Aloe vera is a common houseplant that is known for the soothing gel in its leaves.
This gel can be used to treat sunburns and other skin problems. This tropical succulent comes in more than 300 species, with Aloe barbadensis Miller being the most common.
It has fleshy, lance-shaped leaves with jagged edges that grow from a rosette at the base of the plant. Under the right conditions, yellow, red, or orange flowers will grow on the tips of the stalks.
Young plants don’t usually bloom, and if you grow an aloe as a houseplant, it could take years before you see flower stalks.
This fast-growing succulent will be fully grown in three to four years, at which point it will produce pups that can be replanted or given as gifts to other plant lovers. There’s no need to have a green thumb.
People shouldn’t eat the leaves because they are bad for them. Both dogs and cats should not eat the leaves.
Aloe Vera Care
Aloe vera needs sandy soil or a potting mix for cacti in order to grow in pots. This succulent can be planted in zones 10 through 12 with other plants that need the same care.
Aloe can be part of a xeriscaped border planting or a focal point at the front door if it is put in a pot by itself.
Aloe in a pot looks great on decks and patios, and in an emergency, it can be used to treat burns and bites. Outdoor plants may bloom in late spring or early summer, but indoor plants in pots may not bloom at all.
In any case, the plant has to be very old before it blooms, and even then, it might not bloom every year if the leaves are picked. Aloe needs little water and almost no fertilizer, so it is a great houseplant for people who have never grown plants before.
Aloe should be grown indoors, near a window that gets bright, indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight can burn its thin skin, but not getting enough light can make the plant grow tall and weak, which makes the leaves wrinkle.
Aloe vera grows naturally on sandy slopes with poor soil that drains well. For good drainage, use a cactus potting medium or regular potting soil mixed with perlite and coarse sand in a pot.
Aloe grows best in slightly acidic soil with a pH of about 6.0, but it is very adaptable and may also do well in neutral or alkaline soils.
The plant will get better when it is watered, but if it is stressed for a long time, either by being too dry or getting too much water, the leaves may turn yellow and die. Don’t water plants outside when it’s raining.
Aloe vera goes to sleep in the winter and doesn’t need any water, as long as it gets enough water during its growing season. If your area stays wet all winter, consider planting aloe in gravel or stones.This will let the water run off and keep the wood from getting rotten.
Temperature and Humidity
Aloe grows best in dry, tropical, and semitropical areas, so making it feel like it is in these places will help it do well. Aim for a temperature between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be reached indoors most of the time.
Don’t keep your container plant outside if the nights are going to get below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Aloe can’t handle the cold, but a few mountain varieties can sometimes handle temperatures close to freezing.
Aloe can endure dry air just fine and does not require extra humidity. It’s great that the relative humidity is 40%.
Still, giving aloe in a pot food once a year, in the spring, may help it keep growing well. For a once-a-year feeding, a liquid 10-40-10 fertilizer that has been diluted to half strength works best. Aloe usually grows well outside without any fertilizer.
Types of Aloe Vera
There are more than 500 kinds of aloe, but not all of them can be grown in your yard or house. Some have thorny leaves, others trail and climb, and still others look like balls.
Here are a few of my favorite plants for gardeners:
- Aloe polyphylla, or “spiral aloe,” is a captivating succulent that grows in a spiral and bears orange flowers. This large, egg-shaped plant (20 to 24 inches round) hugs the ground and features gray-green leaves with purple tips.
- The mid-sized Aloe aculeata (3 feet tall and wide when mature) grows thick, broad leaves with teeth, or thorns, on both sides. This variety features yellow or orange flowers and can be found growing naturally in rocky areas and in the grasslands of Africa between 1500 and 5600 feet.
- Aloe ciliaris, also known as “climbing aloe,” is a succulent vine with stems that can grow up to 30 feet long. It bears bright orange tubular flowers near the terminal ends of the leaves, and is sometimes planted in drought-stricken landscapes as a fire block.
- Aloe brevifolia, or “short-leaf aloe,” is round in shape with thick, triangular leaves that have a bluish hue and orange tips. This variety grows less than a foot tall, but its golden rosettes make it a popular landscape addition.
Aloe vera only needs to be trimmed if the leaves are dead and brown. You can also cut back plants that have been hurt by the environment. If the tips of the outside leaves on your aloe vera plant turn brown, you should also cut them back.
To do this, take a clean pair of garden shears and cut off either just the affected tip or the whole leaf at its base. By cutting off dead or living leaves at the plant’s base, new growth will be encouraged, and the plant will look better. Never cut through the middle of an aloe leaf.
