Aloe vera is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 24–39 inches tall, spreading by offsets.
The leaves are thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with some varieties showing white flecks on their upper and lower stem surfaces. The margin of the leaf is serrated and has small white teeth. The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 35 inches tall, each flower being pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 0.8–1.2 inches long.
Propagation – Aloe seeds can take up to 4 months to germinate. The fastest way to grow Aloe Vera is from cuttings or by buying nursery plants.
If you are propagating Aloe Vera via cuttings, the best method is to remove as much of the “leaf” as possible from the mature plant. Place the “cutting” either in water or, preferably, directly into your pot. (A little root-tone around the base of the cutting well help to get the new plant going.)
Container – Terra cotta pots are preferable as they are porous. As the plant grows you may find it ideal to place the pot in a hanging basket. Aloe is not particularly fond of touching surfaces such as walls etc. Hanging baskets also provide hood air circulation around the plant.
Watering – Potted plants should be allowed to completely dry prior to re-watering. You will know if you are over-watering them because the plants will shrivel through over-watering or when the pot does not drain properly.
Light Requirements – Light must be bright. However, Aloe plants can burn under too much sun.
Lore – It is said that if you grow an aloe plant in your house, it will help prevent household accidents, particularly burns.
Aloe originated in Africa but has spread throughout the world. The first written record of the use of aloe vera dates back to 2200 B.C.E. and a clay tablet from Sumeria. In Africa, aloe plants are hung over doors to bring luck and drive away evil. In the Congo region of Africa, aloe is used as part of hunting rituals. The body is coated with the juice to obscure the scent of the hunter.
The Greek physician Dioscoradis (41 C.E.- 68 C.E.) traveled with the armies of Rome and sung aloe’s praises in his famous herbal. He said the juices of the plant had the power of ‘binding’ and ‘inducing sleep’ and ‘loosens the belly, cleansing the stomach’. He stated also that the sap was a treatment for boils, hemorrhoids, bruises and mouth irritation and was a good medicine for the eyes. He used the pulverized leaf to stop the bleeding of wounds.
It is sacred among Egyptian followers of Mohamed who hang aloe above the doorway when they visit his shrine. Ancient Egyptians referred to aloe as the plant of immortality and it was included in funerary offerings. It was also considered the plant of eternal youth, and Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as a daily beauty product.
There is a reference in the Bible about the apostles applying aloe to the wounds of Jesus.
Venus and Aphrodite
Aloe is associated with feminine energy, the element of water, the moon, and the astrological sign Cancer.