o How do I care for my Aloe?

Growing an Aloe Vera (or most other Aloe species; there are more than 300 of them) is not a difficult matter, if a few basic rules are followed:

1) If grown in a pot, allow the root ball plenty of room to grow; aloes are voracious growers, and having space to do so is necessary. When you (re)pot allow a growing area three to five times the size of the root ball.

2) Use a well-draining soil. The number of soils A. vera will grow in is quite large, but a basic cactus mix available at home improvement centers is quite suitable. You may wish to experiment with other soils, but one thing it needs is to be well draining, so even a home-made concoction of 1/3 sand, 1/3 soil, and 1/3 pumice/gravel is better than straight potting soil. Aloes don't like to be cold and wet.

3) Pot up your aloe in soil up to the root ball. Use top dressing (gravel/pebbles) on top of the soil to give it a finished look, hold down the dirt, and reduce evaporation. Do not water a newly repotted aloe for a few days-this gives it a chance to get used to it's new home, as well as allowing time for any roots that have broken to seal themselves. After a few days, a light watering perhaps with some B-1 in the water is recommended.

4) Most aloes grow vegetatively from April-October so water regularly with that in mind. The rest of the year, watering twice a month is sufficient. Water when the soil is dry-rainwater is the best-so that may mean 2x a month, or once a week, or some combination thereof. Aloes are very forgiving-they can go a long time without water, but they grow best with it.

If in doubt about watering, don't water. Also, remember #2 above-they shouldn't be cold and wet. Some aloes will withstand a freeze, but many will turn to mush, and we certainly don't want that.

5) Fertilize from April through Septrember, 2x a month, with a low-nitrogen fertilizer, heavily diluted. I use Miracle-Gro 15-30-15, diluted about 1 to 5.

6) Many aloes produce pups. When the pup is fully formed, detach it from the mother plant, let it callus over for a few days in a cool, dry area, and pot it up. If it has roots, pot as you would a regular aloe, allowing for the fact that it is smaller and should be in a suitably sized pot for it's size.

If it has no roots, let it callus over, place the cut/broken end ON the soil, and support it with top dressing. DO NOT WATER IT-it has no roots, so watering the soil will likely cause rot. Instead, mist it every few days. Roots should start forming within a month. When growth is evident, it can be watered.

7) My A. vera flowers in March/April, but yours may choose a different time. Aloe vera flowers are yellow, but others flower in hues of pink/red/orange/white/gray. They start as a spike that gradually gets larger and finally opens, lasting a long time. Aloe flowers are beacons for hummingbirds, so be prepared to be buzzed by these lovely creatures if your are amongst your aloes when they are flowering.

8) No doubt I have forgotten some things, but this advice should help you grow your aloe without too many problems. For more information, seek out fellow succulent plant people, join your local/national society, and take advantage of the advice and experience they are able to offer.

9) Lastly, these are not ironclad rules. What works for me may not work for you. Experiment a little if you think that's what is needed-your growing conditions are likely different than mine, and aloes are very adaptable creatures, within limits, of course.

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