Aloe vera is an amazingly rewarding plant to grow indoors – but how do you water it? Do you water aloe vera from the top or bottom – and honestly, why should it matter?
Most people recommend that you water your aloe vera from the bottom of the plant, so that its roots get easy access to what you’re sprinkling. However, other plant enthusiasts suggest that watering from above is the best way to go.
So, where does this leave us? Keep reading, and I’ll run through what you need to know.
Aloe Vera Watering: Why You Shouldn’t Water From The Top
If you are wondering how to water an aloe for the most growth, it’s normally best to avoid giving it a bath from the very top. This is usually a bad idea for indoor plants. Aside from it being almost impossible to accurately gauge how much water your plants actually get to drink, there is significant waste.
Pouring water on the top of leaves may wash the leaves and trickle down to the base of the plant, where it can form a pool, potentially causing rot. That’s why you should always aim to water from the bottom.
Some plant owners claim that watering from the top shouldn’t cause much harm – after all, aloe is a succulent, and usually won’t need much H2O. That said, you’re still wasting water, and even if your plant looks wet and moist, that doesn’t mean it isn’t thirsty.
Misconception number one about aloe vera watering is that it doesn’t really matter much – of course it does! Succulents and cacti still need hydration to grow and thrive, and if you really want to keep that gorgeous aloe in your kitchen or bathroom for years to come, you’re going to need to give it a drink or two.
Watering an Aloe Plant From the Bottom
By watering an aloe plant from ‘the bottom’, I’m referring to the base of the plant, or, at least, above the soil. However, did you know that there are a couple of interesting ways you can give your aloe plants a drink without wasting water – and making sure their roots get full access to H2O?
Here’s everything you need to know – and before that, make sure you have the best pot for your aloe vera plant available, too!
Watering Aloe Vera from the Top of the Growth Medium
Your growth medium, be it soil or compost, will be keeping your aloe’s roots nice and warm – and it’s through here that all of your water should soak through. Otherwise, watering from the top just means you’re giving its leaves an unnecessary bath.
This is a perfect method to ensure gentle seepage of water and, therefore, an even dispersal of nutrients as water trickles slowly around the plant.
Fill up a watering can or similar to deliver the water and walk around taller plants to pour it evenly. Or, you could rotate a smaller pot as you circle the surface of your aloe’s growth medium with the spout of the can.
For watering pots that rest on a table, it’s ideal to use a ‘Lazy Susan’. These are the circular discs people use to place plates on. They rotate so diners can serve themselves to what’s on offer. If you have one available, you can turn the pot with one hand without having to lift it.
The aim of gradually applying water around the upper circumference of the pot is for water to trickle down gradually towards the base. I recommend this method because it resembles what can happen in the wild without merely soaking the leaves!
In the wild, rain falls over the land and seeps through soil, gradually towards plant roots. A nice, slow deluge prevents plants from going into shock. What’s more, gradually soaking your growth medium with water means some is retained whilst excess will drain away.
This method allows you to use a visual marker – water as much as you like (even better if you’re a careful enough plant parent to measure your H2O), then wait a few moments and check how much, if any, is draining away. Pour away excess collected water into a saucer or container.
Watering Aloe Vera From The Roots Up
Have you ever considered watering your plants from the other way round? That is, taking your aloe out of its pot and soaking it in a miniature bath!
As an alternative to simply watering around the base, you can still get tons of water to your aloe’s roots by soaking it directly in a little H2O out of its pot. This way will be swifter in delivering water to the plant, but here’s the downside. Sitting in a cool bath of water for too long can damage plants.
This method will work, provided you remove water not taken up by the plant within a few hours. If you allow the water to be soaked up by the compost and the amount is excessive, tender roots will be overwhelmed.
If you’re really unsure about watering your aloe plant this way, stick with the tried-and-tested base watering method listed above!
Is My Aloe Vera Thirsty?
Sometimes during periods of extreme heat or periods of growth, aloe vera will give you signals they need more water, light or warmth. If your plant appears to be wilting and leaves don’t look strong enough to hold themselves up, it may have been overwatered or underwatered. Your aloe vera’s leaves should feel firm and point upwards.
The outer green layer should feel smooth, not wrinkly. Leaves should be stiff and not give way easily when touched. Otherwise, you’ll need to adjust your aloe vera watering schedule. Don’t worry, as I’m about to go into a bit more detail below!
How Much Water Does an Aloe Plant Need?
You should ideally keep checking the moisture level of your aloe’s soil to see whether or not it’s ready to water. As a type of succulent, aloe vera doesn’t need much watering, but if the first two to three centimeters of soil or growth medium are bone dry, it’s time to give it a watering.
Of course, soil dryness can also depend on how large your plant pot is. Another way to test this (and especially if you don’t like getting your fingers dirty) is to use a lolly stick or similar.
If your compost or soil is moist three inches down a nine-inch tall pot, you don’t need to water it. If six inches down a nine-inch pot, the compost is dry, it’s ready for a drink.
‘Mois’ does not mean saturated! ‘Moist’ means damp, but not necessarily wet-through. Stop watering when water runs out of the bottom of the pot – and remember to take your time and water slowly to allow the compost to take up the water before what appears to be excess runs off.
Depending on the season and where you position your aloe in your home, watering schedules may vary. Always be ready to plop a finger or lolly stick into the soil to check, and keep track of how often you give your plant(s) a drink.
Watering Aloe Vera Plants to Flower
Want to encourage your aloe plants to start flowering? It’s easier than you might think.
Mature, healthy aloe vera plants can flower from the age of four years old. In order to bloom, they require optimum growing conditions, plenty of light and careful watering. For example, I always prefer to use rainwater or dechlorinated tap water – whilst watering using tap water will not immediately kill aloe off, fluoride and chlorine can build up, and plants may suffer the effects over time.
This can restrict the growth of your aloe vera plant, and may even stop flowers from appearing at all – if not slowing them to a halt.
If you’d like to try and dechlorinate water for your aloe vera yourself, try the following. Simply find a suitable container and fill it with tap water. Leave overnight for at least eight hours – it will be ready to use the day after, as the chlorine evaporates. The greater the vessel’s surface area, the faster the evaporation process takes place.
This means the water you give to your succulents should be healthy and free from any nasty additives that might cause problems further down the line.
But how should you care for and water aloe plants that are flowering?
Aloe vera flowers usually burst in orange or yellow – their clusters form at the tops of stems. Water them well as buds form and whilst in bloom – and when the flowers drop off, simply cut off the drying stem, which supported the flower, at its base. This may have become hollow. Try to avoid water being poured into the hollow stem – as this can cause the dying stem tissue to rot and affect other nearby roots.
Never water an aloe vera plant from the top if you can help it! You’ll just be getting its leaves wet, and it’s the soil that needs the deluge most of all. Just because your aloe stores water in its leaves, also doesn’t mean you have to avoid giving it a drink at all.
Keep an eye on the first few centimeters or inches of soil in your aloe vera’s pot, and water when things seem to be getting a little too dry. You’ll get the hang of it – aloe vera are fantastic little plants and will withstand plenty of time to come! If you’re struggling, don’t worry – there are ways you can revive an aloe vera plant, too, if things go south.