How to grow and care for an aloe plant?

How to grow and care for an aloe plant?


Aloe is one of forgotten, drought tolerant house plants that has returned to favor recently. No wonder, because its low requirements will appeal to many modern women. Most popular aloe plants for cultivation are: aloe arborescens and aloe vera - the most common plants of the Aloe genus. Aloe comes from the areas of Southern Africa characterized by a warm and humid climate, where it reaches 2 to 6 m in height.

Is aloe a cactus or succulent?

It is said that every cactus is a succulent, but not every succulent is a cactus. These words are perfect for aloe vera. Aloe plant, due to its morphological and anatomical structure, belongs to the group of succulents, but it cannot be called a cactus.

The very name of the succulent comes from Latin - succulentus, and means juicy. The fleshy stalks of aloe store water, which the plant uses in water shortages. That is why it is so important to be careful with excessive watering.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera, also known as aloe barbadensis, is the most popular of the aloe vera grown as a pot plant. It occurs naturally in Africa and the regions of Asia Minor.

At home, it rarely reaches over 80 cm in height. Aloe vera plant forms gray-green, spiky, rosette-shaped leaves up to 40 cm long. Young leaves have white spots. Due to health benefits of aloe vera, it is widely used in the cosmetic industry.

Aloe arborescens (candelabra aloe)

Aloe arborescens is a species of perennial plant that occurs naturally in the south-eastern part of South Africa. Aloe arborescens has adapted to many different habitats, but thrives best in mountainous areas, including rocky ones. Its habitat can vary and it is one of the few species of aloe that grows from sea level to mountain tops.

In the wild, it reaches up to 2 m in height. In container cultivation, it is about 1 m. The narrow leaves form a loose rosette at the end of the woody stem. It produces sumptuous inflorescences in colorful dark orange flowers.

It contains many active substances and is therefore used in pharmacy. Accordingly, it is grown massively in countries with a favorable climate.

Aloe brevifolia (crocodile aloe)

Aloe brevifolia colloquially known as crocodile aloe due to the white spines growing from the edge of the leaves resembling crocodile teeth. It is a species native to South Africa, where it grows sideways and creates low but dense carpets. It is characterized by small size, compact habit and a slow growth rate. The color of the leaves of aloe brevifolia varies depending on the location.

Small rosettes can range in color from green to gray to blue. On a sunny windowsill, crocodile aloe forms red-pink rosettes with yellow discoloration.

In the wild, crocodile aloe is threatened with extinction. Indoors, it is grown as an undemanding houseplant. The orange tubular flowers of aloe brevifolia appear on tall stems growing above the plant.

Aloe striata (coral aloe)

Aloe striata, or striated aloe (coral aloe), is a South African species of aloe.

In nature, it can be found on the rocky slopes of South Africa. Its healing properties have been known since antiquity. Coral aloe juice was used to embalmer a corpse. Aloe striata forms tiny silver-blue rosettes with fine white stripes.

Aloe polyphylla (spiral aloe)

Aloe polyphylla called spiral aloe is another species of aloe that occurs naturally in Leshoto on the basalt slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains, at an altitude of 2000-2500 m above sea level. Spiral aloe is a beautiful plant that consists of about 150 gray-green pointed leaves, 20-30 cm long. Spiral aloe is under protection and has been included in:Annex I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Aloe ciliaris (climbing aloe)

Aloe ciliaris (Aloiampelos ciliaris), also known as climbing aloe, occurs naturally in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It inhabits dry river valleys where it grows in shady forests. Aloe ciliaris is characterized by rapid growth. It produces long stems and long, hooked leaves that allow them to anchor in dense vegetation.

Aloe ciliaris requires trellis or other plants to support and grow properly, hence it is commonly called climbing aloe. In the wild, red flowers appear on the plant from November to April. Climbing aloe is referred to as the fastest growing aloe plant. In cooler climates, it is grown as a houseplant.

History of cultivation of an aloe plant

It is difficult to clearly define the period in which aloe became so popular that it was cultivated on a large scale. It is known that aloe was known thousands of years ago. The ancient Greeks referred to aloe with the word Aloeh, which means a shiny and bitter substance.

The bitter taste of aloe was appreciated by the ancient Egyptians, as well as the inhabitants of China, India and even Mesopotamia. Information on the history of aloe vera cultivation can already be found on Sumerian clay tablets dating back to 2200 BC.

