BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Sunburnt? Irritated skin? Want to improve your digestive health? There’s one plant that has the answer to all these problems: aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis).
Favored by many for the gel from its leaves, the aloe vera plant, particularly the Aloe barbadensis miller variety, is actually one of the most common household plants because it can be treated like a succulent and has more than one benefit for its gardener.
Aloe vera plants have thick leaves that are succulent because of their watery gel. These leaves also have jagged edges. As a fast-growing succulent, aloe vera can take three to four years before it matures.
But aside from the leaves, aloe veras also have spiky flowers that appear on tall stalks. It comes in shades of yellow, red, or orange. If grown as a houseplant, it can take years before aloe veras can produce a flower stalk.
Haydee Escobañez, 61, a retired elementary school teacher from Navotas City, grows aloe vera in her garden along with other ornamentals and vegetables. Not only has she been gardening but she also makes vlogs that focus on tutorials about how to grow certain plants or how to make various natural inputs.
For the retired teacher, growing the aloe vera plant is easy to do. Here are some tips on how to grow this “wonder plant.”
Because aloe vera is a succulent plant, it thrives in well-draining soil to avoid root rot. Sandy or gravelly soil is advised but a potting mix can also work well. A good mix is composed of perlite, lava rock, chunks of bark, or all three. Choosing a well-draining container will also do some good for this plant.
If grown outdoors, aloe vera can be planted with other cacti and succulents that have the same requirements.
One way that Escobañez secures the growth of her aloe vera plant is by placing it in a shaded area. This is because intense sunlight can burn the plant’s tender skin.
Aloe vera plants prefer to be watered regularly even though they handle drought well like other succulents. But the plant’s roots shouldn’t be submerged in water for too long because this plant is prone to root rot.
To fulfill this need, the retired elementary school teacher allows the soil to dry out first before she waters the plant. But be wary because prolonged drought can cause the leaves to yellow and die.
When growing aloe vera, adding inputs or fertilizer isn’t necessary for its growth. But if being grown as a houseplant, feeding it once a year should be sufficient.
But Escobañez has a different approach to make sure that her aloe vera plants grow lush and healthy. She waters them once a month with eggshell tea fertilizer that she makes herself.
The benefits of aloe vera
As an ornamental-medicinal plant, people harvest mature aloe vera leaves for their gel. They simply remove a leaf and cut it lengthwise. Afterward, the gel is scraped off to be saved for later or immediate use on burns or irritated skin. On the other hand, the plant itself can purify the air.
Escobañez is also familiar with the benefits of aloe veras since she uses them to treat wounds, burns, sunburn, and psoriasis. It also helps make one’s complexion smoother. But the skin isn’t the only place to use aloe vera gel. It can also be used on hair to promote healthy growth.
“Makakapal at malulusog ang mga buhok ng aking mga anak dahil dito,” the retired elementary school teacher said. (My children’s hairs are thick and healthy because of it.)
Yet the wonders of aloe vera are yet to cease there. If ingested, the plant’s gel is found to have medicinal properties that can provide heartburn relief, lower blood sugar, and speed up metabolism.
So if you’re looking for an ornamental plant that does more than just brighten up a room even with minimal care, then the aloe vera might just be for you. Make sure to keep it close so it can be easily accessed whenever you need it.
For more information, visit Haydee’s Garden on Facebook.