Aloe vera

Aloe vera

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Description

Aloe vera is an herbaceous perennial in the family Liliaceae grown for its succulent leaves which have a variety of culinary and medicinal uses. The Aloe vera plant has a short, stout stem and a rosette of fleshy, lanceolate leaves which have a serrated margin of small white teeth. The leaves may be flecked with white and are pale green or gray-green in color. Aloe vera plants produce a conspicuous inflorescence composed of densely packed pendulous yellow flowers on a spike which can be up to 90 cm (35 in) in height. The plant itself can grow to be 1 m (3 ft) in height and can live for up to 100 years if well cared for. Aloe vera may also be called Aloe barbadensis or Aloe perfoliata and is indigenous to eastern and southern Africa.

Uses

Aloe vera plants are grown for the extraction of the gel inside the leaves. The gel is used in desserts, yogurts and beverages. The gel is also commonly used as a home remedy for treatment of burns.

Propagation


Basic requirements
Aloe vera can be grown in a wide range of soils providing that they are well-draining. Aloe is commonly found growing in very nutrient poor soil in their natural range. Aloes are very drought tolerant but they will not tolerate frosts due to their succulent leaves. Aloe vera plants do well in pots and can be kept indoors if positioned in a bright, sunny spot. Plants grown in pots should be planted in a well-draining potting medium such as those used for cacti.

Propagation
Aloe vera can be grown from seed, but is most easily propagated from suckers which are readily produced by the mother plant. The suckers are commonly referred to as “pups”. The pups should be cut from the main root by gently uprooting the mother plant and finding the point of attachment. The young plant should be cut from the parent using a sharp knife. Pups can be safely removed when they have several sets of leaves. The young plants should be planted in their own pot and watered deeply. Refrain from overwatering to force the growth of new roots. If multiple plants are being planted, provide them with individual pots or plant at least 60 cm (24 in) apart outdoors.

General care and maintenance
Aloe plant are generally very easy to care for but care should be taken to avoid overwatering. The plants should be watered deeply but allowed to dry out before the next watering. Check the soil prior to watering. Allow the soil to dry down to a depth of 7.5 to 10 cm (3-4 in) for older, well-established plants or 3.5-5 cm (1-2 in) for younger plants. In addition, although Aloe plants require lots of lights, sitting them in full sun can be harmful and it is best to position potted Aloes in a bright window. If the plant is receiving too much sun, the leaves will begin to turn brown.

Diseases

Aloe rust Fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi

Symptoms

Small, pale yellow spots on leaves which expand and turn brown; orange spore masses may be present on underside of leaf; leaves may drop from plant

Comments

Disease emergence favors cool temperatures and high humidity

Management

Disease is self limiting and requires no treatment

Bacterial soft rot Bacterium Pectobacterium chrysanthemi

Symptoms

Watery, rotting leaves which are darker in color; young leaves wilting and collapsing; leaves bulging due to gas formation inside

Comments

Bacteria survive in plant debris in the field; disease emergence favored by hot, wet weather

Management

Fatal disease; avoid over-watering plants

Basal stem rot Fungi Fusarium spp.

Symptoms

Base of plant turning reddish brown to black and rotting

Comments

Fatal disease of aloes; disease emergence favors cold, damp conditions

Management

Pieces of plant may be saved by taking cuttings above rotted portion

References

Das, N & Chattopadhay, R. N. (2004). Commercial Cultivation of Aloe. Natural Product Radiance. Volume 3. Issue 2. Available at: http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/.... [Accessed 05 November 14]. Free to access

Oudhia, P. (2001). Ghrita kumari or Guar patha. Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products. Available at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/Cr.... [Accessed 05 November 14]. Free to access

UC Davis Botanical Conservatory (2009). The Genus Aloe. Botanical Notes. Issue 1. Volume 1. Available at: http://greenhouse.ucdavis.edu/files/b.... [Accessed 05 November 14] Free to access