Some short, some spiky and all absolutely gorgeous, Aloe Vera’s come in all shapes and sizes, like this cute trio of Aloe Kokodama! But Aloe Vera plant care is generally the same for the genus. Some may need more light than others and some may need more water, but all love well-draining soil. Want to find out more? Read on to discover the top Aloe Vera plant care tips, how to look after them and how they can even look after you!
What Makes an Aloe Vera Plant Special?
Due to Aloe Vera’s medicinal uses, this plant has been used throughout history for practical as well as aesthetic reasons.
Its bright green fleshy pointed leaves emanate from its centre and can lend a fresh, minimalist look to a space. Its leaves are flecked with pale green and have delicately serrated edges. They can grow up to 60 cm high and 30 cm wide if treated with proper Aloe Vera plant love and care!
Aloe Vera is sometimes known as a first-aid plant because the cool, gel-like sap inside its leaves is amazing for soothing skin irritations, sunburn, scalds, and bites.
Because they are native to hot, arid areas, Aloe Veras can store water in their succulent leaves. This means that they do not need watering often, which makes Aloe Vera plant care as easy as A-B-C, and ideal for anyone regardless of their experience with plant care.
How To Care For An Aloe Vera – An Aloe Vera Plant Care Manual!
Understanding how much water Aloe Veras need is perhaps the most important part of Aloe Vera plant care. Due to its succulent leaves, Aloe Veras can survive long periods without being watered. In fact, the key to great Aloe Vera plant care is to rein yourself in from overwatering your spikey plant. Aloe Veras can be at greater risk from over-watering than under-watering. So although you may feel you are being kind by generously watering your Aloe Vera, this could actually cause harm.
For ideal Aloe Vera plant care during the hot summer months, water your Aloe Vera only when the top 2 centimetres of the soil become dry. In the winter, you do not need to water your Aloe at all. However, if you have your heating on quite high, the air in the house can become very warm and dry and your Aloe Vera plant care may need adapting to include a little extra water.
The best way to check if you need to change your Aloe Vera plant care is to keep an eye on its leaves. If your Aloe Vera needs water its leaves will become limp or start to wrinkle. If your Aloe Vera is in this state your instinct may be to saturate its soil with water to hydrate it as quickly as possible.
It's important to note that even thirsty Aloe Veras do not like sitting in cold water. Instead, try to water your Aloe Vera little and often so that it can slowly absorb the water it needs without risking root rot. Your Aloe’s leaves may begin to turn yellow if you have been overwatering.
Because Aloe Veras are used to living in arid environments, they are at risk of root rot if you are too enthusiastic about the watering. Preventing this is the second most important part of Aloe Vera plant care! To avoid your Aloe Vera sitting in water for too long, wait 20 minutes after watering, then pour out any excess water that has built up in the dish under the plant. That’ll keep your Aloe Vera nice and cheerful.
Another way to avoid poor drainage is to use an unglazed terracotta pot, as these are porous and therefore allow the soil to dry out between watering. You can use house plant compost or mix 2 parts multi-purpose compost with 1 part grit or perlite to allow for good drainage.
When potting Aloe plants make sure you choose one that matches the size of the root ball. These plants reproduce quickly but grow fairly slowly so you will only need to re-pot it every 2 or 3 years.
Aloe Vera’s are native to sunny environments so will enjoy a bit of direct light. It’s also a good idea, as part of your Aloe Vera plant care regime, to wipe your Aloe Vera leaves with a damp cloth every few months. This can help them photosynthesise better, as they are prone to getting a little dusty (like all plants!).
If the leaves of your Aloe Vera start to turn red, then again, this means that your Aloe Vera plant care regime needs adapting. Red leaves are a sign that your plant is getting too much light and it needs to be moved into a spot with less direct light. Vice versa, if its leaves are very pale or yellow, your Aloe Vera may not be getting enough sunlight.
You only need to use plant feed as part of your Aloe Vera plant care if your Aloe Vera is looking unhealthy and you have tried adjusting its water and light with no improvements. If you need to do this its recommended you use a weak plant feed every couple of months over the summer.
How To Propagate An Aloe Vera
Aloe Veras are notoriously fast at reproducing, making them great to share with friends! They grow new baby plants, called offsets, from their base. Removing and potting the Aloe plant babies/offsets is part of good Aloe Vera plant care because if you leave all the offsets attached, the plant’s pot will quickly become too small.
