We’re pretty sure Aloe is the most useful tropical plant on Earth. While its fellow plants are satisfied with looking lovely, maybe freshening the air a bit, Aloe has more ambitious plans.
It’s been used in beauty products since the time of Cleopatra (if not earlier). But even more importantly, most species of Aloe have medicinal uses.
What can Aloe treat, you ask? Almost everything. It stimulates the regrowth of damaged tissue, protects against UV radiation, it’s anti-inflammatory, an immune system booster, a laxative, an antiviral and antitumor agent, a moisturizer, an antiseptic … it even protects against radiation burns.
In other words: Aloe Vera lives in a pot, but you’ll be forgiven for thinking maybe you should keep it in the medicine cabinet.
The Aloe Genus - beautiful tropical plants for indoors and outdoors
The genus Aloe consists of more than 550 species of evergreen succulent, all native to tropical and southern Africa, Jordan, Madagascar, parts of the Arabian peninsula, and islands in the Indian Ocean. Despite a wide range of sizes (some are less than 12” tall, some are the size of trees) and home addresses, they all share certain distinct qualities.
The first of these similarities is their leaves, which are long, thick, and fleshy—ideal for storing water. The leaves grow in opposite pairs or whorls and range in color from dark, almost pine green to gray-green to a light, almost yellowish green, and often have small spines or serrations, white spots, or reddish highlights.
A second similarity among all Aloes is their flowers, which appear (usually in outdoor specimens, rarely on indoor plants) on a massive spike that can add several feet to the plant’s height. That spike is covered in long, almost tubular flowers in red, yellow, orange, or pink. And the third similarity is that Aloe are almost universally easy to maintain. Thanks to their succulent lifestyles, they’re happiest when given a fraction of the care and attention most tropical plants require. It seems they’d much rather care for others than be cared for themselves.
It's like having your own tropical plant nursery…
No matter where in the world they hail from, Aloe are universally skilled at holding water in those thick, gel-filled leaves. As a result, feel free to reduce the risk of root rot to nearly zero by watering Aloe only when its soil is almost completely dry. In fact, many Aloe parents don’t water the plant at all during the winter. They do enjoy bright to medium light, but they can burn in full sun. Watch for scalded leaves, and if moving the plant from shade to full sun, do it slowly. Move the plant back and forth for a week or two, letting it have a little more sunlight each day, so it can acclimate. Fertilize minimally, and propagate by carefully dividing out any smaller “pups” when repotting.