The largest genus of succulents in the Crassulaceae family is the ever-famous echeveria. This flowering succulent happens to be one of our favorites, who doesn’t love a bright pink, teal, purple or orange rosette as a showpiece in any planter or garden! Echeverias range in size from one inch to two feet across and most of them thrive in bright places and direct sunlight but many do fine in the shade. We have many echeverias that live in bright spots indoor as well as in shadier areas of our nursery and do just fine. Some are frost tolerant and most will do fine down to 45 degrees F. Echeverias can adapt and are suitable as indoor plants.
The echeveriasucculent plant is native to areas in Mexico and down to the Northwestern part of South America. They were first named after a botanical artist from the 18th century, Atanasio Echeverria y Godoy. Some people refer to the echeveria species as “hens and chicks”, however there are other genera of succulents, mainly sempervivum, that are also referred to as such.
There are hundreds of named species of echeveria but there are tens of thousands of man-made hybrids as well, with only a fraction of those hybrids being true cultivars. This makes 100% accurate identification challenging. Some of our favorite echeverias include the echeveria afterglow, echeveria agavoides and echeveria pulvinata.
Echeveria are polycarpic, meaning they can flower numerous times in their life unlike the monocarpicaeonium. Our oldest echeveria, an echeveria ‘blue waves’, blooms from July until October and every year it seems to give us more and more racemes of gorgeous pink flowers.
Even people who don’t typically like succulents don’t seem to mind the fabulous aeonium plant. I just walked through my gardens and counted 20 types of aeoniums. There are kiwis, Cyclops, zwartkops, haworthii, velour, arboreum, canariense, lindleyi, undulatum, gomerense and decorum to name a few.
Aeoniums come mainly from the Canary Islands and a few places in central Africa. They are fantastic for xeriscaping however they do require a little more water than most of their fleshy cousins. Aeoniums are not particularly happy in freezing temperatures but seem to manage moderate heat, although I have heard of the entire root system dying which eventually kills the plant if they get too hot. I have personally never had any heat death in my gardens, but I have seen it in hotter places. Most are able to handle temperatures as low as 25 to 30 degrees F. Aeoniums can be grown indoors or outdoors in pots as well as in the ground.
Part of the popular Crassulaceae family there are many succulents that are sometimes confused with aeoniums. Almost all are rosette shaped, as are many echeveria, graptopetalums and dudleyas. You can tell it is an aeonium by the way that their leaves attach to their basal stem. It is almost like there is a thin fiber that attaches them so when you remove the leaves the stem is not typically affected. They range in size from 1 inch in diameter to over a foot in diameter!
Aeoniums are monocarpic, meaning they flower once and die. This is a bittersweet ending and if the plant is not a branching type, which thankfully most are, this is the end of the road. Most of the time there are plenty of pups that have grown along side the flowering stem that will take over when the stem with flowers dies.
The photos above are the final flower from an aeonium cyclops. To the left is the final flower of an aeonium undulatum.
As I went back through my notes I keep about succulents I will someday discuss on this blog I realized that I could go on and on and on just talking about the aeoniums I have in my garden. In the future I hope to be able to have entire posts dedicated to each cultivar but to keep you interested I will just focus on the ones that fascinate me the most.
There are probably hundreds of variations/hybrids of aeoniums that haven’t been named yet, which only adds to confusion when you are trying to identify yours. The most popular is the aeonium arboreum. This is the classic green aeonium with mid-sized rosettes that have longer, thin flimsy leaves. They are known to be able to grow over 6 feet in height; however the tallest we have had in our gardens at full bloom was about four feet. This plant is in the parentage of many of the newer cultivars making it sometimes quite difficult to know who is what.
Arboreum atropurpureum – this green aeonium arboreum has purple ends on its leaves. They can almost completely fade into green if they are in the shade and turn into a gorgeous maroon purple in full sun. We have them from all green to all purple in our yard.
Another favorite aeonium is the arboreum ‘Zwartkop’. This and some hybrids it has mothered and fathered are probably the most ornamental of all the succulents. Their leaves are a reddish black that looks almost all black in full sun. Here is where it starts to get crazy!
So you may have several large aeonium that look almost identical, yet they are different in a few ways. The aeonium Voodoo is a perfect example. This stunner has the same parentage as the Cyclops except the roles of the parents are reversed. The voodoo has a Zwartkop mother and an aeonium undulatum as the father, tends to be a solitary plant and has larger rosettes that are the dark red to purple with a slight green eye while the Cyclops, otherwise known as the giant red aeonium, will not get as large and has a much bigger, green center than its friend. I honestly have trouble telling the two apart.
Overwhelming, even for a plant lady! Have a fabulous weekend!
Part of the stonecrops family this beautiful echeveria hybrid can reach up to 2 feet in width! It was once sold as an echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg. Parentage is said to be the graptopetalum paraguayense X echeveria gibbiflora. Our Graptoveria Fred Ives have done well in the ground and in pots outdoors and indoors they have done well and stayed a bit smaller.
Typical hardiness to 25 degrees this durable hybrid succulent turns a beautiful translucent pink, salmon, coral and purple tint when it is in fun sun.
