Aloe vera is a very popular succulent because of how resilient and low-maintenance it is. Its beautiful, symmetrical shape makes it a great addition to any garden or indoor decor, and it does not need to be watered very often because it stores plenty of water in its leaves for use in the event of drought.
When watering your Aloe vera, or any other aloe species, do so from the bottom. This means that you water the plant at the base so that the water falls directly onto the soil and roots.
Watering an aloe from the top is not recommended, because if water pools between the plant’s leaves, this can lead to rot.
In this article, we will discuss the proper way to water an Aloe vera and why watering from the bottom is better than watering from the top. So, if you wish to learn more about watering aloes, just keep reading.
How to properly water Aloe vera
Before we discuss the reasons it is better to water an aloe from the bottom than from the top, let us first talk about how to properly water an Aloe vera plant.
Aloe vera is quite hardy and resilient and has even been dubbed unkillable by some people because of how much it can bear and still come out alive. However, incorrectly watering this plant will have negative effects on it.
First, you should know how to tell when the plant needs to be watered. Aloes are succulents, so they like their soil to dry out completely between waterings.
You can check the soil’s moisture level by touching the top two inches of soil in the pot. If the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still a bit damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
Once you have established that your plant does indeed need watering, prepare your watering can. Fill the can with water – preferably filtered water or rainwater if available. If the only water available is tap water, fill a large container with it and leave it uncovered for a day to dissipate the chlorine.
If you give tap water directly to the plant, it could cause a build-up of minerals and chemicals in the soil that can damage the roots.
When you pour the water, make sure the spout of the watering can is aimed directly at the soil. No water should find its way into the center of the actual plant.
If the watering can let the water flow a little too fast, you can also use a small cup to pour the water more slowly.
Keep watering the plant until you can see excess water flowing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Once you see the water flowing out, that is your sign to stop watering.
You want the soil to be moist but not waterlogged, which is how the plant likes it.
Do you water Aloe vera from the top or the bottom?
As with most plants, Aloe vera needs water to reach the soil around its roots, but not its leaves.
While there are some plants that can absorb water through their leaves, Aloe vera is not one of them.
The position of the leaves on the plant makes it easy for water to pool in the center of the plant, which is something you need to avoid.
You might think that seeing the plant’s leaves wet is an indication enough that it is getting the water it needs, but that is not always the case because the water you pour on top of the plant might not even reach the soil or the roots.
It is best to pour the water directly onto the soil so that the leaves do not get wet while all of the soil and the roots get adequately watered.
How often does Aloe vera need to be watered?
As we already mentioned, aloes can store water in their waxy leaves for use in times of drought.
The duration of time between waterings will depend on several factors, such as the current weather conditions, the season, and the climate where you live.
The plant likes to be outdoors during the spring and summer but should be taken indoors during the colder months if you live in a place with cold winters. While the plant is outdoors in the hot sun, it will need to be watered more often because the light from the sun and the increased temperatures will dry out the soil much faster than if the plant is indoors during the winter.
There is no set schedule to follow when it comes to watering the plant; rather, touch the soil in the pot to check its moisture levels, as we mentioned earlier in the article. This trick can help you avoid both overwatering and underwatering your plant.
How will I know if my Aloe vera is overwatered?
One of the most common mistakes Aloe vera owners make is giving their plants too much water. Remember that this is succulent, so it does not need to be watered very often.
Overwatering can occur for a number of reasons: you are giving the plant more water than it needs every time you water it, you are watering it more often than you need to, you left the plant out in the rain for a long time, or the soil or pot that you used have poor drainage.
One of the signs that your aloe vera is overwatered is if its leaves turn yellow. If the problem is not addressed immediately, they will go on to turn brown and then black, and will also start to droop.
Another sign of overwatering is edema, which is when the leaves start to swell from all the water the plant has absorbed. The roots will continue to absorb water as long as it is present in the soil, and this is why the leaves become edematous. These leaves will also feel soft and mushy to the touch.
Once the leaves have become edematous, they are oversaturated and badly damaged, and cannot return to their original state. However, as long as there are still some leaves that do not have edema, the plant is still salvageable; just prune the damaged leaves off with a sterile knife.
Yet another sign of overwatering is the growth of mold on the top layer of the soil. The mold will look like white flecks on the brown of the soil. It may even resemble cotton. There are also other types of mold that can grow in this situation which are green in color.
The presence of mold on the soil can damage the plant’s roots, so removing it is a priority.
The most serious condition that can stem from improper watering or overwatering of your Aloe vera is root rot.
Root rot develops when the soil in the plant’s pot is constantly waterlogged and the roots are left to stand in wet soil for prolonged periods.
Aloes like their soil to dry out between waterings so that their roots can absorb oxygen. If they are unable to dry out, the roots will drown and die. The dead roots will start to rot, and will be susceptible to opportunistic pathogens such as bacteria and fungi in the soil. These pathogens will make the rot spread more aggressively to the rest of the plant, and when the leaves have turned dark, soft, and mushy, it means the rot has taken over the plant and you might not be able to save it. You may be better off disposing of it and starting over with a new plant.
How do I salvage an overwatered Aloe vera?
If you think your plant is overwatered, you need to stop watering it immediately.
Transfer it to a spot where it can get lots of bright light so that the soil dries out as quickly as possible.
If you want to check whether the plant has root rot, you will need to remove it from the pot and wash as much soil from the roots as you can. Be gentle as you do this, because the roots will be very fragile at this point.
Inspect the roots and look for any sections that have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and will have to be removed using a sterile knife or pair of scissors.
Lay the plant on dry paper towels and let the roots air-dry for several hours. In the meantime, prepare a new pot by filling it two-thirds of the way with a well-draining potting mix. When the plant’s roots are dry, place the plant in the middle of the pot and cover the roots with the rest of the soil.
Do not water the plant immediately after repotting it, especially if the soil you used is still moist. Give it at least a week to recover from the trauma of repotting before watering it.
Place the plant in a spot with plenty of light and it should recover fully after a few weeks.
Aloe vera is a popular succulent that can be grown both outdoors and indoors. It is low-maintenance and can tolerate drought thanks to its ability to store water in its leaves.
When watering this plant, you should always water it from the bottom; that is, tip the watering can’s spout directly onto the soil around the roots of the plant and never on top of the plant where the leaves will get wet.
If the leaves get wet, there is a chance that they will rot. Furthermore, if you water from the top, the water might not even reach the soil at the bottom, so the roots will not actually get water and this can lead to underwatering.
Water the soil around the roots well until you can see excess water flowing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. This ensures that the soil is properly soaked and all of the roots, including the little ones, will get their fair share of moisture.
Most importantly, water your Aloe vera only when the top two inches of soil in the pot are dry to the touch.
Image: istockphoto.com / Sundaemorning