In addition to medicinal purposes, aloe plant juice was used to embalmer a corpse. It is believed that the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, where aloe juice was dried and sold to other regions of the world in a powdered form, are responsible for the popularization of aloe.

Even Christopher Columbus took powdered aloe vera on his exploratory voyages. It is known that aloe juice was used by Jews to embalmer a body, which is mentioned, among others, in the Gospel of John. And in the region of South Africa, tiger aloe was planted on the graves of the dead, which was to ensure their eternal life.

Aloe - cultivation and care

Aloe is an undemanding plant, the care of which is usually limited to systematic watering, removal of dried plant parts and inspection of plants against possible pests.

What kind of soil for aloe should I use?

Like most succulents, permeable soil with the addition of a drainage layer, a mix of sand, permeable peat soil and clay will be the most suitable for growing aloe plant. We can create such a substrate ourselves or buy a ready-made specialized substrate for succulents.

How often to water aloe plant?

Aloe does not cause problems for its owners, what's more, it is highly resistant to any neglect. The only thing you should watch out for is watering. It is recommended that in the period from March to October, water aloe plant 1-2 times every two weeks. However, from November to February, watering can be limited to one per month.

Remember that aloe plant can withstand dryness much better than over-watering it. If you want to be sure that you are not over-watering your aloe plant, allow the top layer of the substrate (1/3 of the substrate in the pot) to dry between watering.

How to save overwatered aloe plant?

If the aloe plant has been overwatered, remove it from the pot as soon as possible and dispose of any excess substrate. Check that the aloe roots are not rotting. If so, they should be cut. Then put the aloe plant on a paper and wait at least one day before putting it in a new substrate.

Overwatered aloe plant will be grateful if you try to drain its root system. Before planting it in a new substrate, make sure that there is a drain at the bottom of the pot.

Why aloe plant is turning brown?

If your aloe plant turns brown the problem lies in looking for improper care of the plant. Nearly 80% of the causes of browning aloe plant leaves are poor plant irrigation. Other causes of leaf discoloration are fungal diseases, excess salt in the soil, sunburn and nutrient deficiency in the substrate, drafts, and poor cultivation temperature.

High soil moisture

The main cause of browning of aloe plant leaves is improper watering of plants. As a rule, the symptom of browning leaves is an external result of leaf rot caused by overwatering. When the substrate in the pot is too moist, water-soaked stains appear on the leaves of the aloe plant.

The excess water in the substrate pushes the soil air out of it, which leads to rotting of the aloe plant roots. The long-lasting state of excessive moisture in the substrate may, in extreme cases, lead to the death of the entire plant.

Low soil moisture

Brown aloe leaves may appear due to insufficient moisture in the substrate. Aloe plant with wrinkled leaves that begin to turn brown may not be watered sufficiently.

Soil salinity

If you use fertilizers in the cultivation of aloe, over-fertilization may occur. Excessive amount of salt in the substrate can burn the roots, which will result in browning of the aloe leaves. To help the overfertilized aloe plant, replant it to a fresh, unfertilized substrate as soon as possible.

How to replant aloe?

Aloe, due to its slow growth and adaptation to extreme environmental conditions, does not require often replanting. Therefore, a one-time change of the pot with a size every three years will be enough. Replanting aloe is best done in spring, when plants come to life after their winter dormancy.

  1. A new pot should have holes in the bottom to drain excess water. We also recommend placing a drainage layer as an additional protection for the roots against excess water.
  2. After taking the plant out of the pot, it is a good idea to loosen the roots and get rid of the excess substrate. The plant is planted in a larger pot.
  3. Then we put aloe plant as high as it has grown so far. This is a very important activity because when watering, the lower parts of the plant, which would otherwise be underground, may rot.
  4. After replating the aloe plant, it is recommended to water it.

How to propagate aloe plant?

The easiest way to propagate aloe is by creating green cuttings from side shoots, or by dividing it during transplanting, thanks to which you can easily obtain new plants. When it comes to creating seedlings, the side shoots that are cut and removed from the lower leaves are the best. The prepared seedlings are planted in a permeable substrate and watered sparingly. Plants should develop their first roots within a month.

How to cut aloe plant?

When cutting aloe plant leaves, always choose the oldest ones that are as close as possible to the ground. Their removal will be less visible and the plant will not lose its decorativeness. When cutting aloe leaves, remove the entire leaf as a wounded leaf is an easy source of fungus and bacteria infection of your plant. You can use scissors or a pocket knife for cutting.

