Well known and famously used as a medicinal plant, the Aloe Vera has grown for centuries, if not thousands of years.
Thanks to the commercialization of products using Aloe Vera among their ingredients, many people are inspired to grow one of their own plants. You can find the aloe gel in hair care items, skin products, supplements, drinks, and even in food.
Let’s take a look at growing aloe vera plants and how to care for them.
Aloe Vera Plant Overview
Aloe vera is a member of the Liliaceae family, “Aloe barbadensis miller” is a perennial succulent and is the species most commonly grown as a houseplant. There are more than three hundred aloe plant varieties in existence.
This aloe vera plant is a succulent, and like all cacti, succulents do better in dryer conditions. It is native to Africa, Madagascar, and the Arabian Peninsula.
As a succulent, the aloe vera plant boasts beautiful plump leaves that are filled with a gel that is watery in texture. Often this gel is used as a skin salve (cream, ointment, or balm) for burns, insect bites, and irritations.
Of the several hundred varieties, some of the more well-known include:
- “Aloe aculeata” is thorny and features perky leaves in a lemony tint.
- “Aloe brevifolia”, also referred to as “short-leaf” aloe is round with leaves that appear bluish but appear golden in the sunlight.
- “Aloe ciliaris” is climbing aloe. It will produce tubular-shaped flowers that are orange in color.
- “Aloe polyphylla” is a large aloe shaped like an egg. Its leaves are green with purple-colored tips.
The aloe vera is a plant that will grow rapidly and will, within three to four years, reach its maturity and size. For an aloe plant to produce a bloom, it may require years. The mature size may grow to one to two feet tall.
The leaves begin their growth at the plant’s base forming a rosette. They feature edges that are quite jagged while the spines are flexible.
Aloe vera also helps to clean the air if you’re growing it indoors. That’s why aloe vera is one of the more popular houseplants to grow.
It does bloom and its flowers may appear in red, orange or yellow hues on tall stalks that shoot upwards from the plant. Younger plants will usually not flower, particularly when grown indoors.
Aloe Vera Care
Aloe vera plants do very well planted indoors and outdoors. They’re a lovely addition to patios, porches, or decks if you’d like to add it to your outdoor décor. It may come in handy on the spot for burns and bites during outdoor summer activities.
To grow an aloe vera outdoors, a dry climate is preferable. They should be planted in well-draining soil that is not subject to a great deal of precipitation.
If you live in a colder climate, your aloe can be planted and cared for indoors, and then moved outside in the summer.
If you move it outdoors beware of its sensitivity to direct sunlight, because it has been growing inside. Find a partially shady location and allow the plant to acclimate itself to the outside.
Late spring or early summer will see blooming, although the plant must be mature to produce a flower. If you have a young aloe vera plant, don’t expect to see blooms any time soon. Even a mature plant may not bloom every year if you are harvesting its leaves.
Soil for Aloe Vera
The soil bed must be well-draining as for all succulents. In its native environment, it grows on slopes where drainage is not a problem and ensures the plant’s well-being.
The pot should also have plenty of drainage holes as the aloe vera plant should never be left standing in water.
Ideally, this plant should be planted in a cactus soil mix. There are places online where you can buy cactus and succulent soil mix.
Hoffman 10404 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, 4 Quarts, Brown/A
- Provides the drainage cacti need to flourish.
- You will receive (1) 4-quart bag with this order.
- Ready to use, so that you don’t need to take the time and energy to mix ingredients together.
- Encourages bloom and root development so that your cacti grow faster and larger than
You can mix your own cactus soil by adding coarse sand, building sand, or perlite to your potting mix.
Light for Aloe Vera
Aloe vera plants need bright sunlight, but indirect light. Direct sun can burn the leaves.
If they do not receive enough light, the aloe plant may get leggy. If your home doesn’t get sufficient sunlight, you can use artificial light or a grow light for plants.
Water and Humidity for Aloe Vera
This is a drought-tolerant plant, but it likes to be watered on a regular schedule. The soil should dry out entirely between waterings.
When you water, the soil should be drenched and then adequately drained. If you tend to overwater, you can get a soil moisture gauge to help you with this.
If you forget to water it sufficiently, you will notice that the leaves dry out and begin to shrivel and pucker. Should this happen, if you water it, the plant will revive.
However, if it is stressed for too long of a period by either drought or overwatering, leaves will begin to yellow and die.
These plants do not require extra water during the rainy season. In the winter months, they will go dormant and can survive nicely with no watering if they have been watered correctly during the growing season.
If your plant is outdoors and the winter is rainy, think about planting it in pebbles, gravel, or stones, so that the water will drain off sufficiently.
The principal cause of death for aloe vera plants is overwatering and insufficient drainage.
- Related Article: How to Water Aloe Vera
Temperature for Aloe Vera
Your aloe vera plant will thrive in a temperature that ranges between 55° and 85° Fahrenheit. It can manage with temperatures as low as 40°F, but not for long periods of time.
