Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine

Aloe good buy


Aloe vera serves many purposes and is still a favourite plant of many people, writes David Overend.

Aloe vera – whoever first realised that this short-stemmed shrubby aloe could be so beneficial to mankind, was a genius who catapulted the plant into a superstar of the horticultu­ral world. Aloe vera has been used for centuries and it is more popular today than ever. It is cultivated around the world as a crop for its colourless jelly-like leaf parenchyma.

The green outer layer of the leaves yields a bitter, yellow substance which has very different properties from those of the colourless parenchyma – it has been used as a laxative, although scientists now say it could pose a danger for some people.

However, Aloe vera the plant is also just that – a plant to be grown not for harvest but for its beauty. In warmer climes it is easy to cultivate. It is also relatively simple to propagate – it produces numerous offsets.

In the UK, this is a houseplant, a conservato­ry dweller, although it can be taken outdoors to enjoy the summer and the chance to luxuriate in the light. It is also slow to flower (the blooms, when they do appear, are yellow), so patience is a virtue.

Aloe makes a handsome plant for a bright, sunny position, and a useful accompanim­ent to your first aid cabinet! Height and spread: 90cm (36in).

Aloe enjoys a bright position with a constant temperatur­e of 21C (70F) to 26C (80F) where it will receive plenty of indirect light, but not full sun.

A happy aloe requires a temperatur­e of between 70-80F. Anything below that and the plant is likely to sulk.

This is a succulent whose body parts are mainly made up of water and just like a cactus, it will store water. But Aloe vera also likes a moist soil, particular­ly in summer, so the state of the compost needs checking regularly.

Water frequently to maintain evenly moist compost but don’t let the compost become waterlogge­d – it’s a fatal mistake.

That compost should be a mixture of loam-based John Innes No 2 with additional sand or perlite for increased drainage. Apply a balanced liquid feed during the growing season and reduce watering in the winter.

Re-pot when the plant has outgrown its pot, taking the opportunit­y to remove all those little offshoots – pop them into individual pots and they should root.

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