5Ws+1H: What It's About: Aloe vera needs very little attention to thrive

Sep. 5—Unlike many other varieties of plants, aloe vera doesn't need very much attention to thrive.

"Aloe vera does not like a lot of attention. If you give her too much attention, she will die," said Jessica Wright, Elephant Rock Garden Supply Co. CFO and product specialist.

Wright said aloe vera is not only considered to be a cactus but an herb.

Much like many other plants, Wright said aloe vera does not like the cold or humid environments. Aloe vera plants can commonly be found in the kitchen, but Wright said since the plant does not do well in humid environments, it needs to be closer to the stove rather than the sink. This is due to the plant being able to better withstand the heat from the stove, rather than the potential humidity from the sink.

When it comes to the soil for an aloe vera plant, Wright said they enjoy porous material allowing high drainage, such as a sandy mixture.

While many plants may need to be fertilized — or watered, for that matter — on a strict schedule, Wright said aloe vera plants do not, as the fertilizer will be overfeeding it and eventually kill it. Normal watering schedules can also kill the plant, as overwatering is common and easy to do with aloe vera.

Wright said when people show her an aloe vera plant that is not thriving and turning brown, she will often tell them to take it out of the pot, shake off the soil, place it in a dark corner, and then forget about it for a week or two.

"They like the least amount of treatment possible, and whenever you do occasionally water it [it is] by all means not on a normal schedule," Wright said.

Wright said aloe vera plants grow rather slowly, but once it is finally established it produces quite well. When it comes to the type of pot the plant needs in order to thrive, Wright said it just needs to be sturdy enough to allow for the gardener to move the aloe vera inside and outside with ease. A pot for an aloe vera, like most plants should have a hole in the bottom for drainage.

Other symptoms of overwatering besides it turning brown is that the plant will be appear to be weak and not able to hold up its structure.

There are many varieties of aloe vera plants, including the larger ones used for medicinal purposes, and the small plants that resemble a succulent and are mainly placed around houses for decorations. The small, ornamental aloe vera plants should be treated similarly to how one would care for a succulent.

Even though the small plants main use is to accentuate an area, a larger aloe vera can be placed on the skin for burns, eaten, added to drinks, and more. If a person does plan on harvesting some aloe vera, especially for consumption, the gel should be stripped from the leaf and kept in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

"Aloe vera is a very overlooked plant," Wright said. "It's not the prettiest, but has wonderful benefits to it."

Wright said when harvesting an aloe vera plant the leaves should be cut from the base with a clean utensil to ensure no bacteria is being introduced.

"If you go to cut something that is dirty, just like if you were to have an IV with a dirty needle, it's not going to be good," Wright said. "So don't use a dirty knife on your aloe vera plant when you got to harvest, because you're keeping this plant and you want it to continue to be healthy and produce more."