As well as making an attractive addition to the home or garden, an aloe vera plant offers numerous medicinal and therapeutic benefits
Is there any plant that proves such a worthy addition to the home as the humble aloe vera plant?
With the occasional white fleck dotted around the surface of thick, stocky green leaves, this low-maintenance succulent can add a beautiful tropical touch to your home, all while delivering a variety of health and beauty benefits.
With so much going for it, it’s no wonder you’re now planning to grow an aloe vera plant of your own, even if you’re not entirely sure where to start.
After all, when you talk to your green-fingered friends about the best way to care for your Aloe Barbadensis, they all seem to have different advice, leaving you with more questions than when you started:
Should you grow aloe vera plants indoors or outdoors?
What kind of soil should you use to ensure your aloe vera thrives?
How often are you supposed to water it, anyway?
Today, we’ll answer all of those questions and more, outlining everything you need to know to get the most out of this most fetching and functional flora.
How to Plant Aloe Vera Indoors
Aloe vera plants grow best indoors when placed by a window
Apart from their attractive appearance and practical uses, if there’s one reason why aloe plants are so popular it’s the level of maintenance needed to keep them flourishing.
Unlike other plants, aloe vera requires very little work and very little watering, but there are still a few steps you should take to give your new plant the best chance at succeeding.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to grow your plant indoors:
Aloe Vera Plants or Pups
You can buy aloe vera plants like these four-inch varieties from Shop Succulents and transfer them into your preferred plant pot back home.
Alternatively, if a friend is already growing one, they might be willing to let you take one of their aloe vera ‘pups’ to start your own plant.
Pups, commonly known as aloe vera offsets, are smaller ‘baby’ plants that share part of their root system with the main ‘mother plant.’ These can be removed and replanted to start a completely new plant.
What Soil Should I Plant Aloe Vera in?
As aloes are succulents, they don’t grow very well in soil at all. Instead, you should choose a similar kind of potting mix that you’d use to grow cacti in.
In order for your plant to thrive, the mix needs to be completely dry to begin with and boast adequate drainage for those times when you water it.
We find rePotme’s Cactus and Succulent Imperial Potting Mix works incredibly for this. It contains a well-blended mixture of diatomite, Monterey Pine Bark, Premium Grade Pumice, and red volcanic rock.
If you prefer something different, at least look for a blend that contains either coarse sand, volcanic rock, perlite or some combination of all three.
Choosing an Aloe Vera Plant Pot
A terracotta pot is the best option for helping your plant to grow
The best aloe vera plant pots are made from terracotta or another porous material. This not only ensures your pot is strong enough to hold your growing plant but also helps the potting mix to dry out completely in between waterings.
Most terra cotta pots, like these six-inch options from Bloem, can be picked up for less than two dollars apiece. Alternatively, if you already have a cheap glazed or plastic pot lying around, it should do the trick, albeit not as effectively.
On the subject of plant pots, the one you choose must have at least one hole in it to allow water to drain out. Otherwise, the potting mix will be too moist after watering and this can effectively kill off your plant.
Potting Your Plant
Planting your aloe vera is a straightforward process requiring little more than a good pot and some potting mix
With all the essentials in place, it’s time to get to work on planting your new aloe vera.
Here’s the simple three-step process:
Cleaning and Preparing Your Plant Pot
First up, give your pot a clean. If you’re reusing an older pot, give it a decent scrub and leave it to dry.
This will eliminate any plant-damaging salts that have built up in your pot from the previous use, as well as preventing your aloe vera from being infected by any diseases your last season’s plants may have been carrying.
Even if it’s a new pot, you’ll still benefit from giving it a quick rinse before use.
With that done, place a small piece of screen or paper towel underneath the pot. Ths stop your potting mix from falling out through the drainage holes while still allowing the water to drain.
Preparing Your Plant
If you’re repotting your plant, remove it carefully and lightly brush away any lingering dirt around the roots. Be gentle during this process as you don’t want to damage the roots.
Next, look for any offsets and remove them. You can either give these away or leave them out to replant in a few days’ time.
