Last Updated on August 9, 2023
Aloe vera is prized in the natural health and skincare world for its abilities to heal, soothe, and refresh. The Egyptians even called aloe “the plant of immortality”! Aloe vera is rich in nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants that offer numerous benefits to us humans when used topically or ingested – including a boost to hydration, digestion, cell regeneration, wound healing, and more. So, what if I told you that aloe vera can provide many of those same benefits to plants too? It’s true! You can use aloe vera as natural “fertilizer” to feed other plants!
Read along to learn how to make homemade fertilizer with aloe vera. We’ll cover the benefits aloe vera provides, and how to use it in your garden as a soil drench or foliar spray. You can even use it on houseplants! Homemade aloe vera fertilizer is quick and easy to make with either fresh aloe vera leaves or aloe vera powder. The result is a gentle but effective superfood-like solution that your plants will love.
Need tips on growing aloe vera? Check out this guide.
Benefits of Using Aloe Vera as Fertilizer
Improved plant growth
Aloe vera (A. barbadensis) is absolutely loaded with nutrients. Studies show that aloe vera contains over 75 beneficial compounds including amino acids, antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, C, E, B-vitamins, and more. When blended into a homemade fertilizer, your plants receive a gentle but potent boost of nutrition. Aloe vera fertilizer can encourage seed germination and rapid root development, improved cell strength, and contribute to overall superior plant health, growth, and vigor!
In fact, aloe is so great at promoting growth that it’s commonly used as a natural rooting hormone, used to help plant cuttings establish new roots. To use aloe vera as a rooting hormone, either: 1) dip a cut stem in pure aloe gel and then plant it, 2) soak the cutting in aloe fertilizer (like we’ll learn to make today) for 6-12 hours before planting, or 3) soak the potting medium/soil in aloe vera fertilizer. We’ve also squeezed fresh aloe vera into a broken fruit tree limb, bandaged it, and it healed!
Aloe vera also contains enzymes and plant hormones that help to reduce transplant shock, and boost the plant’s resilience to drought, stress, and disease. For instance, the high levels of acemannan and saponin found in aloe vera both provide antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. This helps to protect plants from pathogens including harmful microbes, fungus, yeast, mold, or blight.
Last but not least, the high levels of salicylic acid naturally found in aloe vera plays a big role in its healing powers! You’ve probably heard of salicylic acid before; it’s commonly found in skincare products to fight blemishes. In a similar manner, salicylic acid enhances the plant’s version of an immune system (known as the systemic immune response or SAR) that will help them fend off disease.
The combination of all these things leads to happier, healthier plants that are more resilient to disease, pest pressure, as well as environmental stresses like transplanting, drought, chilling, heat, soil-borne contaminants, and more. Resilient plants require far less fussing and frustration, so you’ll be much happier too!
Using Aloe Vera Fertilizer in the Garden
First, what type of aloe should we use to make fertilizer? It is best to use Aloe barbadensis if possible; the only edible and most medicinal variety of aloe vera. That is what we grow, shown throughout this article. However, while it is not edible, Aloe chinensis has many medicinal properties and is often sold for topical use to treat burns, insect bites, and other skin ailments too. It’s easy to confuse the two, so check out this guide to learn the difference. I suspect it is okay to water plants with an A. chinesis solution, but I would avoid spraying it on the edible portion of your plants.
Now, there are two main ways to feed plants with aloe vera fertilizer: through a soil drench, or applied as a foliar spray. The most simple method is to blend aloe vera in water, dilute it further, and then use the solution to water plants (aka, as a soil drench). The plants then soak up all the goodies through their root system. In contrast, you can spray dilute aloe vera directly on plant leaves. Foliar sprays enable plants to readily absorb nutrients directly into their vascular system, though it takes a little more effort to prepare and apply.
How to Make an Aloe Vera Soil Drench
It’s incredibly simple to make homemade aloe vera fertilizer to use as a soil drench. Essentially, all you have to do is toss some aloe vera in a blender with water! If you’re using fresh aloe vera leaves, you don’t even need to remove the skin or extract the inner gel.
Use about ¼ cup to ½ cup of fresh aloe vera per gallon of water total. A little goes a long way! (To be honest, we don’t measure but do try to estimate in that ballpark.) We’ll begin by creating a smaller concentrated batch of aloe vera in the blender and then further dilute it before applying it in the garden. So, calculate based on the total volume you plan to make. For example, we blend about 2 large aloe vera leaves (or 4 – 5 small leaves) to make a 5 gallon bucket of finished aloe vera fertilizer.
Before getting started, keep in mind that it is best to use homemade aloe vera fertilizer within 20 minutes of mixing it. Once cut, processed, and exposed to air, fresh aloe vera quickly ferments and begins to degrade.
