As African natives, aloe plants are used to desert-like conditions: the dry air, the boiling temperatures as well as the sandy, nutrient-deficient soil. Doesn’t seem like too much of a hospitable environment to me, but aloes love it. Since the aloe is so used to these extreme conditions, you might think you can shave some pennies off your plant shopping list by the foregoing the fertilizer. Pot? Check. Watering can? Necessary. Fertilizer? Why bother buying a product that will give you aloe more nutrients than it was ever used to having? It doesn’t need it! But aloe plants don’t know what they’ve been missing! Just because an aloe doesn’t need fertilizer to grow doesn’t mean it cannot benefit from it: the right fertilizer can help your aloe grow bigger and more beautiful than ever!
Fertilizing your aloe can help you turn things up a notch in two major ways:
- encourages growth
- increase amount of flowers
- improve overall health
Adhere to the Basics: Soil Conditions for Your Aloe
Even if you do not choose to give your aloe the gift of a liquid fertilizer, the least you can do is adhere to some potting soil basics. Just because aloes come from Africa, where the soil is sandy, chunky, and lacking in many nutrients, does not mean you have to give it a sandbox to live in when it is in your home! You can do better! Planting you aloe in straight sand is just a big no-no. You can, however, create a more appropriate potting soil for your plant with sand:
- Mix traditional potting soil with coarse sand (1-1 ratio) for an aloe-friendly soil that will neither starve nor overwhelm your plant
Be careful when choosing your sand: while builder’s sand is a good idea, others are not. Avoid fine sands, like play sand. Unlike the builder’s sand, which will help drain excess water, fine sand will become compacted inside the pot, restricting the aloe and its water supply.
Bring On the Aloe Vera Fertilizer! What Type is Right?
So although it is true that aloes can grow in many depleted soils, you have the opportunity to show it a better life. Treat your aloe vera to fertilizer–the best kind of fertilizer. Here’s how to get those ratio’s right:
- The Standard? Think a standard fertilizer will do your aloe well? Try again. Granular fertilizers for your garden are not all purposeful: they exclude aloes. The 10-10-10 nutrient ratio just doesn’t get that aloe growing!
- Go Liquid: A liquid fertilizer, however, is a different story. With a ratio of 10-40-10, houseplant fertilizers will be something your aloe will thrive if given. Now we’re talking!
Bring on the Fertilizer! How Often Should You Fertilize?
Occasionally fertilizing your aloe will do the trick. Don’t overdo it now: remember, aloes are not in need of much nutrients to live to begin with (they came from arid Africa and have adjusting to poor soil conditions). If you frequently and heavily fertilize your plant, you will actually be doing more harm than good. Instead, keep your aloe of the opposite fertilizing schedule: fertilize lightly and infrequently. Once a month, quite frankly, should be all your aloe needs!
Fertilizing? Pssh! I can do that! While it seems like a monkey could do it, there are still a few things we should go over.
1. Before Fertilizing: 12 hours before the big moment, make sure you give your aloe plenty of water. Then, allow it to drain properly. Proper watering protects your aloe’s roots from chemical burns from the fertilizer. Nitrogen can really ruin an aloe’s day!
2. During Fertilization: Watch out for the plant’s leaves, stems, and flowers when applying the liquid fertilizer to your aloe. You wouldn’t want to harm it, now would you?
Aloe Vera Fertilizer: Not Necessary in the Winter
Is it springtime yet? That’s when you want to begin fertilizing that aloe! Get that baby growing! In the wintertime, however, your aloe goes into a sort of dormant mode: the cold weather causes it to sort of shut down, as it stagnates in growth and flower production. While you can push your inactive aloe to grow by moving if from drafty windows and watering it even less than usual, your aloe will still not experience much growth during the winter months, which can be slightly frustrating. But your patience does not have to be tested! As a less demanding winter plant, aloe vera’s do not need to be fertilized from the end of the summer until fall. Cross that task off your list!
Now that you know and understand fertilizing basics, off to fertilize your aloe vera you go!