Some of the Fred Ives we have growing in the shade are a light blueish green with a hint of rose. This graptoveria is native to North America and is fantastic for xeriscaping. It gives your gardens fantastic contrast! I have seen landscape designs where hundreds of these beauties are used and it is breathtaking. They are a clumping shrub and can grow in height over 2 feet if they have the space to grow.
The flowers of this favorite are a pale yellow and arrive in early spring on long racemes that can shoot over 2 feet in the air. I just cut the last stem of dead flowers from my vertical wall. We had a long spring-early summer of showy flowers.
This graptoveria is easy to propagate. We have grown countless plants from leaves, some of which have reached over 10 inches in diameter! We also cut, prepare and replant these rosettes and have had no problem with cuttings that are 3 inches in diameter to those that are ten inches across!
One of the more fascinating things that we have happening right now is the cresting Fred Ives I have that is starting to outgrow it’s pot. I purchased this plant about 5 years ago because it had one piece that looked like it was starting to crest. At the time I had no idea what that meant, I just knew it looked really cool. One of the rosettes was normal shaped while the other had multiple heads! I have replanted this guy probably 20 times over the course of it’s life in my yard and he always seems happy. Oddly, he sometimes has offshoots that have no mutation. I like to cut those guys off and replant them elsewhere.
In my recent front yard revamp I found this leaf hidden under a large plant. This is the first leaf I have had that has grown a crested plant! I am more than ecstatic and am trying to get more of the leaves to do this! Cresting is a mutation, read more about it in our recent post here.
I will be taking time-lapse photos of this leaf and will create a page for you to watch with me in the near future.
Serious Plant Lady
The planter to the right is one of my prized planters. This pot is HUGE! I recently had to do some HOA required plant removal from my front yard and being that there is no rule against potted plants, I borrowed this four foot tall planter from a neighbor and filled it with my favorites from the ground. It is taller than me and you can see that I have several ten plus inch graptoveria’s accenting the arrangement. I hope I never have to move this pot – it may not be possible.
This soft succulent is an evergreen that can reach 4 to 5 feet in height and a whopping 6 to 8 feet in width. All of ours have done well in sun, shade, indoors, outdoors, in the ground and in planters. Agave attenuata do not have teeth or pokey spines like their relatives, they have soft, pale, yellowish-green sometimes gray, flimsy large leaves and their stems tend to grow with a curve. This ornamental agave is native to Mexico.
Sometimes referred to as a fox tail, lion tail or swan’s neck, you will see these huge beauties growing everywhere in Southern California. When they flower, a raceme shoots out 8 to 10 feet in the air and is full of greenish-yellow flowers.
Hardiness to 25 degrees and although my research says that they do not like to be in full sun, we have never had a problem with any of ours that sit in direct light all day. When propagating new pups from the stem of this agave, we have noticed that they like to drink a bit more water than their cousins but all in all they are fairly tolerant of being neglected, living in sand or rock and dry, arid conditions. We have grown agave attenuata indoors in North Dakota and it has stayed relatively small in its pot, but is very happy.
I am always experimenting with my succulents. Last year I purchased an Echeveria perle von nurnberg, separated it into two plants and put one in the ground with direct sunlight for 4 plus hours a day and the other in a planter that was full of other succulents. The other fat plants in this planter grew taller and bushier and blocked almost all of the sun that this poor plant was enjoying. Several months later I noticed that my little echeveria had grown almost 8 inches in stem and was peaking around the bigger plants. This is an example of etiolation in succulents.
Etiolation is a process in flowering plants where there is a lack of proper sunlight or none at all. Signs of etiolation can be stretching, thin stems, yellowing or pale in color and leaves spread out on the stem. The photo above shows my little guy in his shady home under the succulent canopy. 8 months later (March 2015) he is a gorgeous dark pink on a stem that is over 16 inches long.
We found this video on Youtube showing several of these echeveria living in different environments. The author does an excellent job showing examples of etiolation as well as some helpful advice about thirsty succulents.
AKA Propeller plant, scarlet paintbrush and airplane plant. This odd shaped succulent has blue to green with a hint of silver leaves that sit horizontally and actually do look like airplane propellers. We have been able to propagate these easily by taking cuttings. As with most cuttings it is best to let it callous over for a few days before planting. Crassula falcata is one of our favorite succulent plants.
This gorgeous fat plant is just coming into bloom in our gardens. They are summer bloomers and this is the first summer that I am seeing these flowers in my garden. Their flowers start as a green ball of tiny buds. As they grow and start to open you could be fooled into thinking you are about to get a pink flower.
There is something so calming and therapeutic about gardening. Especially when your garden is full of strange succulents in bloom. I may be a tad bit obsessed with the echeveria ‘elegans‘ that are blooming throughout my yard but their fluorescent pink and yellow flowers can bring a smile to my face even when I have a busy 2.5 year old pulling at my leg.
Betsy Dru Tecco’s article “A Therapeutic Garden” from Better Homes and Gardens is a fantastic reference article on using gardening as therapy. Being in touch with nature can be stimulating for the mind, body and soul. Gardening is an excellent activity to do with your children as well. Even at age 2.5, my son is aware of succulents and other plants when we are out around San Diego. He has his own little garden, 75% of it contains his rock collection and a few toy cars, but he is always mindful of his plants. He is learning that he needs to “be gentle” and the responsibility of taking care of something.