Using whole fresh aloe vera leaves:
- Harvest one to several aloe vera leaves, depending on the size batch you’re making. To harvest fresh aloe vera, take the oldest, outermost leaves from the plant. Holding the leaf near the base of the plant, gently pull while rocking back and forth until it peels away. Or, use a knife to cut the leaves off near the base.
- Cut the aloe vera leaves into several chunks and add them to a blender half-full of water. (The solution has a tendency to foam up, so leave some space for expansion.) Again, we don’t bother removing the skin. Blend until thoroughly combined.
- Next, pour the blended aloe vera solution into a larger volume of water to dilute it to the desired concentration. We typically add one blender full of aloe into one or two 5-gallon buckets of water. See the photos below.
- Finally, give a little love to each plant! Much like compost tea, apply approximately half a cup up to 2 cups of aloe vera fertilizer to each plant, scaling up or down depending on the size of the plant. When planting a new tree, we’ll give it up to a gallon! There is no risk of overdoing it, so “eyeballing it” is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes we add the finished solution into a watering can to apply to the garden. Other times, I use a large beaker or 2-cup measuring cup to scoop portions out of the main bucket.
- Tip: I find it’s best to water with aloe vera soon after the plants receive their routine water (the same day or next day) so that the soil is moist, readily accepts the aloe drench, and won’t need to be watered again for another couple days – giving the aloe some time to soak in and do it’s thing!
No fresh aloe?
If you don’t have fresh aloe vera leaves on hand, create a similar solution by combining about ⅛ tsp of aloe vera powder per 1 gallon of water. Note that aloe vera powders come in varying concentrations, so when in doubt, follow the instructions provided on the package. (We use this 200x concentrated freeze-dried aloe vera powder.) Theoretically, I suppose you could even follow the same instructions described above (for fresh leaves) using bottled aloe vera gel instead, but ensure it’s 100% pure aloe vera – not something with a bunch of other ingredients and preservatives.
When to use aloe vera soil drench
We use homemade aloe vera fertilizer to water young seedlings, sometimes mixed with a little splash of seaweed extract too. Our indoor-raised seedlings get their first aloe and/or seaweed drink a few weeks after sprouting, repeated once or twice before they’re transplanted outside (about once per month). It’s so gentle and mild that it poses no risk of burning seedlings like other fertilizers can! Additionally, you can pre-moisten seed starting soil with aloe vera solution to aid in germination.
Another ideal time to use aloe vera fertilizer is after transplanting – for new seedlings, shrubs, or even trees! Simply water them with the aloe solution after planting. Mycorrhizae is another fantastic aid for plant growth and transplant shock, which we also use when transplanting seedlings. You can also use aloe vera fertilizer to nourish established plants, especially for any that seem stressed – or those you want to spoil. For example, we water our cannabis plants weekly with aloe vera powder (200x freeze-dried aloe vera) dissolved in water throughout the entire growing season.
How to Make and Use Aloe Vera Foliar Spray
Mixing the foliar spray
Just like the soil drench, you can create an aloe vera foliar spray using either fresh aloe vera leaves, pure bottled gel, or powder mixed with water. Use the same dilution ratios: about ¼ cup of pure aloe vera gel per 1 gallon of water, or 1/8 tsp of dry aloe powder. We mix the powder and water right in the sprayer, shaking vigorously to combine.
As you may imagine, using whole aloe leaves can easily clog your sprayer. Therefore, it’s necessary to remove the skin and use only the inner gel portion of the leaf. Watch the video below to see how to easily extract the gel from an aloe vera leaf. In summary: slice off the ribs along the outer edges of the leaf, carefully peel away the top (flatter) portion of the skin, and then use a spoon to scoop out the inner clear gel. Thoroughly combine the gel with water in a blender first (blend it a lot!), and then dilute it with more water as needed in your sprayer.
Applying aloe vera foliar spray
It’s best to apply foliar sprays (of any kind) in the very early morning hours, or after sunset in the evening. Avoid wetting leaves when the plant is receiving direct sunlight, as it can increase the risk of sunburn or scorched leaves. Give your sprayer full of aloe vera fertilizer a good final shake – and then spray away! Thoroughly wet the leaves until the point of dripping. Make an effort to get the undersides of the leaves as well. Re-apply on a weekly basis for plants you’re giving extra-special attention to (e.g. cannabis) or monthly for general garden care. You can also add a bit of aloe powder to other foliar spray treatments, such as when applying neem oil.
So easy, right? And oh-so good.
Alright folks, I hope you enjoyed this lesson on how to make your own natural, homemade fertilizer using aloe vera. I bet your plants will enjoy it even more! As you can see, it’s a very simple process – minimal effort for maximum results. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you found this information to be valuable, please share or pin the article to spread the love. Cheers, to plants feeding plants!
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