Aloe is very easy to grow. It's a cactus, so it is made to be the SUV of plants. On top of that, it's one of the most complete plants out there, it is must have for all those DIY lovers, you could basically have a skin and hair body routine with only Aloe!
The good thing about Aloe is that you don't really need to be an expert gardener. You forgot to water them? No problem. You forgot to feed them? No problem either! I have un-proudly neglected them for months at a time and look at them, I've run out of pots!
Of course it's always better if you do take care of them, that's why here there are a few easy tips on growing aloe.
Use a wide pot and make sure it has a draining hole. You can lay a few pebbles all across the bottom for better drainage.
The soil also needs to have good drainage. Any kind of all purpose soil is normally fine, but if you want you can buy special soil for cacti or just mix the all purpose soil with disinfected sand.
The good drainage in both the pot and soil is necessary otherwise the roots would rot. But in my opinion, the next tip is more important in order to avoid root problems.
Pot with a layer of volcanic pebbles for better drainage.
Any type of stone or pebble would do.
Water only once the soil is dry. That happens approximately once a week. Just dig with your finger in the soil to check if it's still a bit damp. If it is, wait until it's dry to water again.
Dig a bit with your finger to check if the soil is dry.
Repot the pups once they are about 7" or 15 cm long so they can grow and also let the main plant grow. Try to follow the root of the pup and get as much of it as you can. If it's still very small, the root might be connected with the main plant. Break it and pull it out. Keep the pups indoors for a while so the roots can develop.
Some people use this occasion to pull the whole plant out of the pot, take the pups cleanly with as many roots as they can, and at the same time repot the main Aloe into a bigger pot.
If the pups have grown too much, it may be better to remove everything from the pot to take the pups out.
Fertilizing is not really necessary, but if you want you can do it once a year in spring. Use a liquid fertilizer, follow the instructions on the label.
Aloe Vera is a very tough plant. In the right conditions it will thrive, and in the wrong conditions it will survive, it's a cactus after all!
Here is what you need to know to decide if you should keep it indoors or outdoors:
- It easily handles temperatures up to 35ºC or 95F. If it normally goes over that, place it somewhere so it only gets direct sunlight for a few hours in the morning or in the afternoon.
- It can handle temperatures near freezing, 0ºC or 32F, but if it drops below that the leaves will get the equivalent of frostbite, and the plant might die.
- It can handle short periods of rain, but constant rain over a long period will possibly kill it. If you want to keep it outside anyways, make sure you use more sand in the soil mix so the water drains faster.
Outdoors it may flower (that doesn't affect anything apart from the sight of the beautiful flowers). It grows faster and bigger. If the conditions are right, it's recommendable to keep it outside in a big pot.
Indoors won't flower. It grows slower but if the conditions outside aren't right, keep it inside in a spot with lots of light.
Aloe starting to flower. Don't worry if yours doesn't flower, it depends on many factors, plus it doesn't affect the quality of the Aloe Gel.
Repot once the pups are approximately 15 cm (7'') high.
Direct sunlight or indirect sunlight?
Aloe will do better with direct sunlight, but if you have really hot summers try to place it somewhere with some shade too. Having said that, Aloe Vera will also grow easily with indirect sunlight, so don't worry too much if you can only keep it indoors.
What type of Aloe Vera plant is better?
All Aloe Vera has approximately the same properties. They come in all shapes and sizes, it's up to you to decide if you what type of Aloe Vera you want. The most popular ones are Aloe arborescens and Aloe barbadensis, which are bigger and are thought to have more properties than others. Here's a link to some of the varieties.
Cutting the leaf: Before, during and after.
Before: Make sure you use a clean sharp knife, disinfect the blade with a few drops of rubbing alcohol.
During: Cut the leaf, not too close to the stem. Be careful not to damage the surrounding leaves.
After: Don't do anything, keep the cut clean. In a few days it will heal itself like nothing happened!
How fast should I use the Aloe Vera plant?
Make sure your plant always looks full and cut the bottom leaves, and not the top ones. Cut what you'll use, you'll get better at eyeballing it with experience. If you only need to apply a bit of it to a small burn, cut the tip of the leaf and that will be enough. If you want to make this Aloe Vera Gel, you'll probably need a couple of big leaves.
The leaves look brown, soaked and the tip is bent downwards.
This means the gel froze, partly killing the leaf. Cut the brown part and move the plant indoors or to a more sheltered place.
The leaves don't look succulent and fleshy.
Touch the soil. It's probably really dry. Just water it more, refer to Tip number 2.
The leaves are turning red or brown.
Too much sun. Move them to a more sheltered place.
The plant is just dying, and it's not exposed to extreme temperatures.
The roots are probably rotting due to too much watering. Take the Aloe Vera out of the pot, and trim the rotten roots. Repot the plant, use the adequate soil and pot (refer to Tip 1). Don't water for a week or two.