Do You Water Aloe Vera Plants from Top or Bottom?


watering an indoor aloe plant in a pot from the top but not on the leaves

Aloe vera plants don’t need watering that often, but they do use the water you give them for a long time. That’s why you must water your Aloe plants the correct way. So should you pour water from the top or water them from the roots?

Do you water aloe vera plants from top or bottom? Water your aloe vera plant from the bottom so water can reach the roots, pouring slowly yet consistently. If the water hasn’t yet emerged through the plant’s drainage holes, keep going until that happens.

If you have yet more questions about caring for your aloe vera plant, I’ve got the answers. In this article, I’ll go step-by-step, outlining the proper protocol for aloe vera plant watering.

I’ll also talk about how you know whether you overdid it on the water versus what your aloe vera should look like when it’s healthy.

Let’s begin! 

How to Water Aloe Vera Plants

The aloe vera plant is regarded as being pretty tough to kill. You may have been watering it the wrong way without even realizing it.

Rectifying this behavior is the key to better plant health, so let’s start by going over the right way to water your aloe vera.

Determine When It’s Time to Water your Aloe Vera

I’ll talk about this more in a later section, but if it feels like it’s been a long time since you’ve watered your aloe vera plant, that’s not necessarily a sign of bad care. You’ll water it seldomly, but don’t wait too long either!

Fill Your Favorite Watering Can

Okay, so you’ve decided your aloe vera is a little dried out and you need to replenish it. Great! Take your watering can of choice and fill it with water.

I’ve discussed the importance of watering your houseplants with rainwater or filtered water, but houseplants appreciate filtered water when possible rather than regular ol’ tap water.

The latter will contain chemicals like fluoride and chlorine, neither of which are very damaging to indoor plants in low quantities.

However, by giving your plants nothing but tap water for weeks or months on end, all those chemicals can build up and negatively affect your houseplant.  

Yes, that goes for the aloe vera as well, even though it’s not particularly finicky about much. Keep its water clean and, for that matter, prioritize using chemical-free water in your home or office whenever possible. You’ll be healthier for it too, not just your plants!

Focus the Water Down and Deep

Now it’s time to pour. As I mentioned in the intro, aim for the bottom of the aloe vera’s pot or container towards the soil.

Even focusing your stream of water around the edges of the pot so the water runs down the inside wall of the pot is better than pouring water dead center on the base of the leaves.

Water the plant deeply, but don’t drown it in water all at once. Take your time, keeping your stream of water contained.

If you feel like too much water is coming out of your watering can, then switch to a cup or another container to pour the water more slowly.

Keep Pouring Until Water Comes out of the Drainage Holes

How long do you continue watering the aloe vera plant? Until you see water emerge from the plant’s drainage holes. As soon as you see the water coming out of the drainage holes stop pouring the waer.

Stopping the watering as soon as you know it’s flowed all the way through the base of the soil, should leave you with moist soil that isn’t soaking wet.

Why You Shouldn’t Water Aloe Vera Plants from the Top

One approach that some indoor gardeners take when watering the aloe vera is to start at the top. Considering that aloe vera plants can reach heights of two or three feet, watering this way feels kind of awkward. That’s part of why I don’t recommend it.

Here’s the main reason. When watering any houseplant, you’re not supposed to aim for the plant itself, but its roots.

A few plants possess the ability to absorb water through their leaves, which they then transport to the xylem and into the soil. However, this is rare. By watering from the top, all you’re doing with most indoor plants is wetting the leaves.

A wet plant can seem like a well-watered one, but it probably isn’t. The tall, fleshy, blade-like leaves of the aloe vera make it even harder for water to reach the plant’s roots when you water the plant from top to bottom.

Every houseplant is susceptible to underwatering just as they are overwatering, which I’ll discuss a little later. The aloe vera is a succulent, which means it retains water in its leaves for long periods.

Although it’s a lot harder to starve a succulent of water compared to non-succulent plant species, it’s not impossible.

