The Ultimate Watering Guide for an Aloe Plant

When I say the word “succulent,” your mind probably goes right to the cactus: those tall, skinny, prickly plants in the middle of the sandy desert that retain water because gosh knows arid Africa does not provide them with a lot! Succulents are perhaps best known for their ability to suck up (it’s name makes sense now, doesn’t it?) water;  they need to be able to extract droplets of water from even the driest soil due to the usual water shortage in their natural environment. So, what other plants have this amazing ability? There’s gotta be more than the cactus! Meet aloe vera: another member of the succulent family! It most certainly meets the water criteria: more than 95% of an aloe is water!  Because aloe is made up of so much water, keeping the plant properly hydrated is always the topic of conversation on aloe-growers’ lips:

  • How much water does my aloe need?
  • How often should I water it?
  • Should I change its watering schedule with the seasons?

But these important watering questions (it’s so easy to overwater a succulent!) inspire a variety of answers, answers that are often conflicting. It’s about time that someone delivers a comprehensive watering guide for the aloe plant, so here’s all the aloe vera watering instructions you could ever need!

Flood Warning: Aloes Are Easy To Drown

Because aloes are succulents, their bodies hold a lot of water. So, even if the soil seems too dry, you are probably okay: the aloe has some water in storage. Unlike other houseplants, the aloe keeps water in its leaves, not the soil until it needs it. It therefore seems like your plant runs out of water before it actually does.  Because of the anatomy of the aloe plant, it can easily be overwatered. Overwatering, in fact, is the most common cause of aloe death. So watch out, and read on! No aloe’s are drowning today!

Amount, Please! How Much Do I Water My Aloe?

Aloe experts and experience agree: you only want to water your aloe plant about

  • once every week

Although a good guideline to go by, the once-every-seven-days rule has its pitfalls. The environment, season, and plant itself (not all are alike!) can also play a role in when your plant needs to be watered next; it is not just a time factor. So how do you cater to the watering needs of your aloe better?  Keep reading!

The Touch Test

Looking for a more foolproof way to make sure your aloe is not receiving too much or too little water? Your thumb is best water test:

  1. Stick your thumb (or any finger of your choosing).
  2. Wait for it to reach soil (cue jeopardy music)
  3. Answer the question: how does the soil feel?
  4. If the answer is sopping wet, put down that watering can and wait a while to give your aloe more water. If the answer is moist, you can hold out maybe a day or two longer (although, if you want to err on the side of caution, it would be safe to give it some more droplets now). If the answer is dry, water away!

What if I Forget to Water?

Due to the water-carrying nature of aloe veras, they are pretty tough plants to kill–even if you have a black thumb. So if you perform the thumb test and your finger hits soil that is as stiff as a dried up sponge, don’t panic too much. Although you have waited a wee bit too long to water your plant, you have probably not caused it much pain or long-term health issues. Aloes can go for extended stretches of time running on little to no water, so as long as you water your dried aloe as soon as possible after you’ve noticed that you’ve neglected it, your aloe should perk right back up. All is forgiven!

Do Seasons Change Things? A Winter Warning

In the winter months your aloe plant goes into a sort of hibernation mode, becoming dormant (i.e., not growing or blooming very much). For this reason, your aloe will need less water than it does at other times of the year. Without growth, your aloe is not using a lot of energy, meaning it will conserve water as it uses it at a slower rate than it would it if were more active. If that’s not interesting enough, here’s another fun winter water fact: as it gets deeper into the coldness of winter, it is normal for your plant to need even less than it did at the start of winter! Let me put it another way: as winter progress, you watering can should stay heavier longer.

So how does all this information mess with your normal aloe vera watering schedule?  Numbers, please! During the winter, decrease how frequently you water your aloe to around:

  • once every two weeks

But again, don’t rely on the math. Use that touch test (see above)!

Oops! I OverWatered!

Signs and symptoms of an overwatered aloe include:

  • droopy leaves
  • stunted growth and no flowering
  • fungus and other diseases

But an even clearer sign that you were a little heavy handed with the watering is to just feel the soil. It is squishy and soppy? Yup, your problem is overwatering.

Where Are the Holes? The Importance of Drainage

Do me a favor right now: check out a few things about your aloe right now.

Pot: Take a look at the bottom of your aloe vera pot. Are there holes? If there are, congratulations, you’ve picked an appropriate pot for your aloe. The holes at the bottom allow any excess water to drain out the bottom. Without holes, the water would sit in the pot, potentially causing fungus and other diseases to take over and even kill your aloe. Inadvertent drowning is not a problem you want to deal with just because you forgot to put holes in the bottom of the pot.

