How To Grow and Care For Succulent Aloe Plants

Most plant lovers are familiar with the Aloe Vera plant (Aloe barbadensis) but unfamiliar with the hundreds of other Aloe varieties. Luckily, they are all easy to care for and make good additions to any gardener’s succulent collection. In this article, we provide general information on the care of Aloe plants of all sorts.

Care of assorted Aloe plantsPin

Aloe Plant Description:

  • Botanical Name: Aloe
  • Common Names: Many and varied names depending on the species in question.
  • Origin: Mediterranean, Madagascar, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Pronounced: AL-oh
  • Family: Asphodelaceae
  • Annual or perennial: Herbaceous perennial succulent plant

Aloe Plants Care Tips

Size & Growth

Aloe plants vary in size ranging from a foot high to tree-sized, depending upon the Aloe variety grown.

The evergreen, sword-like, succulent leaves are usually fleshy to varying degrees. Some types are solid colored. Still, others may possess some variegation. Some Aloe species have smooth-edged leaves coming from a central stem, while others have sharp, protective spikes.

Flowering & Fragrance

These seasonal bloomers seldom flower when kept as a container plant or indoor plant. However, when kept outdoors, planted in the landscape, many Aloe varieties produce brightly colored clusters of tubular blooms atop a tall, erect stalk.

These springtime blossoms are very attractive to hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators.

Light & Temperature

Aloe plants are typically winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12. Some types of Aloe like a little bit of shade and indirect sunlight, while others like bright light and full sun.

Related: Aloe Plant Light Requirements

When grown outside, in zones 10 through 12, Aloe is mostly cold-hardy. Some types are very cold-hardy, while others cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 40° degrees Fahrenheit.

Generally speaking, all types will be happy in a setting that provides bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures ranging from 50° – 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

NOTE: During extreme hot summer temperatures, Aloes exposed to too much direct sunlight appreciate some light shade or indirect light.

If the temperatures in your area are expected to drop below 40° degrees Fahrenheit, you should take steps to protect your Aloe plant by covering it during the cold spell.

If you must cover your Aloe to protect it from cold, erect a frame around it and drape a protective cloth over the frame. If the fabric touches the plant, the areas where it’s touching will freeze.

A frame can be as simple as a couple of lawn chairs placed on either side of the plant with a cloth draped over it.

You can purchase special frost cloth to stay in place. Another option is to cover with a blanket or sheet. You’ll need to remove the covering daily so the plant can get air.

In colder areas, choose varieties such as Lace Aloe (aka Aloe Aristotle), which is extremely cold hardy and can tolerate freezing temperatures as low as 13° degrees Fahrenheit.

You may also hear this type of Aloe referred to as Torch Plant, and it can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10.

Another type of Aloe that is tolerant of cold temperatures and wet settings is Coral Aloe (aka: Hardy Aloe). It is cold tolerant to temperatures as low as 18° degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering Schedule & Feeding

Water Aloe and then allow the soil to almost completely dry before watering thoroughly again. Never allow your Aloe plant to stand in water. Infrequent watering is much better for a plant than excess water.

When keeping Aloe plants outdoors in the winter, reduce watering to prevent root rot problems that come with overwatering and cold temperatures.

Aloe plants do not require lots of fertilizer. Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength once or twice a year.

Potting Soil Mix & Transplanting

Aloe does well with any high-quality houseplant potting mix, but they prefer a cacti or succulent mix. Alternately, you can make a succulent potting mix by adding coarse sand and/or perlite with common houseplant potting mix for a nice, light, free-draining soil mix.

More On Soil and Repotting:

Like most succulents, most Aloes do fine when root-bound. We recommend using a terra cotta pot with a drainage hole and extra “drainage” material in the bottom of the pot.

Grooming & Maintenance

Trim away dead or damaged leaves as needed. Remove pups when repotting or when the plant becomes overcrowded in a landscape setting.

Propagation Of Aloe Plants

The best way to propagate Aloe is to separate pups (offsets) from the mother plant using a sharp knife when you repot. Then, those with good roots are planted and treated as an entirely new plant.

Aloe Plants Pest or Disease Problems

For the most part, Aloe plants are problem-free. However, excess water, light, and humidity may cause problems with fungal disease. Compromised plants are subject to infestation by scale, mealybug pests, and Aloe mite.

Related: Read our article on How To Get Rid of Aloe Mites pest.

Is Aloe Considered Toxic or Poisonous to People, Kids, Pets?

