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Aloe Vera is quite a popular plant to keep indoors, either to spruce up the lounge or have nearby in case you get a sunburn. Apart from its overall looks and ease of care, it can also be used as a relief ointment for burns and small scrapes. Talk about a houseplant with some serious benefits!
Yet, despite being easy to keep, problems can occur when we’re not sure exactly how to water our plants – and the aloe vera can be quite tricky, but not for the reasons you might be thinking.
What is an Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that grows in arid deserts in the Arabian Peninsula, although they have spread quite widely all across the world.
They have ‘teeth’ on their leaves and are quite hardy, they can live for up to 25 years. Because they come from a drier climate, the Aloe vera does not need as much water as your other plants. They can be quite susceptible to root rot and other overwater-type problems because we often over water them.
The most popular aloe vera species is the Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Its gel in particular is used to bring relief to burning skin and even flowers! However, getting any aloe to flower is quite an undertaking. “Shy bloom” is an understatement and many plant owners might have an aloe vera their whole lives without ever seeing a single bloom.
How often should I water my Aloe Vera Plant?
Now that we know what an Aloe vera is, let’s get into how to water it.
Before you water your Aloe vera you’ll have to check its pot and if it has proper drainage. No matter how perfectly you water an Aloe vera if you have the wrong pot, you will end up with an overwatered plant.
- Use a terracotta pot
Terracotta is brilliant for keeping the soil dry. Plastic containers prevent moisture from escaping and make the aloe vera more susceptible to root rot
- Use proper potting soil with good drainage
Your potting soil needs to drain well. A succulent mix will work fine. But don’t dig up dirt in the garden! You can bring in some nasty pests that way. You can also mix sand and rocks, with the bottom half of the pot being rocks, and the rest sand. But a basic succulent mix will work fine.
Now that you know that your pot is perfect, now you can follow these steps to ensure you have a healthy plant in your house.
- Water it deeply
What this means is the soil has to be completely wet through. You can check this by sticking your finger into the soil and making sure water reaches most of the soil. When you water a plant like this it will mean that the plant will be able to sustain itself for a long time.
- Water infrequently
When you have poured in copious amounts of water you can then leave your aloe vera for at least two to three weeks! But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on it, and you should know when your aloe will need new water.
To do so, simply check the top third of your soil (in a nine-inch pot, check the first three inches). If the soil has dried out, then your plant needs a fresh cup of water. Otherwise, leave it be.
- Leave excess water for a little while
Don’t drain out the excess water immediately after watering. Your aloe vera likes to soak a bit, so let it soak up the water for about 10 minutes before dumping it out. That way it’s nice and wet for longer and the water has certainly reached the roots.
Different seasons have different schedules when it comes to watering any plant, and the aloe vera is no exception. Adjust your watering schedule to ensure your plant isn’t overwatered or left to dry out.
- Summer/Spring watering
Because it’s hotter the water will dry up faster, which means you can leave your aloe vera according to the standard; anything between two to three weeks. It doesn’t need a lot of water at all, but the summer heat can dry up the water faster. Keep an eye on the soil. Heatwaves can dry it out quick! And sudden rain storms will, of course, keep it moist for longer.
- Winter/Fall watering
When winter or fall comes around, you can water even less. Anything from three to six whole weeks! But once again, keep an eye on the soil. Your climate will greatly influence the timing of your watering.
The biggest problem with watering the aloe vera is a combination of possibly overwatering or forgetting entirely because the watering times are so far apart. Your best bet would be a table, at least at first. This will help you keep track of when you’ve watered and when your plant will need more.
How do I know if I have overwatered my Aloe Vera?
It happens. We forget when we watered, panic and start dropping water on the poor thing every week. Don’t panic just yet! First, make sure that you have overwatered it. There are a few signs you can look out for.
- Leaves are starting to sag.
- Leaves and stem are turning soft.
- Plant will turn brown.
- Leaves will form white spots or water=soaked spots.
- Mold in the soil.
A lot of the times when a plant starts showing these signs they are in a lot of trouble and will need your help to pull through.
How do I know if I have not watered my Aloe vera enough?
A lack of water is quick to spot on an aloe vera.
- Curled up leaves.
- Soil is completely dry right down to the bottom of the pot.
- Leaves turning yellow.
- Leaves begin to thin and dry out.
It is far easier to save a dry aloe vera than an overwatered one. Simply pour in some water and watch it recover over the coming days. These plants are resilient and succulents, in particular, are quite hardy against droughts. They do live in deserts after all.
How to save a plant with root rot?
If you see your plant has root rot, you’ll first have to determine if you can save it.
Check the root system, if all of it is brown and mushy it is best to chuck the plant and get a new one. Root rot is quite deadly for most plants, and the hardy aloe vera is no exception.
But if parts of the roots are still firm, pale or green, you might just have a chance! It can be difficult to save a plant from root rot, but you can certainly save a sickly aloe vera. Just follow these steps.
- Remove the plant from the pot.
- Scrape off all dirt, without damaging the roots.
- Carefully trim off any rotten roots.
- Leave all healthy parts of the roots.
- Put the plant in a darker place with indirect lighting.
- Cover roots with a piece of paper.
- Don’t put the plant in an area that goes beneath 40°F.
- Prepare the pot with succulent soil.
- You can mix oil with half stones at the bottom (gravel/pebbles) and 50% soil to give the roots space to breathe for a few days.
- After 3 days, repot the plant in the prepared pot.
- Leave the plant alone, no water, for another 3 days.
- Move it to a partially shady place.
- After 3 days, give it some water, make sure it drains and start watering every week or so until it’s looking better.
- You can then repot the plant into a total succulent mix if you wish.
Sometimes the plant will simply be too far gone. If it’s overrun with mealybugs, or its entire root system is rotted, rather discard the plant.
The aloe vera is a surprisingly tough little guy. What makes it such an ideal houseplant is it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance like other plants. It doesn’t need to be trimmed for example and its watering schedule can be fit into the busiest of lives – most people should be able to handle it once a month! But as is the case with hardy plants, we plant owners tend to take it for granted and end up giving it no attention at all. Soon your hardy houseplant is dumped in the trash. Make sure to give your little aloe as much love as you give to your more demanding plants and who knows, with enough love it might just reward you with that hard-to-get bloom.