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Your Aloe Does Not Hate The Sun

~6 year old Aloe vera with two bloomstalks forming this year…currently in a 10 gallon pot. Some winter color.

Go through any succulent/houseplant/plant clinic group or subreddit and search through all of the many, many Aloe posts. All those “what’s wrong with my Aloe?” posts are caused by people spreading the “they hate sun” and “they hate water” misinformation, and similar half truths. And the answers these people get to their question? Mostly more of the same. There’s usually some sanity mixed in there, but it gets drowned out by all the “just ignore it”, “they thrive on neglect”, “mine hates sun, it always turns brown”, “it’s normal for them to be floppy”, “they’re supposed to have barely any roots” comments. And the “thriving on neglect” plants all have thin, droopy, light green leaves, poor roots, won’t stand up on their own, is a crazy mess of tangled stems..Aloe vera is a survivor. Those plants are surviving, not thriving. Sorry houseplant folks. But all this misinformation is why so many people have trouble growing these easy plants. It’s more difficult indoors, but it still can be done if you give them what they want.

Summer color. Full sun.

They don’t hate sun, they’ve just been living in a dark corner in your house for too long and you moved it too quickly. It’s not the sun it hates, it was the lack of an adjustment period. The brown tan they develop in the sun is a stress color, give it some water and let it adjust and it will go away. Don’t move it around anymore until it acclimates. Sunburn causes ugly bleached spots that leave scars, or that turn the leaves to mush. Indirect sun is not enough for Aloes. Any of them. Some can tolerate less direct light or would even prefer a little bright shade occasionally, while many are full sun plants. Don’t lump all Aloe species (and hybrids) together under the same care, either…vera is an adaptable species. Many of the others are much less adaptable and you will run into problems quickly if they don’t get enough sun.

Brown is a temporary stress color, not always sun related and not usually a big deal. This one is thirsty.
Sunburn

They don’t hate water, they just don’t want to sit in damp, organic potting soil. That kills their roots…they actually can have pretty decent root systems in a free draining, inorganic soil mix with regular watering during their growing season. They like to be drenched when they get watered, and to dry out quickly. Some varieties can handle more often waterings, and how often you water depends on your environment. Indoors, once a week is too much. Outdoors in the summer in a terra cotta pot? Once a week would probably be okay, depends on the variety. Some species don’t want to be watered when it’s hot. Watch your plant and set your own schedule. Overwatering is watering too frequently..not how much water you give at a time.

“chinensis” and others in the background, summer 2020.

Aloe vera is not a winter grower. Water more when it is hot and sunny, less when it is cold. That’ll help those stress colors some people dislike so much, too. Plant turning brown in the summer sun? It’s thirsty. Water it. Some Aloes ARE winter growers, depending on where they are from..but most of those places have mild winters, so they really aren’t growing in the cold either. Some Aloes may go dormant in extreme heat even if it isn’t technically a summer dormant plant. Growing indoors, you may not have to worry about dormancy. Your environment matters more than what some half correct “summer and winter dormant” plant list on a website says.

Early summer 2021. These had minor damage from the freeze. One of the other larger ones was more badly damaged but is doing well now.

Being potbound and terra cotta pots…can be helpful, but not always, and not absolutely necessary for a happy Aloe vera. Being potbound controls their size and helps you not overwater, because there’s less soil to hold the water you give it. It doesn’t need to be potbound to produce pups, that has more to do with maturity and the variety you have (chinensis is a super pupper from an early age, true vera takes longer because they need to be more mature to produce offsets.) Using a terra cotta pot will help it dry out quicker, but if it’s outdoors in the heat it can dry out too quickly. Use your best judgment, depending on your environment and preferences.

One of my “experiment” plants. Spent last year on the front porch out of direct sun and barely grew. Moved it to the back with the rest in January and it has doubled in size.

So if you have trouble growing Aloe…it might be time to re-evaluate (or toss out) everything you ever learned about them. Because the issue isn’t you..your plant doesn’t hate you. Aloe vera really is an easy plant to grow, it’s just not a very good houseplant and there’s a ton of misinformation on the internet about growing it (and about everything, really.) And at this point, I’m going to be as annoying as possible about this subject to try and change that!

Bloom spike poking out on one of my big vera plants.
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Published by AloeHoarder

I live in Houston, Texas and have been interested in and collecting Aloe plants since 2008, my first Aloe was the “chinensis” variety that I got from my mom in 2006. I am autistic and an English major. Aloes are my “special interest”.

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