But when is an offset big enough to propagate? And how do you do it without harming the plant?
As a general rule, the best time to propagate offsets is when they are roughly a fifth of the size of the original plant. When potting Aloe plants, you need to treat your Aloe Vera plant with care. Start by holding the base of the Aloe Vera, tip the plant upside-down, and gently pull it away from the pot. Then gently tease the offsets away from the original plant, making sure that you keep as many of the offset roots as possible.
The offsets roots will be intertwined with those of the main plant, but the main plant has a large rootball and will be able to more quickly regrow any roots it loses. It’s therefore worth prioritising the offset Aloe Vera plant’s care, when you split the roots.
Sometimes the offset will have no roots. In this case, you can cut the offset from the main plant using a sharp, clean knife. Allow the nub at the base of the offset to dry out for 1 or 2 days before potting your Aloe plant babies.
Pests and Diseases
One of the most common pests that Aloe Veras suffer from is scale insects. These look like curved brown blobs, about 2-5 millimetres long, growing flat against the leaves. To care for an Aloe Vera plant suffering from scale insects take a cotton pad soaked in organic pesticide and wipe them off.
You can easily make your own organic insecticide using household ingredients. Simply combine organic washing up liquid and organic vegetable oil, or use rubbing alcohol.
Another pest Aloes can suffer from is red spider mites. A tell-tale sign of these is small pale marks across your Aloe Vera’s leaves. These mites tend to spend time in the centre of the Aloe Vera, so spray your organic insecticide into the middle of the plant to deal with the infestation.
One disease the Aloe Vera can suffer from is basal stem rot. This results from leaving the plant to sit in cold water for long periods. Once this starts it travels up the plant, and you will notice the plant turning brown and then black from the base upwards. If this is happening it is possible to save your Aloe by taking a cutting above the rot. It spreads quickly so good Aloe Vera plant care requires acting quickly if you notice this brown rot.
Medicinal uses of Aloe Vera
Aloe Veras are rich in Polyphenols: powerful antioxidants that help to fight free radicals. Polyphenols also help to reduce the growth of bacteria that can cause infection, so are part of the reason that Aloe Vera is known for its antiseptic properties and a brilliant way that your Aloe Vera plant can care for you, too.
The gel inside Aloe Vera leaves therefore not only has a powerful cooling quality but is also antiseptic, making it particularly good for treating mild burns, and sunburn. Studies have shown that Aloe Vera’s medicinal uses also include helping to accelerate the healing of wounds, from grazes to mouth ulcers.
The medicinal uses of Aloe Vera are usually enjoyed by simply applying it to your skin. However, you can use it to make delicious food packed with antioxidants! You can even create your own Aloe Vera juice by cutting up the succulent inner section and adding it to water and other tasty delights.
How To Eat The Aloe Vera?
To eat an Aloe Vera you should cut the leaf off from the base. Then, taking a sharp knife, slice down the length of the leaf. You should cut off the skin and also the latex, which is a yellow sticky residue that you find between the gel and the green skin of the leaf.
The latex has a bitter taste and can be used to treat constipation because it is know to have a laxative effect. Unless you are trying to treat constipation, remove all the latex. The best way to do this is to cut the gel into cubes, scoop them out of the skin and then rinse them under the tap to ensure all the latex is washed off.
These cubes of Aloe Vera can be steamed, fried, boiled, or eaten raw, and are used in many delicious South American cuisine.
Is This The Plant For Me?
Aloe Vera plant care is generally relatively easy. The main things to remember for ideal Aloe Vera plant care are not to be too generous with your watering, to make sure your Aloe is not left sitting in water, and to pot on your Aloe plant when needed. Follow these tips for pro Aloe Vera plant care and your spikey green pal will stay happy and healthy.
With patience and care, your Aloe Vera plant will thrive for many, many years, adding a majestic aesthetic to your space. Due to the Aloe Vera’s many medicinal properties, these plants also have a variety of practical “raison d’être”. Their uses as food, and to soothe skin, can be enjoyed even by those who do not appreciate the refreshing, simple beauty of the Aloe Vera’s thick green spikes.