Top tips for looking after an aloe vera plant

Aloe vera is a widely grown houseplant and rightly so; it is also known for its medicinal properties – the juice, from a cut stem, for example, can be used to soothe burns and is also available as a health drink.

But the benefits do not stop there. The succulent absorbs benzene and formaldehyde as well as emitting oxygen throughout the night, simultaneously taking in carbon dioxide, leading to cleaner air in your household.

From potting to position, here is everything you need to know about keeping your aloe vera plant alive.

How to grow aloe vera

Like all succulents, aloe vera is suited to growing on a bright windowsill. Cooler and brighter rooms such as kitchens can also be ideal, but avoid trying to grow aloes in warm, dark rooms, such as living rooms and bedrooms. These succulents will tolerate the intense light and heat of a windowsill in the summer and also cooler temperatures in winter, just as long as they’re not overwatered and receive good light. Succulents, as with cacti, have two distinct growing periods, active and rest.

During the summer, when aloes are actively growing, they should be watered enough that the compost does not completely dry out for long periods because the plant is processing the water very quickly in order to grow.

In winter (October to March), you need to drastically reduce your watering routine, giving succulents just enough to keep the plant barely alive.

Whatever the time of year, do not allow any aloe to sit in water; moisture should be allowed to drain from the compost to prevent root rot.

It is also wise to avoid wetting the foliage as most succulents dislike this.

Terracotta pots allow the roots to breathe more effectively – and I think that an aloe in a terracotta pot and saucer with a layer of grit in the saucer to prevent the roots from sitting in water looks the bees’ knees.

To keep aloes growing strongly, repot them each spring to provide fresh compost and rooting space. If your aloe has reached the point where you cannot go up a pot size for practical reasons, simply replace the top few centimetres of compost to refresh the plant.

When it comes to the best compost for aloes, it’s best to use a cacti and succulent mix available from most garden centres and DIY stores. If you cannot find such a mixture, then 50 per cent peat-free compost and 50 per cent grit will suffice.

This article is kept updated with the latest information.

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