How to Care for an Aloe Vera Plant
- Lighting: Place in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. Aloe that are kept in low light often grow leggy.
- Temperature: Aloe vera do best in temperatures between 55 and 80°F (13 and 27°C). The temperatures of most homes and apartments are ideal. From May to September, you can bring your plant outdoors without any problems, but do bring it back inside in the evening if nights are cold.
- Fertilizing: Fertilize sparingly (no more than once a month), and only in the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant formula mixed at ½ strength.
- Repotting: Repot when root bound, following the instructions given in “Planting,” above.
Watering Aloe Vera
Watering is the most difficult part of keeping aloe vera healthy, but it’s certainly not rocket science! The aloe is a succulent plant that’s accustomed to arid environments, but its thick leaves still need sufficient water nonetheless.
- Water aloe vera plants deeply, but infrequently. In other words, the soil should feel moist after watering, but should be allowed to dry out to some extent before you water again. If the soil stays overly wet, the plant’s roots can rot.
- To ensure that you’re not overwatering your plant, allow the top third of potting soil to dry out between waterings. For example, if your plant is kept in 6 inches of potting soil, allow the top 2 inches to dry out before watering again. (Use your finger to test the dryness of the soil.)
- Generally speaking, plan to water your aloe plant about every 2-3 weeks in the spring and summer and even more sparingly during the fall and winter. One rule of thumb for fall and winter watering is to roughly double the amount of time between waterings (as compared to your summer watering schedule). In other words, if you water every two weeks in summer, water every four weeks in winter.
- When watering, some excess water may run out the bottom of the pot. Let the pot sit in this water so that the soil absorbs as much as possible. Wait 10-15 minutes, then dump any remaining water.
Removing & Replanting Aloe Vera Offsets (Pups)
Mature aloe vera plants often produce offsets—also known as plantlets, pups, or “babies”—that can be removed to produce an entirely new plant (a clone of the mother plant, technically).
- 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 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.
How to Get Your Aloe Vera to Flower
Mature aloe vera plants occasionally produce a tall flower spike—called an inflorescence—from which dozens of tubular yellow or red blossoms appear. This certainly adds another level of interest to the already lovely aloe!
Unfortunately, a bloom is rarely achievable with aloes that are kept as houseplants, since the plant requires nearly ideal conditions to produce flowers: lots of light, sufficient water, and the right temperature range. Due to these requirements (mainly lighting), aloe flowers are usually only seen on plants grown outdoors year-round in warm climates.
To give your aloe the best shot at flowering:
- Provide it with as much light as possible, especially during spring and summer. Aloes can be kept outdoors in full sun during the summer, when temperatures are above 70°F (21°C). If nighttime temps threaten to drop below 60°F (16°C), bring the aloe inside.
- Note: Don’t move your aloe from indoors to full sun right away; it needs time to adjust to the intense light or it may sunburn. Allow it to sit in partial shade for about a week before moving it to a brighter location.
- Make sure the plant is getting the right amount of water—enough to keep it from drying out completely, but not enough to drown it! If the plant’s being kept outdoors, make sure that it’s not getting consistently soaked by summer rains.
- Give your aloe a proper dormancy period in the fall and winter. Aloe tend to bloom in late winter or early spring, so giving them a period of rest consisting of less frequent watering and cooler temperatures may encourage them to flower.
- Don’t be surprised if it still doesn’t flower. Despite our best efforts, indoor conditions just aren’t ideal for most aloes, so don’t be surprised if yours simply refuses to bloom!