Succulents are wildly popular right now, and one of the most common succulents is aloe vera.
You’ve probably seen this plant before in homes, restaurants, and even growing outside in areas with mild climates like southern California.
Aloe is actually a very useful plant! The juice is very nutritious and the gooey gel inside the leaves is excellent for soothing mild burns and other skin irritations. For this reason, it goes by many other names like the Burn Plant and Miracle Plant.
Some varieties can actually grow pretty large in a pot or in the ground. Here’s how to grow aloe vera in an indoor or outdoor pot.
How to Care for an Aloe Plant
Like all succulents, aloe plants need lots of bright sunlight.
If you’re growing the plant inside, you can stick it right in a window that faces east, south, or west.
If you’re growing the plant outdoors, make sure it gets about 3 hours of direct sun each day with a little shade the rest of the time. It can actually get sun stressed in really hot climates with low humidity, so just make sure it gets shade sometimes.
The #1 rule of aloe vera (and succulents in general): DO NOT OVERWATER.
In fact, you’re far better off forgetting to water than watering too much. When the soil is completely dry, water the soil thoroughly. Give it a good soak, let the water run out the drainage hole, then leave it alone until it’s nice and dry again. This usually translates to 1-2 weeks during warmer months and 3-4 weeks or longer in cooler months.
Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can take out an aloe plant in no time. If you aren’t sure if it’s time to water, just don’t.
Aloe plants don’t like to be too wet, so it’s crucial that your pot and soil drain well. Your pot MUST have drainage holes and the potting mix should be light, coarse, and not hold too much moisture. Cactus soil mix works very well for aloe and all succulents.
Unlike most plants, aloe and other succulents rarely need fertilizer. You may want to fertilize with diluted liquid fertilizer once in the spring when most aloe plants get ready to grow, but leave them alone aside from that. (You can just use a little Indoor Plant Food for their annual dose of fertilizer.)
Temperature and Humidity
Aloe is super hardy and can handle temperatures up to about 85 degrees fahrenheit and very cold temperatures down to nearly freezing. They don’t need much humidity at all, so they should be fine in your home even if you live in a dry climate.
Aloe vera is self-propagating and will produce offshoots called “pups”. One day, you might notice a baby aloe plant growing alongside your main aloe plant!
You can cut the pup from the mother plant with a sharp knife, taking care to leave at least an inch of stem on the offshoot. Place the pup in a warm place with indirect sunlight for 7 days to allow the wound to callous over, then plant it in its own pot with cactus soil.
Now you have a brand new baby aloe plant!
- If the leaves turn yellow and droopy, your aloe plant may be getting too much direct sunlight.
- If the tips of the leaves are dry and crispy, your plant is underwatered (yes, it IS possible to underwater, but that usually takes months of drought.)
- If your plant is turning brown and mushy from the ground up, your plant is overwatered and probably has root rot. Immediately repot your aloe plant into fresh, dry soil and make sure it gets plenty of light. You might also want to trim off affected leaves.
How to Use Fresh Aloe Vera Gel
So how do you use that amazing gel inside?
If your plant is a few years old, you can simply cut a mature leaf from the outer edge of your aloe plant. Cut close to the stem with a sharp, clean knife or shears. You may also want to trim the spines from the edge of the leaf.
You can squeeze some gel out from the bottom or cut the leaf lengthwise to get more out, or you can peel off the skin and cut the interior into cubes. The gel will last several days in the fridge, or you can freeze it for later use.
You can cut 2-3 leaves at once, but don’t harvest more leaves from the same plant for a few weeks.
An Easy, Useful Houseplant
Aloe vera is a great houseplant for beginners! It’s easy to care for and provides a great source of burn ointment in a pinch.
Give it a try if you’re nervous about houseplants!
To learn even more about caring for indoor plants, make sure to watch our Houseplant Resource Webinar!