How To Plant aloe vera

General Introduction

The aloe vera plant is an easy, attractive succulent that makes for a great indoor companion. Aloe vera plants are useful, too, as the juice from their leaves can be used to relieve pain from scrapes and burns when applied topically. Here’s how to grow and care for aloe vera plants in your home!

Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. The plant is stemless or very short-stemmed with thick, greenish, fleshy leaves that fan out from the plant’s central stem. The margin of the leaf is serrated with small teeth. 

Before you buy an aloe, note that you’ll need a location that offers bright, indirect sunlight (or, artificial sunlight). However, the plant doesn’t appreciate sustained direct sunlight, as this tends to dry out the plant too much and turn its leaves yellow.

Keep the aloe vera plant in a pot near a kitchen window for periodic use but avoid having the sun’s rays hit it directly.

Please note: The gel from aloe vera leaves can be used topically, but should not be ingested by people or pets. It can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea or indigestion and may even be toxic in larger quantities.

Planting

  • It’s important to chose the right type of planter. A pot made from terra-cotta or a similarly porous material is recommended, as it will allow the soil to dry thoroughly between waterings and will also be heavy enough to keep the plant from tipping over. A plastic or glazed pot may also be used, though these will hold more moisture.
  • When choosing a container, be sure to pick one that has at least one drainage hole in the bottom. This is key, as the hole will allow excess water to drain out.
  • Select a container that’s about as wide as it is deep. If your aloe plant has a stem, choose a container that is deep enough for you to plant the entire stem under the soil.
  • Aloe vera plants are succulents, so use a well-draining potting mix, such as those made for cacti and succulents. Do not use soil. A good mix should contain perlite, lava rock, coarse sand, or all three. Aloe vera plants are hardy, but a lack of proper drainage can cause rot and wilting, which is easily the most common cause of death for this plant.
  • A layer of gravel, clay balls, or any other “drainage” material in the bottom of the pot is not necessary. This only takes up space that the roots could otherwise be using. A drainage hole is drainage enough!
  • (Optional) To encourage your aloe to put out new roots after planting, dust the stem of the plant with a rooting hormone powder. Rooting hormone can be found at a local garden center or hardware store, or online.
  • If your plant has any pups, remove them now. (See the “Care” section of this page for instructions on removing and potting pups.) 
  • If your plant has a very long, spindly stem that won’t fit in the pot, it is possible to trim the stem off partially. Note that this is risky and could kill the plant. To trim the stem: Cut off part of the stem, leaving as much as possible on the plant. Next, take the bare plant and place it in a warm area that gets indirect light. After several days, a callous will form over the wound. At this point, continue with the repotting instructions below.

Care

  • Place in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. Aloe that are kept in low light often grow leggy.
  • Aloe vera do best in temperatures between 55 and 80°F (13 and 27°C). The temperatures of most homes and apartment are ideal. From May to September, you can bring your plant outdoors without any problems, but do bring it back inside in the evening if nights are cold.
  • Water aloe vera plants deeply, but infrequently. To discourage rot, allow the soil to dry at least 1 to 2 inches deep between waterings. Don’t let your plant sit in water.
  • Water about every 3 weeks and even more sparingly during the winter. Use your finger to test dryness before watering. If the potting mix stays wet, the plants’ roots can begin to rot.
  • Fertilize sparingly (no more than once a month), and only in the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant formula mixed at ½ strength.
  • Repot when root bound, following the instructions given in “Planting,” above. 
  • Provide it with as much light as possible, especially during spring and summer. Aloes can be kept outdoors in full sun during the summer, when temperatures are above 70°F (21°C). If nighttime temps threaten to drop below 60°​​​​​​​F (16°​​​​​​​C), bring the aloe inside. Note: Don’t move your aloe from indoors to full sun right away; it needs time to adjust to the intense light or it may sunburn. Allow it to sit in partial shade for about a week before moving it to a brighter location.
  • Note: Don’t move your aloe from indoors to full sun right away; it needs time to adjust to the intense light or it may sunburn. Allow it to sit in partial shade for about a week before moving it to a brighter location.
  • Make sure the plant is getting the right amount of water—enough to keep it from drying out completely, but not enough to drown it! If the plant’s being kept outdoors, make sure that it’s not getting consistently soaked by summer rains.
  • Give your aloe a proper dormancy period in the fall and winter. Aloe tend to bloom in late winter or early spring, so giving them a period of rest consisting of less frequent watering and cooler temperatures may encourage them to flower.
  • Don’t be surprised if it still doesn’t flower. Despite our best efforts, indoor conditions just aren’t ideal for most aloes, so don’t be surprised if yours simply refuses to bloom!

Pests/Diseases

  • Root rot
  • Soft rot
  • Fungal stem rot
  • Leaf rot

Recommended Varieties

  • Tiger or Partridge-Breasted Aloe (Aloe variegata) – A compact aloe characterized by short, smooth leaves with uneven white stripes.
  • Lace Aloe (Aloe aristata) – A small plant with white-spotted, finely sawtoothed leaves.
  • Blue Aloe (Aloe glauca) – A larger aloe species with silver-blue leaves.

Wit & Wisdom

  • Aloe vera will decorate a kitchen shelf with quiet grace while doing double duty as a self-regenerating first-aid kit. Read more about the natural health benefits of aloe vera.
  • One of aloe’s most famous uses is to soothe sunburnt skin, and it can be also used for cold sores.

How To Plant aloe vera

Botanical NameAloe vera
Plant TypeHouseplant
Sun ExposureFull Sun, Part Sun
Soil TypeSandy
Soil pHNeutral
Bloom TimeSummer
Flower ColorOrange, Pink, Red, Yellow
Hardiness Zones10, 11
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