Aloe is a popular plant, and it’s unique in that it effortlessly toes the line between decorative houseplant and home remedy. Fleshy foliage contains a soothing gel that makes an excellent salve for scraps and burns. Aloe is a tropical succulent initially found in Africa, Madagascar, and the Arabian Peninsula; however, you can now find aloe worldwide and in the plant section of most grocery stores. Most people are familiar with aloe vera, but this plant is from a big family, and there are over 300 species of aloe plants. Whether you love aloe for its spiky good looks or if you like the peace of mind of keeping this plant around, here is what you need to know about aloe plant care.
Types of Aloe Plant
Aloe plants come in many shapes and sizes, but they all fit the same general description. Lance-shaped leaves grow as basal rosettes, meaning the low-laying foliage grows from a central stem. The foliage is green and often has creamy white spots or variegation. The foliage of aloe vera, the most common type of aloe available, has a rounded exterior and flat inner sides. The edge where the leaf transitions from rounded to flat often have a toothed, jagged appearance. Some of the more well-known aloe plant varieties include:
- Aloe vera
- Aloe arborescens
- Aloe aristata
- Aloe polyphylla
- Aloe ferox
- Aloe variegata
- Aloe plicatilis
Aloe Plant Light Requirements
Aloe plants grown indoors prefer bright, indirect light. Direct light will burn the foliage, so place the plant back a bit from a south-facing window. Aloe plants are fast-growing, so a plant that receives plenty of light will quickly push out new growth. These beauties can handle medium light but avoid low light. Plants grown in low light will become leggy, and the foliage may flop over instead of standing upright.
How Often to Water Aloe Plant
Watering is the part of aloe plant care that is the most challenging. Watering aloe plants is not hard, but it often feels like neglect. Wait until the soil is dry throughout the pot before watering aloe plants. This succulent absolutely needs dry conditions, and too much water will damage the roots. Plants grown in bright sunlight will need water more often since the warmth of the light will dry out the soil.
Aloe plants typically go dormant during the winter. Dormant plants need less water. Expect to water dormant aloe plants every two weeks, but check the soil and wait until it is dry before watering.
Best Soil for Aloe Plant
Aloe plants need sandy, well-drained soil. Treat your plant right by providing soil with an acidic pH. Most succulent and cacti potting mixes are suitable for aloe plants. If you mix your soil, include perlite to increase drainage. The soil should not retain water because aloe likes dry, arid conditions.
Temperature for Aloe Plant
Warm conditions are best for proper aloe plant care. Generally, as long as your home is comfortable for you, your aloe will be fine. Temperatures between 55° and 85° F are best. Cold temperatures are not good for most cultivars, so if you bring your plant outside during the summer, get it back inside before the air temp dips below 50° F.
Aloe Plant Humidity
Aloe plants need low humidity – about 40% humidity is ideal. These plants can live in average humidity, but high humidity is a no-go. Most aloe hail from dry regions and is just not cut out to deal with humidity. Avoid placing aloe plants in a bathroom, especially if any member of your household tends to take long, steamy showers. This plant is better suited to rooms with lots of sunlight and no running water or dampness.
Aloe Plant Fertilizer
Aloe plants are not heavy feeders. These plants have evolved to live in challenging conditions and have learned to thrive without much nutrition. Fertilizing aloe plants is unnecessary, but you can help your houseplant thrive with a springtime application of 10-40-10 houseplant fertilizer.
Pruning Aloe Plants
Always use sharp, clean shears or a knife to trim your aloe plant. Leaves will yellow and shrivel with age, so trim away dead growth as needed. Brown tips can also be removed as necessary. To remove brown tips, trim the dead growth as low as possible without cutting into healthy growth.
Cut the foliage at the base when removing a damaged leaf or trimming foliage for gel. Trimming leaves at the bottom will promote new growth so that the plant will replace the removed leaf. Avoid cutting a leaf in the center. The cut end will callous over, but the plant will not push out new growth.
When to Repot Aloe Plants
Aloe plants typically need to be repotted every few years. Plan to repot every two to five years, depending on your plant. If the plant is crowded with offshoots or pups, it is time to repot. Slowed growth is another sign that your aloe plant is ready for a bigger home.
Aloe plants have a shallow root system, so this plant prefers a wide and shallow pot instead of a deep and narrow one. The plant should be upgraded to a larger pot when repotting, but if you divide the plant and remove the pups, you can keep the mother plant in the same pot and relocate the pups to separate pots.
Aloe Plant Propagation
In keeping with their easy-care reputation, aloe plants basically propagate themselves. Mature plants send out offshoots or pups. These offshoots are tiny plants that grow alongside and share a root system with the mother plant. Pups can be removed when they are at least a couple of inches tall. Removing pups when repotting is easiest, so you can get in there and see the roots. Make sure both plants have an adequate root system, and use clean shears or a knife to cut the roots and separate the pup from the mother plant. Leave the new plant out, so the cut roots can callous over. After a few days, the new plant can be potted in its own container. The roots of the mother plant do not need to callous over and can be repotted right away.
Is Aloe Pet Friendly?
Aloe plants are not pet safe and are toxic to both cats and dogs. Keeping an aloe plant around to treat burns can be helpful, but be aware if you have pets. Placing the plant on a high shelf or inaccessible area may be a solution.
Aloe Plant Styling Tips
Aloe is one of those striking plants that does not need much, if any, help with styling. The foliage adds an architectural element to a space. Aloe looks good in terra-cotta or ceramic pots, but the foliage will steal the show from just about any container.
Do Aloe Plants Bloom?
With proper aloe plant care, you can expect this succulent to bloom. Aloe plants bloom during the spring and summer. A tall flower spike emerges from the center of the foliage, and a cluster of flowers known as an inflorescence stands above the leaves. The striking tubular flowers are often red, orange, or yellow.
Mature plants need an environment that closely mimics what the plant would experience in nature to set flowers. Most homes do not provide these conditions. You can encourage your aloe plant to bloom, but you’ll likely have to make an effort and adjust the amount of sunlight the plant receives.
Aloe Plant Care Tips
Aloe is an easy-care houseplant ideal for beginners or forgetful plant owners. The healing properties of the soothing gel also make aloe a welcome addition to most homes. Whatever the reason you have this plant is your home, treat it right by following these aloe plant care basics.