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How To Care For Aloe Vera: A Plant With Purpose

Aloe vera is a plant with purpose. Here's what you need to know to grow this commonly sold, easy succulent as a houseplant & in the garden.

a large aloe vera plant in a purple pots grows on a patio in front of a green bistro set the text reads A Plant with Purpose: How To Care For Aloe Vera

I would hazard a guess to say that Aloe Vera is the most widely sold succulent the world over.  Yes, it’s true, this plant has been used for 1000’s of years and is still favored today.   You find it in many homes and gardens and it also goes by many other names as well – Aloe barbadensis, First Aid Plant, True Aloe, African Aloe, Burn Plant, and Miracle Plant, to mention a few.  This beneficial plant with purpose is really easy to grow in your home and in the garden so stay tuned because there are care tips coming your way.

looking down onto a large aloe vera plant
As you can see, Aloe vera grows in a rosette form as it ages.  It does wonderfully in containers & I think it’s especially suited to terra cotta – it’s a great look.

My Aloe veras grow in pots year round outdoors and I hardly do a thing to them in terms of care.  They also make fine houseplants (so fine that it’s included in my houseplant care book) and are particularly handy to have growing in the kitchen.  If you burn yourself that soothing fresh gel contained in the leaves is right there waiting for you.  Head’s up because there are 2 important things you need to know to grow them successfully in your home.  Hint, hint: they’re listed under the 1st 2 care tips.

Here I am on my back patio talking all things Aloe vera care:

Here’s what I’ve learned about growing Aloe vera:

Light

In the garden, you want your Aloe vera to get 2 or 3 hours of sun a day.  As a general rule, along the coast it can take more sun than hot inland areas.  It’s best protected from the hot afternoon sun & mine was actually stressed from being in too much sun (plus it desperately need repotting).    Now it lives on the back patio where it gets lots of light but little direct sun.

Indoors, it needs as much light as possible, like a south of west exposure.  This is not a low light plant & if it’s not getting the light it needs, the leaves will droop downwards.  Just be sure to keep it away from hot glass (like a west exposure) because it’ll burn.  It can be near that window but not in it.

Watering

No matter where you have it growing, you want your Aloe vera to almost completely dry out before watering it again.  Water it thoroughly & make sure all that water drains out – you don’t want it to be sitting in any water.  In the summer I water mine every 7-14 days, depending on the weather.  Indoors, once a month should do it.  In the winter, it might need it even less, maybe once every 2 months.  Remember, those fleshy leaves & roots are full of water & they can easily rot out.

Soil

Following hot on the heels of watering (or over watering!), it’s very important to make sure that the mix you have your it planted in drains well.  I always use succulent & cactus mix & recommend that you use it any time you’re planting Aloe vera in containers.

In the great outdoors, you can see what I did in my own garden in preparation for planting succulents

close up of the leaves of a large aloe vera plant

The leaves of my Aloe vera have really greened & plumped up since I repotted it & moved it to a less sunny spot.

Hardiness

Aloe vera is hardy to around 28 degrees F.

Fertilizing

Like the majority of succulents, none is really necessary.  I top dress mine with a 1″ layer of worm castings every spring.  You can do the same indoors or use a balanced liquid houseplant food once in the spring.  Either way, don’t over fertilize & never feed in the colder, darker months.  Shhhh, the plant is resting!

Propagating

Propagating is done by division of the offsets, or those pups (babies) which appear at the base of the mother plant.  Most succulents you can propagate by stem &/or leaf cuttings but not an Aloe vera.  There are no stems & the leaves are way too full of gel.  You see how I removed the baby in this video starting at the 1:40 mark.

a small aloe vera plant in a beige pot grows in front of a large aloe vera plant in a purple & green painted pot

Here’s the offset that came off the mother plant. 

Pruning

None is really needed except to prune off the spent flower stalks & of course to remove those fleshy, fabulous leaves.  You can cut a leaf  in 1 or 2″ intervals if you’d like because it won’t harm the plant at all.  I always remove the whole leaf because I think it looks much better.  I just wrap the leaf in tin foil & cut it as I need it.  Sometimes that cool gel feels soooo good!

