It is a succulent and stores a great quantity of water in its leaves and root system. It is easy to care for as a household plant. Choose a wide planter for this plant because of the shallow, wide root system it produces. The planter will need a drainage hole and use 1-2 inches of rocks in the bottom for adequate drainage. Use a potting mix with extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand added or ‘cactus mix’ and fertilize (bloom type 10-40-10) yearly. During the winter months the plants goes somewhat dormant and need for watering is minimal. In the summer the plant should become soaked when it has totally dried. It can be contained outdoors in the summer or in a sunny window but cannot withstand a harsh winter outdoors.
There are 250 species of the plant which is native to Africa. It ranges in size from one inch miniatures to massive plant colonies consisting of 2 foot high plants.The most commonly known type is the Aloe barbadensis. Being semi tropical it consists of 95% water. The outer skin has essentially no value but the inner sap of the Aloe is a thick, mucilaginous gel. It is this gel which is used medicinally and produces at least six natural antiseptics which are able to kill bacteria, mold, viruses and funguses. It is known to reduce the sting and itch from insect bites, reduce tissue damage from frostbite, alleviates mysterious rashes, speeds up hair growth, helps heal herpes outbreaks and can be used as an antibiotic in allergic skin reactions, prevents scars and stretch marks, decreases pigmentation and dark spots, remove eye makeup, treats minor vaginal irritations, reduces tissue damage from frostbite, alleviates mysterious rashes, fight athlete’s feet, helps heal herpes outbreaks, a general moisturizer for dry skin, helps eliminate eczema, prevents scars and stretch marks, and shrinks warts. The oral uses of Aloe Vera are numerous as well. It aids in elimination, relieves heartburn, arthritis and rheumatism pain, lowers blood sugar levels, strengthens gums and promotes strong and healthy teeth, reduces cholesterol and triglycerides for a healthy heart, minimizes inflammation and infection of the eye and ear. In fact, the plant is so powerful that researchers and scientists are looking into its potential as an AIDS and cancer-fighter.