Growing aloe vera is a low-maintenance experience, as this tough succulent plant needs little TLC to thrive. At the same time, planting aloe brings big rewards, both as a skin aid and an attractive addition to your indoor décor.
Here’s all you need to know to grow aloe.
Where to Grow Aloe
This moisture-rich plant thrives outdoors year-round only in the very warmest regions (zones 9 to 10). In other areas, aloe grows best indoors as a houseplant, with some gardeners moving it outdoors for summer.
Indoors, place aloe in a spot with bright indirect light during the warmer seasons of the year. A table near an east- or south-facing window works well. In southern and high desert regions, provide protection from direct sun during the hottest months.
When growing aloe outdoors, provide light shade, especially during the hottest parts of the day. A great spot for growing aloe outdoors is on a covered patio or porch. When temperatures shift below 50°F, it’s time to bring aloe back inside. In zones 9 to 10, where aloe can survive year-round outdoors, planting aloe in partial shade is ideal.
What Kind of Soil to Use for Aloe
Aloe hails from Africa, where hot and dry conditions are typical, so it is no surprise that this tough plant grows best in soil with excellent drainage. Both indoors and outdoors (zones 9 and 10), grow aloe in pots filled with fast-draining potting soil, such as Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix, formulated especially for container growing. For in-ground beds, mix 3 inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Cactus, Palm & Citrus in with the top 6 to 8 inches of native soil.
How to Plant Aloe
Planting aloe is best done when the plant is actively growing, usually when the surrounding air and soil are warm and days are long. Use a pot that is only an inch or two larger than the pot the aloe came in. Ideally, roots should fill about two-thirds of the pot. Having less potting mix means it will dry faster, making it less likely that root rot (caused by excess moisture) will be a problem. In zones 9 to 10, be sure outdoor plants are established before severe heat arrives. A good time for planting aloe in these zones is in early fall, after intense heat breaks, while soil is still warm. Space plants 24 to 36 inches apart to allow ample room for spreading.
How to Water Aloe
Aloe thrives in dry soil, plus it stores water in its leaves, so it doesn’t need a lot of additional water. In fact, overwatering is the top reason aloe plants die. When growing aloe indoors, water every two weeks (even less in the winter). When growing aloe in pots outdoors, expect to water more often, maybe once a week. Check the soil with your finger; the top 1.5 inches should be dry before it’s time to water.
How to Feed Aloe
A month after planting, begin giving your aloe a boost of nutrition with Miracle-Gro® Succulent Plant Food, which is specially formulated for aloe and other succulents. Be sure to follow label directions.
How to Transplant Baby Aloe Plants
Mature aloe plants produce smaller plants, called babies or pups, around the larger mother plant. To transplant aloe babies, wait until they reach about 3 inches tall, then gently dig them up. (You may have to cut a stem attaching the pup to the mother plant; if so, take care not to cut roots on the baby plant.) Plant each baby in a small pot (around 2 inches), burying it so soil reaches the base of the first leaf. Water after two days, then continue to water once a week if soil dries out. As the baby grows, you can transplant it to a larger pot.
How to Harvest Aloe
The clear gel inside an aloe leaf is used for its soothing, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties. To harvest aloe, break or cut a piece off the tip of the lowermost leaf. The cut leaf may ooze for a short time, but a natural latex within the aloe should seal things within a few hours. When you need more, take another piece off the same leaf until it’s all used up.
If you need a lot of the clear gel, pick an entire leaf. Slice off the outer spikey edges, and peel away the green top of the leaf to expose the gel. Store the harvested leaf, wrapped in plastic, in the fridge for up to two days.
An aloe plant makes an attractive potted plant when it’s not harvested regularly. If you like the look of this succulent, considering growing aloe in two different pots—one for medicinal use and one for beauty.
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