7 Ways to Keep Your Aloe Plant Alive (Indoors)

How to keep your aloe plants alive

Aloe plants are adapted to growing in hot, dry climates with relatively low rainfall. To keep aloe plants alive it is important to emulate these conditions by planting it in gritty well draining potting soil, in full sun and only watering when the potting soil has dried out.

Here is a table summarizing the most important cafe requirements for keeping aloe plants alive:

How to Care for Aloe Plants Indoors:Indoor Aloe Plant Requirements:
1. Light:Full sun (at least 6 hours). Indoor grow lights may be necessary in Winter if you do not have a South facing Window.
2. Potting Soil:Gritty ‘Succulents and Cacti’ soil is necessary to provide sufficient drainage for aloe plants. Normal potting soil retains too much moisture.
3. Watering:Water when the potting soil has dried out. Aloe plants need watering less frequently in Winter.
4. Best Pots for Aloe Plants:Clay and terracotta are best for their porous structure that allow the soil to dry more evenly.
5. Repotting Aloe Plants:Repot aloe every 2-3 years in a pot that is around 1-2 inches larger in diameter.
6. Fertilizer:Use a succulent and cacti fertilizer once a month in Spring and Summer for mature aloe plants.
7. Temperature Range:The optimal temperature range is 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) during the day and between 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 16°C) at night. Aloe can tolerate much warmer temperatures.

Keep reading for how to take care of aloe plants and for troubleshooting tips…

1. Locate the Aloe Plant in 6 Hours of Direct Sunlight

Aloe plants are native to hot, dry and sunny environments, with aloe vera growing wild in countries such as Oman in the Arabian Peninsula.

Therefore when grown indoors it is important to find a nice sunny window sill with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.

In my experience, it is best to give aloe plants as much sun as you can as the more sunshine the aloe has the more it will stay in an aesthetically pleasing compact shape, rather then growing leggy and drooping.

Why is my aloe drooping
aloe leaves drooping

If they are in too much shade then the aloe leaves often droops down, turn pale and grow leggy as it searches for more light.

However I should caution that if your aloe has been in the shade for a while, you should expose it to more sunlight gradually rather then place it in direct blazing sunshine as it can scorch if it does not have time to adjust.

Place the aloe in more sunlight over the course of 2 weeks (by either moving the plant or drawing a curtain slightly) to give the aloe time to adapt to the sunny conditions and it should be very happy.

If you do not have a window sill with enough sunlight supplement their natural light with grow lights to prevent the aloe becoming leggy as aloes cannot survive in the shade.

2. Plant Indoor Aloes in Well Draining Gritty Soil

Aloe plants grow in gritty, sandy soil with a well draining, low nutrients and porous structure in their native environment.

To grow your aloe plant it is important to plant it in soil that replicates the natural soil conditions by planting it in specially made ‘succulent and cacti soil’.

Gritty 'succulent and cacti soil' is the best soil for growing aloe plants.
Gritty ‘succulent and cacti soil’ is the best soil for growing aloe plants.

Conventional potting soil retains moisture around the roots of the aloe plant too long for it to tolerate which can cause the same symptoms as over watering with the leaves turn yellow or brown with a mushy texture.

The succulent and cacti soil is especially gritty and does not hold much water around the roots which helps to prevent root rot.

(To learn more, read my article best potting soil for aloe plants).

3. Only Water Aloe Plants When The Soil Dries Out Completely

Aloe plants have many adaptation to growing in dry conditions with their thick fleshy leaves storing moisture to cope with drought.

As aloe plants are adapted to be drought resistant they do not tolerate damp and one of the most common reasons for a dying aloe plant is overwatering.

Aloe plants typically experience a deluge of rainfall followed by a period of drought in their natural habitat, so when watering aloe indoor it is best to replicate this cycle.

Water the aloe plant with a generous soak ensuring the potting medium is evenly moist then wait for the soil to dry out before watering again.

To tell when your aloe plants need water, I recommend feeling the potting soil through the drainage hole in the base. If the soil feels moist then delay watering for a few days, until the soil has dried out, then give the soil a thorough watering.

Another good way to tell is by picky your aloe plant pot up after watering and assessing the weight. The pot should feel progressively lighter as the soil dries out, at which point give it a good soak.

I personally find these methods much more effective then using moisture meters.

Aloes use it much more watering in the Spring and Summer when temperatures are in the optimal range for growth of 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C).

If the temperature increases significantly above 75°F then the aloe can sometimes slow its rate of growth and use less water.

Similarly when temperatures cool in the Winter and there are far fewer hours of daylight the aloe’s rate of growth and therefore demand for moisture decreases, it is always better to test the soil or feel the weight of the pot before watering.

