Whether you grow it for its healing properties or simply to add a little green to your home: Caring for an Aloe vera plant is super easy, even if you’re a beginner, and it’s a great succulent to grow indoors.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about caring for an Aloe vera plant and growing this succulent in your own home!
|Name(s) (common, scientific)||Aloe barbadensis, Aloe, Aloë, Barbados Aloe, Aloe vera|
|Lighting||Bright and sunny|
|Water||When completely dry|
Aloe vera natural habitat
This succulent species is a member of the genus Aloe, which contains more than 550 species. Aloe vera specifically is naturally found on the Arabic peninsula, specifically North-Eastern Oman, where it grows as an evergreen perennial.
This being said, Aloe vera has become naturalized in many areas throughout the world. It’s hardy and can adapt to a wide range of tropical regions! As such, you can now find it growing in the wild in such places as Northern Africa, the Canary Islands and mainland Spain, Portugal and its islands and even parts of Asia.
Caring for an Aloe vera plant: Light & temperature
Like most other succulents, Aloe vera is adapted to environments with very bright lighting. In your home, it will do best in a nice sunny spot where it can soak up plenty of light.
This being said, your Aloe vera will also survive and even grow in slightly darker locations – it’ll just be slower to increase in size. Don’t believe the many articles out there that claim this plant can grow in the dark, though. Even if there’s no direct sunlight, your Aloe will still need at least bright indirect light.
Wild variations of Aloe vera naturally occur in warm climates. While this plant can actually take a bit of a chill, it hasn’t evolved to withstand temperatures below zero. This means you can grow it outside for much of the year, but you’ll have to bring it inside when things are expected to drop below 41 °F/5 °C.
During summertime, don’t worry too much about your Aloe vera. It can survive pretty high temperatures and plenty of sun as long as the change isn’t too sudden. Don’t be spooked if the plant turns a brownish color. Many succulents adapt to receiving a lot of sun by changing hue. This is referred to as stress coloration, but it’s not dangerous.
If your Aloe’s leaves are turning really brown and seem to be crisping up, do move it to a more shaded spot. This is potentially fatal sunburn.
Based on the previous, the ideal location for your Aloe vera is outside during summer and on a brightly lit windowsill the rest of the year.
Be sure to shelter the plant from excessive rain if you live in a wet climate. It will be pretty thirsty outside when it’s warm and sunny, but it does need to dry out between waterings. This especially applies during the cooler months.
How to plant an Aloe vera
A very important factor to keep in mind while growing all types of succulents, including caring for an Aloe vera plant, is soil. These plants are adapted to drought and their roots aren’t able to handle being in moist soil for extended periods of time. This means you’ll need a well-draining soil type for the best results.
A good basic soil mix for Aloe vera consists of 50% potting soil without peat and 50% gritty material like perlite. You can mix your own with these two components or just buy your mix online.
Did you know? Although Aloe vera has been in use for its medicinal properties for hundreds of years, scientific studies are still lacking. We really don’t know that much about how efficient it is and why!Surjushe, Vasani, & Saple, 2008; Hamman, 2008
In addition to well-draining soil, you’ll need a well-draining planter for your Aloe vera so excess water can actually drain. This means any pot your grow an Aloe in should always have at least one draining hole at the bottom.
It might be a while before this is of any concern if your Aloe vera is still tiny, but still: remember that an adult succulent is very heavy. Its water-filled leaves might be heavier than the pot you are using, causing it to topple over. For large Aloes, always use a heavy pot to prevent accidents. A wider, round cactus planter might also be a good option.
Looking for more info on planting succulents? Have a look at the full succulent planting guide.
Caring for an Aloe vera plant: Watering
The most important cause of death of all popular succulent houseplants is probably overwatering. What many houseplant enthusiasts don’t realize is that succulent soil should be left to dry out entirely before watering again. Additionally, many aren’t aware that watering needs vary with the amount of light, temperature and the seasons.
Because of the above, we can’t tell you exactly when or how much to water your Aloe vera. All that can be said is that the plant’s soil should be dry before you water it, which usually takes around two weeks during summer. Outdoors it might be less than a week, while during winter you might need to water only once a month or even less.
Need more information on watering succulents like Aloe vera? Have a look at the full succulent watering guide.
Caring for an Aloe vera plant: Fertilizer
If your Aloe vera is healthy and well-established, it will appreciate the occasional bit of fertilizer. When I say occasional I mean occasional: most Aloe growers only fertilize once or twice a year. The best time to do so is when the plant is actively growing during summertime.
Use a special cactus fertilizer for the best results or go for a diluted regular houseplant food.
Aloe vera propagation
Propagating Aloe vera is easy as pie and Aloe babies make perfect little gifts. The plant will actually do most of the work for you! Healthy Aloes will produce pups at their base. These can be separated by slicing the root connecting them to the mother plant with a clean knife and simply potting them up in their own planters.
Water sparingly until the plant is established and voilà, you’ve just multiplied your Aloe vera.
You can find more info in the full article on propagating Aloe!
Problems with Aloe vera
- Aloe vera leaves turning brown. If the leaves of your Aloe vera are changing color to a brownish or purplish hue but don’t seem soft, it’s probably stress coloration. Is the plant outdoors or receiving lots of sun?
Stress coloration in itself is nothing to worry about, but you’re in the danger zone if the leaves start to appear crispy.
- Black spots on Aloe vera leaves. Seeing black spots on the leaves of your Aloe vera, especially at the base? Review your watering schedule. You’re likely overwatering, which can be fatal to the plant eventually!
The symptoms of overwatering can also occur due to a lack of drainage or if there is not enough light and the plant can’t process the water you’re giving it.
- Aloe vera leaves feel soft. Seeing some droop going on? Your Aloe vera might be rotting, which can quickly become fatal if you don’t take action.
Rot can spread and infect the entire plant, so all you can do at this point is cut off all the affected parts and hope that ends the problem. Additionally, have a look at the care you’re providing, because something is going wrong somewhere. Does the plant sit in water for too long? Take action accordingly.
Buying Aloe vera
Buying Aloe vera
Aloe vera is arguably one of the most popular houseplants around for its medicinal properties and pretty much any plant store or garden center will likely sell it.
Keep an eye out for low quality plants at local stores. They might have been there for a while, sometimes overwatered and not receiving much light. Buying Aloe vera online often works better, as many are fresh from the nursery and therefore still in good shape.
Is Aloe vera toxic to cats and dogs?
Although Aloe vera gel should be safe to pets, other parts of the plant can cause problems. The outer layer of the leaves contains a latex with laxative properties. This means that if your cat or dog chews on an Aloe vera leaf, it might experience tummy aches and diarrhea, which can cause a problem if dehydration occurs.
All in all, it’s best to keep this plant away from curious pets!
If you’d like to know more about how to care for an Aloe vera plant or want to share your own experiences with this succulent, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!