Propagating Aloe Vera
Here’s how to make new aloe vera plants from pups:
- Gather gloves, a trowel, a pot, and a cactus potting medium.
- Put on your gloves and fill the pot with potting mix.
- Locate the pups at the base of the mother plant. Using a trowel, pry up a pup and sever the taproot that connects it to the mother. (Some pups may have more extensive root systems than others. Some may have no roots at all. All will grow fine, either way.)
- Lay the pup flat and dry it in a sunny window for a few days to allow any broken cuts to callus over.
- Plant the pup in the pot, taking care to cover any roots. Backfill the soil just below the main crown (where the leaves fan out).
- Water the plant and place it in a sunny window. It may take three to four months to grow roots. Be patient.
How to Grow Aloe Vera From Seed
Aloe is often grown from plant starts instead of seeds because they are cheaper and easier to find. Also, most aloe plants don’t bloom or make seeds that can grow until they are at least four years old.
Still, if you want to grow aloe from seeds, you need to collect the seeds from spent flowers first. Next, mix peat and sand together and put them in a tray. Spread the seeds out, lightly cover them with the medium, and give them just enough water to make them moist.
Mist the medium to keep it moist, and place the tray in a bright light with a constant temperature of 75 °F (a heat source may be required for this).
In two to four weeks, the seeds should start to grow. Young plants should be kept warm until they have four leaves. At that point, they can be moved to a new spot on their own.
Potting and Repotting Aloe Vera
The roots of aloe vera are shallow and spread out, and they like to grow close to the surface. As the plant grows and needs to be repotted, it is best to move it to a wider pot instead of a deeper one.
Take the pups from their mother by pulling or cutting them off, let them dry out, and then plant them on their own.
Fill a wider container with a medium for cactus soil. Change the mother’s pot so that all of its roots are covered and the soil line touches the main crown just below it. Water all of the plants well, and wait until the soil is completely dry before watering again.
If you live in a cold area, you should grow aloe vera in pots and bring them inside for the winter. During their dormant phase, plants that are in their hardiness zones can be left in the ground without watering.
If an unexpected frost is coming, cover your aloe plants with sheets or blankets to keep them warm until the threat of frost has passed.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Mealybugs, aloe scale, and aloe mites can all attack aloe vera. Mealybugs gather around the base of the plant, where they release a sticky substance that gives mold a place to grow.
Scale rarely kills a plant, but it makes the leaves look ugly with their grey ridges. Mites might not be seen until they eat enough to cause cancerous galls to grow.
Spray the plant with water, and then use a soft cloth to wipe off the mealybugs. Scale can be removed by mixing 1 tablespoon of insecticidal soap, 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol, and 1 cup of water together.
This solution should be sprayed on leaves with scales every three days for 14 days. For mites, cut away the damaged parts of the plant to keep it and any other plants nearby safe.
This illness usually goes away on its own and doesn’t need treatment. Soft rot, which is caused by bacteria and is fatal, can also spread. There is no treatment for this, but you can keep it from happening by not overwatering.
How to Get Aloe Vera to Bloom
Aloe has flowers on strong stems that can grow up to three feet tall. Red-hot poker plants have clusters of tubular blooms that are yellow or orange. Aloe vera, on the other hand, is a fussy bloomer.
In fact, an aloe vera plant in a pot kept inside may never bloom, even when it is four years old and fully grown. To try to make a plant bloom, you need to make it as dry as it is where it comes from.
The best way to get your plant to flower is to give it bright light, mild temperatures, and moderate but infrequent waterings. In the summer, you can put potted plants outside so they are more likely to bloom.
Still, even if all the conditions are right, your aloe vera plant may only send up one stalk and bloom once a month, even if all the other conditions are right.
Common Problems With Aloe Vera
Bacteria or fungi can spread more quickly when roots are rotting, which can weaken the plant’s core. Root rot and decay can’t be fixed when they are at their worst.
People have also seen aloe leaves bend and break. This means that your plant isn’t getting enough light to grow leaves that are stiff and healthy. To fix this, move your plant to a brighter spot or use a fluorescent light to add to the light from the sun.
How long do aloe vera plants live?
Aloe plants can live up to 12 years if they get enough care and are in the right place. Surprisingly, plants can live outside for up to 20 years if the environment is the same as their natural habitat.
Is aloe vera a cactus?
Some types of aloe have leaves that are sharp, which makes some gardeners think this plant is a cactus. But aloe is a type of succulent that has its own group of plants called aloe.