How Big Can Aloe Vera Plants Get?
Are you thinking of adding aloe vera to your indoor or outdoor garden, but aren't sure how big they will get? Their plant size actually depends on many different growth factors. In this article, gardening expert Emily Horn examines their average plant size, as well as how big these popular succulents can actually get.
One question to think about when deciding to add aloe vera, or any plant, to your houseplant collection is “just how big does it get?” And if you are anything like me, you ask yourself that question AFTER you’ve already brought the plant home.
Unfortunately once you’ve brought the plant home, there’s not a lot you can do if you haven’t planned appropriately for where it’s going to live. So it’s important to understand both the growth rate and size of the plant.
So just how big does aloe vera get? And are there any ways that I can control how big it gets? There are a few methods and techniques which I will share with you to keep your aloe contained and healthy at the same time.
The Short Answer
Aloe vera will mature at a height of 2 ft under normal household conditions, If this is too large for your space, regular heading back (pruning), providing bright, indirect light, avoidance of over fertilizing and minimal repotting can keep your aloe on the smaller side without causing harm to your plant.
The Long Answer
If you provide the best environment you can for your plant, there is only one problem that may occur. It will grow larger. And given that most of us do not live outdoors in the desert, there comes a point where the growth your aloe has done may begin to be problematic.
But have no fear! There are four relatively simple ways to maintain their size. None of them require a lot of time or effort, a few only needing done on an annual basis. Below we will explore some easy ways to keep your plant from overtaking your living space.
Pruning may become necessary as the plant matures. Many times pups, or small, independent plants, will begin forming next to the main portion of the plant. This is normal, but over time, the pups do grow, and will eventually make the overall size of the plant quite large, often overgrowing its container.
To keep your aloe at a manageable size, you will need to occasionally prune back the plant. It’s important to look at the plant as a whole before beginning your pruning endeavors. If your aloe seems to have more pups on one specific side of the plant, be sure to remove some, but not all the pups. Taking off too much growth can cause the plant to become unbalanced and topple over.
If after pruning, your plant is still too large for your living space, consider potting up a pup or two as replacement plants for your original plant. Once the pups have rooted and sent up new growth, you can discard your larger plant. Or, most likely, you’ll now have 3 plants instead of just one!
Aloe vera needs to be grown under bright, indirect light. Indirect light is light that has to pass through, not shining directly on, an object. Usually, this level of light intensity can be found along the west and east-facing windows.
Southern exposure provides bright light. But be sure that it is indirect, as light that is too intense brings its own set of problems. Aloe grown under bright, indirect lighting will be strong, compact, and less likely to have insect and disease problems.
Light levels that are too low can cause the plant to begin stretching out. This is the plant’s way of trying to get to the proper level of light it needs. Stretching causes the plant to increase in size, but not in a positive way. Because of the stretching, the plant is not structurally strong. This weakness often causes the plant to collapse under its own weight.
All plants need nutrients to be healthy and grow properly. The types of nutrients and the amount of nutrients needed differs greatly among plants. This succulent actually prefers to lower amounts of fertilizer compared to plants that require regular feedings.
Many times, the organic matter that is in the potting mix will provide the nutrients needed for the aloe to be healthy. Over time, the organic components of the soil do breakdown and supplemental feeding with fertilizers may be required.
Look for a fertilizer that is specially formulated for cacti and succulents. Then apply at the recommended rate to provide additional nutrition to your aloe.
Fertilize during its active season of growth. Aloe does go dormant during the summer if the temperature and light intensity is too high in the environment. Do not feed aloe while dormant.
First, it’s not actively growing, so you run the risk of damaging the root system with the salts found in fertilizer. Second, it’s a waste of money since your aloe plant is not taking up the nutrients you are providing.
If you give your aloe plant supplemental fertilizer too often, the plant will respond with growth, as it should. But, too much fertilizer can cause your aloe to grow too much too fast. As a result, your aloe will stretch out and become larger, but the growth happening in such a short period of time results in a plant that is structurally weak.
Weak plants often fall over. This happens because the cells simply are not strong enough to support the quickly increasing size of the plant. Also, plants that have been put under stress, such as rapid growth, are often subjected to attack by insects and other plant pathogens.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to control plant growth is by using the right container for the size of your plant.
Aloe does not require frequent repotting. Being a desert plant, being slightly root bound is not a problem for this popular succulent. In fact, being in a smaller pot helps prevent overwatering. Repotting your aloe every few years is adequate to meet its nutritional and hydration needs.
Generally speaking, a plant should have room to grow in its pot. Take a look at your plant’s size as well as its root depth when deciding what container to use to repot your aloe.
Given their growth rate being relatively slow, having about 1” of space between the plant and the pot’s walls. As for depth, 1 ½-2” longer than the root system is sufficient. This will allow the roots to grow into the surrounding soil without girdling or circling the pot.
If you place your aloe plant in a pot that is way too big, you run the risk of the plant being overwatered. The larger pot will hold more soil volume. When watered thoroughly, the soil will remain too wet for a small plant. Your aloe plant will quickly succumb to root rot and an early death.
If using a larger, more decorative container, you may want to consider using the pot as a catch pot instead of directly planting your aloe inside. Simply place your potted aloe inside the more decorative pot. You’ll achieve the appearance you desire, and your aloe plant will be happy in its more appropriate living container.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is aloe vera a cactus?
Despite having similar growing preferences, this succulent is not a cactus. Cactus are part of the plant family Cactaceae, whereas aloe belongs to the plant family Asphodelaceae. To put this in a better perspective, cats and dogs like living in domestic environments. But despite both being animals, they belong to different families, Felidae and Canidae respectively.
How often should I be watering?
There is no definite answer as to how often to water your plant. Many things can contribute to watering frequency. Check your aloe plant weekly to see if it needs water (does the soil feel dry, leaves look thin, pot feel light) If you determine watering is needed, water your aloe thoroughly, making sure the water flows through the pot and out the drainage holes.
What type of pot should I use?
Something to consider when selecting a pot for any houseplant is whether or not the pot has drainage. Unfortunately, many decorative pots are beautiful but live up to the decorative portion of their name; they’re not functional. They often lack drainage holes, and nearly all plants need drainage of some sort to prevent root rot.
Terracotta or unglazed clay pots are good for cacti and succulents because they are porous and keep air circulating at the root zone better than glazed pots or plastic.
Again, if you do your job right as a gardener, your aloe vera plant will inevitably grow. However, there are easy ways to keep your aloe from turning into the famous Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. Through pruning, selecting the correct container size, providing proper light levels and preventing overfeeding, you can keep your aloe at the size that works best for you.