So, you want to learn how to grow and care for aloe vera outdoors.
Aloe vera is known for its succulent, soothing gel found inside the leaves of the plant.
Whether you use it for burns, skincare, or itch relief, aloe vera is a good contender to smooth out all sorts of skin problems.
Growing your own aloe vera outdoors is an option for those who want this succulent to grow to its full size and produce plenty of gel.
Or for those who simply don’t have enough space inside the house.
So let’s find out how you can grow this gentle giant in your garden!
Quick care guide: Outdoor aloe vera
|Scientific name||Aloe Vera|
|Other names||First Aid plant, Barbados aloe, Burn aloe, Indian aloe, True aloe, Aloe forex, Leaf juice, Aloe juice|
|Soil type||Well-draining, loose|
|Soil pH||7-8 (slightly alkaline)|
|Sunlight requirement||Full sun|
|Bloom season||Spring, summer|
|Colors||Green, black, white, yellow flowers|
|Max height||10 feet (average height: 3 feet)|
|Max width||2-3 feet|
|Ideal temperature range||60-70F|
|Watering requirements||Water when top 1-2″ of soil is wet, let dry between waterings|
|Fertilizer requirements||None to low|
|Days until germination||10-30 days|
|Days until bloom||3-4 years|
|Speed of growth||Slow|
|Hardiness zones||7, 8, 9, 10, 11|
|Plant depth||1-3 inches|
|Plant spacing||24 inches|
|Propagation||Seeds, division, cuttings|
|Common pests||Gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, aphids|
|Common diseases||Root rot, fungus, stem rot|
|Grown in container||Yes|
|Flowering plant||Yes (outdoors only)|
|Care level||Very low (easy)|
|Uses||Gel harvest, decoration, color, centerpiece, pathing, bordering, background plant, foreground plant, indoor plant, skincare, burn care|
Can you grow aloe plants outside?
With leaves that grow as long as 40” in length, these plants can outgrow their stay.
Some benefits of planting aloe vera outside rather than inside are that you’ll be able to harvest the plant gel in much larger quantities rather than deal with tiny leaves that produce next to nothing.
Oh, and growing outside produces something you probably won’t see indoors- flowers!
Drawbacks include that the plant will be unwieldy to move around if you need to do so in the future. It also doesn’t take well to replanting and can’t be grown outside in the cold if you’re in a lower hardiness zone.
In this guide, we’ll talk about everything you need to know to care for aloe vera outdoors.
How to plant, grow, and care for aloe vera plants outside
The first thing to note is that it’s not a big deal to plant it in your garden.
While most people buy this succulent to keep it inside as a decorative plant, that’s totally fine.
But when you plant in a more “natural” environment, it can shine and reach its potential. Aloe vera requires very little water and is exceptionally tolerant to drought, so it requires nearly no effort and provides plenty of leaves to enjoy.
Here’s what you need to know to grow aloe vera outdoors.
Planting your aloe vera plant in the right hardiness zone is the first step to success.
These tropical hardy plants do well in zones 9 through 11.
But you can also grow aloe in zones 7 or 8 when you bring it indoors or cover it with some mulch or row covers to protect it from the cold. Warmer zones can also fare well.
Aloe vera is hardy to drought and is used commonly in xeriscapes. They enjoy full sun with no shade or very little shade.
Watering is much harder to handle than anything else. That’s the most difficult part about raising these succulents.
Overwatering leads to root rot and this is responsible for more aloe vera deaths than anything else.
Where should I put aloe vera plants outside?
Aloe vera should be planted somewhere with adequate, direct sunlight.
You can choose to plant in a container or directly into the soil. If you want the biggest leaves possible to harvest all that soothing gel, you’ll want to propagate it in the soil.
The location should be free of drafts, winds, weeds, water runways, and compact soil.
Choose organic, well-draining soil.
Any basic soil should do the trick, but if you want your aloe gel to be organic, the soil should be so as well. Get one that’s made for cactus or succulent plants.
This succulent doesn’t need a ton of nutrients injected into the growing substrate, unlike many other plants. It’s hardy to drought, nutrient deficiency, and even periods of extreme cold.
