Growing Aloe Vera Plants At Home
Aloe vera plants are attractive, relatively easy to grow, and have a wide range of uses, making them one of the most popular house plants out there. People love growing Aloe Vera plants for their health benefits, ranging from soothing sunburn to supporting the digestive system as a dietary supplement. With long, bright green leaves, aloe vera plans also look great and can add some vibrant color to your garden or home.
Even if you aren’t blessed with a green thumb, you should be able to grow aloe vera without a problem. The guide below covers everything from what kind of potting soil you should use to how often you should water your aloe vera plant. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll have an attractive and useful aloe vera plant for a long time!
What Kind of Plant is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a succulent that grows natively in tropical climates, such as North Africa and Sudan. Today, the plant grows widely in temperate areas such as Australia, Mexico, and the southern U.S., as well as in households all over the world. As a succulent, aloe vera can survive with minimal water, making it a hardy plant.
There are a few varieties of aloe vera, but the most common (which you’ll be most likely to find in a gardening shop) is known as spotted aloe vera or Aloe vera chinensis. This species has long, thick green leaves with small white spots and prickly edges. The thick leaves can be broken off and squeezed to produce the gel that the plant is well known for. You can harvest your own Aloe Vera gel to make your own products.
Where and How to Grow Aloe Vera Plants
Aloe vera plants can be successfully grown indoors or outdoors, but they need plenty of sunlight and are sensitive to frost. If you are growing aloe vera indoors, you should place it in a west- or south-facing window so that it gets plenty of light. If you grow it outdoors, you should plant it in a pot that you can bring inside during cold weather. Otherwise, you should cover the plant with a tarp during frosts. Because the plant consists largely of water, it is highly susceptible to frosts.
Soil and Pot to Use for Growing Aloe Vera plants
As a succulent, aloe vera does best in a dry, fast-draining soil. Look for soil mixes that are marketed for cacti or succulents. Alternatively, you can add perlite to regular potting soil.
You should also make sure you choose a pot with sufficient drainage at the bottom. If the soil cannot get dry between watering, your plant will not do well. Aloe vera’s root system spreads out horizontally, so you should choose a pot that is wide rather than deep. If you are planting multiple plants, leave a few inches between them to give them room to grow.
The Right Light Conditions
Aloe vera plants originated in tropical regions, so they need plenty of sunlight. Make sure that it’s placed in a window that gets plenty of light if indoors, or in a sunny spot outdoors. If you don’t have enough light inside, you can use an artificial plant light to supplement the natural sunlight. Your plant will grow towards the light, so you may want to rotate it periodically to keep the leaves straight and upright.
Watering Your Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe vera is made to survive with little water, so you have to be careful not to over-water your plant. You’ll need to water your aloe vera plant roughly once a week, but the timing will depend on a number of factors, such as the season, the amount of sunlight, the size of your plant, and how dry your air is. The best way to tell when to water your plant is to feel the soil. Stick your finger down into the soil. If it feels wet or moist, you can wait a little longer. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water again. Water thoroughly so that the soil is soaked. When you start to hear water coming out of the drainage hole, you can stop. Then let the soil dry out before watering again.
You can also use the leaves to judge whether your plant needs water. The leaves will feel moist and cool when they have enough water stored inside. If they start to feel thin and brittle, they need water. During the winter, aloe vera plants become dormant and grow more slowly, and they need less water accordingly. You’ll probably need to water every two weeks rather than every week. Again, use the touch test to judge whether your plant needs water. Be careful of overwatering, as that can lead to root rot or fungus. If in doubt, wait to water.
Should You Use Fertilizer?
Aloe vera plants are pretty self sufficient and don’t really need to be fertilized. If you want to give your plant a little extra boost, however, fertilizing once a year in the spring is plenty. You should use a phosphorus fertilizer, but dilute it to half strength.
Warning Signs and Common Problems
Like all plants, aloe vera has its potential problems. Luckily, you can usually spot warning signs and fix the situation before the plant dies. If you notice that the leaves are turning brown around the edges, it’s probably getting too much sunlight. Move it somewhere where it gets more indirect light than direct, or where it is partially shaded.
Conversely, if your plant stops growing or the leaves are drooping, it probably needs more sunlight. If you notice the leaves curling inwards and feeling brittle, they may not be getting enough water. If you see signs of fungus or root rot, however, you may be watering too much.
If your plant is wilting or you notice soft roots, rot may be your problem. If it is in the beginning stages, you can likely fix the problem by watering less often. If the rot is more advanced, though (you may notice a bad smell and soft leaves), you’ll probably need to repot the plant in fresh, dry soil. You should also cut off any rotten roots. Another common problem for aloe vera plants is mealybugs, flat brown bugs that will suck the gel out of your aloe vera leaves.
If you notice these little bugs, you can buy a natural pesticide from your local garden store. That should protect your aloe vera plant and keep it growing healthily.
If you follow these steps for growing Aloe Vera, you’ll have a beautiful and useful aloe vera plant to add to your home or garden!