How to Care for Aloe Plants – 13 Lucky Secrets Just for You

Aloe plants are easy-care succulents with lots of personality and a low-maintenance reputation.

There are over 500 species of aloe, including the most well known of the aloe cousins – aloe vera. Most of them have grey-green leaves, sometimes with white spots on the surface and pinkish spines along the edges.

As aloes are succulents from naturally arid conditions in places like Oman, they like it dry and – somewhat strangely – nutrient-deficient.

With a minimal amount of care, you too can learn how to care for aloe plants. Your indoor aloes can live up to 12 years and will speedily reach maturity within 3-4 years.

But don’t be fooled by their low-maintenance laid-back vibe – aloes are actually very useful. The aloe vera plant is one of the most widely used plants, with its soothing and hydrating gel used in sunburn remedies, beauty products and tonics that aid digestion. Find out what cool tips and tricks you’ll learn below!

how to care for aloe plants

Table of Contents

How to Care for Aloe Plants

Learning to properly care for your aloe plant can be very rewarding. This helpful aloe guide, inspired by my own aloe success story, can lead you down the road to aloe happiness.

How Much Light Is Needed?

As aloe plants come from warm, arid environments they will need access to bright light. They prefer full sun or partial sun, but too much direct sunlight as this can cause an aloe’s soft skin to burn. Select a south or west-facing window for your aloe so it can enjoy warmer afternoon sunlight. A windowsill with bright indirect light is a great spot for an aloe.

Giving your aloe plant enough access to light is important. A lack of light will weaken the leaves and encourage leggy growth.

If you are finding it tricky to find a light spot with indirect sunlight in your home, try using a grow light instead. Although aloes prefer natural sunlight, artificial light is better than no or low light.

aloe vera plant in bathroom

Is Watering Difficult?

Aloe plants like a thorough drenching when you water them. After dowsing your aloe, let it sit in the water as it drains out of the drainage hole. After 10 minutes, tip away the excess water.

It is crucial to have drainage holes for your aloe as they will be very angry about sitting in stagnant water. Aloe vera plants naturally grow in arid conditions with high altitude and are used to water draining away downhill. 

Although aloe plants enjoy a heavy watering, they do not like regular watering. Allow the top third of the soil to go completely dry before each water.

Use your finger to test the moisture levels in the soil before watering it again.

In the spring and summer aim to water your aloe every 2-3 weeks. And water your aloe even less often in the colder months (as little as once per month will be fine). This will encourage your aloe to go dormant in the winter.

Aloe vera plants are well adapted to survive droughts as they have water-storing tissues called parenchyma. A little under-watering will not harm your aloe and it will bounce back. 

A prolonged drought will cause the leaves to turn yellow and the plant will die. Prevent an untimely aloe death by watering your aloe plant if you see the leaves shriveling up or puckering.

But the greatest threat facing an aloe plant is overwatering.

The signs of overwatering include wilting, yellowing of the leaves and root rot. Overwatering is the biggest cause of aloe vera deaths – so it is better to under-water than over-water.

aerial view of aloe vera plant

What Temperature and Humidity Is Ideal?

Aloe vera naturally come from arid semi-tropical environments and so like it on the warmer side. Your aloe will enjoy temperatures of between 16°C and 21°C (or 60°F and 70°F).

From May to September you can take your aloe outside during the day, but make sure to bring it in on cooler evenings. Prepare your aloe for this transition by moving it to a partially sunny outdoor spot for a week or so before exposing it to full sun. A sudden outdoor transition can result in sunburn and shock for your aloe.

Unless your aloe is one of the few alpine varieties, it will generally resent frost. Keep your aloe houseplant inside in the winter.

Aloes are suited to drier air and don’t require additional humidity (around 40% relative humidity will be satisfactory).

Is Any Soil Acceptable?

Aloe plants naturally grow in nutrient-poor soil, often on well-draining sandy slopes. As they have adapted to survive in arid conditions, aloes do not need nutrient-rich potting soil.

Aloes appreciate a cactus potting soil mix or a generic sandy soil. Picking a well-draining potting mix made for cacti and succulents is the healthiest option for your aloe.