The aloe vera does not do well when exposed to frost or extreme cold. If you live in a cold climate region and your aloe plant is outside, plant your Aloe in containers and bring them indoors in the winter.
Should your area experience a surprise frost, cover your plants with a blanket, sheet, or cloth covering to keep them warm.
Fertilizer for Aloe Vera
The aloe vera does not need to be fed regularly. An annual feeding in the spring with a succulent fertilizer should be more than adequate. A phosphorus water-based heavy fertilizer at half strength would be appropriate.
Pruning and Repotting Aloe Vera
If the leaves of your aloe vera plant develop brown tips, you should prune them. Trim the leaves with a pair of very clean gardening shears.
You can either trim off the affected tip of the leaf or you can remove the entire leaf by cutting it off near the base. By cutting at the base, you will encourage growth. Do not prune or trim leaves at their center.
The root system of the Aloe Vera is shallow and nestles close to the surface of the soil bed. As your plant grows, it will need to be repotted, but you should select a pot with a wider circumference as opposed to a deeper pot.
The new pot should always have a sufficient number of drainage holes and a clay or terracotta pot will help wick extra moisture.
Propagating Aloe Vera
You can propagate aloe vera plants by seed, but it will be easier to plant offsets or plantlets that appear near the base of the mother plant.
Break off the planet leaving some roots attached to it and replant it in its own container.
Aloe Vera Toxicity and Pets
Aloe vera is safe to use on the human skin topically, although some people may exhibit intolerance to or irritation from it. It should not be ingested by humans, dogs, cats, pets in general, or livestock.
Symptoms of Aloe Vera poisoning may include gastrointestinal distress, and even kidney failure in humans if it is eaten. In house pets or livestock, animals may appear lethargic or have an upset stomach with diarrhea.
If humans, in particular small children, or pets ingest this aloe vera, contact your doctor or veterinarian immediately for medical assistance.
Aloe Vera Pests, Diseases, Problems, and More
Aloe vera is not pest resistant. It can attract mites, scale, and mealybugs.
Mealybugs can be wiped off after you have sprayed the plant with water, using a soft cloth. For mites, you will need to cut off any infected tissue.
To treat at scale, combine one cup of isopropyl alcohol, one cup of water, and a tablespoon of insecticidal soap. Spray your aloe vera plant every third day for a two-week period.
The main problems that come from growing Aloe Vera are caused by overwatering or insufficient light. Some examples of these problems include:
- A mushy stem – It’s been overwatered and begun to rot at its base. You can try to save the plant by cutting just above the rotting point and try to root it.
- Leaves are brown and mushy – Here again, it’s probably begun rotting. If the stem is healthy, just remove the rotting parts and be careful about how much you are watering.
- Leaves are dried and brown – Your aloe vera is too dry. Give it a good watering and trim off any dying leaves.
- The aloe vera plant is leggy, tall, and thin – It probably is not getting enough bright light.
- The leaf tips are brown – This can indicate underwatering, but may also be scorching from direct sunlight.
Growing Aloe Vera Final Thoughts
Aloe Vera is an easy plant to grow, but the key to success is neglecting it. If you ignore this plant and leave it to do what it does best, it will make a beautiful addition to your home garden.
For other houseplant care and grow guides, check out these articles:
- Pothos Plant Care and Grow Guide
- African Violet Care and Grow Guide
- Arrowhead Plant Care and Grow Guide
- How to Grow a Bonsai Tree
Growing Aloe Vera FAQs
Do aloe plants need a lot of sun?
Yes, they like a lot of sunlight, but make sure it’s indirect light. Direct light will scorch the leaves.
What part of the aloe vera plant is poisonous?
All parts of the aloe vera plant contain sap which contains chemicals called anthraquinones. The most toxic portion of the plant is the inner core where the latex is produced.
Do aloe vera leaves grow back?
Unfortunately not, once the outer layer of the aloe vera leaf has died away, there is no way to regrow new leaves. However, the center of the plant continues to produce new growth throughout the year.
Are coffee grounds good for aloe vera plants?
No, coffee grounds should never be used as fertilizer for aloe vera plants, because coffee grounds are acidic. That can lead to the roots dying as aloe vera plants do best in neutral soil, and not acidic soil.
Can you eat aloe vera plant raw?
You cannot eat aloe vera plants raw, because it is poisonous if ingested. But you can use the aloe vera gel on cuts and scrapes as a relief cream. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Are aloe vera plants dangerous?
Aloe vera is a medicinal plant if applied topically, but it is dangerous if ingested by humans, cats, and dogs. In those instances, the person usually vomits up the contents of their stomach within 24 hours. There are other more common side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Can you use aloe vera straight from the plant?
Yes, you can take aloe vera directly from the plant. There’s no need to process them or anything else. Just remember to wash your hands after handling the plant, so you don’t accidentally ingest some of the poison later.