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How to start Aloe Vera cultivation

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a popular medicinal plant. It belongs to liliaceae family. It is a perennial plant, growing to the height of 1½ - 2½ ft. Its leaves are long and thick, juicy with a wheel like phylotaxy. The two sides of the leaves have thorny structure with a thorny tip. The inner substance of the leaves is jelly like, with bad odour and bitter in taste. 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 and the long inflorescence has a large number of small pink flowers all around. Fruits are developed during February to April.

KJ Staff

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a popular medicinal plant. It belongs to the liliaceae family. It is a perennial plant, growing to the height of 1½ - 2½ ft. Its leaves are long and thick, juicy with a wheel like phylotaxy. The two sides of the leaves have thorny structure with a thorny tip. The inner substance of the leaves is jelly like, with bad odour and bitter in taste. 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 and the long inflorescence has a large number of small pink flowers all around. Fruits are developed from February to April.

Aloe Vera is normally not propagated through seeds. Vegetative propagation is easy and convenient. Of late, because of the skyrocketing price of allopathic medicines with its known side effects, medicinal plants and ayurvedic medicines are becoming popular. World trade worth about 80 million US$ dollars exists now and this is likely to increase by 35-40 percent within five years. The US dominates the market (65%) while India and China have a share of 10 percent each which could be enhanced by its commercial cultivation. 

Soil and climate for aloe vera

Aloe Vera is found to grow in hot humid and high rainfall conditions. It is grown in all kind of soils but well-drained soil with the high organic matter is most suitable. It grows well in bright sunlight. Shady conditions result in disease infestation and it is highly sensitive to water stagnation. Therefore, well-drained high land should be selected for its cultivation. A rainfall ranging from 1000 – 1200 mm is ideal for Aloe Vera cultivation. 

Since it is difficult to grow Aloe Vera from seeds, seedlings are normally raised from roots of the plants. Sucker itself can be used as seedlings as in Banana. Rainy season is ideal for sucker plantation. A spacing of 1.5 x 1 ft, 1 ft x 2 ft or 2 ft x 2 ft is followed. Land Preparation About 2-3 ploughings and laddering are done to make the soil weed free and friable. Land leveling is then followed. Along the slope, a 15-20 ft drainage is made. 

How to plant Aloe Vera 

  • If you want to plant aloe Vera, find a warm location where the plant will receive 8-10 hours of light a day.

  • Then use a cactus potting mix or create your own using equal parts soil, sand, and gravel, ensuring that the soil does not hold the standing water.

  • When you plant the aloe vera, cover the root ball with soil but do not let the green leaves touch the soil or they may rot.

  • Do not water the aloe vera for a few days after planting.

When to transplant aloe vera

Aloe plants have relatively short roots and heavy leaves, so they are commonly moved to a heavier pot when they become top-heavy and tip over. If Aloe Vera runs out of space for its roots to grow, it may start to produce "pups" that can be moved to their own pot. If you are more interested in the adult plant growing than producing new plants, transplant it to a larger pot before the roots begin to circle the walls of its container. 

Give aloe vera plant adequate sunlight and warmth 

Aloe Vera plants prefer 8–10 hours of sunlight a day. While they grow best in warm or hot temperatures, they are capable of surviving cooler seasons in a more dormant state. However, they may suffer harm if exposed to temperatures below 25ºF (-4ºC).  

  • Hardiness zones 9, 10, and 11 are most suitable for keeping Aloe Vera outdoors year round.If you live in another zone, you may wish to keep your Aloe Vera outdoors most of the year, and bring it indoors before the frost. 

  • The sunniest windows are those facing west or south if you live in the northern hemisphere, or those facing west or north if you live in the southern hemisphere.

  • Despite the plant's adaptations that allow it to thrive in hot conditions, it is still possible to burn the plant. Move it to an area of light shade if the leaves begin to turn brown. 

Plant Aloe Vera in well-draining soil

Aloe Vera plants are adapted for survival in dry conditions and may rot if planted in soil that collects standing water. Use a cactus potting mix, or create your own mix using equal parts soil, sand, and gravel. If planting Aloe Vera in a container, make sure the container has a hole in the base for water to drain through. 

Cover root ball when planting but do not let the leaves touch the soil 

Place the Aloe Vera root ball just below the soil surface. If any of the thick, green leaves are partially buried or touch the soil, they may rot. 

Cover surface of the soil with gravel or pebbles (optional)

Place a layer of small rocks around the base of the aloe plant to keep the soil in place and reduce evaporation. This is not required for your aloe plant to thrive, so you may leave the soil exposed if you prefer the appearance.  White stones will reflect warmth from the sun to the base of the plant, which can be a good idea if you do not live in a hot climate. 

Do not water for the first few days after planting

Before you start watering, give the aloe plant a few days to repair any roots that may have been damaged during planting. Watering damaged roots increase the chance of root rot. Aloe plants store plenty of water in their leaves, and should not be harmed by the lack of water during this time. Give it a light watering the first one or two times you water if you would like to be extra safe.  

Provide daily care and troubleshooting

Water whenever the soil is dry during the growing season. During summer, or any time the weather is warm and sunny, aloe plants will grow fastest with regular watering. However, it is much easier to overwater aloe plants than to dry them out, so do not water until the soil has dried out to a depth of 3 inches (7.5 cm). 

Water infrequently during cold season  

Aloe plants often go dormant during winter, or when the weather is cold for a prolonged period of time. Unless you are keeping them in a heated room year round, you should only water them once or twice a month during this period. 

Fertilize once a year or never

Aloe plants do not require fertilizer, and overuse can harm the plant or cause it to grow in an unhealthy manner. If you wish to encourage growth, use low nitrogen, high phosphorous, low potassium fertilizer, such as a 10:40:10 or 15:30:15. Apply once a year in late spring, at the start of the growing season. 

Clear weeds carefully

The soil around the aloe plant should be free of grass and weeds. Remove these regularly if the plant is outdoors, but do so carefully. Because good aloe soil is loose and sandy, it is easy to damage the roots with vigorous weed-pulling. 

Increase sunlight if the leaves look flat and low

If the leaves are growing flat and low, increase the sunlight. Aloe Vera leaves should grow upward or outward at an angle, toward the sunlight. If they are low to the ground or growing flat outward, the plant is probably not receiving enough sun. Move it to a sunnier area. If it is indoors, consider keeping it outdoors during daylight hours. 

Decrease sunlight if the leaves turn brown

If the leaves turn brown, decrease the sunlight. While aloe is hardier than most plants when it comes to sun exposure, it is still possible to burn the leaves. If the aloe plant turns brown, move it to an area that receives shade during the early afternoon. 

Increase water if leaves look thin/curled

If the leaves are thin and curled, increase water. The thick, fleshy leaves store water that the plant uses in times of drought. If the leaves are looking thin or curling, water the aloe plant more frequently. Be careful not to overcompensate: water should drain quickly through the soil to prevent root rot, which is difficult to stop. 

Stop watering if the leaves turn yellow or fall apart

Yellowed or "melting" leaves are suffering due to excess water. Stop watering altogether for the next week (or two weeks during the dormant season), and water less frequently once you resume. You may remove any discolored leaves from the plant without much chance of harm, although it is best to use a disinfected knife. 

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