Your Aloe Vera begins life as a mini plant but can grow mega-sized when you use the best soil. What if you have a track record as an Aloe-killer? Tips on choosing the right soil can help you too!
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At first glance, Aloe might look more like a crazy freckled octopus than a plant, so what exactly is it? It’s a succulent that hails from the Arabian Peninsula in Africa. It might go without saying; these plants are used to sandy, arid, dry conditions. So how does that translate into “houseplant” care? What type of soil is best for your mini Aloe Vera?
Choosing the Best Soil for Your Mini Aloe Vera
Balancing Drainage and Nutrition
After reading about Aloe’s origins, you might conclude that plain sand is the ideal potting medium. Well, think again! While drainage is essential, your plant also needs organic matter for nutrients. Why?
All succulents (including Aloe Vera) are naturally slow growers. Without the proper soil nutrition, your mini plant will be mini… well, for what seems like forever.
However, balancing drainage and nutrition can be taxing (especially if you’re trying to make your own soil blend). What’s the challenge? Organic matter = moisture retaining. And too much moisture = goodbye mini Aloe Vera.
Are you looking for a no-fuss, easy fix? Then a premade, pH-balanced Cactus or Succulent Mix is the best soil for your mini Aloe Vera. Do you want a specific example? Invest in some Miracle Grow Succulent, Cactus, and Palm Mix.
A Magnificent DIY Mix
If you’re a self-professed plant-soil mixologist, you will want to mix 1 part sand or perlite with a neutral pH well-draining potting soil. Are you looking for examples? Miracle Grow Indoor Mix or Foxfarm Happy Frog Potting Mix will both do the trick as your base.
Why Do It Yourself?
Unfamiliar with the perks of a self-blended mix? For one thing, creating your own blend with a “generic” base means you’ll have fewer bags of wasted potting mix. Both of the blends above can be used on your whole plant family (not just your succulent friends!).
When to Say “Sayonara” to Old Potting Soil
Whether you opted for the easy prepackaged stuff or made your own masterful blend, your soil has a life expectancy. Why? After a while, organic matter compacts, eliminating your soil’s oxygen (aka aeration) and decreases drainage. Basically, your plant will suffocate and drown simultaneously.
How frequently should you update your potting mix? Some successful Aloe parents recommend replacing soil as often as once every three months during the growing season. Remember, this is just a soil refresh, not a pot size upgrade!
Frequent Refreshing and Fertilizing
It’s worth noting, most potting mixes have enough nutrients to last 6 months. Adding additional liquid fertilizer to fresh soil is overkill. Literally, too much fertilizer will kill your mini Aloe Vera! The root system will get burnt, become inefficient in water absorption, and your succulent will be a mushy brown mess. (Sad face.)
The soil in your plant’s pot isn’t the only thing that has a life expectancy: the soil leftover in the bag does too! You shouldn’t use soil from an open bag that’s over 6 months old. Why? The organic matter has already deteriorated, and it’s devoid of nutrients. Soil that’s “overwintered” is especially a no-no: it’s undoubtedly exhausted and probably hosting pests.
Unopened bags of potting mix are usable for 1-2 years. Why the difference? Three words: air, moisture, and pests. Bags that aren’t opened are relatively air and watertight, slowing down the decomposing process and protecting the insides from bugs.
We all love a deal, right? While this is true, you don’t want a deal on a potting mix. Discounted soil is usually one of three things: an ineffective brand that doesn’t work, too old, or is already damaged. Cut out the headaches by paying full price.
If you’re looking to buy your soil online, make sure you purchase it from a reputable seller (yes, even on Amazon). There’s a good chance disreputable, third-party sellers will be sending you those nasty discounted bags of soil for “regular” price. Your best bet is to purchase soil for your Mini Aloe Vera directly from the manufacturer.
Picking the Best Pot for Your Aloe
Choosing the best soil for your mini Aloe Vera is only one piece of the puzzle: you need to pick an appropriate pot and watering routine too! (More on watering to come.)
Drainage: Select a container that has at least one large drainage hole per gallon of soil.
Size: Your container should be as wide as it is deep: so, a perfect cylinder or cube. The roots of your Aloe Vera should fill 2/3rds of the container.
What About Water?
Sure, succulents like the Aloe Vera “thrive on neglect.” But that statement has its limits. You do still have to water your Aloe. When?
Let the record show that you shouldn’t stick to a set schedule to water any of your plants. Your leafy friends are constantly growing at a faster or slower rate, and their environment (even indoors) changes frequently. What should you do?
The #1 reason Aloes dies is from overwatering, so err on the side of caution. For the mini Aloe Vera, you should water it when the soil is completely dried out. Your plant should be slightly too dry than too wet. Chances are, you will not be watering your Aloe more frequently than once every 2-3 weeks.
Remember, only water when your Aloe needs it! This is when a phone comes in handy. Whether you need the accountability to resist watering or the reminder to take a “looksie,” set a reminder to check the soil every two weeks.
So, what’s the best soil for your Mini Aloe Vera? The simplest route: A premade cactus, succulent mix. It’s well-draining and rich in nutrients. When you (1) make sure to refresh your soil frequently, (2) use an appropriate container, and (3) keep your soil at the ideal moisture level, your mini plant won’t be mini for long!
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