Has your once clean and tidy aloe turned into an unruly beast? What a difference from when you just brought it home! When left untrimmed for a long bit of time, your aloe can get a bit wild, those long leaves getting even longer, starting to grow low to the ground and perhaps even corkscrewing into a tangled mess. Didn’t think trimming your aloe was necessary? Think about what your hair looks like when you wake up from a night of sleeping with wet hair. Yikes, right? Gotta use a ton of products to get it looking normal again. That is what’s happening here. As your aloe plant grows and grows, you need to take some scissors to that plant. Grooming is an important part of keeping your aloe healthy and beautiful. Prune that plant!
Trim an Aloe Plant: But What Do I Trim?
Hold up there! Before you start removing leaves all over the place, let’s take some time to answer a foundational question: what should you be removing from your aloe to keep it in check? While the extent to which you trim your plant depends mostly on its needs and your own desires (try asking yourself these questions: what does my plant need, or not need, to look healthy? How do I want my plant to look?), here are some plant pointers. Generally, you want to take off:
- the outer leaves
If your aloe plant is overgrown, tumbling out of its pot and spilling onto the floor, cut it down in size by removing the outer leaves (it could also be time to make sure your aloe is in the correct size pot or repot it completely). Because the outer leaves on your aloe are the oldest, they should be the first to go when your aloe gets a little too big to handle. The leaves on the inside are not only new, still growing and healthiest, but they will also be more difficult to get at with a knife or razor without accidentally snipping the stem or otherwise damaging your plant. Take off the outer leaves to give your aloe the easier and most efficient haircut.
- dead or damaged leaves
- dried up leaves
- brown or otherwise discolored leaves
No matter what causes your aloe leaves to die –whether it be disease, insects, frost, over- or under-watering, too much sunlight or what not–when their life draws to an end, they should be removed. Dead or dying leaves left attached to your aloe will drain your plant’s energy, as it will focus its time and strength on trying to revive long-gone leaves than to maintaining the health of its other leaves and blossoms. Also, be sure regard these symptoms as a sign of poor health. In other words, take them seriously. Try to figure out why some of your aloe’s leaves are displaying the symptoms they are. If you don’t take the time to find out the underlying cause of leave decay, damage or death, you may wake up one morning with an aloe too far gone to save.
- flower stems and blossoms as soon as they finish blooming
For the same reason you should remove dead leaves, you should also remove flower blooms as soon as they begin to die. You want to give your plant more energy to spend on other things: producing more flowers or thicker, healthier leaves. Whether you are using your plant for medicinal purposes or as an aesthetic decoration, dying flowers will only hold it back. Keep in mind that dead flowers can also attract bugs, especially if they fall into your aloe’s pot, accumulate and become soaked from watering.
- the suckers or aloe “pups”
Want to control your aloe’s size? This tip is a big one then. Suckers, sometimes referred to as “pups,” are offshoots of the mother aloe plant that can be removed and repotted to create a brand new plant. Propagating your aloe when suckers appear is a great way to reduce the width of your aloe, increase its energy and get extra aloe plants, either to keep or give away as gifts! Just wait until the new pups get about 4 or 5 inches tall, then untangle their root ball from the mother plant’s and replant away! Before you know it the baby aloe plants will be growing big and strong!
To Trim an Aloe Plant, What Do I Use?
Get out your trimming tools! Try a sharp knife or razor to get a nice, smooth cut when removing aloe leaves, flowers or suckers. Use a blunt tool and you could end up damaging your plant instead of helping it get healthier.
How to Remove Entire Leaves or Flower Buds
You might think that removing an entire leaf from your aloe would harm your overall plant. But exactly the opposite is true: cutting off unnecessary leaves will encourage your plant to grow and be healthy. But you must remove entire leaves and flower buds properly: taking that sharp knife or razor and placing it at the base of the leaf or flower stem to remove it completely. While the removed leaf will not regenerate and grow back, taking it off will allow the smaller, new leaves in the core (center) of you aloe to grow and get bigger.
Nothing Goes to Waste!
Instead of throwing those cut leaves into the trash, turn them into a nice medicinal aloe conditioner, hair oil, cream, etc. If you took off leaves that were dead, dried up, damaged or brown, ditch those. But if you were just removing outer leaves to cut your aloe back a little, don’t toss them so quickly! Recycle, recycle! Slice healthy leaves open to get to their medicinal gel and get working on making something aloe-related. Cream could help clear up your acne; conditioner can give your locks a boost of shine. Not using the aloe gel right away but wish to keep it for later? Take the leaves you removed and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge. Aloe gel is ready for whenever you need it!
None of the above information constitutes the best trimming tip, however. More than anything, you need to know that less is more. When raising that knife to your plant, always remember to trim sparingly. You can always remove more. But put a gaping hole in your aloe or give it a bald spot and there is no going back! Gotta wait for it to grow!