How to grow aloe plant from leaf?

Growing a new aloe plant from a single leaf is very difficult. This is because the leaves have no roots, but a very large amount of juice. After the leaf is planted into the substrate, it can rot before it has time to take root. Therefore, aloe can be grown from shoot cuttings, it will be a much easier, faster and more reliable way to grow a new aloe plant at home.

However, if you want to try to root a single aloe leaf, you must remember the following:

  1. An aloe plant leaf should be at least 8 cm long.
  2. Cut the leaf off the plant at its base using a sharp and sanitized knife. Try to cut the leaf at an angle from the top towards the base of the stem.
  3. A dirty knife can cause infections and diseases of the aloe plant.
  4. Place the cut aloe leaf on a paper towel and leave it in a dry place until it forms a so-called film. The entire process may take from several to several days. Planting a freshly cut leaf into the substrate will cause contamination of the cut part by the soil. And the infected leaf is bound to rot.
  5. Choose a pot with large holes in the bottom so that the water from watering can easily flow out of the pots.
  6. Fill the entire pot with a substrate, preferably a cactus soil. You can also use your own soil mixture to grow succulents.
  7. Make a hole in the substrate with your finger in the center of the pot, and then insert an aloe leaf into it, cut side down. Before planting, you can apply the rooting hormone.
  8. Use your finger to gently press the substrate around the leaf, and then water the pot.
  9. Place the pot in a warm and sunny place.
  10. Keep the substrate slightly moist for the first month. After this time, water the aloe plant moderately. At intervals until the soil is slightly dry before re-watering.
  11. If the leaf has wrinkled or has dried slightly, don't worry. The first roots should appear after 5-6 weeks.

How much light does aloe need?

Aloe, like any succulent plant, requires a sunny position for proper growth. It is important to provide the plant with a minimum of 6 hours of sun a day. Without proper lighting, the aloe plant will become elongated and the entire plant will become ugly.

Can an aloe plant be potted in a container with no drainage holes?

If your aloe plant grows in a pot without drainage holes in the bottom, don't hesitate and replant the plant immediately. The absence of drains and a drainage layer leads to rotting of the aloe roots. A drainage layer alone without holes in the container is not enough and may even aggravate the problem. This is because the water from the irrigation moves down the container and then settles on the stones creating the so-called water table.

As a result, the lower part of the substrate in the pot without holes in the bottom is constantly saturated with water.

This means that the aloe plant roots also become saturated with water. Water displaces the air that the aloe roots breathe from the soil. When it reaches a state in which the soil completely runs out of air, choking and rotting of the roots occur. Aloe with rotten roots gives a visual signal of discoloration of the leaves.

Pests and diseases of aloe

Pests appear most often on weakened plants, which is usually the result of cultivation errors. Aloe, like other succulents, can be attacked by pests of other succulents, such as spider mites, armored scale insects and european fruit lecanium. However, the most common pests of aloe in home conditions are mealybugs, which appear with insufficient air humidity.

Mealybugs on aloe

Mealybugs are white-pink insects that resemble small centipedes. The name 'mealybug' comes from the characteristic, woolly form that adult specimens of this pest take. They attack the underside of the leaf and the stem, feeding on the cell sap.

Leaves attacked by mealybugs turn yellow and fall off, and the plant itself stops growing. During feeding, mealybugs secrete the so-called honey dew, which is a breeding ground for fungi that can also attack the weakened plant.

How to get rid of mealybugs on aloe plant?

An effective method of getting rid of mealybugs from aloe plants is to use an aqueous solution of gray soap. However, for the dust treatment to be effective, you should wash each leaf of the plant on both sides with a cotton pad. A swab should be changed after each washed leaf to prevent the spread of mealybugs to new plant parts.

The treatment of mealybugs attacking our plant is laborious and long-lasting. For it to be effective for several weeks, at 4-day intervals, we repeat the leaf cleaning process. If home methods of fighting mealybugs turn out to be ineffective, it is worth reaching for a specialized protective agent. 100% natural agent based on blackberry oil is Emulpar 940 EC.


Aloe is a graceful and undemanding plant that works great as indoor plant. If you provide it with a suitable, sunny position and take care of its regular but not abundant watering, it will certainly reward you with a beautiful and abundant growth.

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