I personally water my aloe plants every 7-10 days in the Spring and Summer and every 14 days or so in the Fall and Winter.

If the aloes leaves look thinner then the aloe is depleting its moisture reserves which is a good indication that it needs watering.

If you are unsure about watering read my article, how to tell if your aloe plant is over or under watered.

4. Plant Aloes in Unglazed Clay or Terracotta Pots

Clay or terracotta pots are best for growing aloe plants.
Clay or terracotta pots are best for growing aloe plants.

The best pots for growing aloe plants are unglazed clay or terracotta pots as these pots have a porous structure that allows the soil to dry out more evenly to prevent the risk of root rot.

Whilst aloe plant can grow in plastic or ceramic pots, these material are impermeable and can retain too much moisture for the drought adapted aloe plant to tolerate.

Choose a pot that has drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape after watering to prevent the soil from becoming boggy.

Empty any saucers, trays or decorative outer pots of excess water after watering to allow for good drainage and prevent the soil from being too damp.

5. When Repotting, Use a Pot that is Just Slightly Larger to Avoid Over Potting

Aloes do not need repotting too often and can tolerate pot bound roots for some time, but I have found best results repotting my aloe plants every 2-3 years to a pot that is proportionate to the size of the aloe plant.

I recommend using a pot that is only 1-2 inches in diameter larger then the aloes previous pot. If the aloe plant is potted in a much larger pot then the soil dries out much more slowly which increases the risk of root rot.

Just ensure that the pot has a drainage hole in the base and avoid placing the pot in a larger decorative outer pot as this prevents water from draining properly.

Always repot aloe plants in ‘succulent and cacti soil’ to prevent root rot.

6. Use a Special Succulent Fertilizer (Avoid Using Houseplant Fertilizer)

Aloe plants are relatively slow growing which is an adaptation to living in an environment without abundant resources other then sunlight. The aloe plants native soil is gritty and relatively low in nutrients.

Therefore I personally do not use any fertilizer on smaller aloe plants, particularly if they have recently been repotted. However larger more mature aloe plants require more nutrients and I have seen good results using a special succulent and cacti fertilizer.

A normal houseplant fertilizer is far too strong for aloe plants and can burn the roots, which is why a specialized product is necessary.

Best fertilizer for mature aloe plants
Best fertilizer for mature aloe plants

Succulents and cacti fertilizer contains all the nutrients, at the right concentration that the aloe needs to grow and potentially flower.

I apply a fertilizer once a month in the Spring and Summer to ensure a healthy plant.

7. Maintain a Temperature Range of Between 50°F and 75°F (10°C to 24°C)

Aloe plants are very comfortable at room temperature with the optimal range for growth being 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) during the day and between 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 16°C) at night.

Aloe plants are capable of surviving much higher temperatures, particularly during the day and in my experience tolerate a scorching hot day in the Summer sun without problems.

However it should be noted that if the temperature does go high for a long time then growth slows down considerable to conserve resources and moisture.

Aloe plants also prefer the temperature to decrease by around 10°F at night as this is the typical temperature fluctuation in their native environment. However I have personally grown aloes perfectly fine with indoor heating as the aloe has tolerated it well.

If the aloe gets too cold from being on a window sill in the Winter it may go slightly yellow or brown, in which case you may need to find a warmer location for your aloe plant.

(Read my article, how to revive a dying aloe vera plant).

Troubleshooting Aloe Plant Problems:

Aloe Plant Turning Brown or Yellow and Mushy?

Aloe plants turn brown or yellow and mushy due to overwatering and slow draining soils. Aloe plants do not tolerate damp soil as this results in root rot.

Aloe Plant Drooping?

If the aloe plant does not have enough light the leaves grow leggy, weaken and droop as they grow towards the strongest source of light. Aloe plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to stay compact and prevent a drooping appearance.

Aloe Plant Turning Red?

Aloe Juvenna 'Tiger Tooth Aloe' turning red due to high temperatures, blazing sunshine and not enough water.
This is my Aloe Juvenna ‘Tiger Tooth Aloe’ turning red due to high temperatures, blazing sunshine and not enough water.

Aloe plants turn red due to the pigments anthocyanins and carotenoids which indicates the aloe is stressed usually because of a combination of excessively high temperatures and blazing sunshine.

Cold temperatures, underwatering and low fertility soil can also turn an aloe plant red.

I recommend moving red stressed aloes to a room with temperatures lower then 75°F (24°C) and provide it with some shade from afternoon sun. Ensure the aloe has been watered throughly and the aloe can often recover and turn green agaain.

For more information read my article, how to solve 5 most common problems with aloe plants.

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