Potting Soil: Is your aloe sitting in a potting soil mix that includes sand? If yes, you are halfway to the correct answer! Want to try to get the second part right? What type of sand did you use in your mixture? The correct answer is something like builder’s sand. You want to avoid play sand (the kind you’d find in a sandbox), since the small pieces will actually compact and hold extra water inside the pot when it should be helping the unnecessary water exit the premises.

Fertilizing and Watering: What You Need to Know

Before you use that liquid fertilizer on your aloe (which should really only be done about once a month), make sure you water it and water it well. About 12 hours before you plan to fertilize your plant, give it a nice watering. In this time, the excess water will have time to drain out, but some water will form a nice coating around the roots of your plant to protect it against the powerful chemicals of the fertilizer you are about to use!

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Comments

  1. Dani says

    My aloe plans have gone brown. They were overgrown in 1 pot so I reported the babies. What should I do from here? I water once a week if that. It’s coming to summer now and I’m fairly attached to them and would like to revive them rather than compost them

    • shaista says

      They’ll turn brown cause of too much of sunlight bring u r pot indoor 4 sum days until it turns green put it near a window where there’s small quantity of sunlight

  2. says

    My aloe plants are outside in the ground and some are in pots, also outside. Today I saw white liquid looking like white tears on some of the aloe plants. Is this some kind of fungus? I’ve never seen this happen before.
    Your information is great. I just can’t find anything on this particular event.is this some kind of disease? I just don’t know what to do.

    Rhea Fairley
    rheafair2@gmail.com

  3. Mark says

    My aloe has a white fluff forming on the outer leaves, I’ve trimmed and repotted recently and I’m always wiping them down. Any ideas?

  4. Liz says

    I just bought an aloe plant a few days ago to go into my new apartment I have been just using a cup to water it but a friend suggested getting a better watering system. Is it better to use a small watering can or a spray bottle to keep it properly watered?

    • Jade says

      I just used a cup before. Recently got a can. I never had problems. Mine is big and 3 or 4 yrs old. Got 5 babies from it too. I never thought of spraying them.

  5. derp says

    Okay what is the exact amount of water my aloe plant needs? I get how often, you never mentioned how much. I’m sure it depends on the size of the plant and how bit the pot, but what is it in general? 1 cup water? 2 cups? These articles have good info. but always neglects to mention the AMOUNT of water. AMOUNT< AMOUNTAMOUNT, not how often, I get that. so how much water?

    • Tracy says

      That’s what I need to know! I was watering once a week but a little over 2 weeks weeks ago the soil still felt damp so I didn’t water, the next week was the same and a few days later the soil still feels damp. I am thinking maybe I was giving too much water at a time……

      • Dan says

        Mostly when watering plants you want to water the plant so much that water starts dripping out the bottom of the plant, overwatering is not caused by watering too much at one time, its caused by watering too often, so just water your aloe until water drips from the bottom then wait until next scheduled watering.

    • vee says

      I have alot of aloes ive had for years and love them very much. But here latley the bottom limbs are thinning and becoming flat. Top ones are perky and happy but the older bottoms ones are scaring me… Help!!

    • Robin says

      My aloe plant is about 10 inches high with 7 leaves on each side (so 14 altogether) and the widest leaf is about 1 inch. I water 1 cup per week usually on Sunday afternoon. I do not and have never watered until it drained out the bottom of the pot. That’s too much water in my opinion and way more than is needed. If you do that the water sits in the soil at the bottom of the pot and rots because there’s no roots to drink it and no way for it to dry up. Just water the top and water just enough to get to the roots of your plant. If your plant is bigger than mine just adjust the water amount a little bit every week. Test it with your finger to see if the soil is dry a few days before your weekly watering and increase or decrease accordingly. You should be fine.

  6. james says

    My aloe has two new shoots coming up. I have watered it for some time. Should I give it water now?

  7. says

    Hi, iv just brought an aloe. d problem is, i couldnt find a pot so m kinda using plastic container. i dont really want my aloe to die ov disease or smtin. so should i make holes below the container for unwanted water passage? Thanks.

