Aloe Vera is a very beautiful and easily grown succulent. It grows in clumps approximately 50 to 100cm tall with leaves that look more like spikes filled with the gel used often in cosmetics and moisturizer.
The origin of the plant is unclear but is believed to be native to Africa with over 100 closely related plants growing throughout the northern regions of the continent.
Aloe Vera thrives in hot climates, growing rapidly and producing small offsets within 8-12 months. In colder climates it can still be cultivated easily by moving it indoors during the colder months. As long as it is situated near a sun-filled window it will grow well.
It's propagated easily with one well established mother plant producing upwards of 5-10 small plants each year and each transplanted juvenile reaching full maturity within 8-12 months.
Plants are propagated in one of two ways, both by seed and by offsets. Offsets are shoots formed near the base of a fully grown Aloe Vera plant and are transplanted to a new pot. This form of propagation is much more common than planting seeds as it is quicker and has fewer complications. The small transplanted offsets are exact clones of the mother plant and will mature over the next 8-12 months and begin to form their own offsets.
Aloes hate to sit in overly saturated soil; a term known as wet feet, so planting in free draining potting mix is a must. Adding river sand to increase the drainage is a common practice among Aloe Vera growers and is highly recommended to avoid rotting roots that will compromise the health of your plant.
A common mistake observed in many would-be Aloe Vera growers is under watering. Even though Aloes appreciate free draining soil and the full heat of a warmer climate, they still need a decent amount of water during the summer months to stay well hydrated and happy.
A well watered and healthy plant will look vibrant and green and the succent's leaves will be full of a gelatenous jelly-like liquid. Many growers apply the inner gel from the plants leaves to burns and it is a common ingredient used in moisturizers, sunscreens and other cosmetics.