I’m fascinated by my aloe vera plant, more so for the valuable gel in the leaves than for its looks.
Aloe vera is definitely on my short list of “miracle plants,” or plants with benefits.
The exception to this is the short period when the aloe vera plant is in bloom, the flowers are gorgeous!
Yellow and orange tubular flowers of the aloe vera plant.
Indoors, it’s difficult to coax an aloe vera to flower, it needs more light than you can give it behind a window.
That said, you can still grow a potted aloe vera plant indoors and benefit from the valuable gel stored in its leaves.
I demonstrated how to grow aloe vera plants in containers and how to extract the gel from the leaves on a recent garden segment on the “Home & Family” show on the Hallmark channel.
Watch my garden segment video on “Benefit of Aloe Vera Plants”
THE BENEFITS FROM ALOE VERA PLANTS
The internet hosts many articles touting the many therapeutic benefits of aloe vera plants, some are reliable, others not so much.
The sword-like leaf blades of this succulent plant is filled with a nutrient rich, mucousy gel that is harvested and used in many ways.
Historically, aloe vera gel has been used topically to treat conditions from head to toe and taken internally as a juice or tonic.
Aloe vera leaf juice as a dietary supplement.
One of the most popular uses of aloe vera juice is as a “cleanser” for detoxifying the body.
The antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties in the gel are credited with the ability to strengthen the immune system.
The polysaccharide-rich gel is used in many products from shampoos, to soaps, toothpaste, and skin cremes.
My experience with aloe vera gel is as a “go-to skin hydrater” and healing gel for burns and cuts.
I use aloe vera gel daily over my facial oil serum to “lock” the oil in my skin and to keep my pillow from becoming greasy.
I swear by aloe vera gel for its hydrating properties!
For medicinal uses, consult your doctor.
HOW TO GROW ALOE VERA INDOORS
Aloe vera plants are very low maintenance plants, provided you meet a few important conditions.
1.Provide your aloe plant with well draining soil.
Most commercial potting soils contain peat moss which aids in maintaining soil moisture levels.
That’s a good thing for many plants, but NOT an aloe vera plant which needs water to filter through the soil and dry between watering sessions.
Add a generous handful of horticultural sand and perlite to potting soil to beef up the porosity of the soil.
This will help water to drain quickly from the soil.
This is my #1 tip in keeping an aloe vera plant alive.
2. Place aloe vera plant in a bright, warm, indoor room.
Native to northern Africa, aloe vera plants thrive in hot, dry climates for premium growing conditions.
The plants will also grow indoors year round where room temperatures are above 60 degrees.
Place aloe vera plants near a south or west-facing window where the sunlight is brightest, but not during the summer.
Bright, reflected light from windows can burn aloe vera leaves.
3. Water aloe vera when soil feels dry to the touch.
Aloe vera plants abhor wet roots!
When the soil feels dry to the touch, water your aloe until the water runs through the drain holes.
This may translate to every few days or as little as one time per week.
4. Place aloe vera plant outdoors during warm seasons.
Everyone benefits from fresh air, including potted aloe vera plants!
When spring temperatures rise above 60 degrees, move your aloe vera plant outdoors.
Place in a covered patio where direct sunlight will not bake the coddled leaves.
Remember, although aloe vera plants are native to hot, sunny lands, your potted aloe grows in much milder conditions as a houseplant.
Don’t stress your plant with extreme temperatures!
5. Wait until your aloe vera matures before harvesting gel!
Aloe vera plants should be at least four years old before harvesting gel from the leaves.
Buy a larger plant if you are impatient and consider growing a handful of aloe vera plants if you want to tap it for gel often.
Aloe vera plants need to mature so that they can produce the potent gel and heal after blades are cut off.
HOW TO HARVEST FRESH ALOE VERA GEL FROM LEAVES
1. Cut a blade from the outer perimeter of plant.
New blades grow from the center of the aloe vera plant so harvest from the outer perimeter of plant so it can regenerate new blades.
Make the cut at the bottom of the blade, selecting a full, puffy blade over a flatter blade.
Be careful as the leaves of aloe vera plant are spiky and can cut you.
Poetic justice for the plant, I guess!
2. Wash and dry the aloe vera leaf before peeling outer skin.
3. Cut off both ends of the leaf blade.
Remove 3″-inches from the thin end of blade and one inch from the fuller end.
Stand the blade, full end on a paper towel for a few minutes to drain the yellow, latex liquid before peeling.
The yellow liquid can irritate skin and cause diarrhea if ingested.
4. Cut off the spiky blade edges with sharp knife.
Remove the spiky edges and then cut the blades into a few smaller pieces.
5. Slice or peel the aloe vera blade.
It’s important to only peel off the green skin, don’t cut off thick chunks or you’ll be wasting the gel!
Once you peel one side of the leaf, it will be gooey and hard to hold the blade.
When you are left with a chunk of clear, translucent gel, you have successfully harvested the aloe vera gel!
STORING FRESH ALOE VERA GEL
The moment air comes in contact with the freshly cut aloe blade and gel, potency begins to diminish.
Put your freshly harvested aloe vera gel in a plastic or glass container and cover tightly to keep it for a short period.
Place in the refrigerator and use the gel within 4 days.
If you want to keep the aloe gel for a longer period, cut into smaller pieces and place in ice-cube tray.
Cover with plastic and keep in the freezer for up to 6 months, removing small cubes as needed.
If aloe vera has piqued your interest, I encourage you to grow a plant.
It is an important plant with benefits for the foodie gardener!
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