If you do opt for a regular houseplant soil mix, add a little perlite, small bark chunks or coarse sand to keep your aloe happy.

aloe plant in rocky soil

Ensure your pot has drainage holes as aloe vera plants become very unhappy about sitting in water.

In terms of soil pH levels, aloes prefer slightly acidic soil (around 6 pH), but will also be happy in neutral or slightly alkaline soil too.

Should I Fertilize?

As aloe veras have adapted to grow best in nutrient-poor conditions (think desert soil and semi-barren land), they don’t really require fertilizing.

If you do want to include your aloe in your general houseplant fertilizing regime, only fertilize it once a year in the spring to help maintain growth. Opt for a phosphorus-heavy, water-based fertilizer, diluted down to half strength.

Is Repotting Necessary?

Aloe plants have wide and shallow roots and like to spread out. When it is time to repot, go for a wider pot, rather than a taller one. This will encourage your aloe to develop a healthy root system.

On average, aloe plants will only need repotting once per year at the most. Repot your aloe when its offsets seem overcrowded or its roots begin outgrowing the pot. (See the section on what offsets are and how to grow a new aloe from the offsets).

putting soil in aloe vera pot

Opt for a terracotta or clay pot – a porous pot material is recommended as it encourages the soil to dry out properly between waterings.

The pot will need to have drainage holes as aloe plants can be sensitive to overwatering or a buildup of stagnant water.

Choose a pot that is as wide as it is deep. Make sure you can put the whole stem (if your aloe vera has one – some don’t) under the soil.

Follow these simple steps to repot your aloe plant:

  1. Wash out your pot if it previously housed a different plant.
  2. Remove your aloe vera plant from its old pot and brush away excess soil. Be careful not to damage any roots.
  3. If your aloe is slightly too tall for the new pot, it is possible to trim the stem – but be careful as this can kill the plant if it is done wrong.
  4. Fill the pot up to a third with a well-draining potting mix, then add the plant. 
  5. Add more soil around the plant, making sure to cover the roots. Leave 2 cm of space at the top. The lower leaves of your aloe should be resting just above the soil.
  6. Do not water after planting as you would when repotting other plants. Leave it at least a week before you water. This will give your plant time to put down new roots and help it avoid root rot.
  7. Keep it in a warm place with bright, indirect light until it seems rooted and begins to grow again.

aerial view of aloe plant

What Do I Need to Know About Propagation?

The best way to propagate aloe vera is to use the offsets that grow on mature plants. The offsets (sometimes cutely called “pups”) can be removed to turn into a completely new aloe plant (clone).

Aloe offsets can make great gifts because so many are produced by a single mature plant. And they are simple enough to separate and grow. Even a novice houseplant owner can successfully propagate an aloe with this method.

Here’s how to easily remove and replant aloe offsets:

  1. Separate the offset from the mother plant with a sharp knife, pruning shears or scissors. Leave at least 2.5 cm of the stem on the offset to encourage healthy growth.
  2. Allow the offset/s to sit out of the soil in a warm location with indirect light for a few days.
  3. When calluses have formed over any cuts, pot the offsets using a well-draining succulent or cacti potting mix.
  4. Place your new aloe vera plant in a sunny location. Wait a week before watering and make sure the soil is dry before watering.

The offsets will take a while to grow a proper root system – sometimes up to three or four months – so try to be patient.

aloe vera plant in rocky soil

It’s Difficult to Grow From a Seed

In short, no.

Aloe is rarely cultivated from seed because it’s easier and cheaper to propagate them from the offsets that grow on the mature plant. Aloe plants don’t usually produce seeds, or flowers, until they are over 4 years old.

But if you haven’t yet been put off, here is a useful method for growing aloe from seed:

  1. Collect the seeds from flowers that have gone over.
  2. Prepare a tray with a cacti and succulent soil mix or a sandy mix.
  3. Scatter the seeds in the tray and cover them with a light layer of your chosen soil mix.
  4. Water the seeds lightly so that they are slightly damp. Maintain a slightly moist environment by misting the tray.
  5. Keep the tray in a bright spot with a consistent temperature of 23.8°C or 75°F. Use a heat source if necessary.
  6. You should begin to see little sprouts growing after 2-4 weeks. Keep the young plants under heat until they grow four leaves. At this point they can be separated and potted. (Read the tips for successful aloe repotting.)

