Aloe vera is not only a decorative houseplant, but a medicinal and cosmetic powerhouse. Here is how you can grow your very own Aloe vera from seed and propagate it from cuttings.
Nowadays, Aloe vera is found in many homes. As well as being a decorative, evergreen succulent, it can also be used as a remedy for skin conditions. Read on for tips on planting, propagating and using Aloe vera.
- Aloe vera: origin and characteristics
- Planting Aloe vera
- Propagating Aloe vera: offshoots and seeds
- Pulling Aloe vera offshoots
- Is Aloe vera hardy?
- Transplanting Aloe vera
Aloe vera: origin and characteristics
Aloe vera (la vera lat. = “the true one”), also known as the true aloe or genuine aloe, originally comes from the Arabian Peninsula and is now popular in homes across Europe and the West. Aloe barbadensis is a species name and synonym for the true aloe plant. It belongs to the genus Aloe and is thus part of the family Xanthorrhoeaceae.
The plant has been known since ancient times for its healing properties. With its unique appearance and undemanding nature, Aloe vera is increasingly used at home!
Even though Aloe vera is often mistaken for a cactus, it is in fact a succulent. It grows completely stemless or on a short pseudo-stem, forming rosette-like leaves that are about 30 to 40cm long and 6 to 7cm wide at the base before tapering to a point. These leaves tend to be lush green or grey-green in colour with prominent, firm teeth on their edges.
Aloe vera can also flower, though only after three years, given the right conditions. The succulent will form a single stalked flower, or, more rarely, a two or three stalked flower that can grow 60 to 90cm tall. Aloe vera flowers arrange themselves into a cylindrical cluster that is 20 to 30cm long and tapers towards the top. These yellow, red or orange flowers have a short stalk and prominent stamens and pistils protruding from the top. Find out more about the most beautiful Aloe species here!
Mistaking Aloe vera: At first glance, it is easy to mistake an Aloe vera plant for the similar-looking Agave. However, there are differences. Where the inside of an Agave’s leaves are fibrous, the Aloe vera’s are gel-like. As such, Agave is used in fibre production, and some species produce agave syrup or tequila. Most species of Agave are irritants and poisonous; they should never come into contact with the skin. Meanwhile, Aloe vera is most known for its use in cosmetics and medicine. And if that wasn’t enough, Agave will survive temperatures as low as -20°C, while the Aloe vera does not tolerate frost.
Planting Aloe vera
Aloe vera is very low maintenance so cultivation is usually easy. Here is everything you need to know about cultivating and caring for your Aloe vera.
The right location for Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a true sun worshipper. So be sure to place your Aloe by a south-facing window or in a conservatory, maintaining temperatures of around 20 to 25°C. Aloe vera does tolerate darker rooms, but is likely to turn dull and grow much more slowly.
An Aloe vera plant is difficult to cultivate in the garden because it does not tolerate temperatures below 5°C. As such, you will need to grow it in a pot and bring it indoors for winter. In spring, around mid-May, move your Aloe vera outside in the sun again, providing there is no danger of frost. But do allow it to settle in to its new location. If you move an Aloe vera directly from a winter location into blazing sun, the leaves may burn. Once the temperatures drop again in September, move your plant inside. Place the Aloe vera in a bright room with mild temperatures of no more than 15°C. A conservatory, staircase or unheated living rooms are all ideal.
What kind of soil is best for Aloe vera?
Aloe vera grows best in mineral and nutrient-rich soil that is low in humus. You could use normal potting soil, but you will then need to transplant it more often. In any case, the soil should be highly permeable to avoid waterlogging and disease. Cactus or succulent soil is best, but you can make your own by adding sand, rock powder and broken expanded clay to high-quality compost. The compost will support the plant’s growth, while the sand provides suitable aeration and water permeability. Rock powder and broken expanded clay offer further structure and stability to the compost so that it doesn’t collapse. Our peat-free Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost works well as a base. Its clay content will provide your Aloe a long-term supply of nutrients.
- Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
- For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
Tip: Make your own cactus and succulent soil
If you want to make your own cactus soil, mix about 50% all-purpose soil with 10% quartz sand, 30% expanded clay and 10% basalt or granite rock powder. This creates a loose, well-aerated soil that can store water and nutrients well and avoid waterlogging.
