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 echeveria succulent 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 monocarpic aeonium. 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.
Most echeverias produce numerous offsets and are easy to propagate. You can start new plants with cuttings, by taking offsets as well as with leaves. Echeverias can be grown by seed as long as the seed is a true echeveria and not of a hybrid.
If your echeveria starts to stretch and show more space than usual between it’s leaves it is not getting enough light. Give your plant more light to keep the compact shape of the rosette. We take cuttings from our stretching echeverias and start new plants. In fact, one stretching echeveria succulent plant typically turns into four to six new echeverias at Fat Plants.
Read more about etiolation.
Caring for Cuttings
We typically take our succulent cuttings with a three to four inch stem and twist off the bottom leaves on the stem. Always use clean tools to cut your plants and allow it to callous over before replanting. Use some Clonex or other rooting hormone and gently dip the stem. You can also use a paintbrush and lightly cover the pores where you removed the bottom leaves. This not only helps promote new root growth, but also helps the stem “heal”.
After a few days your cuttings are ready to be planted. We recommend using a well draining medium and keeping your cuttings out of direct sunlight for the first few weeks. A bright area in your garden or indoors in a windowsill is ideal. Keep watering to a minimum the first month and gently twist off any leaves that start to shrivel. We only use spray bottles or misters to water most of our new cuttings for the first few months of their lives.
Watering Echeveria Cuttings
If you overwater your echeveria you will notice the fleshy leaves turning first a yellowish color and then a darkerblue-black color, becoming mushy and basically rotting. Always remove leaves like this as they can harbor bacteria and infect your entire plant. Overwatering can also cause root rot which is never fun because by the time you realize there is a problem, it may be too late. Always let your cactus and succulents medium dry out completely between watering. It is much easier to bring a dry succulent back to life than save a wet one.
A planter of wet soil that doesn’t have good drainage and is watered too often can also become a breeding ground for mosquito gnats and other insects which on top of being annoying can also lead to a certain death for your succulent. If you do notice little bugs that seem to be jumping out of the soil we recommend sprinkling a few mosquito dunk bits around the base of your plant. It is also best to let the soil go several days, if not a week or more, without water, as the eggs and larva of these little gnats need H2O to survive. Your succulent is a drought tolerant plant, remember, rarely if ever do we see a cactus or succulent die because it went 2 to 3 weeks without a drink.
Watering and Fertilizing Echeveria Plants
As with most cactus and succulents, it is best to let them completely dry out between waterings. We feed our echeveria’ about once a month using a kelp fertilizer that we heavily dilute in water. We water our echeverias weekly during growing season. Fill a bucket with your diluted mixture and water and let your planter soak for about ten minutes. If possible use rainwater or bottled water as with soaking a few buckets of water can go a long way. If your echeverias are not growing in something that can be easily soaked, we recommend giving them a good watering before fertilizing and a quick rinse after to remove any fertilizer that may have gotten on the leaves.
Echeverias and Sunlight
As we mentioned, echeveria do well in both full sun but they can easily be scorched if they are moved from a shady place to all day of direct sunlight without gradually being able to adjust. Compare it to tanning your own skin. If you don’t have a good base tan you will get sunburned at the beach. This is in no means justifying not wearing sunblock, just and easy way to explain it. Also, we never recommend watering any plants during the middle of the day. Water on leaves in direct sun can also cause burn.
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