Outside view of VIDA Building

Aloe There! Our Simple Guide for Growing and Using Aloe Vera

An aloe vera plant. Image credit: Florin G. Daniel.

February 2024


We love how so many of our VIDA residents include plants in their apartment or townhome décor. Houseplants are not only decorative, but can improve air quality and your mood. And one plant that can definitely do more than just look pretty is aloe vera.

Aloe vera is a cactus-like succulent species known for its healing properties. Its gel-like sap can be used to cool burns and skin irritation, and it’s found in everything from lotions to shampoos. The great thing about keeping is as a houseplant is that when you need a little of that healing gel, you can just cut a leaf and use it.

Growing Aloe Vera

Aloe vera plants love the sun. Place your plant in a bright, sunny spot in your apartment or townhome. A south or west-facing window is ideal. However, if the light is too intense, the leaves may turn brown, signaling it’s time to move your plant to a slightly shadier spot.

Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent water from sitting at the bottom, which can cause root rot. Aloe vera prefers well-draining soil. You can buy cactus potting soil or make your own by mixing regular potting soil with perlite or sand to improve drainage.

Overwatering is a common mistake. Like other succulents, aloe vera plants are drought tolerant and prefer to be on the drier side. Water your plant deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings. In winter, reduce watering as the plant goes into a dormant state.

Aloe vera doesn’t require much fertilizer. Feeding it with a half-strength, balanced fertilizer once in the spring and again in the summer is all you need to do.

Propagating Aloe Vera

One of the joys of owning an aloe vera plant is how easily it can be propagated – as in use your existing plant to make more. You can grow new plants from the offsets, or “pups,” that sprout from the base of the mother plant.

Wait until the pups are a few inches tall and have their own roots. Gently remove the soil around the base of the pup and use a clean, sharp knife to separate it from the mother plant.

Then just plant the pups in their own pots filled with well-draining soil. Water them lightly and place them in a bright spot. Avoid direct sunlight for the first few days to prevent stress.

Using Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is an incredibly useful plant. The gel inside the leaves is known for its soothing properties. To harvest the gel, select a thick, mature leaf from the outer part of the plant. Cut it at the base with a clean knife. Slice off the serrated edges and then slice the leaf open lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the clear gel.

The gel is great for soothing minor burns, sunburns, and skin irritations. You can apply it directly to the affected area. Its moisturizing properties also make it a great natural skin moisturizer.

If you have extra gel, it can be stored in the fridge for about a week or frozen in ice cube trays for longer storage.

Other Tips

  • Rotate your plant occasionally to ensure even growth.
  • If the leaves are thin and curled, your plant needs more water.
  • Yellow or brown leaves usually indicate overwatering or too much sun.
  • Keep an eye out for pests like aphids and mealybugs.

So, if you like the idea of using a plant you’ve grown yourself as medicine for your skin, add aloe vera to your houseplant collection. And even if you don’t bother using the gel, it’s a beautiful, low-maintenance plant that will make a great addition to your VIDA apartment or townhome.