Aloe vera: The French Alternative

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What do you do when you’ve forgotten the mosquito repellant? Or maybe you’re suffering from sunburn and need a solution to calm your skin? Help is at hand, says Jackie French, if you grow Aloe vera.

Aloe vera is a succulent which has many medicinal uses, as well as being used in skin care products. The soothing aloe gel contained in the leaves is ideal for: taking the sting out of sunburn
stopping the itch from mosquito bites
moisturising the skin

Using the leaf

The gel can be used straight from the leaf. Always choose the oldest leaves. To get at the gel, split open the leaf or peel it, and gently squeeze and dab the affected area with the cooling gel. Don’t squeeze the leaf too hard as this will give you the older juice and not the desired gentle sap. Note: as with all things, some people may be allergic to this plant. Discontinue use if a rash appears.

Plant details

Common name: Medicinal aloe
Botanical name: Aloe vera


Aloe vera is thought to be a native of northern Africa. This perennial plant grows to approximately 60cm (2′). It has narrow, upwardly curving succulent leaves which are a green to grey-green colour with small spikes along their edges (leaf margins).

Aloe vera can be planted in full sun in the garden or grown as a pot or hanging basket specimen. Aloe vera love the heat and hate cold, wet and frosts so in a cool climate Jackie recommends planting aloes in pots by the house to keep them warm from reflected heat. Plant Aloe vera in pots or hanging baskets if your area is prone to cold and wet winters as aloe roots may rot off during their dormant period.

Jackie has planted her hanging basket of aloe vera with caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona) and orange peel thyme (Thymus richardii spp. nitidis). These should be available from your local nursery.

Getting started

1. Propagating Aloe vera plants sucker readily so divide the plants during spring and summer. Use a good quality potting mix when replanting into a pot.

2. Buying Aloe vera is available from nurseries from around $4 for a 70-100mm (3-4″) pot.