Aloe Vera plants are fast-growing succulents that can grow to a height of 3-feet. To keep them potted indoors or in good shape to be used as a potted Aloe on a patio, they do need pruning, but never regular.
The more frequently you cut an Aloe plant, the higher the risk of killing it.
For those growing Aloe Vera to use daily such as for extracting the juice from Aloe leaves for making a smoothie or using the gel from the leaves for daily skin cleansing, you’ll definitely need more than one Aloe plant.
Naturally, if you’re trying to grow a spectacle of an Aloe in your backyard, you’ll want to be sure you’re pruning it correctly without using any techniques that could potentially damage the plant. Quick tip: never use a blunt blade!
In this post, I’ll be focusing purely on the true aloe plant and not the similar Aloe Ferox plant, which isn’t the same. The Aloe Ferox species is the African Aloe, is single stemmed and can reach a peak height of 10 feet tall.
If you’re finding you have an aloe-like plant in your backyard that’s growing wildly out of control, it may be the Aloe-Ferox plant you have instead of a true Aloe.
See here for Aloe Ferox information. The main difference is size as this species of Aloe grows taller and wider.
A true Aloe shouldn’t be taking over your backyard, but without proper pruning it can become oversized for the container it’s planted in.
How to Cut a True Aloe Vera Plant Without Killing It
While Aloe Vera plants are fast-growing succulents, in comparison to other plants, like herbs, they’re actually slower growing (you can find more info about their growth rate in my post about growing Aloe faster). The key to mastering how to cut an Aloe Vera plant without killing it is to prune it only when it needs it.
These aren’t plants that you can snip away at the leaves frequently, because with each cut, you’re snipping away a lot of the nutrients that the plant needs to stay healthy and nourished.
Did you know the leaves in Aloe plants are 95% water content? Being succulents, they need a high level of water content to continue to grow healthy leaves. One of the bigger benefits of Aloe is they’re pretty good at self-healing. Once cut, a skin is formed and it’ll heal over within two to three days.
If you notice the leaves on your Aloe plant are growing thinner and curled, there’s a good chance the plant isn’t being watered enough, which will cause it to feed on it’s own water content from the leaves. That’s why they start growing thinner can tend to curl when there’s a lack of water. If you were to cut away all the leaves, there wouldn’t be sufficient water to keep the plant alive.
The only leaves to cut off these are the matured leaves. These are going to be the outer-most leaves on the plant. Always cut the biggest first because those are the most matured.
When cutting an Aloe leaf, use a sharp serrated blade to cut it as close to the base as possible. It’s a good idea to add some rubbing alcohol over your blade before cutting the leaf to get rid of any potential viruses, diseases or fungi that could damage the plant.
Trimming Down an Overgrown Aloe Plant
Aloe plants are said to be among the easiest to grow because they thrive on neglect. But, neglect it too much and it can grow wildly out of control. Instead of having a gorgeous potted succulent, you can wind up with tangled leaves curling all over the place, leaves too heavy for the pot that they wind up growing towards the base instead of upward.
When left for a while without giving your Aloe plant a trim, it will need some serious cutting but before you do, it’s better to have an understanding about why you’re cutting and the effect your snips will have on the overall plant’s health.
To start with, you need to know the leaves on the outside of the plant are the oldest. The ones on the inside are fresh and still growing. There may even be some dead leaves towards the inside of the plant, but to get to those without damaging any other leaves, you need to start from the outside and work your way in.
Identify the leaves you need to cut away first. Those will be:
- Dead or dying leaves – the ones that are turning brown or are brown
- Those that are dried up and shriveled
- All the discolored leaves
On an oversized Aloe plant, anything other than healthy green leaves are only soaking up the plant’s energy that would otherwise go toward growing healthy green leaves full of Aloe juices. Those that aren’t green and healthy looking need a pair of scissors taken to them.
You’ll find it easier to cut away thicker leaves using sharp scissors rather than a serrated blade. Depending on the strength and thickness of the leaves, you may need to bring out your gardening shears or a pair of sharp quality pruners.
Certain species of Aloe that are grown outdoors can also bloom. They’ll only bloom once though, mostly in the summer months so if you have spent flowers on your Aloe plants, trim those away too. Dead leaves that are left to fall to the base of the plant without being removed can attract pests.
The key to controlling the size of Aloe Vera plants is to propagate them because they will produce pups and those grow new plants. Without dividing the pups from the mother plant, Aloe Vera plants can grow too compact.
How to Propagate Aloe Vera Plants So You Have Plenty of Mature Leaves to Take Healthy Cuttings
The pups from Aloe Vera plants are the key to keeping them tame. Without dividing the offshoots from the mother plant, your single potted Aloe can turn into multiple Aloe plants being grown in the one container that’s far too small for it.
For those using Aloe leaves daily or at least frequently, to make sure you have sufficient plant growth to use the juice from the Aloe leaves regularly, Aloe Vera plants can be propagated. Preferably from the off-shoots (pups) rather than trying to propagate from leaves, which can be done but is more difficult.
Mature pups will have at least three leaves on them and their own rooting system, which you can easily cut away from the mother plant, place it in its own container with a potting soil for succulents.
Aloe Vera is a popular air plant and you can use my indoor guide to growing air plants to learn more about Aloe Vera propagation to grow more healthy leaves from the same plant you already have.