If you’ve noticed that your aloe vera’s normally tall leaves have begun sagging or wilting, then it’s lacking water. Once you start watering it from the bottom rather than the top, this shouldn’t be an ongoing problem.

How Often to Water an Aloe Vera Plant?

I’ve mentioned a few times how the aloe vera plant can retain water. The waxy, thick coating on its leaves is part of what allows moisture to remain in its leaves while its broad stems are another part.

How long does the aloe vera hold onto the water you give it? There’s no general answer to that question, as lots of factors can impact when you need to water your plant.

For example, what season is it? Aloe vera doesn’t really have an active growing season, per se. If you put your aloe vera plant outside in the spring and summer and then move it indoors in the winter, it would keep right on growing.

That said, there are obvious differences between winter and summer temperatures in many parts of the world. It’s typically hotter in the summer and colder in the winter (sometimes reverse that) unless you live in a hot climate. Then your winters are mild at best.

Succulents like the aloe vera are built for hot weather, but even still, the plant can’t stop the water absorption that happens when the mercury begins rising.

Since your aloe vera will lose more water in the heat, you may need to top it off frequently, much more so than you do in the winter.

On Indoor Plants for Beginners, I always eschew following a predetermined schedule for watering your plant. These schedules don’t always take into account the changing seasons and how your plant’s needs can change right along with the calendar.

Instead, you’re much better off doing what I call the fingertip test. Plunk your clean fingers into the soil of your aloe vera’s pot or container and let the moisture be your guide. If you feel moisture two or three inches deep, then please, put the watering can down.

When the moisture dries up and is only an inch deep, plan to water your aloe vera probably within that same week. If you’re unsure, I’d suggest you wait a few days, redo the soil test, and then go from there.

If you feel no moisture at all, then you’ve probably noticed your aloe vera’s leaves are a bit saggy too, right? If that’s the case then your plant is asking for water.

What Does an Overwatered Aloe Vera Plant Look Like?

What’s much more common in the aloe vera is overwatering. Some inexperienced indoor gardeners assume that since the aloe vera is a succulent that it will gladly drink up as much water as you could possibly wish to give it.

That’s not true. As I’ve covered throughout this blog, all houseplants need water and oxygen in about equal measure for survival. By canceling out the oxygen with nothing but water or giving your plant air but no water, they won’t live long.

Before your aloe vera is on the verge of death, it will indicate to you that it’s doing poorly. You just have to know what to look for, and here are those symptoms.

Oedema

In humans, fluid can get stuck in our tissue, making us swell up and become puffy. I mention this because aloe vera is one recommended over-the-counter treatment for edema in people. Yet what if it’s the aloe vera itself that’s swelling up?

Known as oedema or edema, this swelling is also a sign of fluid build-up, that fluid being water. The aloe vera holds onto water beyond a healthy degree and the water has nowhere else to go. Your plant may look like it’s always wet in areas, especially on the undersides of its thick leaves.

Even if you give your aloe vera time to dry though, these wet areas don’t go away because they’re oversaturated in water.

Besides that, oedema can manifest in the form of blisters across your aloe vera’s usually pretty leaves. These blisters may emerge large and swollen or start as bumps that grow in size over time.

The best way to treat houseplant oedema is to replace your plant’s soil with something drier. Then watch your watering habits going forward to avoid it from happening again.

Leaf Discoloration

Look at the coloring of your aloe vera’s stately leaves, as they’re a dead giveaway that you’re overwatering the succulent. The leaves could be yellow to start before browning and even turning black. This is often a sign of root rot, which I’ll talk about in just a moment.

Soft Leaves

Although succulents have thicker leaves than an average houseplant, those leaves don’t necessarily remain erect forever. When soaked through and through with water, the leaves can begin to grow soft.

You might not notice this unless you directly handle your aloe vera, but you will be able to tell more easily when this next thing happens…

Sagging Leaves

What do aloe vera leaves do when they’re full and heavy with water? The plant can’t keep its leaves upright anymore, so they sag. In a more serious case of root rot, the leaves can even tip right over.

