How to grow aloe vera: plus, tips on harvesting aloe vera gel

Aloe vera is a much-loved plant used as a home remedy for centuries; here's how to grow it successfully indoors

How to grow aloe vera
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There's really not that much to learning how to grow aloe vera, which is quite possibly the best-loved succulent plant grown on people's windowsills since what feel like the beginning of time. It's pretty low-maintenance, and the only real issue people have with it is overwatering. 

Aloe vera is a well-known home remedy for minor cuts and sunburn, so we\ll also cover how to harvest aloe vera gel and store it. 

Still doing outdoor gardening as well? Find lots of garden ideas at our dedicated page.

How to grow aloe vera

The best way to grow aloe vera is from an offshoot. All you do is you gently separate the offshoot from the main plant and pot it up. If you don't know anyone with a mature aloe vera plant, you can buy aloe vera plants online. 

Method:

1. Prepare the soil. Aloes are succulents and will thrive in a succulent or cacti soil mix, but you can also make your own by mixing equal parts all-purpose compose, vermiculite, and sand. The point is to have open, well-draining soil.

2. Choose a pot: terracotta is best; avoid plastic and anything without drainage holes. 

3. Water the compost and stick the offshoot, about half an inch deep. Position on a window sill next to a window that gets plenty of bright light. 

Aloe vera common problems

The most common problem is overwatering. If your aloe plant is dying, you're probably watering it too often. Always allow the soil to dry out completely before watering. 

The other common problem is sun scorch, which is when your aloe gets red on the ends of its leaves. This happens when people take their aloes out during the summer and position them in direct sunlight. For this reason, aloe vera is actually best grown indoors. 

How to harvest aloe vera gel

If you're growing aloe for its skin-healing gel, you'll need to wait until the leaves are thick and juicy enough to make it worth your while harvesting the gel. You also don't want to harvest the entire plant, obviously, so wait until it's grown quite big and only harvest a few leaves at a time. Concentrate on harvesting the mature leaves on top on the plant, not the young ones at the bottom. 

1. Cut the leave off using a sharp knife and let any excess juice drain off.

2. Wash and dry the leaf. Now, gently slice off the skin from both sides in a filleting motion, working away from yourself. You may find you get the best result by using an actual filleting knife. 

3. Place the gel from the centre of the leaf in an airtight container. Refrigerate immediately. 

How long will aloe vera gel last?

If you put it in the fridge straight away, up to two weeks. Never store aloe vera gel in room temperature – it will go off in 24 hours. If the gel has changed in consistency or colour,  or has developed a smell, discard.