How to Keep My Aloe Plant Small?

Aloe plants are quick growers and can reach maturity in 3-4 years. They tend to grow to between 30 cm – 90 cm tall and 15 cm – 30 cm wide.

small aloe plants

But there is a simple way to keep your aloe small:

  1. Cut off a limited amount of the stem, leaving as much on the plant as possible.
  2. Place the bare plant in a warm place with indirect light.
  3. After a few days a callus should form over the wound. At this point the aloe vera can be repotted. (See tips on the best way to repot your aloe vera.)

Do I Need to Prune?

Aloe plants do not need regular pruning.

Any leaves which have become damaged, shrivelled up or have died can be pruned to maintain the health and attractiveness of your plant if you wish.

When you do prune your aloe, cut the leaves at the base to encourage new growth and maintain the attractiveness of your plant.

Do They Flower?

Aloe vera plants can grow yellow tube-like flowers that cluster on the stem. Sometimes they might even get orange, pink or red flowers, if you are lucky.

When mature, aloe plants that have been kept in ideal conditions can occasionally flower in the late winter or early spring. Encouraging your aloe to flower can be tricky.

They need lots of light, the correct temperature range and sufficient water to have a chance of flowering.

red aloe flower

Luckily there are steps that you can take to encourage an aloe bloom:

  • Improve the light conditions.
  • Keep your aloe outside in the summer sun (but remember to transition it slowly from part-sun to full-sun over the course of a week to avoid sun shock).
  • Maintain the temperature (between 16°C and 21°C, or 60°F and 70°F, is ideal).
  • Get the watering right (the soil should never be totally dry, but your aloe doesn’t want to swim either).
  • Let it go dormant (reduce watering and lower the temperature in the autumn and winter to encourage dormancy).

Don’t take it too personally if your aloe doesn’t flower – most indoor aloes will never bloom, even if they have been well looked after. Indoor conditions are just not conducive to aloe blooms.

Can I Harvest Aloe Gel?

As well as their beautiful aesthetic, aloe plants are very useful. 

Aloe vera gel is widely used around the world in cosmetics, herbal remedies and in food supplements. The gel is especially useful for soothing burns and sunburn.

Extracting aloe vera gel is much simpler than you might think. Follow this easy method to enjoy the full benefits of your aloe vera:

  1. Remove a mature leaf from your aloe and cut it lengthwise.
  2. Squeeze the gel out of the leaf. 
  3. Apply the gel directly to your burn or lay the opened leaf gel-down on the burn. 

It’s as simple as that!

aloe vera gel in jar

Never ingest aloe gel as you will suffer from rather unpleasant side effects. Aloe vera can be toxic for humans and pets, so take care.

Pests and Diseases

Aloe vera are very susceptible to common houseplant pests. But luckily there are easy ways to deal with common pests and diseases.


Mealybugs are the most common pest which aloe plants face. They encourage mould to develop as they secrete a sticky substance at the base of the plant.

The cure?

Spray your aloe with water. Then wipe away the mealybugs with a soft cloth.


Scale will create unattractive grey ridges on aloe leaves, though they won’t kill the plant.

The cure?

Mix a solution of 1 tablespoon of insecticidal soap, 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol and 1 cup of water. Spray the infected leaves every 3 days for a period of 14 days.


Mites are hard to notice but if left unchecked their feeding will result in cancerous galls forming. Mites are especially undesirable as the harm they cause easily spreads to other plants. Take action as soon as you notice a mite-caused infection.

The cure?

Prune the infected areas at the base of your aloe. This will reduce the harm caused to this plant and also to others near it. Keep watching for signs of more mite damage and continue to prune as necessary.


Aloe plants are also susceptible to root rot, fungal stem rot and leaf rot. The most common cause of rot is overwatering, so make sure to let the soil dry out between waterings.

Cooler temperatures and high humidity can also encourage aloe rust – a fungal disease that leads to yellow leaf spots and eventually brown swollen leaves. Keep your aloe in a warm place with low-to-medium humidity.