  8. Audrey says

    About 3 weeks my aloe vera plant seems to have gotten too heavy and fell out of the pot. There was very little roots on the main plant and the rest broke into about 15 small pieces with no roots. The pot sat on a table and most of the foliage cascaded over the table. I took the bigger pieces that had a root or two and planted it back in the pot it seems to be doing well. I ended up with 11 small plants repotted in regular potting soil i watered it when i potted them and have not watered it in 3 weeks i thought by letting it dry out would help. Three have since died, 3 have new leaves coming out the dirt and the others are surviving. How much water should I give the plants and when should I transfer them to a bigger pot right now they are in yogurt cups and cut off water bottles in a small greenhouse that is in my living room. I plan on giving them away but want them to be healthy.

  9. Tee says

    I have a aloe plant that’s growing very well, and looks really healthy. The only concern I have have now is that a couple of the leave tips are thinning, while the base of the leaves are still nice and plump. What could be the cause? Thanks in advance!!

  10. Somashekar. R says

    I hav brought an Aloe plant but its not planted still since 3 months its hanged over in the roof. But its not dried off even out of water and soil. Its a miracle thing. My doubt is how long it can survive without water?

  11. Denise Jasinski says

    Why are the bigger leaves of my Aloe flat and drooping over the edge of my pot? I’m afraid of over watering, and under watering it. It’s in front of a north window. I seem to have no luck with these plants.

  12. Leane Tresler says

    Just a comment on how the Aloe plant can come back. My aunt and uncle had passed away and the house was empty for at least 6 months Aloe plant inside with no care for at least that long if not longer. The plant was brown and thin all I did was give it a bath in the sink and almost before my eyes it turned green and looks great again. True Story. ..

  13. Kikkan says

    I do not know what i am doing wrong. I probably have about 40 different types of plants in my house and all of them do well except from succulents. Cactuses do very well. I have had 10-15 small aloe plants (babies) bought from a gardener. But none of them seem to thrive and many has died, they seem to just pop out of the soil with dead roots. Even the large ones i have bought, seem to just go bad after some time and never growing larger.

    I have tried everything. From neglecting them for a month or three, like i do with cactuses on purpose to giving them nuitrents and plenty of water. The only thing i see with the ones i bought, is the little soil there is in the pots.

    Anyone else having issues like this?

    • says

      I noticed that quite a few people reported the same problem. I found a plant food that is organic this year that caused the aloe vera to grow and not die. This is a privately ran company. The plant food is like no other. I got multiple pups in a few daysand they didn’t die. The larger aloe vera plants grew like crazy. I ordered from a rep.

      • says

        WHY would you post this and then not say what it is? I’m confused. Would you be willing to share that information? I’d be interested…

        • Pate says

          I thought the exact same. There are evil people in this world, there are diabolical people in this world, and then there is Sheri who left the world hanging for what may seem to be beyond an eternity…

  14. Carrie J. says

    I have a couple aloe plants a friend gave me, and a couple large ones I bought recently. They all seem to have this problem of the larger leaves flattening out and eventually turning brown and dying. What’s going on? I only water them once a week, and if water comes out the bottom of their pots I make sure they don’t sit in the pooling water. Are they not getting enough sun? Could it be the water itself that’s causing this, and maybe I should start using filtered/bottles water instead?

  15. Lucy Tsouni says

    I bought an aloe Vera plant a few months ago, it looks fine, I water it once a week and have not checked if the pot has holes for drainage, I found it horizontal yesterday and supported it. I am located in Greece where our climate in the winter is mild and humid in our region. I have no clue on where to find aloe fertilizer here, I do use ground coffee for all my other plants and they seem to be happier then with bought fertilizer from a botanist shop. Wishing you all a very happy new year and thank you dearly for this site. Warm regards,
    Lucy

  16. LaceyRae says

    I accidently over-watered my aloe and it kind of fell out of its pot, I think it might have happened due to the rotting of its roots. It still has some healthy looking roots though so I’m hoping it will revive. I’m pretty devastated because it is the first plant in years that has survived more than 3 years with me.
    So can anyone give some advice on how to help my aloe? (many of its leaves or branches, or whatever they are, broke off because of the fall so the poor thing looks kinda unhealthy and sad. :(

  17. Maggie says

    I have a succulent plant and i left it outside – and then the clouds decide to rain to my succulent (which had just outgrown it’s pot and that i had just separated and replanted) over filled my plants!:( I’ve put them by the fire to dry out the soil for a couple days and they’re still alive…. But i don’t know is if they’ll keep surviving!!:( Any tips?

  18. Nancy says

    I have a very old aloe, between 15-20 years. It’s all hanging over the sides of it’s pot and seems happy like that. My concern is that it has “skin” that gets very dry. I just cleaned it all up but am wondering, is that it normal? I give it a drink once a week but was unaware that I was supposed to soak it. In some ways it is thriving. In other ways it looks like it’s struggling. An suggestions?

