Aloe vera, commonly known as Medicinal Aloe, is native to the arid regions of north-eastern and southern parts of Africa and Madagascar. It has been widely grown as an ornamental plant. Aloe vera is popular with modern gardeners as a putatively medicinal plant and for its interesting flowers, form and succulence. It can be planted outside in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11, but must be protected when temperatures drop below freezing for more than a few hours, especially in wet climates. It grows best in well-drained soils similar to those of its native environment.
Sand and Gravel
All members of the Aloe genus require sandy or gravelly soil with very good drainage to reduce the risk of root rot and nutritional deficiencies. When planted in containers, Aloe vera plants do well in a mixture of commercial potting mix with extra sand, granite grit or perlite added. They can also be planted in potting soil meant specifically for cacti and succulents. When planting Aloe vera outdoors, look for a sandy spot that dries out completely after rainfall.
Outdoor Aloe plants sometimes need extra drainage help in wet climates, since their soil may not dry out completely between rain showers. Consider planting your Aloe vera in a raised bed or on a slope to discourage wet conditions and increase the amount of oxygen available to the roots. This kind of planting arrangement increases the Aloe's tolerance to wet winters and overwatering.
Because the sandy soils preferred by Aloes are relatively low in organic matter, it may be necessary to amend them periodically. A balanced liquid fertilizer or a 10-40-10 fertilizer designed for blooming plants works best, though slow-release pellets can also be used. Avoid compost and other soil amendments with large amounts of organic material due to their tendency to increase moisture levels. Fertilize Aloe vera only in mid spring and late summer, using a very dilute solution. Container-grown Aloes can simply be repotted to refresh the soil instead of fertilizing.
Use mulch and plastic only with great care around Aloes. While plastic sheeting is often used to warm the soil in early spring for conventional crop plants, do not use it to protect Aloe in the winter. When nighttime temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C), use natural fiber sheets and blankets or commercial frost-protection cloth instead. Never mulch Aloe vera plants with organic material such as bark, as it encourages moisture retention.
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