GROWING A HEALTHY ALOE VERA
HOW TO CARE FOR ALOE VERA PLANTS
Before you buy an aloe, note that you’ll need a location that offers bright, indirect sunlight or some artificial light. However, the plant doesn’t appreciate strong direct sunlight, as this tends to dry out the plant too much and turn its fleshy leaves yellow. Keep the aloe vera plant in a pot near the kitchen window for periodic use but avoid direct sun rays.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLANTER AND SOIL
- It’s important to choose the right type of planter. A pot made from terra-cotta or similar porous material is recommended, as it will allow the soil to dry thoroughly between waterings and will also be heavy enough to keep the plant from tipping over. Plastic or glazed pot may also be used, though these tend to hold more moisture.
- When choosing a container, be sure to pick one that has at least one drainage hole in the bottom. This is key, as the hole will allow excess water to drain out.
- Select a container that’s about as wide as it is deep. If your aloe plant has a stem, choose a container that is deep enough for you to plant the entire stem underneath the soil.
- Aloe vera plants are succulents, so use a well-draining potting mix, such as those made for cacti and succulents. Do not use normal soil. The best mix for aloe plant should contain perlite, lava rock, coarse sand, or all three. Aloe vera plants are hardy, but a lack of proper drainage can cause rot which is easily the most common cause of death for these plants.
- A layer of gravel, clay balls, or any other “drainage” material at the bottom of the pot is not necessary. This only takes up space that the roots could otherwise be using. A drainage hole is drainage enough!
HOW TO PLANT OR REPOT AN ALOE VERA PLANT
If your aloe plant has grown leggy, has gotten too large, or simply needs an upgrade, it’s time to repot it. Here’s how:
- Prepare your pot. After giving the new pot a quick rinse (or a good scrub, if it’s a pot you’ve used before) and letting it dry thoroughly, place a small piece of screen over the drainage hole; this will keep the soil from falling out the bottom and will allow water to drain properly. A doubled-up piece of paper towel or newspaper can also work in a pinch, though these will break down over time.
- Prepare your plant. Remove the aloe vera plant from its current pot and brush away any excess dirt from its roots, being careful not to damage the roots.
- If your plant has any pups, remove them at this point for repotting.
- If your plant has a very long, spindly stem that won’t fit in the pot, it is possible to trim the stem off partially.
- After several days, a callous will form over the wound.
- Plant your plant. Fill the pot about a third of the way with a well-draining potting mix, then place your plant in the soil. Continue filling in the soil around the plant, bearing in mind that you should leave at least ¾ of an inch of space between the top of the soil and the rim of the pot. The most bottom leaves of the aloe plant must be resting just above the soil. Do not water immediately after planting.
- Ignore your plant. After you’ve placed your aloe in its new pot, don’t water it for at least a week or 2. This will decrease the chance of inducing rot and give the plant time to put out new roots. Until the plant seems to be rooted and happy, keep it in a warm place that receives bright but indirect light.
HOW TO CARE FOR AN ALOE VERA PLANT
- Place in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. An aloe that is kept in very low light tends to often grow leggy.
- Aloe vera does best in temperatures between 13 and 27°C. The temperatures of most homes and apartments are ideal.
- Water aloe vera plants deeply, but infrequently.
- To discourage rot, allow the soil to dry at least 1 to 2 inches deep between waterings.
- Don’t let your plant sit in water which will make the plant rot.
- Water about every 3-4 weeks and even lesser during the winter.
- Always use your finger to test dryness before watering.
- Fertilize sparingly (no more than once a month), and only in the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant formula mixed at ½ strength.
REMOVING AND REPLANTING THE ALOE PUPS
Like many other plants, aloe vera plants also produce babies—also known as plantlets, pups that can be removed to produce an entirely new plant.
- Find where the offsets are attached to the mother plant and separate them using pruning shears, scissors, or a sharp knife. Leave at least an inch of stem on the offset.
- Allow the offsets to sit out of the soil for several days; this lets the offset form a callous over the cut, which helps to protect it from rot. Keep the offsets in a warm location with indirect light during this time.
- Once the offsets have formed callouses, pot them in a standard succulent potting mix. The soil should be well-draining.
- Put the newly-potted pups in a sunny location. Wait at least a week to water and keep the soil on the dry side.