Planting Aloe vera
Planting Aloe vera is easy and almost always successful. Find a pot that is suitable for the size of the plant, add some expanded clay to the bottom for drainage and place the Aloe plant in, covering the roots with soil. Again, a cactus and succulent soil works well here, or, alternatively, a homemade cactus soil. Lightly press the soil and water well. Finally, move the Aloe vera to a warm, sunny location. The roots will grow after just a few weeks. Read about how to water, fertilise and prune your plant correctly in our article on Aloe vera care.
Propagating Aloe vera: offshoots and seeds
There are various ways you can propagate Aloe vera. All of them are easy, not least because Aloe vera propagates itself with offshoots if left alone! However, you can also use seeds or leaf cuttings.
Pulling Aloe vera offshoots
Aloe vera forms so-called offshoots. These offshoots are connected to the mother plant by a stem but form their own roots. To propagate Aloe vera from its offshoots, remove the mature plant from its pot, clear any excess soil, and separate the offshoots from their mother.
Note: The offshoots should be at least five centimetres long.
Once you have separated the offshoots from the mother plant, place them in their own pot, cover them with soil and water. A cactus, succulent or home-made soil made from a high-quality compost such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost works best for this. Soon enough, this offshoot will develop into a large plant and produce its own offspring.
Propagating Aloe vera from seed
Propagating Aloe vera from seed is a little trickier but quite possible. The best time to sow Aloe seeds is from May, when the days are longer and lighter. To do this, place the Aloe vera seeds in a small pot filled with moist soil, and lightly press them, such that the upper part of the seed protrudes from the soil. Cover the pot with a pane of glass or cling film to create a mini-greenhouse that will aid germination and leave it in a warm place, like a windowsill, at about 25°C. Occasionally, lift the lid of the mini greenhouse to prevent fungal growth. After 2 to 4 weeks the seeds will start to germinate.
Can you grow Aloe vera from leaves?
A third way to propagate Aloe vera is to plant leaf cuttings. This is almost as easy as propagating Aloe vera from offshoots. To do this, cut off a healthy outer-leaf with a sharp knife, leave it for a few days to dry, and then place it about a third of the way into a pot filled with soil and lightly press down so that it does not fall over. Again, homemade cactus soil or a special cactus and succulent soil works well. Finally, water the Aloe vera leaf well to stimulate root formation. Place the pot in a warm, sunny place – such as the windowsill – and keep the soil constantly moist for four weeks, by which time the leaf should have taken root. From now on, the baby Aloe vera plant can be watered just like a mature plant.
Is Aloe vera hardy?
To keep your Aloe vera healthy, overwinter it. If the plant is outdoors, bring it inside from September. If it is a houseplant, leave it until the end of October, before moving it to a suitable winter location.
Overwintering Aloe vera is best done in a bright room which maintains a constant 5 to 15°C. Winter gardens, light stairwells or unheated living rooms are ideal for this. During this period of winter dormancy, water your plant less often, and avoid fertiliser. From March onward, you can move your Aloe vera back to a warmer place. However, do not move it outdoors until May, once there is no frost.
Transplanting Aloe vera
Like any other potted plant, you will need to transplant your succulent once the soil compacts and loses trace nutrients. Aloe vera tends to need repotting every two to five years, but this depends on the age of the plant and its soil. Your plant will probably need to change pots once you notice it growing more slowly, or once the offshoots reach the edge of the pot. If you are dealing with long offshoots, it is a good idea to repot the Aloe vera at the same time as propagating the offshoots.
To transplant your Aloe, remove it from its pot, clear it of old soil and dead leaves, and place it in the new, larger pot. Note: If the lower part of the plant is woody, it will need a deeper pot. Use homemade cactus soil – using, for example, our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost – or a special cactus and succulent mix. For larger plants, use wooden sticks for support until the succulent has re-anchored itself in the soil. Otherwise, the heavy Aloe plant may topple over.
Curious about succulents? Then find out more about the 10 most beautiful, hardy succulent species.