How to Grow Aloe Vera Even If You Have a Brown Thumb

Updated 06/28/19
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 We the People Style

Ah, summer. It's the season that promises blue skies, warm weather, and long days: a trio of coveted excuses to spend time outdoors. But if you're not careful, it's also a period that can be tough on your skin. 

While it's common knowledge that sunscreen should be worn daily, especially if you're planning on catching some rays, there's also lots of potential for slip-ups. Maybe you applied sunscreen but missed a spot on your shoulder. Or perhaps you forgot to re-apply a second layer after jumping in the pool. And hey, there's always the sneakiest sunburn of them all: Seeing red after a cloudy day at the beach. 

To prepare for those moments when a sunburn may occur this summer, even if you're doing your best to avoid it, we recommend growing your own aloe vera. This tried-and-true remedy can quickly soothe dry and irritated skin, thanks to the vitamin-packed gel inside its prickly leaves. All it takes is some basic gardening skills to have this soothing skin treat on deck year round for sunburns to scrapes. Follow these guidelines, and you won't just have a plan B in case of first-aid emergencies, you'll also have a pretty focal point in your garden.

 

What to Know About Aloe Vera

It's a succulent. Aloe vera is a part of the wide-ranging family of succulents, specifically of the genus Aloe. It has thick, green leaves that fan out from a wide base, and small teeth on its leaves' edges.

It does best in dry, desert-like conditions. This makes sense since the origins of aloe vera can be traced to Ancient Egypt. This plant thrives in bright and indirect sunlight, with minimal water (perfect for the garden novice). Don't place it in direct bright sunlight, or it will dry out. 

Its gel has been used for a number of health needs. The gel inside the leaves of the aloe vera plant has historically been used to treat a range of ailments, including ulcers, frostbite, and bowel diseases. It's most widely used to soothe minor burns and scrapes, and scientists believe that it's because the gel has anti-inflammatory properties.

If you get a sunburn, cut a leaf off the plant. Rub the gel on the affected area, and wait for it to dry. You should see the sunburn begin to disappear in a few days. To be sure, this remedy only works for minor sunburns. Seek medical attention for burns that affect more than the top layer of your skin.

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How to Grow Aloe Vera in Your Home

Start with the right type of pot. If you're opting to grow a small aloe vera plant in your home, choose an equally small pot with a wide mouth—it should look as if the pot fits comfortably around the succulent. Small succulents generally have short roots, so a large pot is unnecessary. Make sure, too, that the pot is made from a porous material, like terracotta, which will help the soil dry between waterings. And finally, the pot should have a saucer or a draining system to allow water to escape.

 

Fill the pot with potting mix. Options made specifically for succulents will do best and should fill about a third of the pot. Remove any excess dirt from the succulent before you place it inside, and ensure that it's centered in the soil. Fill in space around the plant, leaving about a quarter-of-an-inch from the top of the pot. 

Don't water it right away. Wait at least a week to water your new succulent after it's planted, and then water it about once a month after that. If the soil is dry and if the leaves are wilting, your plant needs more water.

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