The key here is to make sure the soil is well-draining so that it can drain out excess water without getting waterlogged. The easiest way to kill aloe is to overwater.
You can add gravel or rocks to the soil at the bottom to help improve drainage.
If you’re growing it in a plant bed or container, make sure there are drain holes at the bottom to allow complete drainage. Add rocks or gravel to the lower 1” to keep the holes clear. Make sure there are multiple holes in case one gets clogged.
Aloe vera doesn’t like wet feet. If the roots are wet, the plant can get root rot or other fungal problems.
Soil should be a good mix of perlite, bark, or even lava rock to help drainage. There are some potting mixes made just for succulents or cacti. You can use either of these for aloe vera.
Avoid generic gardening soil because it doesn’t have the necessary nutrient profile.
You can add lava rock, pebbles, rocks, or clay balls at the bottom of the soil plot to help drainage. Add some perlite or coarse rocks to the bottom to help it drain.
If you’re transplanting into a pot, be sure to sterilize it by scrubbing it and then letting it dry completely to kill any previous infestations. The pot should be filled to the top with only a 1” gap from the rim.
This will let the water run into the pot rather than over the edges. Note that plants grown indoors will only grow 1-2 feet.
This plant prefers a slightly alkaline (basic) soil pH. Choose a soil that has a range of 7-8. You can add lime to the soil to help increase the pH level. But it’s not entirely picky even at neutral pH.
Plant the root ball 2-3 inches under the soil line. Backfill with the same soil. Don’t press down and don’t compact it. Let it sit for a week without water.
If growing multiple aloe plants, allow at least 24″ of space between each plant. This plant can span up to 40″ in length per leaf outside, so let it have enough space to grow out without becoming cramped.
When you first water your new transplant, do NOT water it.
Ignore it for a week or so. This will decrease the chance of root rot and allow it to root. Following that, give it some ample watering so it can develop water pathways in the container or soil.
This is a succulent that’s native to hot and dry environments.
Plus, you should be letting it completely dry out between waterings. Only let the top 1 inch of soil remain wet.
Anything else? Let it dry.
When it begins growing in its new home in your garden, watering sessions can be done once every two weeks during the summer and once a month in the winter.
Water your aloe infrequently, but when you do, make sure the entire soil plot gets water.
Do NOT overwater. This will kill your plant. Allow the top few inches to dry out completely between waterings.
A rule of thumb is to divide the plant or soil into 1/3 sections. The top 1/3 should be dry before you water. This is usually every 2-3 weeks during the summer and less (such as once per month) during the cold season.
The time should be roughly double in the wintertime.
You can also not water it at all during the winter to give it the dormancy period it needs. This may help encourage it to flower next spring. Keep it out of the rain at all times.
Aloe plant red outsider does best in temps between 50 and 80F.
If you live in a lower hardiness zone, you can bring it inside during the winter from May to September if it’s in a pot.
If you’re growing in the soil, you can add some mulch to insulate the soil or use a small plant cover to protect it. It can handle most cooler temperatures, but it won’t be ideal.
If your area has cold snaps, you’ll need to protect it. Note that if you bring it inside, you’ll need to acclimate it.
Don’t move it indoors and outdoors rapidly. It needs time for adjustment between different places and can’t be rushed or else it can become damaged. A period of 7 days should be sufficient when changing environmental conditions like sunlight or temperatures.
Aloe has short roots that don’t grow too deep, so you don’t need to go extreme with the watering.
Aloe vera requires 4-6 hours of direct, full sun per day to thrive. This is what will produce those gorgeous yellow flowers that many don’t even know exist.
This succulent won’t produce them indoors because there’s not enough sunlight to do so. Only those who venture out into the wild will get to witness this event.
If you’re near the coasts, your plant will thrive with full, direct sunlight. Provide your aloe with 6 hours of sun per day for optimal growth.
If you’re inland or somewhere with high temperatures all year round, less sunlight is preferred so the plant doesn’t burn. 3-4 hours per day is good for hot desert, arid, or high sea level gardens.
As much as aloe likes full sunlight, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If you notice the leaves turning bronze or brown, this is a sign of plant burning.
The plant will need to be moved or covered during the blazing hours to keep it safe. This should alleviate the sunburn.
