Aloe vera is an extremely useful medicinal plant and helful to have around the house. Fortunately, they are also compact and attractive plants that adapt well to container growing. Aloe Vera is easy to raise, requires relatively little care and provides pretty foliage year round.
During the fall and winter months, Aloe Vera plants that have enjoyed the bright summer sunshine should be kept in a relatively bright room. South facing windows are best, but growers should not be tempted to place the plant in the window. Instead choose a well lit end table that sits away from windows and other outdoor draughts in order to keep the plant safe from cold shock. Indoor Aloe Vera plants should notice little or no difference in light levels and will be happy as long as their available light does not decrease. Indoor plants should also be kept away from windows during the winter to prevent cold damage.
The trick with raising a healthy Aloe is to strike a balance between too much water and not enough. This is true with any plant, but it can be particularly tricky with succulents. Aloe Vera goes dormant during the winter, so growth slows and water needs decrease. Over-watering causes Aloe plants to fail at any time of year, but in the winter growers will find it a lot easier to over-water. Do not use self-watering pots for Aloe Vera and do not allow a lot of water to sit in detached catch pots. As with many other succulent plants, soil should go dry between waterings. Root rot and cold shock are very common problems in the winter.
Healthy Aloe Vera plants have firm, gel-filled leaves. An Aloe suffering from root rot or cold shock has softened, drooping leaves. They tend to become more yellow in color. Plants suffering from root rot will lose lower leaves first and the younger growth core of the plant will go last. Plants suffering from cold shock will lose the leaves closest to the cold source first. Under-watering can cause the leaves to shrink in thickness and become harder. These begin to brown at the ends. Later, as the leaf begins to thin more, the brown will creep down the entire length of the leaf.
An Aloe Vera has relatively little need for fertilizer and no need for it in the winter. Aloes usually need fertilizer once per year during the spring. A sick Aloe may require a little bit of fertilizer to come back from illness. Growers should be aware that fertilizing a dormant plant may cause burn and shock. The best thing to do with an over-watered or cold damaged Aloe in the winter is to fix the problem. Cold damaged plants should be removed from any draughts. Plants with root rot need the amount of time lengthened between waterings. Adequate light should be available to the plant during the day. Southern exposures provide the best light, but if home layouts and terrain do not permit good light from a southern exposure, other well lit rooms will work.
Raising Aloe Vera plants can be very rewarding. Dormant winter Aloes require a little protection, but they demand less care. The warm springtime green they provide to their indoor winter homes is well worth the trouble.