With fleshy leaves adapted to storing water, the aloe vera plant is indeed a succulent. Succulents fare well in arid and in semiarid environments, where water is scarce, and temperatures are high.
Although native to the south-east Arabian Peninsula, aloe vera has become naturalized in many other regions of the world, being cultivated in other arid regions, some tropical regions, and even in temperate areas.
The aloe vera can even be kept as a houseplant if you offer it plenty of light, well-draining soil and know how to water it.
Below, I discuss some of the most important requirements of aloe vera plants and list a few other succulents whose appearance and requirements are similar to that of aloe plants.
Succulents Similar to Aloe Vera
Some succulents bear a striking resemblance to aloe vera plants, making it difficult sometimes to distinguish them. It also doesn’t help that they thrive in the same environment in which aloe veras thrive.
Here are some succulents that can be mistaken for aloe plants:
Agaves have the same triangle-shaped leaves as the aloe plant, but the edges feature many more spikes compared to the aloe plant.
Also, if cut, the fleshy leaves of the agave feature fibrous tissue inside, compared to the aloe, which only has a gelatinous inside.
The gasteria features round-edged fleshy leaves speckled with white stripes. Its leaves also don’t feature any spikes, making them easier to distinguish from aloe plants. Yet, at a first glance, you can easily mistake one for the other.
With spoon-like leaves closely growing together, the Haworthia resembles aloe vera, although it stays smaller. Its leaves are usually a pale green, although some varieties have darker, sharp-edged leaves that resemble those of the aloe plant.
They can be differentiated from aloe plants because of the white, bumpy bands on the leaves and smooth leaf margins.
A stem-succulent that has pointy leaves, the stapelia is easiest to tell apart from aloe when it’s flowering. The large, starfish-looking flower is a quick give-away of this plant, although the leaves are much like those of cacti than those of aloe plants.
The leaves of the yucca are larger and flatter than those of the aloe. They’re also much glossier and don’t feature serrations as the leaves of aloe plants. Yucca plants are closely related to agave plants.
Does Aloe Vera Need Direct Sunlight?
The aloe plant does enjoy some direct sunlight, but not in excess and not in extremely warm temperatures. The aloe plant will tolerate around 6-8 hours of direct sunlight in cooler temperatures and will do best in dappled sun in very hot climates.
Indoors, your aloe will require lots of bright light, so it’s best to place it near a south-facing window for ideal sun exposure.
Periodically rotate the plant so that all sides get enough sunlight, otherwise some parts of it will grow leggy.
If you move an aloe plant from indoors to outdoors, you should avoid placing it in direct sunlight. You must slowly acclimate it instead, so that you avoid causing sunburn and damaging the leaves.
The gradual acclimation should be done over the course of 2 weeks, after which you can leave the plant outside.
Where not enough light is available indoors, artificial lights may be needed for 14-16 hours per day to provide the aloe plant with enough light.
How to Water Aloe Vera?
Since the aloe vera plant is adapted to desert conditions, you need to keep watering at an adequate level. It’s essential not to overwater an aloe plant.
If you’re not good with keeping a schedule, the aloe plant can take some neglect in the watering department, however, leave it without water for too long, and it will start showing symptoms of dehydration (e.g. wrinkling leaves).
It’s best to water your aloe wherever the soil dries. This could mean you may end up watering every 2-3 weeks or even more scarcely during winter, depending on the climate in your area.
To prevent water retention in the soil, you must plant your aloe in a well-draining potting mix.
Choose a succulent or cactus mix that’s designed for good aeration of the roots and allows water to percolate easily.
To further help prevent root rot caused by excess water, you can choose terracotta pots over plastic ones that will help absorb moisture much faster.
Can Aloe Vera Survive Frost?
Aloe plants thrive in temperatures between 60 °F and 75 °F. They’re not frost-resistant plants and they should not be exposed to temperatures below 40 F.
That said, your aloe may survive a sudden frost if you act quickly and move it back inside. If only some of the leaves are visibly damaged, cut these off, create hospitable conditions for your aloe and you may be able to nurse it back to good health.
That said, aloe vera plants should not be kept outdoors once temperatures start to fall below 50 °F.
Why is My Aloe Vera Leggy?
If your aloe is growing leggy, it’s usually a sign of it not receiving enough light. In poor light conditions, the aloe is attempting to move towards the light.
Try moving your aloe closer to a sunny window or a location where it can get more light.
If there is no such location in your home, you may need to invest in some LED grow lights to supply your aloe with adequate light.
Overwatering can also cause the aloe’s leaves to flop over, but leggy leaves are almost always the result of poor light conditions.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that can be kept as a houseplant if you can create hospitable conditions to support its growth.
Good soil, adequate light, warmth and a correct watering schedule will help you successfully grow this plant indoors.
Besides being an interesting-looking plant, aloe plants are also beneficial, boasting plenty of health benefits, whether used topically or it’s ingested. Not all parts of the aloe plant are edible, though, so make sure to document yourself before using aloe vera internally.