This plant doesn’t need any plant food or fertilizer. So that’s good. It keeps things simple and makes it beginner-friendly.
You can supplement with 1-1-1 fertilizer if you want to encourage flowering.
Other than that, just give it plenty of light and water infrequently to get the best aloe possible.
The origins of aloe are from dry conditions, so it doesn’t need a ton of plant food to thrive. A single dose or two during the springtime is enough.
Aloe Vera requires very little effort in terms of pruning and trimming.
You don’t have to do anything for the first few years of growth unless you want to harvest some for a skin burn or to roll on your skin.
You can leave the plant alone and keep it on a regular watering regimen until it’s ready to propagate. That’s when you can start doing some light trimming.
If you want your aloe vera to flower, the best thing you can do is to give it plenty of sunlight. This will induce flowering.
During the summer and spring, give it full sun with temperatures above 70F. Water it on schedule at the right intervals with the right amounts.
And ensure that it is provided a proper dormancy period in the winter to “rest” with less watering and cooler temperatures. Even if you do everything right, you still may not get any flowers.
Propagating Aloe Vera
Aloe is ready to propagate after a few years when you notice that the offshoots are developing.
This plant will flower at around 3 years old, sometimes earlier or later. It completely depends on the cultivar you have, your local conditions, temperature, soil quality, watering, and how you raise it.
When it does flower, you can easily spot some offshoots growing from the sides. These are also known as pups and come out from the same root system as the primary leaf.
Propagating from division
You can divide your aloe vera with nothing but some basic scissors. Then you’ll have more to go around- give them to friends, sell them, or plant more in your garden.
The more the merrier.
To propagate aloe, dig around the succulent and unearth it. Use a small shovel and carefully dig in a circle to not damage the roots.
When it becomes loose enough to uproot, pull it out and clean out the root ball. There will likely be a mess of roots completely tangled together. Spray it with some light water using a hose.
This will make it easier to get rid of the soil from the root ball.
So now you should have a root ball with a few long leaves and a bunch of offshoots growing from it.
Aloe is easy to work with because each offshoot pup has everything needed to grow on its own. It has its stem, roots, leaves, and root ball.
Gently cut or pull the offshoot away from the original plant to operate them. If the roots are tangled, use sterile scissors to cut them.
You can sterilize tools by dabbing them with rubbing alcohol for a few seconds. This is to prevent any transmission of fungal viruses between aloe plants or other foliage in your garden.
Now that the offshoots have been cut from the host plant, you can replant the host plant in the same hole. Feel free to add any supplements, such as lime to help future growth. Reseed the soil if it’s low in nutrients. Whatever you need to do, now’s your chance.
As for the pups, they can be planted elsewhere in the garden or next to each parent plant. You can also put them in pots or window boxes.
Or use them right away on your skin. If you want them to grow at the same rate, plant them next to each other for the best results.
Congrats, you’ve successfully prorated aloe vera. That was easy.
Tip: To encourage the new cuttings to root, use a rooting hormone powder or gel.
Propagation from cuttings
Cutting the top of a developed leaf can be all you need to probate this plant. A 3” section can be trimmed from a plant and then set aside for a few days.
The callouses will form over the exposed wound, which is necessary to keep parasites out of it. After the callous dries up, it’s ready to be planted.
Dip it into some rooting hormone and then plant it with the callous side into the dirt. Use good soil that’s well-draining for best results. Roots should develop within a few weeks and that’s all you need to do!
Outdoor container planting
Aloe can be planted outside in containers, pots, window boxes, or other potters.
They’re extremely versatile and will do fine in a variety of conditions.
When you choose a container, the most important thing you need to pay attention to is the drainage. Make sure there are enough drain holes to prevent any wet feet the aloe may get.
There should be large holes that surround the bottom rim of the container. A single hole isn’t going to cut it because it can get compacted with hard soil or rocks.
Add a layer of pebbles, rocks, or sand at the bottom to help improve drain efficiency. This will prevent any clumping in your pot. You can also drill your own bigger holes or more holes if needed.
A pot made from ceramic or terracotta clay will let the soil dry more completely throughout the pot. The porous surface allows for water to evaporate, rather than become trapped like plastic or metal containers.
