Growing Aloe in the Backyard: How Easy Is It?


It wouldn’t be wrong to think that growing aloe isn’t easy – these plants are susceptible to the soil, water, and temperatures. Therefore, many gardeners ask the question of just how easy or difficult it is to grow aloe.

Aloe can grow in a yard (or backyard) if the soil composition and temperatures are right. Hardier types of aloe can grow in colder climates. However, if the soil or temperature is incompatible with the aloe species, it must be grown, kept in a pot, and brought indoors during inclement weather.

While I wouldn’t label growing and caring for an aloe as difficult, it’s complex, as we must always juggle three important aspects. Read on to learn how well an aloe plant can do in the home or backyard!

An image of a senior woman gardening an aloe vera plant.

Can I Plant Aloe In My Yard?

There are more than 600 species in the Aloe genus, and there are winter-hardy aloe plants. Aloe can flourish in a yard if the soil is appropriate and the specific plant is compatible with the zone’s climate. Aloe can also be grown indoors easily.

We can plant aloe in our yards only if the soil is exactly the right type and if the plant is either winter-hardy or if the climate is warm throughout the year.

Aloe requires a very specific type of soil to fulfill its potential. It can grow in basically any soil to a certain degree, but it is a succulent, after all, and succulents don’t do very well in gardening soil. They need a sandier, gravelly mix of soil (think desert soil). We’ll explain the exact specifics later on.

On top of their soil requirements (the exact soil specifications are next), aloe plants don’t tolerate low temperatures (aside from the few winter-hardy plants we’ll also discuss later). Aloe also likes plenty of sunlight.

Because of all this, growing them in the yard can be a bother. We might have to take them inside as the temperatures drop; otherwise, the plant will die, and the soil in the yard might not be appropriate for aloes.

Would I plant aloe in my yard? You bet I would – and I have. I live in Utah. We get a good bit of snow in the winter, and the summers are hot with triple-digit temperatures. But I’ve got a cold-hardy variety of aloe in my yard, and it’s doing great.

What Kind of Soil Do Aloe Need?

Aloe needs a “succulent” or “cactus” potting mix with almost no soil. Aloe grows best in desert-style sand rich in gravel, pumice, substrate, perlite, and low-to-no fertilizer. This potting mix is extremely fast-draining, mimicking the desert-style sands where aloe thrives naturally.

If your yard has rich soil, that’s awesome. Don’t plant your succulents there. They won’t grow well there.

To avoid exorbitant shipping fees, I recommend you shop for your succulent potting mix locally. In some cases, you can make your succulent potting mix at home, though that can be hard for newer succulent owners to do successfully.

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If you want to get (rather than make) a proper succulent potting mix, check out a local nursery or a local big box store. I’m a huge fan of my local Home Depot – I love to shop online and pick up in-store, so I don’t make impulse purchases!

Or, if you want to price-check, use Amazon to search, so you know what those prices are. Here’s a link to a general Amazon search for “succulent potting mix” so you know what kind of prices you can expect for shipped options. You will get better prices in person, though.

When we planted our aloe in our yard, we did two things.

  • First, we bought a succulent potting mix from our local Home Depot.
  • Second, we picked our planting spot carefully. We picked a shaded yard area with the least clay (and is sandier than other areas).

We used the succulent potting mix to amend our existing soil for a foot around the new aloe plant. So it’s got a foot of root space to grow easily, which should give it plenty of space to grow and establish itself before it hits the unamended soil, which isn’t as succulent-friendly, but tons better than the clay-heavy soil in other parts of our yard.

It’s growing well enough that we hope to be able to take cuttings and replant them elsewhere in the to-be-amended parts of the yard here soon.

Where Should I Put the Aloe Vera Plant Outside?

Plant outdoor aloe vera in a partially sunny area with sandy, gravelly soil. Aloe like plenty of light, but they can still get burned. Ideally, they should get an entire day of indirect sunlight – so a partly shaded area is the ideal setting for them.

Sunlight and soil composition are the most important aspects of planting an aloe plant outside. Since they like infrequent watering, it’d be best not to keep them outside if there is a lot of rain in the area.

We’ll discuss the soil specifics later in the article, so don’t miss that part.

An image of an Aloe vera plant field.

What Zones Does Aloe Grow In?

Aloe can grow year-round in zones 8-11, although specific types of aloe do best in more specific zones. Some aloe types are more cold-hardy than others. All aloe can burn in the sun or freeze with extreme temperature drops.

According to the University of Florida, year-round growth is possible in hardiness zones 8-11. However, this doesn’t mean they are not susceptible to extreme weather – they can still burn in the sun or freeze if the temperature suddenly drops. Here is a link to the information at the University of Florida.

However, in colder zones, we need to keep the plants inside and only take them out in the summer. When doing this, make sure to gradually put the plant out for more and more time before leaving it outside for the rest of the season.

