Immensely popular for its medicinal effects, aloe vera is a popularly grown houseplant. Having it on hand, especially during the summer, for it’s burn healing properties is a clear benefit and a draw for many gardeners. Fortunately, this plant is relatively easy to grow inside your home, and requires minimal care. Here are a few tips to take note of while learning how to grow aloe vera indoors.
Aloe Vera Care Tips
- Aloe is a succulent, so look to provide care consistent with that category of plant.
- There are many aloe varieties. Aloe vera is the most popular, but others are also worth exploring.
- Aloe enjoys lots of sun and warm conditions. Avoid exposing it to cold or drafty locations.
- Overwatering is the biggest issue gardeners face. Water deeply and infrequently.
- Aloe is not a very “hungry” plant and rarely if ever needs to be fertilized.
- Aloe is easy to propagate from offsets.
Choosing an Aloe Plant Type
There are a number of aloe plants, with a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors. In fact, some aloes are flowering plants too and can bring some vibrant colors to your home. Many of these follow similar care guidelines so whichever you end up with the details here should be applicable, so don’t stress too much about this choice.
The most common type of aloe is called aloe barbadensis, also known as aloe vera. This is also one of the most suitable type of aloes to grow indoors (although other smaller varieties grow equally well too). Aloe vera will be the focus of this article, but as noted other varieties require similar care so you can follow along even if you pick a different variety.
Aloe Vera Ideal Growing Climate
Generally, aloe vera plants thrive particularly well when grown indoors. They grow well under warm conditions and do not too well in the cold which is far easier to control inside. What’s more, given the fact that they are predominantly made up of water, these plants are highly susceptible to frosting in very cold conditions which is generally not a concern indoors.
This all combined makes them a great indoor plant, and in certain places outdoor as well. Aloe vera is technically a succulent, so it will require conditions that cacti enjoy like deserts that are bright, hot, and dry. While you won’t be able to perfectly emulate this indoors, you can come close and still grow thriving aloe vera plants.
A key take away here is to ensure that your aloe plant is planted in an area that maintains a steady, warm temperature. Drafty areas such as near air vents or next to windows in the winter can adversely effect the plant. If you are growing the plant outdoors during the summer be absolutely sure to bring it inside well before your first frost date. Frost is extremely dangerous to aloe and will quickly kill the plant.
Choosing the Right Container
Aloe vera is a very versatile plant and be grown in range of different containers or pots depending on your desired size. The minimum size should be roughly a 4″ pot, but you can go all the way up to 12″. The larger the pot, the larger your plant will be.
Choose a pot or container with a lots of drainage holes to promote proper drainage as aloe vera does not grow well under standing water conditions. A standard clay pot is a good choice here as they come in a variety of sizes and are naturally good at expelling excess water. This is critical as most issues with growing aloe vera, and other succulents, is over watering them.
Aloe Vera Soil and Planting
Since aloe vera thrives in dry soil it’s best to use a cactus potting soil mix. You can also add perlite to your regular potting soil to help get make it more habitable for an aloe plant. These types of soil are usually extremely good at draining excess water, which is key to growing healthy aloe plants.
Plant your aloe vera in an upright position while covering its base and root with soil. You might also want to give your plant enough space to grow as the mother plant generally offsets babies from the exterior base. You can take cuttings from these offsets later, we’ll talk more about how below.
Growing from seeds is another option. As usual, you’ll want to start them in moist soil in a warm location. It can take 2-4 weeks for the plant to sprout, at which point you will still want to keep them warm for another 2 weeks. After this, you can move them to their final growing locations. When growing from seeds, the best advice is to simply follow the advice on the packet as this will be tailored to the specific variety.
Aloe Vera Lighting Needs
Aloe vera plants love sun, and need a good amount of it each day to thrive. Look to get 6-8+ hours of bright, direct sunlight for optimal growth. You can also add some additional indirect light to help reach your plant’s lighting needs.
Warmth is also important, so make sure that the chosen area stays warm throughout the day. This is generally not an issue in the summer, can become problematic in the winter. In most cases, we see people moving plants close to drafty windows to maximize sunlight while inadvertently exposing their plant to the cold. Be careful not to do this as aloe responds very poorly to even small amounts of cold weather.
