With the right environment, Aloe vera plants can live for decades and grow very large. If you want to use parts of your Aloe vera plant in drinks, food or home remedies, a large plant is to prefer since it will be more tolerant to “harvesting”. A large plant will not suffer even if you remove an entire leaf from it. Keep in mind however that the wound will seal and the leaf will not grow back. It is therefore important to remove leaves in a balanced way that does not harm the beauty of the plant. Removing the leaves growing closest to the ground is one popular method of harvesting Aloe vera. Aloe vera plants will usually grow large faster outdoors, but in many parts of the world they must be kept indoors since they are very sensitive to frost.
The Aloe vera is a succulent, which means that it is adapted to a hot and dry climate and stores water inside its fleshy leaves. Giving an Aloe vera too much water is therefore more harmful than forgetting to give it water for a few weeks. If you give your Aloe vera to small amounts of water, you will notice this since the plant will begin to consume its stored water which will cause the leaves to curl and/or become thinner. Check that the soil is dry before you give your Aloe vera any water. During the winter, you should not give it more water than a cup or two each time, since less water will evaporate from the soil when the temperature is low.
During the summer, you can even soak the soil without harming the plant. If you keep your Aloe vera in a pot, there must of course be some type of good drainage such as a hole in the pot to prevent “wet feet”. If you let your Aloe vera grow in a pot without sufficient drainage, the roots can easily begin to rot away. As long as you provide your Aloe vera with good drainage, it will thrive in most types of soil.
Even though the Aloe vera is adapted to a hot and dry climate, it prefers to grow in the shade protected from direct sunlight. Many wild Aloe vera plants grow in direct sunlight, but their leaves tend to turn brown and harsh whish is undesirable when the Aloe vera is used as a decorative plant.
Frequent repotting is not required for Aloe vera plants, but since they can grow very large you might have to upgrade to larger pots once in a while to prevent the plant from tipping when it becomes top heavy.
An Aloe vera plant that grows in a pot and become root-bound can begin to send out new shoots. Before such shoots reach a length of 3-4 inches, they should be removed from the mother plant since they will otherwise hamper the growth of the large plant. If you do not remove the new shoots, the large plant will become bright green and the leaves will fall down and grow horizontally instead of straight up. The removed shoots can be planted in new pots if you want to have more Aloe vera plants. No special type of shoot soil is needed, but good drainage is of course just as important for the shoots as for large Aloe vera plants.
Give the newly planted shoot plenty of water and then wait three weeks before you water it again. By doing this, you will force the shoot to grow its own, large roots in search of water. Don’t be alarmed if the newly planted shoot looks brown or greyish for a while; it just needs a little time to form its own roots and adjust to a life without the mother plant.
If your Aloe vera grows very slowly or not at all, it can have to do with the water quality. Aloe vera is sensitive to alkaline water.
Alkaline soil should also be avoided. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you can try giving your Aloe vera a little more sunshine.
Insufficient lighting can also cause the leaves to fall down and rest horizontally. Try to give your Aloe vera plenty of light without exposing it to strong, direct sunlight. Over using fertilizers and keeping the soil too damp are two other common reasons behind a slow growth rate.