Aloe vera belongs in the Liliaceae family, is a well known succulent and probably best known for its medicinal properties but did you know that there are about 325 species in the genus ranging from perennial herbs to shrubs and trees?
They come from South Africa, Madagascar, Tropical Africa, Arabian Peninsular and the Cape Verde Islands. There is a huge diversity of form within the genus making Aloe spp. desirable as architectural garden plants in arid and semi-arid climates. Despite this diversity the cultivation of the majority of the Aloe species is surprisingly similar. They will tolerate depleted soils with low fertility and require high light levels.
I have two specimens namely Aloe ferox, Cape Aloe and Aloe striatula, Haw. Since I live in a temperate climate I will need to treat my Aloes as glasshouse plants, bringing them in before the frosts arrive. The ideal winter temperature for them is 7-10 degrees centigrade so an unheated room will be fine. When I brought them home from the nursery the first thing I did was to pot them on into terracotta pots using a mixture of John Innes No. 3 for mature plants and horticultural grit (at a ratio of 3:1). They need a mineral based growing media which is free draining. You can also add a small amount of organic matter such as moss peat or leafmould but not to the extent where its breakdown might slow down drainage which needs to be sharp.
Aloes should only need to be repotted every 3 to 4 years (in late winter or spring) so it’s important to plant them firmly and in the right media. During the summer when all risk of frost has passed they can go outdoors in a sunny position. Watering should be carried out when the potting medium is almost completely dry and only then should you drench the soil and then wait again for it to dry out. During winter the potting media should be kept dry but not arid so only minimal and infrequent watering is necessary. When the pot is full of roots a liquid feed can be given. Scale insects and mealybug are the two most likely pests you’ll encounter.