Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our knowledge. Aloe plants are wonderful in their design and as a medicinal. One of the most common houseplants, aloes are usually trouble free but sometimes problems arise. The following information includes the 10 most commonly asked questions about aloe vera plants. 1. How do I water my aloe vera plant? Aloe plants are succulents and store extra moisture in their leaves for lean times. However, they do need regular water to keep their leaves plump and happy. Aloe plant care involves the use of well-draining potting medium and watering the plant thoroughly, at least until the water runs out of the drainage holes. Then sit back and wait for the soil to dry out again. Deep watering is key to flush soil of any salts and allow roots to obtain it. You will find you need to water more frequently in the heat of summer and about half that amount in winter when the plant is not actively growing. 2. Is it okay to remove aloe vera pups? Aloe vera plants replicate by producing those pups or offsets. It is perfectly acceptable to remove the pups. In fact, it will give the mother plant a bit more room in a crowded pot without having to disrupt her roots. Use a clean, sharp knife and cut away the pup. Hopefully, it has roots, but if it doesn't allow the pup to callus for a week on the cut end. Then insert it into a soilless medium such as sand or perlite. Moisten the medium lightly and wait for root growth. When the pup has rooted, transplant to well-draining succulent soil and grow as usual. 3. Can you grow an aloe plant from a cutting? The quickest method of propagation for an aloe is by removing the pups. However, many succulents root quickly from leaf or stem cuttings. Aloe has such a high moisture content that it is more likely the cutting will rot before it sends out roots. To solve this problem, try letting the cut end dry out for several days and callusing over. Then insert the callused end into soilless potting mix. Keep the mixture on the dry side and check in a few weeks. If roots have formed, remove the baby plant and place it in a good succulent mixture. 4. How do you prune an aloe vera or harvest leaves for use? Aloes really are amazing plants. They will heal themselves when a leaf is removed. Depending upon the size you require, take a tip or the whole leaf. Use a clean knife or scissors to prevent passing disease into the plant. In just a few hours, the plant's sap will solidify and harden around the wound. Within a handful of days, that area will callus and dry, preventing insect or disease intrusion. Removing leaves will not hurt the plant, just don't remove more than 1/3 of them at a time when harvesting the leaves for use. 5. When should downsize an aloe plant? When an aloe gets too big for its container or gardening space, it is time to either divide the plant or remove some of the pups to give the mother plant some more room. Removing pups is easy with a clean, sharp knife and each pup may be potted up for individual plants. The best time to remove pups is when the plant is dormant, in fall or early spring. Reducing the size is not absolutely necessary unless your plant is looking unhealthy. As with most succulents, aloe prefers a crowded container. 6. What causes aloe to turn brown and wilt? In many cases, such a problem is caused by overwatering. Water deeply, infrequently and wait until the soil is evenly dry before irrigating anew. Ensure the soil in your container is made for succulents or make your own. Equal parts of sand, potting soil and perlite allow any extra moisture to percolate through easily. The problem may also be sunburn. The plant needs warmth and sunlight, but a southern window can actually burn the leaves. Try moving it to a bright location in the west of the home. 7. Can you plant aloe vera outdoors? Aloes grow in nature outdoors but whether yours will thrive in your region depends upon the zone. The plants are adapted to USDA zones 8 to 10. In zone 11, the plant may also thrive but only if it gets shelter in the hottest part of the day. Growers in all other zones can put their plants outdoors in summer and bring them in for fall and winter. If you live in a warm region and wish to plant your aloe outside, make sure the soil in the area drains well. 8. How much light does an aloe vera need? Aloe plants definitely need sunlight but how much is optimal? 8 hours of full sun makes for a happy plant. If the plant is indoors, place it in a western or eastern facing window sill. If it is too large for the sill, place the plant no more than 5 feet (1.52 m.) from a bright window. Be wary of southern facing windows, as the plant can burn. If you live in a dreary region or do not have access to an east or west window, you may have to supplement the lighting with artificial plant lights. 9. Why is my aloe vera falling over? The most likely reason for a floppy aloe is that the vegetation at the top is too heavy for a relatively small root ball. Aloes don't have an extensive root system. A healthy plant with lots of moisture laden leaves is a heavy burden. Either remove some of the pups from the plant to release some of the strain on the root ball or use stakes to hold the plant upright. Make sure the root ball is just under the soil enough that the lowest leaves touch the surface of the soil. 10. How do you transplant aloes and when should you do this? Aloe roots are more broad than deep, so the first cuts into soil will be the most important. For huge outdoor plants, start a foot (.30 m.) away from the longest leaves and cut down another foot. Gently, mostly by feel, inch in towards the center of the plant as you continue to dig downward. Retain as much root as possible. It may be best to water the soil well prior to digging to help it loosen. Plant the aloe in a hole as large as that from which it was dug. Water the new area well after replanting. For container plants, transplant when the aloe has outgrown its pot and has no new space to put out more foliage or if the plant is showing signs of stress. They prefer to be pot-bound but need enough space for growth and to retain some moisture in soil. We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We're always here to help.

Bonnie Grant