Aloe Vera Is the Perfect Choice for People Who Forget to Water Their Plants
Aloe vera is one of the most popular plants to grow at home. Not only is this flowering succulent beautiful to look at, it's easy to take care of, and offers many health and beauty benefits.
The anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera provide a quick and easy solution to help heal burns, cuts, and other irritations, and is one of the first lines of defense for treating sunburns. Just break open one of the leaves to access the aloe vera gel inside and apply—it’s that simple. No need to buy an entire bottle of aloe vera gel when you only need a very small amount. Just grow your own natural remedy at home.
Aloe vera is also one of the best plants for cleaning pollutants from the air. According to a NASA study, aloe helps to remove carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen. So these plants are ideal for city apartments or any location with poor air quality.
While it is fairly simple to grow aloe vera both outdoors and indoors, it does require a little bit of knowledge. Here is everything you need to know about aloe vera plant care, as well as some incredibly useful tips from the experts.
Indoor Aloe Plant Care
If there’s just one thing to keep in mind when growing an aloe plant, every single expert cautions against overwatering. According to Dan Scott, the associate director of Horticulture & River Farm, aloe plants need to be watered only once every week or two. That’s it! Overwatering or planting aloe in a planter that prevents drainage can cause the roots to rot and the plant to die.
However, if you suspect your plant has been overwatered (mistakes happen), Scott suggests gently removing it from the pot. “Allow the soil to dry while the plant recovers in a protected place away from direct sunlight. Afterwards, trim off any rotten or mushy roots and replant in fresh soil.”
According to David Barbour, co-founder of Vivio Life Sciences, “Indoor aloe plants should be planted in pots with plenty of drainage holes and a dry soil mix with sand and or gravel and placed in direct sunlight for approximately seven hours a day.”
Choosing the right size and type of planter is imperative. According to Hilton Carter, plant stylist for AllModern, “Because specific planter materials impact the soil drying schedule, the width of the planter is important and should be as wide as it is deep so the entire stem is covered under soil.”
Carter suggests using terra cotta and clay planters (skip the plastic) because those materials will allow the soil to dry thoroughly between watering. For example, the Kenmure Handcrafted Fiber Clay Pot Plantar ($73; allmodern.com) has a height, width, and depth that are all nearly equal. It has also drainage holes.
Aloe vera will grow well when exposed to a good amount of sunlight, or in places with very little shade. “It is best to position the plant on a south-facing window,” says Pol Bishop, a gardening and plants expert with Fantastic Gardeners. “Rotate it from time to time for equal exposure of the leaves. Keep in mind that too much direct sunlight can burn the plant's leaves and they will become brown. On the other hand, if it doesn’t get enough light its leaves become high, thin, and ugly.”
How to Grow an Aloe Vera Plant Outside
Aloe plant care can be just as easy outside as it is inside. “Plant aloe in areas of direct sunlight and in sandy, dry, or gravel soil,” says Barbour. “Aloe plants thrive in near-desert conditions. Water the surrounding rock or soil infrequently.”
It is also vital to avoid using pesticides because aloe vera is too sensitive for strong chemicals. But this also means you really need to keep an eye out for critters. “Well-grown aloe plants don’t have problems with insects but sometimes they can be attacked by mealybugs,” says Bishop. “If the pest invasion is not that big, clearing the leaves with rubbing alcohol will be enough. Yet, in case the attack is more serious, use horticultural insecticidal spray. Consider that the bugs come mostly because of dead leaves, so make sure you remove them.”
How to Separate the Pup
Aloe vera plants produce beautiful flowers, which are also called pups. Scott suggests separating the pups and planting them separately. Luckily, this is incredibly easy to do. “To divide your aloe plant, remove the plant out of its pot and cut through the fleshy stolon connecting the pup from the parent plant,” he says. “Make your cut about halfway between the two plants.”
Scott says that it’s important to use a sharp sterilized blade, such as a razor. “Then place the cut pup in a warm area out of direct light where it can form a callous. This callous will protect the baby plant from diseases,” he says. “After a few days, the wound will dry and turn white.”
Finally, the plant is ready to be potted on its own. “Once you have potted the aloe into damp potting soil, don’t water it again until the top one inch of potting mix has dried completely.”
Choose the Right Soil
Planting aloe vera in proper soil is a must. Most experts don’t recommend using regular soil, but rather something that will dry fast. The key is to prevent soaking and overwatering. “Consider using a pre-made cactus mix, or make your own by mixing one part coarse sand, one part perlite, and one part potting soil,” says Scott. “Once you have potted the aloe into damp potting soil, do not water it again until the top one inch of potting mix has dried completely.”