Aloe vera is a succulent plant with unique spiked leaves that contain skin-soothing properties. When grown indoors, aloe takes three to four years to reach full maturity. Aloe typically sprouts one new leaf per month, and each leaf can grow several inches in length annually.
Your aloe vera plant’s actual growth pattern depends on a few things, including how you take care of it and environmental conditions.
In this article, you’ll learn about some of the factors that affect how fast aloe grows and what a good care routine looks like. You’ll also pick up some ideas to encourage your aloe plant to pick up the growing pace a bit!
Let’s get started!
Aloe is a pretty adaptable plant that can grow well both outdoors and indoors. But one interesting fact is that the environment has a significant impact on aloe growth rate:
Indoor Aloe Plants
Indoor aloe plants will grow from a brand-new plantlet (called a pup) to maturity in about three or four years.
On about a monthly basis, you should see one new leaf emerging from the middle rosette, like this photo shows:
The new leaves should grow 6+ inches per year.
Outdoor Aloe Plants
Outdoor aloe plants typically grow faster and can reach maturity after about two years.
A friend of mine recently had a mishap with one of her outdoor aloe vera plants. Since it has recovered, she’s seen a new leaf form and growth of about 1/2 inch per month so far.
When grown outdoors under the right conditions, an aloe will also produce a lovely reddish-orange bloom:
How Big Do Aloe Vera Plants Get?
Generally speaking, a mature aloe vera:
- Has between eight and twelve leaves that are at least 8 inches long
- The oldest leaves develop a rosy hue around the edges
Most indoor aloe plants reach a maximum size of somewhere between 18 to 24 inches in width at the leaf tips. But if you’ve got your aloe in just the right spot, it may grow all the way up to 36 inches!
Compared to other common houseplants like pothos or purple waffle plant, aloe vera is a slow grower.
But compared to its relatives in the succulent family, aloe is actually pretty speedy! While the average for other succulents may be just a couple of inches annually, aloe leaves can grow up to several inches per year.
What makes succulents as a family have a slow pace of growth? It all has to do with their native habitat in the harsh desert setting.
When there’s not much water and lots of heat, the plant adapts by supporting the root system and existing leaves rather than expending resources into growth or new leaf production.
Care Tips to Keep Your Aloe Vera Healthy and Growing
Beyond a few basic requirements, aloe isn’t too fussy when it comes to care.
Here’s what you need to know:
As a native of dry desert climates, aloe is vulnerable to developing root rot if it sits in excessive moisture.
So proper soil that mimics aloe’s desert home is key! Plant it in soil with a loose, sandy texture, excellent drainage and a neutral pH of about 7.0.
If you’re planting your aloe in the ground, pick a spot that doesn’t retain water, even after heavy rain. Mixing some sand or perlite into the soil before planting can also help provide the fast drainage that aloe craves.
A Breathable Pot
The best pots for aloe are made from terra cotta, unglazed ceramic or another porous material. These tiny openings allow excess moisture to escape and air to enter through the pot’s walls.
Plastic and glazed pots can work too, but since they’re a nonporous material, you’ll have to keep a closer eye on soil moisture. Also, be sure they have at least one large drainage hole (preferably more) and make sure the hole stays free from obstructions all the time.
Aloe vera primarily sends out shallow roots that grow outwards more than downwards. This is known as a lateral root system.
A wide pot gives your aloe enough room to spread its roots freely.
Also, keep in mind that aloe can get very large and therefore, top-heavy. A pot with a wide bottom can help prevent your plant from toppling over and getting damaged.
A fractured aloe plant is tragic in my opinion!
Unfortunately, the most breathable pot in the world won’t do any good if you give your aloe water too often.
Remember, this is a desert plant, and you’re far better off watering too little rather than too much.
It’s a good plan to water aloe about every two weeks and monitor the soil for proper drainage. When the top inch or so of soil feels dry to the touch, it’s time to give your aloe a drink.
I like to water potted succulents from the bottom by setting the whole pot in a large dish of water for about 30 minutes. The water gets drawn in through the drainage hole and saturates the soil from the bottom up.
Watering this way lets the plant take in the moisture they actually need instead of me guesstimating.
Here I’m recycling a plastic food container that’s just the right size, with about a 1/2 inch to 1 inch of water:
After the 30-minute soak, drain away any water that remains in the dish. Make sure to keep an eye on the time, and never let your aloe sit in water for long periods of time.
If your aloe lives outdoors in the ground, follow the same process for feeling the top couple of inches for soil moisture. Then only give the amount of water the soil can easily absorb in a few seconds.
Temperature and Lighting
Aloe vera is not frost-hardy but can tolerate temperatures as low as 40 degrees F for short times. The optimal range is 55 degrees F to 85 degrees F, so it’s not like those cacti in the desert that thrive in triple digits!
If you live in USDA zones 8-11, you can keep your aloe outdoors all year long (unless you happen to get a freak cold snap).
For those of us in the lower zones, aloe will be a year-round houseplant or just come outside during the summer.
