Aloes are succulent plants that are originally from the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, and the Indian Ocean region, so they are a great plant to think of in this summertime heat! Like most succulents, these plants like plenty of sun and very low water. They can be grown indoors in very bright light, such as a south or west facing window, or outdoors in full to partial sun. They prefer to be in pots than in the ground, so that heavy rainfalls do not rot the roots. Another benefit to having them in a pot outdoors is the ability to move them indoors during periods of cold weather in winter. Though they are typically root hardy through freezing weather, they can rot in cool, wet conditions, and also, those using its leaves would not want to wait months for plants to resprout and recover.
Aloe vera: Medicinal Aloe
Aloe vera has been grown as a medicinal plant for literally thousands of years. It has naturalized in many parts of the world outside its native range in the Arabian Peninsula, due to its widespread human use across cultures. It can be found as a food additive for health benefits to the digestive system, in many beauty and skincare products, and of course is used as a remedy for scrapes and burns, especially sunburn. Another very common use for Aloe vera is in medicated tissues, to relieve the chafing of the nose that occurs when one is suffering from a cold and constantly blowing one’s nose. It should be noted that Aloe vera can have some toxicity in both topical applications and when ingested, if taken in very high doses, so care must be used when trying to make homemade remedies.
Aloe’s cooling effect on sunburned skin, however, is unmistakable! It has a cooling, minty effect that numbs the skin and provides immediate relief from burning and itching! To use, simply break a lower, mature leaf off the plant, and either peel back the skin or simply squeeze some of the juicy flesh onto afflicted areas of the body. Many prepared products, such as ointments and balms can also be made.
Aloe distans: Jeweled Aloe
Aloe vera may also be grown as an ornamental plant, but the Jeweled Aloe is a gem in the garden! It is a sprawling, low-growing plant that will make many multiple flowering heads of a brilliant, glowing orange. The leaves are extremely thick, with beautiful serrations that are usually a bright yellow color. It is more compact and less floppy than medicinal aloe, and is cold hardy to the low 20’s. To survive our winters, however, it must be planted somewhere with excellent drainage, such as at the edge of a rock wall, so plant roots do not rot during winter dormancy.