Aloe plants are charming succulents called the lily of a desert. There are 400 species in the Aloe family and 200 species of aloe-vera or Aloevera Barbadensis Miller. Legend reports that Alexander the Great, upon the advice of Aristotle, conquered the island of Socotra, off the coast of Africa, to secure supplies of aloevera in order to treat wounded soldiers. Aloe-vera or Aloe Barbadensis Miller is one of the oldest mentioned plants on record due to its medicinal properties and health benefits. Ancient Chinese and Egyptians used aloe-vera to treat burns, wounds, and reduce fever.
Kingdom – Plantae
Subkingdom – Tracheobionta (Vascular Plant)
Superdivision – Spermatophyta (Seed Plant)
Division – Magnoliophyta (Flowering Plant)
Class – Liliidae
Order – Liliales
Family – Aloeae (Aloe Family)
Genus – Aloe
Species – Aloevera Burm (Barbados)
Scientific Name : Aloe Barbadensis Miller
Aloe vera grows to a height of 12 to 16 inches or sometimes 60 to 100 cm. It has no stems. Aloe Barbadensis Miller consists of thick fleshy leaves with sharp tooth like points or spikes at the edges. The leaves of aloe-vera grow up to 18 inches in length and 2 inches in width at the base. An Aloe Barbadensis Miller plant is usually green or grey-green in color. The leaves of aloe-vera are long and triangular in shape. The plant has a fibrous root system which is thick and has Mycorrihzal association. The leaves of aloe vera have rich water content and the tissues in the center of aloe vera leaf contains gel. This makes the plant survive for years and years without much water or nutrient requirements. It has a triangular capsule shaped fruit that contains numerous seeds. Aloe vera blooms in summer. Its flowers are produced on a spike at least 90 cm tall, each flower being pendulos with yellow to red tubular corolla which is 2 to 3 cm long.
Origin and Distribution of Aloevera
Aloe vera is naturalized and cultivated in all parts of world but it is considered native to South West Arabian peninsula. The species of Aloe Vera was introduced to China and various parts of Southern Europe around 17th century. Now it is found almost every where from North Africa (Morocco, Maeritania, Egypt), Sudan and neighboring countries,like Canary, Cape Verde, Madeira Islands, to temperate and tropical regions of Australia, South America, Mexico and Caribbean.
Favorable Conditions for Growing Aloevera
- Soil : Plant aloe vera in well drained soil since aloe vera plants are adapted for survival in dry conditions, they may rot if planted in soil that has standing water. You can use a cactus potting mix, or create your own mix using equal parts of soil and gravel. When planting, be sure to cover the root ball, but do not let the leaves touch the soil. Place the aloe vera root ball just beneath the surface of the soil. The green leaves may rot if they are partially buried.
- Sun : Be sure to give your plant adequate sunlight and warmth. 8 to 10 hours of sunlight a day is preferred by aloe plants because they love the sun. Aloe plants are also capable of surviving cooler seasons in a more dormant state. If the leaves are growing flat and low, increase sunlight and if the leaves are turning brown, decrease sunlight accordingly. They will suffer harm if they are exposed to temperatures that are below 25° F.
- Water : Do not water for the first few days after planting. Give your aloe plant a few days to repair any roots that may have been damaged during the planting before you begin to water. Too much watering can damage roots and increase the chance of root rot.
- Spacing : Aloe vera plants have relatively short roots and heavy leaves. Provide several inches of space between plants, as they do grow in the outside direction from the center.
- Companion Planting : Aloevera can be planted along side any plant as it is a great companion plant.
It is always better to plant it alongside borage, scented geraniums, the onion family, sow thistle, balm of Gilead and elderberry.