Glazed pots will also hold moisture rather than let it dry. Aloe plants are hardy, but not hardy to overwatering or poor drainage.
Choose a container that’s as wide as depth. This will equalize the space the aloe can take up. If you transplant or buy a grown aloe from the nursery, be sure there’s enough depth in the container for the stem to be planted without bending.
Lastly, choose a container that’s not top-heavy so it doesn’t get blown over in high winds. The leaves of this plant will grow vertically and horizontally (read: diagonally) in seemingly random directions.
If the wind blows it over, it can tear the foliage and break it. The plant does weigh a ton after it grows.
So be sure to put it somewhere secure and don’t get blown over. You can secure your pot if needed or place it somewhere shielded from winds.
Thankfully, aloe doesn’t have many pests to deal with and is quite hardy to most of them. But no plant is invulnerable, so let’s talk about some of the common ones you’ll see.
The most common pests are aphids. These are mini vampires that will suck out the plant nutrients from your leaves and damage the plant.
Aloe is tolerant to them in small numbers, so you can get rid of them before they cause any real harm. Use essential oils, soapy water, and spray them with your garden hose to get rid of them.
This succulent does have a few different plant diseases you should be wary of. You can clear the infection right at the start to minimize plant damage to those precious, long leaves so you can have those dark green, long, healthy leaves.
This is a common condition caused by the bacterium P. chrysanthemi.
Also known as bacterial soft rot, it’s a problem that happens when the moisture or humidity levels are too high. Most people notice it on their aloe plants during the summertime because hot weather combined with wet soil makes it easy for this bacteria to grow.
Backed up water that’s stuck in the soil or plant container is the root cause for it. If your soil is poor draining or if the container you’re growing in is waterlogged, this will build up excess water.
Combine that with overwatering and you have soft rot.
The main symptom of this disease is bulging spots that turn silver, black, gray, or brown and start to shrink up.
While pruning the plant may help, it’s best to start over with a clean slate. Remove all of the plant debris, soil, and entire container.
Sterilize everything. Then start over somewhere else. Avoid planting in the same container with another aloe vera plant until it’s completely sterilized.
If planting in soil, don’t replant for at least 3 years to allow all the bacteria to perish completely. You can plant other plants, just not aloe in the same soi
Another rot problem is basal stem rot. This is also a fungal issue caused by excess moisture in the plant’s seems. But rather than a bacterium, this is due to a fungal infection in the stem.
Cool, humid, and damp conditions will lead to the fusarium fungus growing in the stem and will need to be pruned off. If you see black or red sections on your aloe plant’s stems, cut them off and keep observing.
You can separate any offshoots from the plant to save them.
Some other common ones are leaf rot and root rot. They’re all caused by moisture. This is why drainage is critical!
Growing aloe vera outdoors in Florida
Can I put my aloe vera plant outside in the summer?
How long does aloe vera take to grow outdoors?
Do I need to take aloe in for the winter?
Can it stay outside in the cold?
Why doesn’t my aloe stand up?
How can I make it grow faster?
How big do aloe plants get?
Should I cut brown tips off?
What does overwatered aloe look like?
About the gel
Note that the gel you harvest from the leaves is NOT to be eaten or ingested.
Unlike aloe powder that you get from foods, the gel should only be used on the skin topically.
Consult your PCP if you have any questions about using aloe gel.
Here are some additional references you may find helpful:
Now you know how to grow aloe vera outdoors!
This succulent doesn’t ask for much and will give you back 10x your input.
With the versatility of being able to be planted indoors or outdoors, you have the freedom to choose.
Soil or container. Drought tolerant, no fertilizer needed, and low watering requirements.
What more could you want?
What do you think? Will you be planting it outside for it to enjoy those rays of sunlight and sprout those gorgeous flowers for you?
Leave a comment and let us know!
I took interest into microflora and microgreens before it became mainstream. The idea of growing an entire ecosystem on a tiny scale simply was astounding. That’s where I discovered that I actually like raising plants and wasn’t as much of a black thumb as I thought. Now, I’m relaying what I’ve learned to others who are getting into the hobby in a way that anyone can understand.