This must be one of the easiest of all plants to grow — it just grows. Aloe vera is a small succulent plant with spiky green leaves. It originated in Africa but, as there are no known populations in the wild, it’s diff icult to pinpoint its exact origins. It has naturalised through much of Africa and around the Mediterranean region. Obviously, its ease of propagation and its perceived medicinal benefits have seenit widely cultivated for centuries. Today it’s grown around the world and is readily propagated by detaching off shoots from a clump. The plant grows to around 60cm tall and wide. The thick, narrow, serrated leaves are green to grey-green, often with white mottling. In summer the plants may produceflower spikes of salmon bells. The leaves of older plants contain more gel and are best selected when the sap is required. It grows well in pots in a coarse potting mix (look for one blended for cactus and succulents). In cold areas, move pots into a sheltered spot to protect the plants from frosts. As the leaves are spiky, keep plants away from pathways. Remove any weeds as soon as they are seen, as weeding among spiky plants is always tricky and requires protective gloves!
Aloe vera label
Common name: Aloe vera
Botanical name: Aloe vera (syn. A. barbadensis)
Requires: Full sun to light shade, well-drained soil
Dislikes:Cold, frosty conditions
Suitable for: Dry gardens, medicinal gardens, containers
Habit:Small spiky clump
Needs:Long, warm growing season
Diff iculty: Easy
How to use aloe vera
Aloe vera is simple to use to temporarily ease the pain of a minor burn. Just break off a leaf and snap it in half to release the cooling sap. Apply the sappy end of the leaf (or slice lengthwise) to the burned area of skin. Use fresh. Repeat as necessary.