If you’re planting pups that you’ve taken from another plant, be sure that the calluses have properly formed before moving on to the next step.
Potting Your Plant
Take your plant pot and fill it roughly a third of the way up with your potting mix.
Add your plant, making sure that the bottom leaves rest on top of the soil, then add more potting mix around the plant to fill up the pot. Ideally, you’ll want to leave at least two-thirds of an inch of space between the pot rim and the top layer of soil.
If you’re planting pups, move them to a warm, sunny location for at least a week. if you’re growing a full plant, place it somewhere warm but out of direct light.
Important: Do Not Water Your Plant After Potting
Don’t touch that watering can! Aloe vera requires very little moisture, so avoid watering your new plant for at least a week.
One of the most common problems with aloe vera is over-watering.
Unlike flowers such as fuschias which require frequent watering, these plants require very little moisture and can start rotting if they receive too much water.
After potting your plant, leave it at least a week before you water it. This should prevent the plant from rotting and allow it to form new roots.
How to Plant Aloe Vera Outdoors
Given the right conditions, aloe vera plants can thrive just as well in outdoor environments as they can inside
Though aloe veras tend to grow best indoors, they can work well as an outdoor plant providing you have the right environment.
Cold temperatures will destroy the leaves, but the real problem is frozen soil, which will kill the roots and prevent your plant from growing at all.
To successfully grow aloe vera outdoors, you should live in a year-round warm climate that is at least Zone 10 on the Plant Hardiness Zone Map provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Another important factor to consider is the soil. Though it’s not essential, a well-drained bed will help ensure that you don’t have to water your plant except during drought periods.
If you have a rain barrel in your garden, this can help determine whether or not the soil needs watering. If that rain barrel is even halfway full, there’s a good chance the ground -and your plant- is getting enough natural water.
If it’s been empty for a good few months, that’s probably a sign that your soil could use a decent soaking.
Top Tip: Grow Aloe Vera Separately From Other Plants
If you’re growing other plants that require more frequent watering or special plant food, then it’s a good idea to keep these separate from your aloe vera as the excess water could damage the roots.
If space is limited, you could always use a few pieces of landscaping timber to build raised planters or retaining walls.
The Best Garden Soil pH Levels for Succulents
Though it’s an often overlooked factor among novice gardeners, the pH of your soil can make a big difference to the success of your succulent garden.
A pH range around 6.0 – 6.5 (neutral to slightly acidic) is ideal for planting succulents.
A digital pH meter or a simple pH testing kit can help determine the pH level of your soil. If it’s too high, adding citric acid crystals or even a few drops of white vinegar can help.
How Fast Does Aloe Vera Grow?
As a rule, succulents tend to grow much slower than other types of plants, and the aloe vera is no exception.
It may take as long as three or four years for an aloe vera pup to mature into a full plant, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t see signs of growth long before then.
After planting, you’ll likely see the plant produce at least one new leaf within a month, with noticeable increases in size occurring around the three to four-month mark.
Common Aloe Vera Care Problems
Taking care to avoid a few common problems with growing aloe vera can help your plant to fourish
Your plant may not require a lot of work, but that you don’t need to take some care to help it grow.
In our experience, many of the most common problems with aloe vera are caused by two things:
Too much watering
Too little light.
At most, you should be watering your plant once every two weeks, though if you start to notice it getting soft or turning brown, ease off even further.
You should also be sure to keep it in a place where the temperature is between 55 and 80°F (13 and 27°C) and where it has at least indirect access to sunlight.
Ideally, a western or southern-facing window should work perfectly. Failing that, consider investing in a simple, low-cost artificial glow light like this popular model from Acke.
Some common signs that your plant is unhealthy include:
Soft and Mushy Stem
It’s not uncommon for the stem of an aloe plant to soften and become mushy. This is due to rotting caused by overwatering.
If you find that the stem is only just starting to turn to mush but is mostly still solid, it might not be too late to save it.
Cut out the rotted, mushy part of the stem then leave your plant out for a few days to callos over before replanting.
If you notice that your plant is developing a black stem, this is again down to stem rot. Cut away the unhealthy part and regrow.