  19. J Harr says

    I cannot find ‘anywhere’ on the web a cohesive answer to the question: How much (i.e. amount, quantity, ounces, gallons, liquid capacity, etc.) water do I give an aloe plant. Amount, Please! How ‘Much’ water do I give an aloe plant? Can anyone out there answer this question for me, I’d greatly appreciate it. I don’t need to know ‘how often’, such as; once per week or; twice a month or; when the soil is dry, etc., as those have been answered many times over in the post responses I’ve read while trying to find the quantity answer. I just need to know ‘how much’ water does an aloe plant normally need ‘each time you water them’. Thank you :)

    • Tony says

      Because plants differ in size and age as well as conditions such as humidity and season, it is difficult to say exactly the quantity of water a plant needs. A better approach might be to use an automatic watering device such as “Plant Pal”. These devices provide water as needed by the plant and can give you an exact quantity of water for a specific plant in a specific environment.

      You can weigh the quantity of water you initially put in the reservoir, then every few days you can weigh the device to find out exactly how much water has been absorbed by the plant. You can visibly see the water line fall in the reservoir each day. Weighing every 3-6 days can give you an exact reading without disturbing the plant so much. It might be easier to just weigh the whole pot with the device to reduce disturbing the plant.

      I recently planted two plants in my study; an aloe and a Chinese evergreen. I used automatic watering devices for both plants. I was surprised by how little the aloe absorbed compared to the Chinese evergreen. I don’t have exact figures, but I estimate the Chinese evergreen absorbed more than 5 times the quantity of water absorbed by the aloe. This is a very rough estimate because when I setup the aloe watering device I accidentally emptied about half the reservoir into the pot, so the low aloe absorption might be a reaction to this.

  20. J Harr says

    Oh, I left out info that my aloe plants are outdoor plants, zone 9-10, in southern california. They are not potted houseplants.

    • Carl Porter says

      You are trying to get all the roots wet, so just enough water to do that. So you spread water evenly across the soil around the plant (see it all get wet). You have the most control with a narrow opening, long spout, watering can. In pots, you wait a little after watering just enough to get all the surface soil wet. If you see a little water come out the bottom of the pot, then you did perfect. If you see a lot of water come out the bottom, you watered too much but not to worry because it’s coming out anyway. If you see no water coming out, then add a little bit more. Overwatering means watering too often which creates root rot. It’s very hard to save a plant once rotting has started. That’s why we aloe owners are extremely sad when we see any kind of rot. Once a week in the summers even in Southern California is plenty of watering. You are basically trying to make the plant look its best. It is designed for long periods without water. If it is so hot where you live that the plants start to droop or shrivel, you can increase frequency to once every 6 days or 5 days: whatever makes them look their best. As soon as the weather cools, you’ve got a tricky situation to avoid rot. Once a month watering should be safe. The ideal intervals for watering is hard to say. Is the plant dormant? And there are aloe species that rot easily while others are tolerant of watering too often. I’ve had two plants rot and die on me this year, so I think I overwatered Aloe brevifolia and probably Aloe variegata. I may have given too much sun to the Aloe variegata or lost too many roots when getting the roots separated during transplanting from the tiny cup it was sold in. Part of the fun of gardening is to know each and every plant you own. Good luck.

  21. Nmarie says

    I have a bowl with 2 old and large aloe vera. Recently, I was gone from beginning of November to end of April. I placed plants in a cool basement -watered before I left -and covered the sandy soil with bunched up plastic. When I returned in April, the plants were not wven wrinkled. Just thought I would mention this.

  22. Ciara says

    Hi! I went away to NI for 8 months and left my aloe vera at home, in a big plant pot with drainage holes and a saucer to protect the windowsill. When I left, my aloe was big, green and lively! Fast forward to now, and at some point my black thumb mother decided to rearrange the living room and transferred my aloe to a hole-less pot and shovee it on top of a cabinet in the corner of the room, ages away from the window. So.

    My aloe was sitting in about four inches of water, was brown and limp and very sad.

    I have moved it out of the evil pot, drained it and removed all the soggy dead bits. There doesn’t seem to be any roots left but I rearranged the living leaves in the damp soil and I am hoping for the best.

    I took a few leaves with me in a small pot to uni and it’s been sat on my windowsill for three weeks and still looks terrible.

    Is there any hope for my aloe, or has my mother succeeded in killing another of my plants?

    (She destroyed my cowslip by NOT watering it. Honestly!)

    Thanks,
    Ciara

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