How To Grow And Care For An Aloe Vera Plant

From houseplant to home-grown skincare, aloe vera is a rewarding plant to grow.

Aloe Vera Plant in pot

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Most of us are familiar with aloe vera. The gel-like sap has long been used to cool sunburns and can be found in everything from lotions to shampoos. The plant itself is a beloved houseplant, grown for its striking architecture, with succulent upright foliage spotted white against a vibrant green. Aloe has fleshy leaves used to store water, with a thick, waxy surface that prevents plants from drying out. These traits make aloe vera plants well adapted to growing in dry conditions–including life indoors. Learn how to grow and care for an aloe vera plant so you’ll always have a source of soothing gel on hand. 

Plant Attributes

Common Name Aloe Vera
Botanical Name Aloe vera
Family Asphodelaceae 
Plant Type Perennial, Herbaceous
Mature Size 12-24 in. tall, 6-12 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Dry, Sandy
Soil pH Neutral Soil pH
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 10-12 (USDA)
Native Area Arabian Peninsula, Mediterranean
Toxicity Toxic to Humans, Dogs, and Cats 

Aloe Vera Care

Throughout most of the country, aloe vera is grown indoors as a houseplant. It can be brought outdoors in the summer and, in the warmest locations, can be grown outdoors year-round as a perennial. Aloe vera grows naturally in hot, dry locations, which helps guide plant care. These are incredibly easy-to-grow houseplants.


Aloe vera thrives in bright direct to indirect light, though plants tolerate some shade and perform well as houseplants in a bright sunny window. Indoors, rotate plants periodically to promote even growth on all sides of the plant. Aloe requires full sun to bloom, though this is only likely to occur where plants are grown outdoors all year.


As a houseplant, grow aloe vera in a sandy well-draining commercial mix, such as one labelled for cacti. If using a standard mix, add equal parts sand and potting soil. Avoid potting mixes that contain fertilizer. Outdoors, plants tolerate poor soil and require good drainage.


Aloe is quite drought tolerant. Water plants sparingly, allowing the upper one to two inches of soil to dry completely between waterings. Make sure containers have adequate drainage and do not let plants sit in trays of water. Plants brought outdoors should be placed in a location sheltered from excess rain. Reduce water during the winter months when plants are less active.

Temperature And Humidity

Aloe vera is adapted to desert-like conditions, where day and night temperatures differ. Look for a location indoors that provides these fluctuations, such as a windowsill. Plants can be damaged at temperatures below 40˚F. Wait to bring plants outdoors in spring until night temperatures are consistently above 50˚F. Likewise, bring plants back indoors in autumn before night temperatures reach that threshold. Aloe grows quite well outdoors in humid locations but does not require any special humidity control indoors.


Aloe plants do not require a lot of added fertilizer. Apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer mixed at half strength once per month during the growing season (spring-summer). Plants need no more than three applications per year.

Types of Aloe Vera

Unlike many ornamental plants, there are no cultivars of aloe vera available. The plants found at the garden center are the straight species, Aloe vera. However, there are many other types of aloe available. In fact, the genus Aloe contains over 400 species. If you want to use the aloe plant to harvest gel, stick with the species Aloe vera. Gardeners in warm climates might wish to add one or more ornamental aloe species or hybrids to the garden. Many varieties are also well suited to container life.

Aloe Varieties for Fabulous Blooms

If you are looking for magnificent blooms to accent the garden, these aloe species fit the bill. 

  • Aloe arborescens or torch aloe is among the most common aloes grown in the garden, thanks to its stunning red blooms. This is a large-growing species that can form 8- to 10-foot clumps under the right conditions. 
  • ‘Moonglow’ Aloe has incredible flower-flower. This long-blooming hybrid produces numerous yellow to salmon-colored inflorescences which hummingbirds adore. Growing 5 feet tall and wide, it makes a big statement in the garden.
  • ‘Safari Sunrise’ Aloe is a compact hybrid that blooms in its first season, so even gardeners in cooler regions can plant it as an annual for its multi-hued blooms (over winter indoors if desired). In warmer locals, it will form a 2- to 3-foot clump in the garden. 

Aloe Varieties To Grow as Houseplants

We don’t all have the right climate for growing aloe in the garden, but that’s okay. Many aloe species perform beautifully in containers, indoors and out (during the summer). 

  • 'Crosby’s Prolific’ Aloe is a miniature aloe perfect for windowsill pots. Growing just 6 to 12 inches tall, this aloe produces densely packed rosettes of spiky green foliage speckled in white. In bright sunlight, the foliage turns rich red hues. 
  • The mesmerizing Aloe polyphylla is grown for its spiraling foliage. Rows of rows of blue-green leaves are sure to enchant you with their perfect spiral pattern. 
  • ‘Christmas Carol’ Aloe is another miniature hybrid, growing just 6-10 inches tall and wide. The gray-green leaves of this stylish variety are edged in reddish orange teeth. Spots on the foliage also turn red orange. Color is more pronounced with brighter sun. 

Hardy Aloe Varieties for Cooler Gardens

Several aloe species are cold hardy and can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness Zones 8 through 11. These require lean soil with excellent drainage.  

