Most people have houseplants because they create a calming atmosphere as they reconnect us with nature.
These days maintaining our mental health can be difficult. Houseplants can be like our mental superheroes, tossing on their green capes and flying to our rescue. In this sense, any houseplant is a useful houseplant and we should cultivate an attitude of gratitude for our gorgeous, green, friends.
However, when it comes down to a single plant that goes above and beyond, I am hanging the medal for Most Useful Houseplant around the neck of the Aloe Vera.
Aloe Vera is the plant you need for treating sunburns or applying to your hand after you forgot to grab a potholder (it happens).
With practice you can remove a spear from your aloe with a gentle twisting motion. However, to ensure you don’t damage the entire plant, it is better to use a sharp knife.
Once you’ve removed a stalk (or a tip of a stalk depending on how much you need) simply squeeze out some gel directly onto your burn. If you have removed an entire stalk, you can use a sharp knife to slice it open lengthwise and then use a teaspoon to scrape out the gel. Put the excess gel in a closed container in the fridge, where it should stay fresh for at least a week. This method is especially nice for applying to sunburns, as the cold gel adds to the soothing experience. Tucking a small jar of fresh aloe gel into a cooler when you go camping or to the beach is also a great idea. But don’t forget the sunblock!
As with all plants and medicine, use common sense. If you have any reason to think you might be allergic to aloe, talk to a doctor first. If you start having some sort of reaction, rinse it off. That said, humans have been using aloe to soothe skin conditions for thousands of years.
This unassuming plant requires little care. All it asks for is some sunshine in its life and that you please, please, please, don’t overwater it. Aloes store excess water in its thick spikes, much like a camel does in its hump. If the spears are plump, all is right in your aloe’s world. When the spears start to flatten out, it is time to break out the watering can. Water thoroughly, but don’t allow the pot to sit in a saucer of runoff water.
Aloes are so carefree, they don’t even require any additional fertilizer. They are able to glean all the nutrients they need from the sun. If you have an arsenal of plant fertilizer and are determined to use some, reach for a water-based fertilizer high in phosphorus, mix at half strength and feed only once a year. Doing this at the beginning of the year is a great way to stay on schedule.
Aloes are like a low-maintenance best friend. They are always there when you need them and the rest of the time, they are just nice to have around.