Store-bought potting soil is loaded with nutrients to aid a plant’s growth and development. But this type of soil is still not good enough for the picky aloe vera.
The Natural Habitat of the Aloe Vera
Native to Africa, the aloe vera is accustomed to living in dry, rocky, and open areas, exposed to high intensity sunlight and heat. Its fleshy leaves that retain water, horizontally growing roots to catch the scarce water, and sometimes prickly exterior are all adaptations that help the plant survive in these extreme conditions. Because the aloe vera is not evolutionarily equipped to survive in wetter, colder climates, you need to accommodate the plants’ needs when growing it in your own home. To do so, you will want to plant your aloe vera in soil that best mimics the dirt found out in the desert: sandy, rocky soil that has a low water content.
Here are a few mixtures you can create to give your soil the desert feel an aloe vera prefers:
1. Half Potting Soil, Half Sand: Perhaps the easiest and cheapest solution to your aloe vera soil dilemma is to simply mix your regular potting soil with the same amount of sand. You will want to use river sand, not beach sand.
2. Half Potting Soil, Half Granite Grit: Granite grit is simply crushed granite–that dark, granular igneous rock you might remember from high school earth science. Again, replacing a little bit of regular potting soil with granite grit will help meet your aloe vera plant’s special needs.
3. Equal Parts Potting Soil, Sand, and Perlite: Perlite is a volcanic rock that can expand up to twenty times its normal volume in heat. This triple ingredient recipe for aloe vera soil therefore creates soil with high moisture retention and aeration, making it ideal for plants accustomed to a desert lifestyle.
4. Potting Soil Made for Cactuses: If you visit your local gardening store, you can find many soil products lining the shelves made specifically for desert plants.
Restore the Nutrient Levels of Sandy Soils
A downside to planting an aloe vera in sandy soil is that its food supply decreases; the nutrients an aloe vera plant would normally get from regular potting soil is replaced by a low-nutrient sandy substitute. To compensate for this loss, you should regularly repot the aloe vera, revamping and restoring the soil contents. Another way to ensure your aloe vera plant gets the proper diet it needs from its soil is to fertilize it with a very dilute solution. Choices include slow-release fertilizer pellets and a balanced liquid fertilizer. Just try to avoid solving the issue of low nutrient levels by using compost, as it contains a lot of organic components and therefore increases the moisture level of the soil. The last thing you want to do it fix one problem and create another.