Aloe vera likes bright, indirect sunlight (at least three or four hours daily). For indoor aloe, a few feet back from an east or south-facing window is ideal.
But keep your aloe out of direct sunlight, especially outside. Too much strong sun can cause aloe’s leaves to turn yellow and dry out the soil too quickly.
Common pests that affect aloe vera include mites, mealybugs, and scales.
This happens more often with aloe plants that are kept outside rather than inside, but they’re relatively easy to resolve.
If you’ve identified pests affecting your aloe vera plant, perform the following:
- Remove any pests by hand, with a cotton swab moistened with alcohol, or insecticidal soap.
- Clip leaves that are noticeably affected by pests off at the base of the stem.
- When purchasing new aloe plants, look for signs of pests to prevent bringing any home to your other plants.
Harvest Leaves the Right Way
Besides being a really cool-looking plant, aloe has proven useful for many common troubles. According to Healthline, aloe can help:
- Treat minor wounds
- Soothe sunburns
- Assist in clearing acne
When taking cuttings of your aloe vera plant for its gel, choose a leaf that is at least 2 inches long.
Use a sharp, clean knife or scissors to harvest a leaf, and always cut from the base of the plant where the leaves are thicker.
Harvesting several leaves at once can shock your plant and disrupt normal growth. So unless you need a lot of gel at once, just cut off one leaf at a time.
NOTE: Only use the gel topically for sunburns, burns, etc. and stop use if you notice any new rashes or itching as this could mean an allergic reaction.
If you’re interested in taking aloe vera gel internally, stick with commercial, food-grade products instead of trying to make youe own.
How to Encourage Your Aloe Vera to Grow Faster
Aloe is a naturally slow-growing plant, and you’ll never be able to alter its nature too drastically.
But there are a few things you can do to help your aloe plant grow at its fastest pace possible:
Aloe really doesn’t require fertilizer to thrive, but feeding with a balanced fertilizer will help it grow even just slightly.
For indoor aloe plants, use a specially formulated succulent fertilizer monthly during the active growth phase (spring and summer months). This one from Miracle-Gro is a great option.
If your aloe grows in the ground, it already has access to more naturally occurring minerals and nutrients. So decrease that fertilizing schedule all the way down to just once per year.
Keep Aloe in a Correctly-Sized Pot
Re-potting can help your aloe plant grow by giving it a boost of fresh, nutrient-rich soil and more room to expand its roots.
But thanks to aloe’s leisurely growth pattern and low demand for soil nutrients, you won’t have to re-pot very often.
Be on the lookout for these signs that your aloe is ready for a larger pot:
- You see root tips emerging from the soil surface or drainage holes
- The soil starts to dry out faster than usual
When it’s time to repot your aloe vera plant, choose a pot that is no more than one pot size bigger than what it’s currently in. Clean and dry the pot before adding soil so your aloe has the best fresh start.
Always make sure to choose a pot with good drainage, and place a stone or piece of bark to cover the drainage hole(s) to prevent soil from escaping without impeding drainage.
Avoid Sudden Temperature/Environmental Changes
Aloe vera can be pretty sensitive to drastic changes in temperature and sunlight.
When moving aloe from outdoors to indoors (and vice versa), do it in stages to prevent possible shock, which can affect aloe vera growth rate.
For example: If you’ve had your potted aloe sitting outside in a sunny spot for the summer, move it to a less-sunny spot where it’s cooler before transitioning it to a sunny window indoors for the winter.
Also, keep in mind that the air conditioning or furnace turning on for the first time each season could cause stress for your aloe. Try moving your aloe back farther from the vent opening or use an air deflector, like this magnetic one.
Frequently Asked Questions about Aloe Vera Growth
Once you’ve cut off an aloe vera leaf, it will never grow back.
Instead, aloe will grow new leaves from the central stem. A new branch will need to grow for no less than two months and even up to six months before it’ll be large enough to cut for use.
It will take up to four weeks for aloe vera to grow from seed to a new baby plant.
It’s important to keep aloe vera seeds under a heat source for the first two weeks of planting to help encourage a strong root system.
You don’t need to prune aloe on a regular basis.
However, if you notice any brown tips on the leaves, you can trim those leaves off at the base to keep the plant healthy.
Use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to prevent any damage or disease, and cut the damaged leaf off at the base to prevent any disease as well as encourage new growth.
Unfortunately, the only ways to grow aloe vera are from seed and offshoots that grow at the base (known as aloe pups).
It’s actually pretty easy to propagate from pups, as long as there are roots you can break them off and plant in another pot.
Aloe vera is a great plant to keep around for its unique look as well as skincare and first aid purposes.
It’s a pretty slow-growing plant, but as long as you use some (or all!) of the tips we’ve discussed here today, you just might see your aloe vera growth rate increase slightly.
Otherwise, be sure to be patient and enjoy the benefits this awesome plant provides!
Do you have any other questions about aloe growth or care?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments!