I took a few photos of some thirsty vera pups this morning to help me make this post…I do keep most of mine a little more dry, the ones in the new greenhouse especially dry out pretty good. The yard gets a lot of rain and I mostly just have the older plants that can handle it out there right now. So anyway, I had quite a few good examples for this post lol!
What you hear a lot about watering succulents is to “water only when the soil dries out”, right? Well, that’s not really good advice. You should be using a soil mix that drains quickly and doesn’t hold water. So if you water whenever that soil is dry, you are watering too often. If the soil doesn’t dry quickly and you are actually waiting some time for it to dry out completely, it’s holding too much water and in the long run that’s going to cause issues. Sometimes “my roots are dying off because of this heavy soil” looks a lot like “I’m thirsty”, so it’s a good idea to check out your plants roots if you don’t think the soil is drying well enough or you are watering pretty often and the plant still looks thirsty. If your plant is showing these signs of thirst and doesn’t perk up after a good drench, unpot it and evaluate the roots and your soil mix.
Stress colors get a bad rap when it comes to Aloes. As I’ve rambled about quite a bit before, a stress color is often confused for sunburn or a sign of “too much sun”…when it could be caused by any number of things, and usually isn’t that big a deal. Check out my posts about direct sun and care guides if you haven’t yet, I go into pretty good detail in those. Often the issue is that yes, your plant may be getting a lot of sun but that part isn’t the issue…it’s probably not getting enough water for the amount of sun it is getting, causing the stress color.
Probably before it starts developing a (usually dull brown or grey) stress color, your plant’s leaves will start to thin and curl in at the sides as it uses up its gel reserves. When they are very thirsty, the leaf tips will be discolored and crispy and the plant will turn more and more brown or grey all over. I do have another post showing a very thirsty forgotten Aloe vera pup, and you can see the very thin, curled and crispy leaves on that one. The pups in this post aren’t quite that thirsty yet, but definitely still could use a good drench (or repot.)
Other things to consider when you are working out when to water your plants – your environment, the plants soil mix, pot size/material, and variety. Aloe vera wants more water when it is hot and they are getting a lot of sun, especially if they are in the kind of super gritty mix I use or in smaller or terra cotta. Being potbound or crowded with lots of pups will make them dry out quicker. Some other Aloe varieties are summer dormant and aren’t going to appreciate being watered when it’s very hot. Indoors they aren’t likely to go dormant since the temps indoors are more like their optimal growing temps. So there are a few things to consider, definitely don’t water on a schedule, especially anyone else’s. Let your plant tell you it is thirsty.