  • Aloe brevifolia is a small growing species reaching 1-2 feet tall and wide. The thick foliage grows in rosettes that create a carpet in a kaleidoscope of colors including pale blue, coral pink, and yellow. Orange spring blooms complete the show. 
  • Aloe aristrata, a compact, ground-hugging aloe, is as adorable as they come, with white speckles covering its leaves. But don’t let its cuteness fool you–this aloe is plenty hardy. 
  • Don’t forget Aloe vera is hardy to Zone 8 and can be grown outdoors in temperate regions. 

How To Grow Aloe Vera from Nursery Containers

Aloe vera plants can be purchased at nurseries, home and garden centers, and even grocery stores and may come in a variety of sizes. They are usually planted in a plastic container and can become top heavy over time, so you will want to repot your plant in a more stable container. The soil and container you choose plays a big role in the health of your aloe vera plant. 

  1. Select a Container. Drainage is critical: make sure the container has large enough openings for excess water to drain from the pot. Terra cotta pots work well for aloe vera, as they allow water to wick through the container. Size the pot according to plant size, selecting one similar to the current nursery pot. A pot that is wider than it is tall is ideal to allow room for the plant to grow without holding excess moisture.
  2. Add Potting Soil. Fill the container about halfway with a well-draining potting medium designed for succulents or cacti. 
  3. Set Plants and Finish Filling. Gently remove your plant from its current container and shake away excess soil from the roots. Set the plant in its new container at the same depth it was growing in the original container, filling in around the roots with additional soil until the container is filled to about one inch below the rim. Be careful not to set plants too deeply, as this can encourage rot. 
  4. Water Lightly. Unlike most plants, that prefer a big drink water repotting, aloes benefit from a waiting period. Use just enough water to help settle your plant into its new home, then wait at least a week before thoroughly watering. This allows your plant to put out new roots. 
  5. Begin Routine Care. After a week, water the plants well and follow routine care as described above. Wait to fertilize plants until they are well established in their new containers.

Repotting Aloe Vera

Aloe vera plants benefit from occasional repotting to refresh the soil or provide additional room for growth. Though aloe vera tolerates crowded roots, eventually you will want to upgrade their container. Check the roots periodically, looking for crowding. If there is more root than soil, you need to repot. Plants that have grown leggy may also need an upgrade (or more light). Aloes that have become top heavy need a larger container or can be divided and repotted, as described below. Only increase the new container by one or two pot sizes, typically measured in inches, to prevent having too much soil per root volume, which can lead to root rot.

Propagating Aloe Vera from Offsets (Pups)

As aloe vera plants grow they produce side shoots or offsets, commonly called pups. These small plants can be divided from the mother plant and repotted to produce a new plant. To do this, cut the pup from the mother plant using sharp pruners, scissors, or a knife, leaving at least an inch of stem on the pup. Set the offset in a warm location out of direct sunlight for a couple days to allow the cut area to begin to callous, which will protect the new plant from infection. Once the callous forms, you can pot up your pups as described above for new plants.  

How To Get Aloe Vera To Bloom

The first step to getting your aloe vera plants to bloom is patience. Only adult plants will bloom, and it can take at least four years for an aloe to reach maturity. To encourage blooms, begin by removing pups from the container. This helps the mother plant focus all its energy on flowering. Fertilize plants in spring and early summer using a balanced fertilizer and water after fertilizing to wash excess salts from the soil. Avoid fertilizers with high phosphorous levels, which includes many labeled for blooming. Feed once per month as described above.

Aloe vera needs warm temperatures and plenty of light to bloom. Bring plants outdoors to provide extra sunlight. Plants grown entirely indoors are not likely to bloom, but you can give it a try by placing your plant in a very sunny location. The ideal temperatures for blooming are between 70 and 85˚F. Plants benefit from lower night temperatures, but bring plants indoors for the night if temperatures are predicted to fall below 60˚F. If flowers do not form, continue pampering plants with this routine for another year to encourage blooms the following season.

Common Pests & Problems

Aloe vera is a hardy plant and not prone to many problems. The most common challenge is overwatering, which can lead to root rot. This is easily avoided by using a well-draining potting medium and watering less frequently. 

Mealybugs are the most common insect pest. They look like wooly masses and often bury themselves in the crown of the plant. A light infestation can be managed by dipping a cotton swap or small paintbrush in rubbing alcohol and using this to apply the alcohol directly to the mealybugs. You can also use your fingernail to dislodge insects and discard them. If problems persist, you may need to apply an insecticide.

Examine plants regularly for signs of stress, insects, or disease symptoms. It is easier to treat plant problems when you catch them early. 

How To Harvest Aloe Vera

One of the great benefits of growing allow vera at home is having a ready supply of cooling gel for life’s unexpected scrapes and burns. To make use of aloe vera’s soothing sap, simply cut a thick, mature leaf from the plant, cutting it at the base with a sharp knife or garden shears. You can then squeeze a small amount of aloe from the cut end, or slice the leaf open lengthwise, revealing the juicy gel inside. Squeeze the gel into a small container or lay the leaf gel-side down directly on your burn. 

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