With more than 250 aloe varieties in the world, size can range from tiny 1-inch plants to large spreading groups of plants more than 2 feet in diameter. The semi-tropical succulent aloe vera is one of the most popular varieties to grow at home and can only grow outdoors if there is zero chance of freeze. They can also make ideal houseplants with enough sunlight. Older plants bloom tall stalks of bright orange flowers that can also add an aesthetic beauty to a landscape and provide a favorite nectar for hummingbirds.
Since aloe vera can store a lot of water within its root system and leaves, it is important not to overwater it. Aloe vera becomes dormant during the winter, so very little watering is needed (about one watering every two weeks). In the summer, completely soak the soil through to the drainage holes about once per week. It's also important to let the soil dry out completely between waterings.
Soil Quality and Replanting
If your aloe vera plant is in a pot, it is important to repot it every spring in a wide planter rather than a deep one. This is because the root system spreads outward, quickly and efficiently. Always make sure the planters have sufficient drainage holes with an inch of gravel on the bottom. Try to use an optimum quality soil when planting, with a potting mix combined with perlite and coarse sand.
Harvesting aloe is best done right before use. Most people grow aloe for medicinal purposes, or even culinary for the seasoned chef. When harvesting, use a sharp clean knife to slice off a small leaf lengthwise from the plant's outer edge base. Aloe will heal up the wound on its own within a couple of weeks. Harvested aloe can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about a week before becoming too gummy for use.