Aloes that grow inside are more sensitive to sunlight and can suffer sunburns if we don’t let them acclimate to it.

Can aloe live outside in the winter?

Several types of cold-hardy aloe can survive cold winter temperatures, although most aloes are not cold-hardy. Any aloes that are not cold-hardy can’t make it through the winter as they will freeze to death. For colder zones, make sure to get a cold-hardy aloe.

Here are a few of the cold-hardy varieties you can pick from.

  • Aloe ferox, colloquially known as the bitter aloe or Cape aloe is indigenous to southern Africa.
  • Sand aloe (Aloe hereroensis) can also survive colder winters.
  • Aloe marlothii, or mountain aloe, is another species capable of surviving the winter. This variety can grow to an incredible size, and fitting it in the yard might be a problem.
  • Aloe polyphylla, or spiral aloe, is a hardy aloe species that develops a beautiful spiral shape that can be either clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Finally, a variety of aloe known as “Utah aloe” is gorgeous and cold-hardy.
  • Aloe aristata, or “Torch Flower Aloe” is another cold-hardy variety that does well in Colorado and Utah.

If you’re curious, we selected the “Torch flower aloe” or Aloe aristata for our yard. We picked it as we could order it from a succulent Colorado nursery specializing in cold-hardy succulents. We figured any succulent that did well in Colorado (in a similar zone) could also survive our northern Utah winters. So far – so good!

What happens if I leave my aloe outside in the winter?

The good news is – it’s unlikely the plant will die. Temperatures must drop to extremely low levels (for aloe standards) for them to die. Instead, the aloe will become dormant and stop flowering until the temperatures warm up again.

This is why it’s recommended to grow aloe in a large pot – we can take it inside during the winter. That way, it doesn’t risk death (or go dormant) during the winter.

Fact: The most common cause of death in aloes isn’t cold temperatures (wintering) but overwatering!

An image of a Scenic view of a crop of aloe vera plants receding into the distance, Thailand.

Seasonal Care for Backyard Aloe (the Easy Way to Grow Aloe)

Here’s a simplified overview of how to care for aloe plants throughout the year!

Spring

If aloe is grown inside a pot, spring is the right time to take it out to the yard. As we explained, make sure not to take it out too suddenly – take it out for a few hours for four days before leaving it out completely.

The best spot for it should have at least a few hours of shade a day (not including the night). Otherwise, it could get sunburned.

Spring is also the right time to start fertilizing, but don’t fertilize more than once a month. Succulents generally don’t need a ton of extra nutrients, and it’s easy to cause a fertilizer burn.

Lastly, when it comes to watering, water plentifully, but only when the top inch of soil is completely dry. This is very important to remember, as we can easily overwater the plant and kill it. Overwatering a succulent, like an aloe, is the most common way to kill it.

Depending on the temperatures in the area, water it once or twice a month during spring.

Summer

The biggest difference between summer and spring is watering frequency. Since soil dries quicker, it’s essential that we water aloe more often (unless the summers in the area are no warmer than spring).

Also, if we’re worried about the amount of sunlight the aloe is getting – we should move it, even if we have to take it back inside or to a shadier area in the yard.

Aloe plants can die from sunburn; bringing them back to life is difficult (and sometimes impossible).

Fall

Aloe care in the fall requires less watering and fertilizing than spring and summer care. During this time, watch how the temperatures change and move the plant inside before it freezes.

Watering the plant less is because we’re trying to induce dormancy. Think of dormancy like hibernation for plants – it’s a resting period.

During dormancy, plants won’t flower; they’re just focused on self-sustainability.

This dormancy will last until spring when aloes start their flowering process.

If temperatures drop below 60°F during this period – bring the aloe inside. This, of course, doesn’t apply to winter-hardy aloes, as they can survive the cold.

Winter

During the winter, the plant should be indoors. Water it once a month and keep it next to a window – the plant is now dormant and should not be disturbed before spring.

If a plant is outside, treat it the same as planted in a pot and living inside.

Below, we will find a simple table view of seasonal care.

CareSpringSummerFallWinter
WateringOnce or twice a month – only when the top inch of soil is completely dryOnce or twice a month – only when the top inch of soil is completely dryNo more than once a month – the plant is dormantNo more than once a month – the plant is dormant
FertilizingNo more than once a monthNo more than once a monthNo fertilizing – the plant is dormantNo fertilizing – the plant is dormant
SunlightAt least a few hours of shade or indirect sunlight a dayAt least a few hours of shade or indirect sunlight a dayPreferably no direct sunlight at allPreferably no direct sunlight at all
PositioningPartly shaded areaPartly shaded areaNext to a windowNext to a window
Table 1. Caring for an Aloe Vera plant.
An image of the Aloe vera plant in design modern pot and white wall mock-up.

Does Aloe Do Better In the Ground or a Pot?