Pests

Mine outdoors gets an occasional light infestation of orange aphids, usually at the end of summer/beginning of fall, which I just gently blast off with the hose.

Indoors they can also be susceptible to mealy bugs & scale.  You can wipe the mealy bug off with alcohol & a cotton swab.  Scale can be removed the same way or you can scrape it off with your fingernail or a dull knife.

Flowers

The yellow flowers appear on stalks that rise up above the plant.  Here in Santa Barbara they flower in late winter into spring.  It is early March & mine has a flower which will be opening soon.

close up of a cut aloe vera leaf full of gel

This is a huge Aloe vera leaf I bought at the Mexican market near my house.  All that wonderful gel!

What to know

About 6 Decembers ago we had a 4 day cold (around 35 degrees…brrrrr) & rainy spell, not too common for us here in Santa Barbara.  The succulents were saying: “what’s up with this?”.  That in addition to the fact that my poor Aloe was getting too much direct sun in the summer had caused the leaves to turn pale & orangish. Here’s something you need to know: the leaves of the Aloe Vera will turn orange (or orange/brown) if they get sunburned or stressed.  I’m sure that cold rain didn’t help either.

Aloe doesn’t mind being a bit pot bound so you don’t need to repot it every year.

As this plant grows & the leaves get big & full of gel, it gets quite heavy.  You’ll need a substantial base – no little flimsy plastic pots here, please.

Quick recap: if you’re growing this succulent indoors, just remember – high light, low water (hey, those roots need oxygen too).   There are about 400 different species of aloes in the world and this one is definitely the most well known.  How does it feel to be so fabulously famous Aloe vera??!!

Happy gardening,

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11 comments:

  1. Pingback: How To Grow And Care For Aloe Vera - Gardenoholic

  2. Pingback: How To Grow And Care For Aloe Vera - Bastyle | Bastyle

  3. I love your videos and after visiting your website, I love it too! Thank you for all the helpful tips! (-:

  4. Thank you so much Rachel! I’m glad you find the info helpful. I have lots more to share so come back & visit our website soon. Best, Nell

  5. Love this, didn’t really know how to care for my aloe plant, but other then the sun I was doing things right. Will put this in a west window. Thank You.

  6. Great Shirley, glad you found it helpful. I just moved to the Arizona desert & mine is now growing in very bright shade. It loves the heat but not the all day hot sun! Nell

  7. Thank you Nell, (my aloe thanks you too!) I’ve NOT been letting mine dry out in between waterings, so now I’ll have a happier plant!
    Otherwise here in metro Atlanta (Georgia) it does pretty good.

  8. Hi Jim – Oh yes, Georgia is lovely but is lot more humid & gets a lot more rainfall than here in the West. Ease up on the supplemental watering & your AV will be so much happier! All the best, Nell

  9. Pingback: The Best Low Maintenance House Plants | MyBrownSparklez

  10. Pingback: How to Grow Aloe Plant | SerenataPlants.com

  11. Pingback: 4 Plants to Buy For Your Home at Indigo 301 - Indigo

  12. helped out allot and recently found out about this plant great into the flat arpartment for air cleaning quess it does more than that great overall like the way its presented

  13. If you take a leaf off of aloe plant can you put in water to rebooted, not sure to asking ,for a friend.

  14. Hi Elizabeth – Aloe veras are best propagted by removing the pups (babies) from the mother plant. The leaves are full of gel & don’t successfully root in water. Nell

  15. I have an aloe that has grown extremely large. I would like to separate it as I think it has to be root bound, but I am unsure as to how to do this. Any tips?

  16. Hi Sandy – I did that in this post & video here: https://www.joyusgarden.com/aloe-vera-propagation-how-to-remove-pups/ Aloe vera is a tough plant root wise but some of the leaves may break or bend during the transplant. Nell

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