How to grow and care for aloe plants

An aloe vera plant in a green pot
Water only once the soil has dried out. izzetugutmen/Getty Images

The beloved aloe vera plant has long been known for its versatile, medicinal properties. Many keep an aloe around to soothe sunburns and cuts, but it also makes for a great indoor and outdoor succulent. Aloe vera, like most succulents, is relatively low maintenance and with the proper care can last for several years.

Kierslyn Kujawa, plant expert and founder of Planted in Pots, shares her best tips on how to care for your aloe vera and how it can care for you, too.

Aloe vera at a glance

Botanical name Aloe barbadensis miller (Liliaceae family)
Commonly known as Aloe vera
Hardiness zones 8-11
Toxic to pets Yes
Watering frequency Allow soil to dry out completely before watering thoroughly
Soil type Succulent mix
Light exposure Full sunlight; bright, indirect sunlight

Identifying aloe vera

Several aloe plants planted very close to one another
Aloe’s spiky stalks are its telltale characteristic. cgdeaw/Getty Images

“There are over 300 different aloe varieties!” says Kujawa. “The best way to identify your aloe is by the stems, shape, size, growth patterns, and the bloom if you see one.”

Aloe vera (or “true aloe”) is the most common variety and the one you’re likely most familiar with. It’s identified by its long, grayish-green plump succulent stems, most with a spiky texture on the edges and white dots on the surface. Many varieties also come in different shades of red and purple, can have shorter leaves, and can have several clumps of stems.

Water

Two aloe plants being watered
Water aloe every few weeks. Sundaemorning/Getty Images

Let the soil dry out. Similar to most succulents, the aloe vera requires infrequent watering. Kujawa recommends, as a rule of thumb, to ensure the soil is completely dry before soaking it thoroughly and making sure the water drains out from the bottom of the pot.

Depending on how much light your aloe gets, this watering schedule would be about every two to three weeks in the spring and summer, and every three to four weeks in the fall and winter.

Soil

Use a succulent mix. A succulent potting mix, usually sandy and chunky and containing perlite or pumice, will work perfectly for your aloe.

Fertilize monthly. Fertilize once a month during the spring and summer using a liquid fertilizer for succulents, following the directions on the label.

Repot infrequently. Aloe vera is a hardy plant that can thrive in quite poor conditions, making it perfect for self-proclaimed black thumbs. As long as you make sure the water properly drains out, your aloe can be repotted every few years and stay in a slightly overcrowded container.

Light and temperature

A potted aloe plant in front of a window with sun streaming in
Aloe likes bright indirect light, but watch out for scorched stems. Kira-Yan/Getty Images

Aloe likes light. Your aloe vera will do best in either artificial light or bright, indirect light for six to eight hours a day. Low light or too much shade will cause your aloe to get leggy and limp.

Aloe vera plants are a great choice to grow both indoors and outdoors. If your aloe is an indoor plant and you’re moving its location, “slowly acclimate it to more sun, don’t just move it directly to full sun all day long,” says Kujawa.

Too much direct sunlight, however, can scorch the stems, turning brown and dry. Aloe vera plants will thrive in temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but remember to never leave your aloe outside at night in cold temperatures.

Common problems

Overwatering: The most common cause of death among all houseplants, including succulents, is overwatering which then causes root rot or fungal and bacterial issues. To avoid this, Kujawa suggests checking on your aloe vera to make sure it’s never sitting in water.

“A chunky, well-draining succulent mix can also help prevent these issues,” says Kujawa.

Underwatering: Keep in mind that while your aloe has infrequent watering needs, water is still essential to its growth. “Ironically, underwatering can also be an issue for aloe,” says Kujawa. “Wrinkling in stems can be a sign that it is time to give it a good drink!”

Diseases and pests: The Aloe vera plant can also suffer from fungus, which appears as small brown or black spots throughout the stems, as well as common houseplant pests like mealybugs. Kujawa recommends keeping an eye on your plant and using sprays to prevent any disease from spreading.

“Using organic disease control sprays like those from Earth’s Ally will be less harmful to your plants than other sprays while still being effective,” says Kujawa.

Propagation

Hands in black gloves repotting aloe vera while baby plants lay next to it
Pups can also be propagated as soon as they. Eleonora Grigorjeva/Getty Images

One of the aloe vera plant’s best qualities is its ease of propagation. If your aloe has been well taken care of, it will reward you with pups – baby plants that sprout up next to the base of the mother plant.

“In order to separate them, wriggle them away from the base of the original plant, while keeping it planted,” says Kujawa. “If the roots are too tangled, remove both plants and gently untangle them before repotting them separately.”

Insider’s takeaway

The aloe vera plant is an easygoing succulent that simply needs a good succulent potting mix, plenty of bright light, and a biweekly soaking. Taking care of your aloe means it can also care for you, given its many home remedy uses.

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