Aloe vera plants, which likely originated in Africa, are found most often in dry, arid climates. They can be very small (as short as 1 inch), or grow in large colonies of hundreds of plants reaching 2 feet in diameter. As succulents, aloe plants are very adept at water storage. The leaves contain a cool, soft gel that has been used medicinally for centuries. This gel cools burns, bites, and wounds on human skin. Because of its relatively hardy constitutions, the aloe plant has become popular household plants.
Aloe Planting Needs
Because aloe plants are accustomed to arid environments, aloe plants need soil that is porous and drains quickly. Plant aloe vera in a mixture of quick-drying soil (found at local garden supply shops) and small rocks. If starting your aloe plant from root stock, the roots should be planted in the same type of soil. Roots will not survive if kept in a dish of water, due to the plant's intolerance for watery conditions.
If you live in a warm, arid climate, plant your aloe outside, if desired. If your region's average temperature is cooler, an aloe will do better as a potted plant. You can put the plant outside during the day, and bring it in at night. Many people prefer to pot their aloes, so they can put them outside during the summer months and bring them in during winter. Aloes are prone to frostbite, and should never be left out in cold weather.
Aloes can be planted in pots or outdoors. These plants have shallow, spreading roots, so when planting or re-potting, choose wide planters or pots that have plenty of drainage.
Aloe Watering Needs
As succulents, aloes consist of 95 percent water. Your plant's watering needs will depend on its location, and the environmental temperature. If your aloe is planted outside in a hot area, water your plant once or twice each week. If the aloe is planted indoors, or in a cool climate, it will only need water once a month. During the winter, when aloe goes dormant, water your plant minimally. Always allow the soil around your plant to dry out completely before watering your plant again. Too much water will make your aloe plant wither and die.
Aloe Lighting Needs
Aloe vera plants need very bright indirect light, whether inside or outside. Place potted indoor plants near a window, where they will get plenty of light. Plant outdoor plants in mostly shady boxes that are near areas of bright light. Direct sunbeams will burn the tender aloe leaves, and could kill the plant.