Aloe vera is a fast growing succulent that can grow up to a meter (39 inches) tall. Remember that while they can start out small, they can eventually grow very large.Keep that in mind while constructing your aloe vera terrarium so that the plant has room to grow and/or you can properly maneuver your hands to prune back the plant.
Aloe vera is a very hardy plant. With the exception of frost and snow it can handle most conditions and is naturally resistant to many pests. It does not require much watering due to it being found in desert-like conditions in the wild. For these reasons, I have listed aloe vera terrariums at the beginner level.
Building the aloe vera terrarium
Any type of clear container will serve perfectly fine as a terrarium. You can also opt to use a pot if you wish. The root system of aloe vera spreads horizontally rather than vertically so you will want something wider than it is tall. Again, remember that aloe vera grows fairly quickly so plan the terrarium size accordingly or at least, have openings so you can properly maneuver your hands around to prune effectively. We will discuss proper aloe vera pruning later in this guide.
For soil you want something that mimics desert-like conditions and drains quickly. Start the bottom layer of your aloe vera terrarium with 2 to 5cm (1 to 2 inches) of gravel or pebbles to help with draining. Next, combine 1 part potting soil with 1 part sand or perlite for the remainder of the soil. There is also commercial cacti soil you can purchase if you want.
Depending on your location, you can also plant aloe vera outside. Remember, this plant is mostly composed of water and any severe temperature drops, frost, and/or snow will rapidly kill it. Lighting is also an issue that needs to be considered and we will go into further detail in the maintenance section.
Maintaining your aloe vera terrarium
Due to aloe vera being a succulent, you are at a greater risk of overwatering rather than underwatering. Water the terrarium twice a week and check the soil prior to watering. If the soil is not completely dry, wait another day or two before you continue watering. You can see if your aloe vera plant has enough water by checking the leaves. If they’re fairly soft it means there’s too much water. If they’re curled and thin it means there isn’t enough. Adjust your watering accordingly.
Next, you’re going to want to place your aloe vera terrarium somewhere that has plenty of indirect light. Note that the leaves should point upward and that flat (or yellow) leaves mean that there isn’t enough sun. Brown leaves means that your terrarium is in direct sunlight which is not optimal for aloe vera. In either situation, move your terrarium as needed.
Half-strength liquid fertilizer once a year will be enough for your aloe vera plants and the humidity in your aloe vera terrarium should be fairly low at around 25% and never more than 50% (average room humidity). Slow growth is generally an indication that something is wrong including (but not limited to) too much water, light, or fertilizer. A larger terrarium might also be needed.
Additional maintenance tips
You will need to prune your aloe vera plant, either for getting rid of dead or dying leaves, or to reduce the size. You’re going to want to remove leaves from the outside as these tend to be larger and older. Cut the leaf near the base by the soil and be wary of the thorns on the edges of the leaf. People with sensitive skin may want to use gloves.
Using the same techniques above, you will also want to remove any dead, dry, discoloured, or damaged leaves. These leaves do not add to the aesthetic value of your aloe vera terrarium and also deprive the rest of the plant of nutrients.
As your plant grows, new growth will potentially pop up in the form of tiny aloe vera plants. It’s recommended that you remove this so that the main plant get as much of the nutrients as possible. If you want to replant the baby aloe vera plants, wait until it grows to about 7 to 10cm tall (3 to 5 inches) and then carefully remove the entire plant (including roots) from the terrarium. Replant in similar conditions to the main plant, otherwise, throw it away.
Aloe vera has often been cited as a source of natural medication, salve for burns, cuts, and bug bites, as well as edible. However, these claims have not be reliably verified and it does not help that there are many species or variations of aloe vera.
Just because one maybe fit for human consumption and has healing properties, doesn’t mean that the others will too. There are types of aloe vera which are slightly toxic/poisonous. For these reasons I would not recommend placing aloe vera in a terrarium with other animals and be watchful of pets who may snack on a leaf.