This is sad since your aloe vera looks odd. You’re also missing out on the ability to use those aloe vera leaves for everyday medicinal purposes, as water-soaked leaves are not nearly as potent.

Mold Growing In The Soil

Check the soil around your aloe vera too. Do you notice flecks of white amongst all the brown? Does the texture of the white stuff almost look like cotton? Then I’m sorry to say, but your aloe vera plant has a bad case of mold.

White is the predominant mold color, but other colors can emerge too. If your plant has sooty mold, for instance, then the mold might be black or dark green.

Both those hues can blend right into the soil, making sooty mold easy to miss.

Some houseplant mold can appear gray, and if so, that’s especially bad. A fungus called botrytis cinerea has invaded your aloe vera and may spread to its foliage as well. Should it get there, the mold can access the aloe vera’s tissue and kill it.

Mildew is another bacterium to keep an eye out for. It’s white like most mold but looks like powder rather than cotton candy. Sorry, you might not want to eat cotton candy for a while now!

Root Rot

Besides maybe fungal or bacterial diseases, root rot is about the worst thing that can afflict your houseplants. A direct symptom of overwatering, root rot literally drowns the roots.

Remember that an equal balance of oxygen & water is a necessity for a healthy Aloe plant. But that doesn’t just apply to your Aloe plant, it applies to all of your houseplants!

As the once-firm roots die, they become mushy and smelly. In the early stages of root rot, your aloe vera leaves will become discolored.

If you don’t realize your succulent has root rot, then continuing to overwater the plant will cause the leaves to sag.

For more about giving your houseplants the proper mixture of water & oxygen you’ll want to read the article titled: Should You Put Indoor Plants in the Rain?

Once your aloe vera roots are dead, there’s no chance of reviving the rest of the plant.

What Does a Healthy Aloe Vera Plant Look Like?

Both underwatering and overwatering can be the end of your aloe vera, which you now know. But what should a healthy aloe vera look like?

Here are the signs to look for that will let you know that your Aloe plant is being watered appropriately, being given adequate light, and is generally a happy healthy plant.

An Aloe Vera Plant that is Green Throughout

Aloe vera leaves should be a uniform shade of green, but do be aware of which aloe cultivar you bought!

Aloe vera cultivars add fun and variety to this succulent species, but those cultivars can grow leaves in hues like dark green, light green, neon pink, or maroon.

If your Aloe Plant is one of the species thats color has been altered then look for a consistent color to help determine its health.

If you have an aloe vera cultivar, then the plant being a healthy shade of those colors is a sign it’s doing well.

An Aloe Vera Plant Thats Leaves Are Pointed Upward

Unless you brought home a variety like the red aloe or spiral aloe, which does feature leaves in a spiral shape, then the leaves of your aloe vera should stand nice and tall.

A bit of sagging can be normal if the leaves grow too long, but the leaves shouldn’t look like they’re at risk of falling over if a light breeze blew through.

An Aloe Vera Plant Thats Leaves Have A Firm Texture

Now and again, feel the blade-like leaves of your aloe vera plant. Are they firm to the touch or do they have soft spots?

The latter is a potential early indicator of overwatering. Overwatered Aloe Plants will end up storing too much water in their leaves.

If your Aloe Plant has thick & heavy leaves that are filled with water, I would recommend skipping any water for a few weeks and reassessing then.

An Aloe Vera Plant That Displays White Roots

You won’t remove your aloe vera from its pot more than once a year if you even do it that seldom. The next time your plant needs a pot upgrade, take some time to study its root system. All roots should be white, thick, and have no unpleasant odors. That means your aloe vera has a healthy root system and is free of root rot.

How long are your aloe vera’s roots? Aloe Vera in particular are known to do well in a crowded pot or container.

But beware that if you’re not the type of indoor gardener that repots your house plants often, a crowded container can quickly become an overcrowded container.

If the roots seem like they’re extending every which way, then trimming them back isn’t a bad idea. This can prevent your aloe vera plant from becoming rootbound to the point of it being unhealthy for it.

If you found this article helpful or know someone who might, consider doing us and them a favor by sharing it with them.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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