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Very tough, strong shapes and easy to live with: Aloe (officially known as: Aloe vera) has thick blue-green leaves which reach a length of 40-50cm and grow up in spikes from a rosette up to a maximum of 100cm. It’s classified as a succulent. The leaves are greyish green and have serrated edges. Aloe is an exceptionally resilient plant which stores moisture and nutrients in the leaves in order to get through dry periods. The plant blooms in the summer, and helps keep the air in your home clean.
The name derives from the Arabic word ‘Alloeh’, which means ‘shiny bitter fluid’. This refers to the cooling, gel-like liquid in the leaves.
For example, if a leaf is damaged the ‘wound’ will immediately be sealed with coagulating sap in order to retain as much moisture as possible, just as with humans. The active ingredients in Aloe have also been found to have healing properties for humans. The ancient Egyptians called it ‘the immortality plant’.
What to look for when buying Aloe
When buying Aloe, look at the pot size and the size of the rosette. Sometimes there are already small rosettes on the plant that lend greater volume to Aloe and make it a bit more appealing.
It’s important to know whether the plant is being purchased as a foliage plant or as a flowering plant. For a flowering plant, you should also look at the stage of flowering.
The succulent properties of the leaves mean that Aloe is not particularly prone to diseases. However, there can sometimes be mealybug between the leaf rosettes. Because this is very difficult to tackle with Aloe, it’s a good idea to avoid buying such a plant.
If the plant has been given too much water, the leaf rosettes can start to rot. It’s better for the soil to be a little too dry than much too wet.
If the plant spends too long in a spot with insufficient light at the point of sale, this will detract from the quality. The plants can then start to stretch, or the colour can fade.
The recommended storage and shipping temperature is 12°C.
Care tips for consumers
Aloe is very easy to care for, thanks to its succulent properties: the plant stores moisture in the thick leaf rosettes to get it through dry periods.
Water once a fortnight. The pot soil can be left to dry out between waterings.
Aloe likes a light and sunny spot. The plant can also be placed outdoors on the patio or balcony in the summer months.
Feed once a month during the growth season.
Aloe flowers after a short rest period in the winter, during which the plant should have little water and no food. The plant develops when the days start getting longer again, at which point you should give it some more water and food.
Christina Burton-Fox AIFD
floral artist & instructor