Aloe vera is a popular and useful houseplant found in kitchen windows around the world. Inside the succulent leaves of the plant is a clear gel that provides immediate relief for minor burns. That comes in handy when you accidentally grab a hot pan without an oven mitt.
But don’t just hastily rip off a leaf when you scorch yourself. To keep your aloe plant healthy and thriving, you’ll need to learn how to cut an aloe vera plant correctly.
How to cut aloe vera plant without killing it
Most likely, if you tear off a piece of aloe vera plant, you aren’t going to kill your aloe plant right away. But haphazardly removing young aloe vera leaves could stunt its growth and make it less aesthetically attractive. To keep your aloe vera plant happy, follow these steps when it is time to harvest:
- Use a sharp serrated knife. Do not use a blunt blade as it can rip and damage the leaf, making it harder to heal. You can also use garden snips or sharp kitchen scissors.
- Clean your cutting tool with rubbing alcohol before cutting. This will drastically reduce the chance of fungal infection or other disease.
- Choose a large mature leaf at the base of the aloe vera plant. This is preferred to harvesting small newer leaves at the top which still have a lot of growing to do.
- Cut the leaf as close to the base of the aloe vera plant as possible.
With your cut aloe vera leaf, you are now ready to apply it your skin. Rub the cut end with the exposed gel onto your skin. Squeeze the leaf to release more of the substance.
If you prefer, you can cut the aloe vera leaf again along the middle, creating 2 halves with the inner gel fully exposed. Apply the gel side of the cut aloe vera leaf directly to the skin and leave it on for a few minutes to provide relief.
The cut part of the aloe vera plant should heal on its own over the course of 2 to 3 days. If you need more than 1 leaf, remember not to harvest more than one-third of the plant at once. Keep in mind, the cut leaves won’t grow back themselves, but new leaves will grow in their place.
How to trim aloe vera leaf
Minor emergencies aren’t the only time you need to cut your aloe vera leaf. The plant should be pruned from time to time in order to stay healthy and promote new growth.
To trim your aloe vera plant, identify any leaves with brown tips. Use a sharp pair of scissors or snips to simply cut away the brown parts. Make your cut as close to the green part of the aloe vera leaf as possible, just remember the new tip will brown slightly as it heals.
If you have large aloe leaves at the base, you can harvest a few to stimulate new growth. There may also be pups, or baby aloe plants, sprouting up out of the soil. Remove these carefully, keeping the roots intact and replant into their own pots. If you allow the pups to grow in the same pot, this will lead to overcrowding and poor health for your aloe vera plants.
How to grow aloe vera from leaf
Did you know you can grow a new aloe vera plant from a leaf? While propagating pups has a higher success rate, with the right technique, you can successfully propagate aloe vera leaves as well.
- Harvest aloe vera leaves that are at least 3in long. Cut the entire leaf with a sharp knife at the base of the plant. Do not harvest more than a third of the leaves at once.
- Place the harvested aloe vera leaves in a warm, dry area. Wait 2 weeks for a film to form over the cut ends of the aloe vera leaves.
- Prepare a pot for each leaf by filling each with cactus soil. For better drainage, only use pots with drainage holes.
- Dampen the soil and insert one-third of the leaf into each pot.
- Keep the soil slightly moist, not soaked, for the first 4 weeks until the cutting has rooted.
- Once the aloe is rooted, let the soil dry out and resume a regular aloe vera water schedule.
When new leaves start to grow, then you know that you’ve got it just right!
Cutting aloe vera for cooking and other uses
Did you know aloe vera is edible as well? It is commonly used throughout Asia and the Caribbean in everything from blended drinks to curries and salads. The gel has a neutral flavor and a firm and crunchy texture. Keep in mind that the yellow liquid between the gel and the outer skin is latex, and this can cause health problems if ingested. So, when harvesting aloe vera for cooking, be certain to remove any yellow material. Here’s how:
- Submerge cut aloe vera leaves in cold water for 10 minutes. The water will turn yellow as much of the latex seeps out naturally. Change the water and repeat the process.
- Peel away the top layer of skin from the leaf to reveal the clear gel underneath.
- Use a vegetable peeler to extract the gel from the other side of the leaf.
After removing the gel, you can blend it or crush it for use in drinks. You can keep fresh aloe vera gel in the fridge for a week, or freeze it for future use.
Cutting aloe vera
Cutting aloe vera the right way will keep your plants thriving and growing for years and produce plenty of cuttings for growing new ones. If you don’t have one yet, have Instacart pick up an aloe vera plant for you from your favorite local grocer. You never know when you might get burned!