Aloe Vera Plant Care: How to Grow as a Houseplant


If you’re looking for a majestic houseplant, you really should consider Aloe vera. With their spiky architectural leaves, they make an impression on any room. No wonder they have become so popular on Instagram and Pinterest.

But there’s far more to this plant than simply good looks. They are one of the best plants for purifying the air. Ideal if you’re concerned about the indoor environment you’re living in.

Aloe Vera is also well known for its healing properties. It’s used by many as a first aid treatment for minor skin irritations and burns.

There have also been medical studies demonstrating its active pharmacological effects. These include: antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

detail of aloe vera leaf

Although there’s over 400 species of Aloe vera, the one most commonly raised as a house plant is Aloe vera barbardensis Miller (also called Aloe vera Linne). This has slightly spiky, upright leaves that grow from the base of the plant, in a rosette.

The plant originates from the Arabian Peninsula and is now native to various arid, tropical, and sub-tropical areas including North Africa and Southern Europe.

Light requirements

Aloe vera will thrive in bright, indirect sunlight.

Despite this plant’s origins, it is susceptible to scorching in direct sun. Leaving your plant on a sunny south facing window could lead to this.

Temperature

The ideal temperature for Aloe vera is 50-80oF (10-27oC). This makes them suitable for growing in most homes.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm dry climate, you can consider placing your plants outside in the summer.  Just be mindful of low night-time temperature. When taking them outside, gradually acclimate them to the sun, so that their leaves are not scorched.

aloe vera in a pot

Watering

This is where things most often go wrong for plant lovers! The main thing to remember is these plants originate from arid parts of the world and do not require much watering. Like other succulents, they can retain moisture in their leaves.

Allow the soil to go completely dry between watering. Many people want to know exactly how many days to leave between watering, but it’s difficult to say due to the unique indoor climate of your home. It’s likely to be between 2-4 weeks but you’ll need to adapt to the individual needs of your plant.

In the winter you can double the time between watering, so it could be anything between 4-8 weeks.

When you water, do so generously and allow the excess to escape through the pot drainage holes. Throw this away, as you don’t want your plant sitting in water.  Prolonged wet soil can lead to root rot.

If in doubt, err on the side of underwatering rather than overwatering. It’s quite easy to revive an underwatered plant. However, overwatering is one of the commonest ways to kill an Aloe vera.

Soil

Aloe vera need a good draining soil. A specialist cactus/succulent mix is ideal, and these can readily be bought.

You don’t need to put gravel in the base of the pot – this only takes up valuable space that the roots could use and makes repotting more difficult.

Special Requirements

Aloe vera plants can survive without fertilizer.  If you choose to fertilize, you can add a half strength liquid fertiliser, once or twice per year between spring and autumn.

Propagating

Mature Aloe vera produce ‘babies’ that can be raised into plants.  More correctly called ‘pups’ or plantlets, these offsets can be potted up and given away to friends.

aloe vera pups (baby plants)

Remove the plant from its pot and the carefully cut the ‘pup’ from the parent plant using pruning shears or a sharp knife. Tease the roots apart.

Keep the young plantlet out of soil for a few days, to allow a callous form over the cut.  This will reduce the risk of infection.  Pot in a cactus/succulent mix soil and wait a week before watering.

Pests / Problems

The main problems that are encountered with this plant are due to overwatering. Problems can include rot root, leaf rot.

Toxicity

Although they are a medicinal plant to humans, they are mildly to moderately toxic to cats and dogs.

Symptoms include, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.

Questions

What are the signs of overwatering an Aloe Vera?

The leaves may wilt and become darkened. Brownish spots may also appear on the leaves due to excessive water being absorbed. The leaf cells can then burst leading to a mushy mess.

Can you save an overwatered Aloe vera?

This will depend on how severely damaged it has become.  You can try to revive by repotting in well-draining soil (such as a cactus/succulent mix). While doing this, trim off any roots that have gone rotten or soft. Leave for a period before watering.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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