Contrary to many peoples fist impression, the aloe barbadensis is NOT a cactus. Even though some people think they look alike, aloe plants are actually part of the “lily” family and not the “cactaceae” family that the cactus/cacti belong to. Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t see these plants at the same family reunion, unless someone has planted them there intentionally.
A little Aloe History:
Dating back to Biblical times, the Aloe plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years, mainly to treat skin conditions, abrasions and minor burns. The Aloe plant has also been used for spiritual “protection”, and is said to bestow great “luck” upon it’s growers.
Aloe Barbadensis description:
The flowers of the Aloe Vera plant can be described as tube-like, grow to about 1 inch in length, and are yellow or orange in colour, with little to no fragrance.
The leaves of the Aloe Vera plant are green, grow to between 2 and 3 feet tall, are long, spiked, fleshy, and dagger-like in shape.
Growing Aloe Vera/aloe barbadensis
Aloe vera usually grows to about 3 feet tall, outdoors in Zones 9 and 10, and up to 2-3 feet tall inside, as a house-plant. Aloe loves full sun to partial shade, and will grow best in a well-drained, ph-neutral soil, when given plenty of room to grow, so plant your aloe plants 1-2 feet apart and watch them grow!
Harvesting Aloe Barbadensis
The leaves of the aloe plant, may be harvested any time after they have reached 5-6 inches in length.
To harvest, simply cut-away the oldest leaves first, from the base of the aloe plant, and use them fresh or make a concoction for later use. We’ll list a few recipes you can make with your freshly harvested aloe, in our recipes section later on.
How do you propagate an aloe barbadensis plant?
Plant propagation, is described as the production of more plants, by using seeds, clippings, or other parts of an existing plant.
To propagate the aloe plant, simply watch for offshoots to form at the base of the plant. Once these offshoots form – carefully separate them from the base of the mother/host plant, by gently brushing the soil away from the base of the plant, until you have exposed the roots of the offshoot fully. Gently pluck the offshoot away from the host plant, keeping the tender roots intact, and plant it in a separate container or area of the garden, and water it in place. Your young offshoot shall begin to spread roots in it’s new home, and new growth will begin soon.
Aloe Barbadensis – Pests and Diseases
Aloe is susceptible to mealy bugs, root-mealy bugs, and even root-rot, if the soil is kept too moist.
To control mealy bugs, the use of beneficial bugs, or organic pest sprays are your best options. Remember to only spray your plants with non-toxic pest treatments, and be careful to treat the area where the leaves meet the base of the plant, as mealy bug love to hide out here.
To prevent root-rot, be sure to plant aloe barbadensis in a well-drained area, and only water when the top 1-2 inches of soil have become dry.
Uses for Aloe Barbadensis:
Aloe has many skin-healing properties, and has been used for centuries as a treatment for conditions ranging from; minor skin irritations, burns, scarring (prevention), eczema, fever-blisters, psoriasis, balding, ulcers, swelling, frostbite, and more. Since aloe barbadensis also has anaesthetic, antibacterial, moisturising, and anti-fungal properties, it is also used in many treatments for poison ivy, poison oak, athletes-foot, as well as in many lotions and moisturising creams.
Many conditions may be treated, by cutting open an aloe vera leaf, and removing the gel inside, then rubbing it on the skin. However, if you do not have immediate access to fresh aloe, you may want to keep aloe powders handy for those occasions that may spring up.
Aloe Powder (Aloe Vera)
Aloe Vera, also known as Curacao Aloe, Indian Aloes, and Barbados Aloe, and Aloe Barbadensis – is derived from the more well known Aloe Vera plant that has been used historically to in a variety of skin ailments, from sunburns to scrapes. Aloes Powder is made from the resin (which is also used to create aloe vera gel) of the Aloe Vera plant. The resulting product, Aloes Powder, has been has been marketed as a remedy for many conditions.