Nothing makes an aloe plant lose its appeal quite like brown leaves. If those brown leaves are soft and mushy, this might also be down to overwatering.
You can simply cut out the brown parts and lay off that watering can.
Conversely, if your brown leaves are shriveled and dry, this might mean that you’ve taken the whole limited watering thing a bit too far and that your plant is now too dry.
Again, trim those leaves out and give your plant some water so that it can return to health.
Your Plant is Getting ‘Leggy’
Sometimes, aloes grow to be very tall and thin, which may gardener refer to as being ‘leggy.
This is generally a sign that your plant isn’t receiving enough light. Either use a grow light or move the plant to a window with more sunlight to help it grow again.
Dealing with Pests
As summer transitions into fall, you may find that your aloe vera plant begin to attract bugs and pests.
Outdoors, orange aphid infestations are relatively common, but a quick rinse with a garden hose can be enough to eliminate them.
For indoor plants, mealy bugs can prove to be a nuisance, but adding a dab of alcohol to a cotton swab and lightly brushing it over your plant soon takes care of that particular problem.
Aloe Vera Plant Benefits You Should Know About
The gel of the aloe vera plant is known to have numerous soothing and healing benefits
Though it’s no doubt an attractive plant, aloe vera isn’t as well known for its aesthetic qualities as it is for its use in a range of health and beauty products.
In fact, it’s estimated that thanks to its use in food, pharmaceuticals, and beauty treatments, the aloe vera industry has a global market value of $13 billion.
This is all thanks to the thick, gel-like substance stored inside the aloe vera leaves which contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
This gel also contains a substance known as polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants known for helping to combat the growth of bacteria in the human body.
Some studies have even shown that aloe vera could potentially be used to help fight cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and neurodegeneration.
Though we may be some way off using this miraculous plant as a medically-approved cure for cancer, aloe aficionados swear by its effectiveness as a burn healer, anti-ageing cure, and even as a powerful protector of your vegetable garden.
In 2014, researchers from Cambridge University looked into the effects of aloe vera coating on the postharvest quality of tomato plants.
They found that covering their tomatoes in aloe vera gel prevented the growth of harmful bacteria on the fruits and delayed ripening.
A few years later, a second study found similar results when aloe vera gel was tested on apples.
So, for a truly self-sustaining garden, you could always try adding a coating of aloe vera to your vegetable patches and fruiting canes.
Aloe Vera Planting Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to repot my aloe vera plant every year?
Not necessarily. Aloe vera plants tend to be pretty happy once potted, so an annual repotting isn’t always required. However, if you find that it is starting to get too big for its current pot, or if it’s producing pups then, yes, you’ll find a replant helpful.
How often do aloe vera plants bloom?
Aloe vera plants only tend to bloom once they’ve reached several years of maturity. So, if you’re not yet seeing flowers on your plant, you may simply need to give it time.
After four years, plants grown in United States Department of Agriculture zones 7 to 9 will start to produce small yellow-orange flowers in late winter and early spring.
Why does my aloe vera plant smell bad?
If there’s an unpleasant aroma coming from your plant, the most likely cause is rotting caused by overwatering. Again, this is why good drainage and limited watering are essential to good aloe vera care.
Growing an Aloe Vera Plant – How Will You Use Yours?
If you were undecided about growing an aloe vera plant when you started this guide, we hope we’ve done enough to help you make your mind up.
When you think about it, out of all the countless varieties of plants you could choose to grow around your home, few can match aloe vera when it comes to providing so many benefits for such little work.
Plant once, give it just the right amount of sunlight and water it no more than once every two or three weeks, and you’ll eventually find yourself with a gorgeous tropical plant which just so happens to double up as a handy first-aid kit, mouthwash, and beauty product.
The best part?
That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the many benefits of aloe vera.
Many people recommend boiling the leaves and breathing in the vapor to treat asthma, chesty-coughs and flu symptoms while others swear that nothing works better at keeping their hair full and healthy.
Whether you use it as a health treatment or simply to liven up your kitchen, have fun with your new plant, and be sure to replant those pups so that you can grow even more of this truly versatile plant.