot and death of plant.
- Aloes can be infested by various insects and pests therefore, special care is needed as the juice of aloe vera leaves are directly used for medicinal purposes.
Aloe vera is commonly used:
- In the treatment of burns and scars
- As a laxative in reducing constipation
- Topically as an Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent
- In treatment of canker mouth sores
- In the reduction of dental plaques when used as a mouthwash
CARE FOR ALOES
- Water aloes infrequently, when the top of the soil becomes dry.
- Increase watering if leaves look thin, curved and drooping.
- Stop watering when the leaves are turning yellow. If discoloration persists, try adding nitrogen to the soil.
- Expose to more sunlight if leaves are low hanging instead of curved upwards towards the sun.
- Decrease exposure to sun when leaves are turning brown
- Browning of leaves and burning of roots is indicative of excess salt build up. Water thoroughly and allow the soil to drain through holes beneath the pot to wash out the excess.
Aloes are perfect for gardening newbies as it can tolerate some neglect. Aloes are also a great choice as an indoor plant (kept close to a sun facing window) in its ability to improve indoor air quality by removing formaldehyde, a toxin from the air.