One of the very first plants I wanted was an Aloe Vera plant. I loved that Aloe Vera isn’t just a cool looking plant to have in the house, it also produces aloe which is a very useful thing to have around.
I want to know how to keep all of my plants alive, but I especially want to know how to keep an Aloe Vera plant alive.
Not that it’s my favorite or anything. I mean, I don’t have a favorite child and I don’t have a favorite plant.
I did have a favorite cat once. But that’s a story for another day.
Today’s story is how to keep an aloe vera plant alive so that you always have aloe on hand when you forget you just took that pan out of the oven and you decide to try to put it in the sink without a potholder.
Let’s Learn About Aloe Vera
There she is. That’s your traditional Aloe Vera plant. They are very impressive plants. They look like they mean business. Do you know what I mean? There’s no fussiness.
Aloe Vera is a succulent and it grows in tropical, subtropical, and arid climates all around the world in the wild and they grow very happily as part of indoor houseplant gardens almost anywhere.
It’s usually called “easy” to care for which is sometimes tricky because it’s easy if the problem that you usually have with plants is you forget to water them. Aloe Vera will forgive that pretty easily.
But if your plant problem is that you give TOO MUCH water, Aloe is not going to like that.
Whenever you see a plant called “easy”, just know that it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t kill it.
Aloe Vera has a bunch of different variations, one of which is the Hedgehog Aloe which happens to be the kind of Aloe Vera plant I have:
The Hedgehog Aloe will stay on the smaller side but it still produces Aloe just like the big gal in the previous picture. It’s perfect if you don’t have a whole lot of room but you do want to always have a super fresh supply of Aloe!
Aloe is succulent which means it will store water in its leaves. It does not want to have it’s roots sitting in wet or moist soil.
If you are an over-waterer by nature, you have to hold yourself back when it come to your Aloe Vera plant. The surest way to kill Aloe Vera is to overwater.
So, before watering, make sure it is dry at least 2.5 inches into the soil or you can let it dry out completely in between waterings.
You should notice that you can water even less frequently in the winter.
When it is time to water, like with most succulents, you want to give the soil a really good soaking so that water is running out of the drainage holes and then make sure you allow that water to drain.
If you have a saucer for your pot, empty the excess water from the saucer.
What Kind of Light Does an Aloe Vera Plant Need?
Whenever you are wondering what type of light a houseplant might need, you can get your first clue by thinking about where the plant came from.
Aloe Vera comes from tropical and arid climates. And what do those have in common?
Sun! Your Aloe Vera plant is going to want some sun. Bright indirect light from a South or West facing window in your home should do the trick.
If you see your Aloe’s leaves start to droop, it’s a good sign that it is not getting enough light and you might need to find a better spot for it.
If you have warm and mostly dry summers, you can move your Aloe Vera outside. You might see it flower if you do!
Should I Fertilize My Aloe Vera?
Most succulents really don’t need to be fertilized. If you want to skip it altogether, go right ahead.
If you really want to fertilize or you have fertilizer on hand and so you figure you might as well, then you can, but half strength and don’t overfertilize.
In the spring will work fine, but don’t fuss with fertilizer in the winter. The plant is trying to rest, ok?
Because we already know that Aloe Vera is a succulent and we know that succulents are plants that do not like wet or moist roots, then it is logical that your Aloe Vera is going to want a soil that drains really well.
You can use a cactus/succulent mix from the nursery or hardware store or wherever you buy your plant stuff.
Cactus/Succulent potting mix is basically regular potting mix with some additions that will help with draining. If you feel like the Succulent potting mix you buy at the store is still not draining well enough, you can add some sand to it to help.
It is very important to use the right soil with Aloe Vera or any of your other succulents. They need that extra drainage and mimicking the type of soil they grow in naturally is going to do achieve that.
Can I Propagate My Aloe Vera?
You sure can!
You can’t propagate Aloe Vera with a leaf or stem cutting, but you should notice that little baby Aloe Veras (called pups!) will start to grow at the base of your plant. They’ll look just like your Aloe Vera except smaller and with white spots.
When those have grown a bit you can cut them away making sure to get the roots and then replant them and grow even more Aloe Vera Plants.
How Do I Get the Aloe?
Harvesting isn’t usually something you have to talk about much with houseplants, but with Aloe Vera, it does produces this amazing aloe that you are going to want to be able to use.
You’ll start by cutting a leaf off as close to the base as possible. There’s some yellowish liquid that you’re going to want to drain out into a cup first for about fifteen minutes or so. Throw that away, it’s not the good aloe vera that you’re looking for.
When it’s done draining, you’ll want to cut off the edges and then cut and lift away the green outer part of the leave which should leave you with some pretty solid looking aloe vera gel.
You can slice that out of the leaf and use it as is. If you’ve got more than you need to use, you can give the extra a few pulses in the food processor and then freeze individual portions to use later. An ice tray is a great way to portion out the aloe.
What Do I Do With This Aloe Vera?
First of all, don’t eat it. It can make you sick even though you will read some places that you can put it in a smoothie, I do not recommend. 0 out of 10.
But you will not believe how well it works for minor skin problems like sunburn or a minor cooking burn.
Minor is the keyword here.
Obviously if you have a bad burn you’re going to want to go to a doctor and have that checked out, ok?
The Cookist has a great list of other ways to use your Aloe Vera gel.
Now You Know How To Keep Your Aloe Vera Plant Alive
No excuses. You have an official green thumb now for Aloe Vera.
Don’t overwater it and give it the sun it loves and you’ll be fine!