Correctly curated Aloe gel is edible and medicinal; however, saponins and anthraquinones found in the plants’ flesh can be toxic to people, pets, and livestock if ingested.

Is Aloe Considered Invasive?

In a conducive setting where an Aloe of any sort can overwinter, invasive behavior is very likely for these enthusiastic multipliers.

How To Grow Aloe Plants Indoors – Nothing Could Be Easier

Common aloe plants adapt to most indoor settings. They can tolerate a low-light environment, but prefer bright, indirect artificial light or sunlight (or a combination of the two).

If the phrase “forgetful” describes your gardening care, you will find aloe very forgiving of infrequent watering. In fact, it prefers to be a bit thirsty. If you over-water, you will be inviting root rot, fungus, and problems with juice-sucking insects.

If your plant is unhappy because of too little light, not enough soil moisture, or not enough warmth, it will shrink and turn slightly reddish. If this happens, review your plant care techniques and make adjustments accordingly.

5 Questions To Help You Evaluate Aloe Plant Care Problems

Is The Soil Ideal?

If your plant is root-bound or not in the right kind of soil, you may need to repot. Provide a well-drained potting mixture by investing in a good cactus mix or mixing up a combination of good potting soil and sand.

Do You Have The Right Container?

The wrong container may cause root rot. The best containers for aloe plants are those made of unglazed terra cotta. These allow for good air circulation around the roots.

If you only have a glazed pot, a plastic or resin planter, make certain it has plenty of drainage holes to avoid having water trapped next to the roots.

Your container should be just big enough to accommodate the plant’s roots with a little bit of planting mix. It should also be heavy enough to prevent the plant from toppling over.

Is The Aloe Plant Getting The Right Amount Of Light?

A sunny spot in a window with indirect light is a good location for an aloe plant, but it should not get bright, direct light as this may scorch your plant. At least six hours a day of bright, indirect sunlight is ideal.

If you are not able to provide this, add a grow-light or fluorescent light to supplement the natural lighting.

More on:

Is My Aloe Plant Getting The Right Amount Of Water?

Be very careful not to over-water your aloe. A deep watering every couple of weeks should be sufficient. Check the soil before watering to be sure it is dry. If not, give it a little more time.

If growing in a container make sure the pot has a drainage hole to drain off the excess water.

If your Aloe leaf spears turn brown and/or become limp, you are probably watering too much. Remember these plants come from dry, desert areas. A little bit of water daily is unnatural for them. Occasional, deep watering is natural and ideal.

Could The Plant Benefit From Some Time Outdoors?

If you have nice weather in the spring and summer, you can let your houseplant live outdoors during this time.

Be sure to transition the plant gradually by allowing it a few hours of outdoor time daily for a week or two before moving it all together.

Start out by placing it in a sheltered area where it will not get direct sunlight at all. Move it to sunnier locations bit-by-bit. If you see signs of stress, give it a little more shelter. Although aloe plants are reputed to enjoy full sun, sometimes direct sunlight can be too harsh.

NOTE: I’m not a fan of moving plants from the indoors to outdoors and back again as weather changes. The response is due to the many questions received on the topic.

Grow Aloe Plants Outdoors Year-Round In A Warm Climate

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If you live in USDA hardiness zones 8-10 you can grow aloe outdoors as a bedding plant. Understand that in Zone 8 you will need to provide some shelter and protection.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast. If the temperature is expected to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, cover the aloe plants with a blanket. If the plant freezes, the leaves will burn and die back. As long as the roots don’t freeze, the plant should survive and send out new sprouts when the weather warms up.

The soil in your aloe bed should be light, airy and well-draining. When you first put plants out, water them deeply every week or two. Once established, you may not need to water them at all except in times of drought.

There are lots of beautiful types of aloes that can be planted outdoors in warm climates.

Suggested Aloe Plants Uses

Overall, potted Aloe plants are very easy to care for and do well when somewhat neglected. Smaller varieties are also excellent house plants and can be grown as indoor plants in a sunny spot year-round in any part of the country. They are good for beginning houseplant gardeners.

Your use of your Aloe plant will vary depending upon your location and the type of Aloe chosen. For the most part, these plants make good houseplants. But, in warmer regions, taller plants do very well as specimen plants in the garden or sometimes even as groundcovers, depending upon the type in question.

Medicinal Plant: The gel of medicinal Aloe is used for minor burns and a wide variety of medicinal, personal care, and cosmetic purposes.

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