Aloes are easy going succulent plants that need very little maintenance. When growing your aloes, it is good to know what the aloe habitat of that aloe species is and try to imitate that as much as possible. On the other hand, most aloes for sale are hybrids and even if they were a species, it is seldom possible to get the right identification.
There are a few rules that can be followed for any aloe.
Aloe hybrids are much easier than aloe species in that the hybrid has a wider choice of growing conditions inherited from at least two different aloes species.
In the wild aloe habitat most species occur on slopes or ridges. Follow this pattern by giving aloe plants plenty of large and small stones around the roots for drainage. Good drainage is essential; as is humus and old manure.
In the wild, leaves and dry grass get blown amongst the rocks and stones. Add some Dolomite gravel, it will not harm the plants as it dissolves slowly so that it gives a good calcium/magnesium balance which is appreciated by most, and essential to some aloes. If dolomite is not available, sprinkle roughly one half teaspoon Epsom salts and a full teaspoon lime around the plants at monthly intervals for 3-4 months in the rainy season.
Aloes can withstand some rain and water in a warm climate provided they get a chance to dry out every few days. Aloes can also withstand short periods of frost in a dry climate. Growing aloes in the open garden, in a wet cold climate is near to impossible. However by planting aloes in pots or containers and moving them inside you can still grow your aloes.
When summer rain occurs, do not water the aloes. An aloe can go for months without water, but they rot very easy when wet. Keep them in a dry place and resist the temptation to water them. They will not die of thirst.
How much water is the difficult question. Once or twice per month in the summer – only in desert regions. No need to water in winter, as they will get enough water in the summer.
Winter rainfall areas: Here the rules will be once or twice a month in the summer for the summer growing aloes only, which is most aloes. Plant the aloes on stones to keep the water running off quickly from the winter rain. Not many aloes will grow in the winter rainfall area, try to get aloes that have been doing well in your area.
The number one enemy of aloes…ants. Watch out for any sign of ants. They carry aphids into the crevices of the rosette where the aphids damage the plants and that is a very quick way to loose an aloe to rot.
Once the aloes have adjusted to your conditions, they will need very little maintenance.
Rudi and Eurica have been growing aloes for some 30+ years. First in Namibia and then in South Africa. Both countries have large succulent aloe habitats which we love.