Aloe will do better long-term when planted in the ground in appropriate succulent soil, as there is no limitation on the root growth. The roots of most aloe plant types constantly grow, so potted aloe plants must be re-potted regularly to accommodate the plant.

It’s also easier to water an aloe in the ground because there’s more soil – a potted aloe can be easily overwatered (source).

On the other hand, if we live in a very cold zone during the winter and don’t have a cold-hardy variety that can stay outside, take the aloe indoors. This is too much for a single plant, and we’ll have to do it year after year if we live in a cold climate.

This is why it’s generally better to plant the aloe in a pot – it’s more mobile, and there’s less limit to which aloe you can get.

After all, you’re already making sure it’ll be in a healthy temperature and climate; so you can get the variety you want.

Another thing to remember is the type of soil in the yard. The aloe won’t do well if it’s regular potting soil in either the yard or the pot.

  • If your outdoor soil isn’t already succulent-friendly (think sandy, gravel, desert-type soil), then it will be far easier to prep and plant aloe in a pot where you can add succulent soil.
  • If your yard already has succulent-friendly soil, it may be easier to pick a zone-appropriate aloe and plant it outdoors instead of having to prep a pot and move it around.

We’ll discuss the soil specifics later in the article, so don’t miss that part.

Here’s a simplified method:

Is the climate warm enough for aloes all year round, and is the soil appropriate? If the answer is yes, it’s better to grow it in the ground. If the answer to either of these questions is no, it’s better to grow it in a pot.

When To Plant Aloe In a Pot (and Bring it Inside in Off-Season Growing)?

We can start the aloe in a pot as soon as the last frost has passed – a young plant should be protected from the elements for a while. Depending on where we live, the last frost usually occurs at the end of March or the beginning of April.

The plant will establish itself enough until the fall, the best time to take your aloe inside. As explained before, the plant will become dormant during this period, and even though the aloe is young – don’t treat it differently. Do less watering and less fertilizing.

An image of How to plant and grow aloe vera succulent houseplant at home. Aloe Vera Plant Care. Female hand-in.

How to plant aloe in a pot?

Once we choose the aloe variety, we can buy a large enough pot and fill it with a well-draining succulent potting mix. Out in the wild, aloe soil is very poor regarding nutrients. It is usually a mix of sand, stone, and organic matter.

Mix regular gardening soil with gravel and coarse sand (or pumice) to achieve the same soil conditions. To take the easy route – buy the bag marked “Cactus Soil” or “Succulent Soil.”

Once the aloe is all packed in, we’re essentially good to go. You may or may not need to water it right away – this sounds contradictory, as usually, the first thing we do after planting a plant is to water it, but succulents don’t always need watering after planting.

This will, of course, depend on the exact type of plant and if it’s a cutting or an established one.

For example, when we planted our succulents in our yard, they were still young cuttings with small roots. We were advised by the succulent nursery (where we special ordered our cold-hardy plants from) to water them both before and after planting, so we followed that advice. Our plants are doing great.

Ensure the plant gets enough sunlight and the temperatures don’t drop below 60°F for it to establish well and water as needed or directed.

Next Steps for Growing Aloe

The good news is that even if your yard isn’t hospitable towards aloe plants, you can amend the soil and get it hospitable. Or, you can still grow them inside and take them out for the spring or the summer. While the growing conditions are very specific, they’re not impossible to create artificially.

The most important thing to remember is that aloe plants need poor, well-draining soil, occasional watering, and temperatures above 60°F for spring and summer months (fall and winter are another story!). If we can accomplish that, be it in the yard or living room, the aloe will do very well!

If you’d like to know where we got our cold-hardy succulents, we ordered them from coldhardycactus.com. We are not affiliated with them in any way, but we were very pleased with our purchase and experience, so we’re happy to give them a shout-out.

Next, ensure you have a great space for your aloe to grow. You’re going to need well-draining soil. If your soil doesn’t drain well, read our fix-it guide here: Reasons Your Garden Soil Doesn’t Absorb Water (with fixes!).

Resources

Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.

  • Aloe Vera (Aloe, Aloe Vera, Barbados Aloe, Medicinal Aloe, Medicine Plant, True Aloe) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/aloe-vera.
  • Aloe Vera – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/aloe-vera.html.
  • “Cold-Hardy Aloes for Your Garden.” Gardenia.net, www.gardenia.net/guide/cold-hardy-aloes-for-your-garden.
  • “What Should I Know About Growing Aloe at Home?” Extension, 4 Jan. 2019, extension.unh.edu/blog/2019/01/what-should-i-know-about-growing-aloe-home.

An image of Kimberly and her daughter gardening

About Us

I’m Kimberly Starr. My family has always loved being outside and gardening. Now we are building a backyard homestead and immersing ourselves in this wonderful new lifestyle. We’re learning as we go what works and what doesn’t. This website is where we’re sharing everything we’ve learned.

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