If you’re looking for a great “first houseplant,” it’s hard to beat an aloe vera plant.
Aloe vera plants are easy to care for, beautiful to look at, and provide a resource that can be used in many ways. Let’s dive into the specifics of aloe vera plant care!
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What is Aloe Vera?
The aloe vera plant (sometimes known as aloe barbadensis)is a succulent plant that originally grew in the Arabian Peninsula. It now grows wild in warm climates around the world, and has become extremely popular as an indoor plant.
Aloe vera plants have long, green, fleshy leaves with small spikes on the end. They tend to grow upward and outward, and get both taller and wider as they grow.
Aloe vera plants don’t just look great in your home, they also have health benefits. The aloe vera gel contained inside the aloe leaf has medicinal properties, and can be used topically to promote the healing of a cut, a minor burn, or other skin irritation.
Why Grow Aloe Vera Plants?
Aloe vera plants make ideal houseplants, especially for beginners. They are hardy, they do well in pots, and they don’t require much water. They are also very easy to propagate, which means you can easily grow new aloe vera plants from an existing healthy plant. Growing aloe vera is easy and very rewarding.
Sun, Water, and Soil
Overall, aloe vera plants are very easy to grow. However, to keep your aloe plant looking its best, you’ll want to give it the optimal sunlight, moisture level, and soil type. When you get this combination right, your aloe vera plant will thrive!
How much light does an aloe vera plant need?
You might think that because aloe vera is a succulent it needs direct sunlight, but that’s not the case. Direct sun will actually damage your aloe plant.
Indoor aloe vera plants do best in indirect sunlight. While too much light can burn the leaves, too little light leaves them looking thin and stringy. Placing your aloe plant near a window or natural light source is your best option for success.
If you don’t have much sunlight in your home, a grow light can be a great option. This is the grow light I use, but if you’re looking to save money, these bulbs do a great job and can be used in any standard lamp.
How often should I water my aloe plant?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your aloe vera plant is overwatering. Overwatering can cause root rot, and that rot will eventually spread to the rest of your plant.
You should water your aloe plant only when the soil is completely dry. To test this, you can press your finger into its soil, about 1 to 1.5 inches deep. If the soil is dry that far down, it’s safe to water your aloe plant. Rather not get your fingers dirty? A soil moisture gauge can help you determine if your aloe is dry enough for watering.
In the winter, aloe vera plants go dormant and require much less water than they do in the spring and summer. You may only need to water your aloe 1 or 2 times during the winter season.
Fertilizer is not a requirement for aloe plants, but if you do want to fertilize, use a liquid plant food for succulents once in the spring, and avoid fertilizing in the winter while the plant is dormant.
What type of soil does an aloe vera plant need?
Aloe vera plants thrive in well-draining potting soil that doesn’t hold too much water. I recommend using a pre-made cactus and succulent soil potting mix blend for planting or repotting aloe.
If you decide to repot your aloe plant, make sure to use a pot with the proper drainage holes. You want to have space for excess water to run out of your pot; otherwise it will leave your soil too moist and cause rotting, a common problem for aloe plants.
Aloe Vera Plants and Insects
If you keep your aloe plant indoors, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about insects or pests. However, occasionally scale or mealybugs can creep in. Thankfully, these pests are easy to treat.
To get rid of mealybugs or scale, simply use a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. Rub your cotton swab gently on the affected area, and you should see those pests disappear quickly.
Other options for treating pests on houseplants include neem oil and insecticidal soap.
It is rare, but you may also find mushrooms growing in the pot of your aloe vera plant. There are several ways to treat mushrooms growing in houseplants, including changing the soil or treating the plant with fungicide.
Aloe Vera Plant Tips and Tricks
Is something looking not quite right with your aloe vera plant? Here are some hints that might help you figure out the problem.
Mushy brown leaves
If your aloe plant has mushy brown leaves, that’s a sign that you’re overwatering. Too much water will make your aloe plant mushy.
To correct this issue, trim off mushy leaves at the stem, and slow down your watering pace – try watering once every 14 days if it’s spring or summer, and once a month if it’s winter.
Dry brown leaves
Believe it or not, you really can water an aloe vera plant too little. If your aloe plant has crunchy, brown leaves, it needs a drink! Give your plant a good watering, and trim away any dry leaves.
Thin, spindly leaves
Thin, spindly leaves are a sign that your aloe vera plant is not getting enough light. Move your plant nearer to a location where it can get bright indirect sunlight, or consider purchasing a grow light to help your aloe thrive.
How to Propagate an Aloe Vera Plant
One of my favorite features of the aloe vera plant is that it is extremely easy to propagate.
Aloe vera plants will grow new little baby plants (often called pups) around their base. To grow these pups into their own separate plants, simply remove your aloe plant from its pot, remove the excess dirt, and examine the root system. Any pups that have their own root system are ready for propagation!
Once you’ve identified the pups you want to replant, gently loosen and separate your pups from your mother plant. If the pup is still connected to your parent plant, cut it with a sharp knife at the point of connection. This process is tedious and takes time, but you’ll want to move slowly to save those baby roots from damage.
Once you’ve separated everything out, replant your original plant, and then plant your babies. Use a pot with drainage holes and a fast-draining succulent soil, and plant your pups at the same depth as your original plant.
If your pups don’t have many mature roots yet, you might want to dip the existing roots in root hormone before planting.
Aloe Vera and Pets
Aloe vera plants have lots of benefits for humans, but they’re bad news for dogs, cats, and horses. It’s not known exactly what property of aloe plants make them toxic for pets, but no matter the cause, the result is unpleasant for your furry friend.
If your dog ingests an aloe vera plant, you can expect vomiting and gastrointestinal distress.
Where to Buy an Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe vera plants are fairly easy to find; you can usually find one at your local nursery or garden center.
I bought my aloe plant online from Costa Farms (via Amazon). It arrived quickly and came in excellent condition. It has continued to grow and thrive!
Another place with a great selection of aloe plants is Etsy. You can find both pups and fully potted plants on Etsy, and can read reviews of the grower before you buy.
Aloe vera plants are inexpensive, easy to grow, and almost seem to do better the less attention you give them! They are an excellent starter plant for those new to houseplants, and if you follow our tips, you can enjoy your aloe plant for years to come!