Most of these diseases will not kill your aloe. But watch out for bacterial soft rot which can kill an aloe. There isn’t a cure for soft rot, but prevention is key – so be careful not to over-water.

The cure?

The best way to prevent diseases taking hold in the first place is to avoid overwatering your aloe. Allow the soil to dry out in between waters to avoid pests and diseases building up.

top view of spiral aloe

Common Problems With Aloe Plants

Overall aloe plants are very easy to care for and grow. There are just two common problems which aloe plants will not react kindly to: overwatering and limited light.

But watching out for the tell-tale signs of aloe unhappiness and following these simple tips will help to keep your aloe happy.


Keep in mind that aloe plants naturally grow in dry, warm environments. They have adapted to not require much water.

Wet soil can lead to root rot and damage the leaves.

Rot caused by overwatering can increase the bacteria and fungus which will cause your plant to decay from the inside.

Aloes like thorough but irregular waterings.

Top tip:

Water your aloe when the soil has dried out. Use the finger test to check the moisture levels in the soil before watering.

Limited light

Another common problem faced by indoor aloe plants is a lack of light. Aloe plants love the light and will become very sad and droopy without it.

Bending and breaking leaves are also signs that the light conditions are insufficient.

Aloes need bright light to thrive and grow. But remember that too much direct sunlight can burn their soft fleshy leaves.

Top tip:

Keep your aloe near a south or west-facing window, but out of direct sunlight.

small aloe vera plant in white pot

What Are the Types of Aloe Plant?

Knowing what type of aloe you have can help you to provide the best care for your aloe plant. Some common types of aloe plant include:

Aloe vera: one of the most common varieties of aloe, it has thick, fleshy green-grey leaves, very little stem and serrated edges. Some aloe vera plant varieties also have white flecks on their upper leaves. They often grow to between 30 cm – 90 cm tall.

Aloe Vera in stone pot

Aloe polyphylla, “spiral aloe”: a large egg-shaped succulent with grey-green leaves and (sometimes) orange flowers. This variety grows in a beautiful spiral and can grow up to 50 cm.

Aloe polyphylla / spiral aloe

Aloe aculeata: a mid-sized variety which can grow up to 90 cm wide and tall (and grows even taller in its natural rocky African environment). It has broad, thick leaves with thorns on both sides.

Aloe aculeata

Aloe brevifolia, “short-leaf aloe”: a round variety of aloe with thick, triangular blue leaves with orange tips. It has stunning golden rosettes that make it an aloe fan favorite. This smaller variety grows up to 30 cm tall.

Aloe brevifolia

Aloe ciliaris, “climbing aloe”: a succulent vine with green stems and bright orange tube-like flowers. It can grow up to a huge 900 cm long.

Aloe ciliaris / climbing aloe

In this guide we’re going to be focusing mainly on caring for Aloe Vera plants – one of the most popular and commonly grown types of Aloes – although largely any advice given here will also apply to all Aloe plants.

Caring for Aloe Plants Will Make You Happy

Aloe plants are very easy to care for and will reward your care with their interesting aesthetic and useful gel.

Key things to remember:

  • Water thoroughly but infrequently.
  • Effective drainage is key to avoiding overwatering, pests and disease.
  • Aloe plants thrive in nutrient-poor soil and don’t need fertilizing or loads of attention.
  • Aloe gel can be useful for soothing burns – but don’t eat it as it can be toxic.

Enjoyed This All-About-Aloes Piece?

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Photo of author
Catherine Allsop
Catherine inherited a love of things that bloom from her mother and grandmother. Her journey began with lavender picking in her mother’s garden and using rhubarb leaves as an umbrella in her grandmother’s garden. An interest in beautiful gardens soon transferred into the home too. Catherine’s current collection of leafy greens includes a gloriously large monstera (cheese plant), a low maintenance snake plant and an over-temperamental peace lily. Catherine also loves the interesting shapes of succulents and the structural beauty of her ZZ plant. When Catherine is not reviving peace lilies and dusting monstera leaves, she loves doing yoga, writing and visiting historical sites.

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