Aloe plants need six to eight hours of bright but indirect light daily for optimal growth and health. In my experience, they can develop sunburn damage from direct sunlight, especially when grown indoors. I find that east-facing windows or a few feet away from a south-facing window protected by sheer curtains are excellent positions for Aloe plants to thrive.
The Importance of Light and How It Supports Plant Health
Light is the single most crucial factor in growth for all plants that photosynthesize, which is the vast majority of them.
Each plant relying on this process simply can’t produce sugars as an energy source without a sufficient amount of light. While the need for light intensity and length of exposure per day may vary considerably, all exposure leads to the same results inside the leaf.
Photosynthesis helps the plant produce its own food source internally. Plants may also need water to keep their cells plump and fertilizer as a source of nutrients, but light alone keeps them well-fed.
Types of Light:
To keep a plant healthy without risking damage, the amount of light needed by a specific variety will be described by one of many common phrases. Outdoor light descriptions tend to be limited to full sun, mixed shade, and full shade. The terms used for describing indoor plant light preferences include:
- Low light, which includes practically no natural light and only what’s supplied by artificial sources in the room
- Filtered light, which generally must come from a nearby window or plant light to offer sufficient brightness
- Mixed or indirect light, requiring placement near a window or plant light yet still far enough away to prevent burning
- Bright indirect light, which involves some direct sunlight exposure during the day or plenty of exposure to an artificial source only a few inches away
- Bright direct light, which means as much direct sunlight as possible, or a very closely located plant light.
Native Light Conditions Aloe Plants Receive
Aloe plants tend to grow in native habitats that are dry, sandy, and generally harsh. However, aloe plants growing outside also thrive in more sheltered areas under rock overhangs and other larger plants.
This has created a preference for bright but mostly indirect light in most Aloe species. Aloe vera, in particular, stays smaller in the wild, so they’re not adapted to a lot of direct sunlight when grown indoors.
Yet Aloe plants won’t grow well without enough light either. Many people who purchase these plants for indoor growing give them far too little light, resulting in slow growth and a pale color that eventually fades to yellow.
For a deep blue-green Aloe that looks healthy and continues putting out new leaves from the center, make sure to supply bright light whenever possible. Most homes and offices won’t offer the kind of light your Aloe plant wants unless you add a specific plant light to remedy the problem.
Placing an Aloe too close to a window risks sunburn from direct exposure, while keeping it far from a window leaves it in the dark. A plant bulb with at least 300 to 500 lumens per square foot of coverage will make Aloe vera and similar species happy and dark green.
Signs Your Plant is Receiving Too Much Light
When you move an Aloe close to a direct source of sunlight, like a window, you risk giving it more light than it prefers.
Despite being succulents native to arid environments, these plants need indirect light rather than direct sun. An Aloe plant that gets too much light will first wilt like it has received too little or too much water. If you can rule out watering issues, you may also notice the development of yellow tips or white sunburn spots.
Moving the plant out of the sunlight will stop further damage, but it can’t reverse any existing exposure. Aloe leaves can also turn colorful pink, red, or orange shades before yellowing and falling off. This is often an indicator of short-lived but intense sun exposure.
Some outdoor Aloe plants adapt to full sun and keep a red or burgundy color year round, but most indoor plants can’t handle that adaption and will lose leaves instead. Curling aloe leaves can also indicate just a little too much light daily.
Signs Your Plant Isn’t Receiving Enough Light
When you keep your Aloe plant away from the window to avoid sunburn, you’re also likely to starve it of light.
Despite the contradiction of wanting bright light without sun exposure, it’s possible to keep an Aloe deep green and with a bluish cast when indoors. You simply need to find a broad-spectrum plant bulb or lamp designed to produce a certain number of lumens. This is a more precise measurement of light used for plant growth, and Aloe needs around 300 to 500 lumens for every square foot of light coverage.
Aloe plants that don’t receive this much light from natural or artificial sources will show signs of deprivation such as:
- Skinny, pale green growth that looks stretched
- Lack of new growth at the center
- Soft, weak, but not quite wilted leaves
- Yellowing from the base of the leaves upward
- Loss of older leaves.
- Drooping or floppy aloe plants
You need to gradually increase the light exposure on a plant showing these signs so that there’s no risk of shock or sunburn.
The Best Light Exposure for Aloe Plants Indoors
Aloe plants are tricky because they want bright light but can’t be placed in the average south or west facing window (unless you provide some protection via partially drawn blinds or a sheer curtain).
Eastern and northern-facing windows can also work well to provide reflected or indirect light without the risk of sunburn over the day.
For those with tricky light exposures, the easiest option is often to invest in a plant light or bulb that sits within a few feet of the Aloe plant. If you choose the right fixture, this can double as a floor or table lamp.
Since Aloe plants need a minimum number of lumens to stay dark green and put out new leaves regularly, you should choose a light based on that number rather than wattage or just its broad spectrum of light.
Aloe plants don’t show as much light preference as other plants and won’t lean much toward a light source. If you do notice uneven growth on the side closer to the light, you can rotate the Aloe monthly for a more even form.
These plants need bright light even in the winter since they don’t really go dormant if kept indoors.
Take care of your Aloe vera or other variety by providing just the correct type of light for its needs. A bright supply of indirect light will help this plant produce plenty of energy while ruling out any chance of a sunburn on its fleshy leaves. For more, see our guide to how to grow Aloe plants at home.
Further reading: where to position aloe plants for optimal care and feng shui benefits.