You can also supplement with a grow light as needed. This is especially helpful in colder climates during the winter when sunlight is generally less intense. In most cases, we recommend a 1:1.5 ration, so for every hour of sunlight your plant needs give it roughly 1.5 hours from a quality grow light.
Watering Aloe Vera Plants
Watering is one of the most important steps for aloe vera plant care, and unfortunately an area that many people often mess up. As a cacti like plant, aloe vera likes to be completely soaked, and then left alone to dry out between waterings. You should wait until the soil is completely dry, and then wait even longer before you water the plant.
In most cases, you’ll be watering an aloe plant roughly once every 3 weeks. During the slower growing periods in the winter you can cut that back and water even less. Once a month during the winter is usually more than enough to keep the plant happy. This may seem like too little, but it’s perfectly fine for aloe. If you water it like you do other plants it will quickly die.
Aloe vera is very resilient to drought, and can survive for quite a while without water. That said, it does not do good when overwatered, and sitting in water will quickly kill it. That’s why it’s so important to wait long enough between waterings, and let the soil completely dry out before doing so. Resist the urge to water too often and you’ll have overcome the most challenging part of growing this plant.
Remember, aloe is a succulent, and it needs to be watered like one.
Harvesting Your Aloe Vera Leaves
Wait until your plant reaches maturity before harvesting any leaves will help prevent any long term damage to your plant. You’ll want to only harvest mature leaves as this will allow your aloe plant to replenish itself and continue to grow.
While harvesting, start by selecting mature leaves that are present within the exterior most section of the plant. Cut them close to the base but do not disturb the roots. Also take care to not cut off too many at one time, your plant should still look relatively full when you’re done. This just helps ensure that you don’t cause permanent damage to your plant.
Propagating Aloe Vera
Propagating aloe is fairly easy, and allows you to grow new aloe plants from an existing plant. Aloe will tend to grow offshoots, also called pups, around the base of your plant. You’ll see these push through the soil, and look like smaller versions of the mother plant. You can start separating these pups once they reach about 3-4” in height.
Gently remove these pups from the soil, taking care to dig into the soil and removing some of the roots with them. Use a clean knife to cut them away from the mother plant, and then place them into a container with a cacti/succulent mix. Give them a healthy dose of water to start, and then leave them in a sunny location.
Due to needing to slightly dig up the plant during this process, this is a great time to repot the mother plant. Even if you’re using the same container, giving it a fresh does of soil is a good idea. This replenishes nutrients in the soil, and also helps avoid drainage issues as old soil will become more compact over time.
You can also take more traditional leaf cuttings and propagate from these if you so choose. These tend not to do as well, and can take multiple tries to get a successful plant. For that reason, it’s generally advised to propagate from the offsets and not from cuttings for aloe.
How To Grow Aloe Vera Indoors
In addition to the above tips, here are a few general pointers to make note of:
- Generally, an aloe vera plant does not need fertilization. However, if you think your plants needs a little extra boost, then use a phosphorous-rich and water-based fertilizer that is mild in overall strength. You can also dilute the formula a bit with additional water.
- A leaf becoming thin and/or curled is indicative of your aloe requiring more water. This is rare however as aloe is quite drought resistant.
- Lastly, your aloe might require more sunlight if its leaves begin to droop or fall flat.
For more information check out our guide to succulents. Aloe vera is actually a type of succulent, so a lot of the general care tips will also apply here. Aloe is on the easier side in terms of difficulty to grow, so get excited and start growing!
Aloe Vera FAQ
Why Does My Aloe Plant Always Die?
In most cases, it’s due to overwatering. This is the culprit in the majority of aloe vera plant issues. If you’re watering correctly, check that the soil is well draining and the plant is getting the correct amount of sun.
Why Is My Aloe Vera Plant Growing Sideways?
This is generally due to not receiving enough sunlight. Make sure your plant is in a nice, sunny location, and also look to turn the plant every once in a while to encourage even growth.
How Can I Tell if My Aloe Vera Plant is Overwatered
The plant will begin to develop “water spots”. These will appear soggy and soft, and will eventually turn to mush. It almost looks as if the leaves are storing too much water and are about to burst.
Get Started With An: Aloe Vera Planter Set.