The beauty of the echeveria succulent plant is more than just the color of its flowers or the shape of its succulent leaves. It’s more of a wholesome beauty that you get when you look at a successfully growing echeveria. Maybe it’s the way the compact leaves wrap tightly around the succulent stem to form what looks like a rose.
For whatever reasons these perennials have become popular as garden plants as well as houseplants. Like many succulents, they are easy to start and care for. They also have many varieties to fit in every setting or landscaping design you have. Read on to find out more about these amazing plants, their types, and how to care for them.
What is the Echeveria Succulent Plant?
A native of Mexico and South America, the echeveria is a member of the Crassulaceae family. With over 150 natural species, it has many hybrids and cultivars that suit every taste. The cultivars are more than just an improvement on the shape and color of the echeveria, they also resist drought and disease, and tolerate weather conditions that are different from the natural habitat of this succulent. The plant was named after a Mexican botanist who studied the succulent in the 18th century.
The leaves of the echeveria are juicy and fleshy because they serve more than an ornamental purpose. Besides looking pretty, these leaves also store water for the plant to help it resist drought. The leaves vary in color but are mostly gray-green and have a waxy look about them. When they grow they tend to grow horizontally than vertically and reach the size of a dinner plate in diameter. Whether you grow them indoors or out in a rock garden, they tend to steal the show and become the focal point of any setting you put them in.
Echeverias are also known as Hens and Chickens and they tend to flower many times during the same season. However, once the winter comes, some varieties of this succulent lose their leaves. For the most part, the majority of echeverias are evergreens.
Echeveria Succulent Plant Varieties
The only issue you might have when choosing an echeveria is not the lack of varieties, but the abundance of the types. As we mentioned there are hundreds of cultivars on top of the 150 natural species. So which one to grow? Here are some of the top varieties to choose from.
- Perle von Nurnberg: The symmetrical shapes of this cultivar make it look like a perfect rose in full bloom. The leaves are green with shades of pink around the edges. It tolerates drought but needs full sun, well-drained soil, and has hardiness zones between 10 and 11.
- Painted Echeveria: The leaves of this species are pink with white patterns. They have a dusty look about them and the colors change depending on the light settings around them. It also requires full sun and loose soil. When watering you should wait for the soil to go dry since the roots can’t handle too much water. They can grow to 2 feet tall.
- Black Prince: As the name implies, the leaves of this cultivar develop a dark blue color that looks black in a certain light. They take a triangle shape and are more loosely spaced than the typically packed leaves of other species. They barely grow over 6 inches tall even at full maturity.
- Topsy Turvy Echeveria: Don’t let the name fool you. This succulent has leaves that look like spoons and in their own way, they have a method to their madness. While the grown plant reaches anything between 8 to 12 inches in total, this is a fast-growing variety. It has hardiness zones between 11 and 12 and thrives in dry conditions both indoors and outdoors.
- Dusty Rose: The name tells you practically everything you need to know about his cultivar. It looks like a dusty rose with thick and fleshy leaves. It requires sandy soil and full sun to thrive. They have orange flowers that bloom multiple times every year.
- Wooly Rose: The green little leaves are covered with soft fuzz that gives them a unique look. Unlike other species, this one doesn’t need full sun exposure to thrive. In fact, for it to grow successfully, you should only allow filtered light. Partial shade is ideal as well. The average plant grows between 3 to 5 inches tall and it is slow to grow. So if you propagate it, you need to have plenty of patience.
How to Grow Echeveria Succulent Plants
As with many succulents, the echeveria with all its species and varieties is easy to grow. There are many ways you can start this perennial evergreen. You can use seeds which takes more time and patience than many gardeners like to give. You can also use leaf cuttings. Here we’ll focus on starting the echeveria from a cutting in easy steps.
- The trick is to choose a healthy leaf on a healthy plant. Don’t pick a leaf that is dehydrated or looking sick. If the leaf has discolorings or scars, it won’t grow well.
- Grip the tip of the leaf firmly between your forefinger and thumb then pull it off. If it doesn’t come off easily, wiggle it to the left and right gently until it detaches from the stem.
- Make sure the leaf is intact with the base still attached to it. This is the part that will develop roots in the soil and you don’t want it to come off broken or damaged.
- Experts recommend that you start as many leaves as you can and later select the one or ones to keep.
- Set the leaves aside in a dark and warm room to dry. After a few days, the cut will turn into a scab.
- Select a small pot with plenty of drainage holes at the bottom. Either a plastic or terracotta pot will do.
- Fill the pot with a mixed pot for succulents and leave a few inches at the top.
- Dig a small hole about a couple of inches deep near the edge of the pot for each leaf you collected.
- Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone powder to give it a good start. Shake off the excess powder.
- Place the base of the leaf in the hole and fill it with soil. Pack the soil to push out air pockets and keep the leaf firmly standing on its own.
- Water the soil lightly to get it moist.
- Keep the pot in a warm place away from direct sunlight.
- Keep the soil moist for the next days until the leaves grow roots.
- Select the healthy leaves you want to keep and dispose of the others.
- After the roots grow a few inches, you can repot the plants or move them to their permanent place in your garden.
Echeveria Succulent Plant Care
Even if most echeveria succulent plants have hardiness zones between 10 and 11, you can still grow them outdoors and take them inside when it gets cold. They are small and compact perennials that fit in any space you have for them. As usual, watering is the main issue when it comes to caring for succulents.
For the most part, the majority of echeveria species love the full sun. In their natural habitats in Central and South America, they get plenty of sunlight all year round. Even the many cultivars that were developed later, still need many hours in the unfiltered sun every day to grow and thrive. That said, you need to keep them from direct sunlight in the summer months. This exposure can stress out the plant and cause the leaves to turn yellow. So make sure the succulent gets its sun hours in the morning. In the afternoon, partial shade or filtered light is ideal for it.
The secret to the echeveria succulent’s success is well-drained soil. If you grow it in dense or heavy soil in the garden, its roots will have trouble spreading and the water retention of the clay will lead to root rot. You can also get around clay soil by either mixing it with sand or perlite. Break the top 7 inches of the soil and add one portion of sand to every two portions of the soil. You can also plant the echeveria in raised beds with improved aeration and drainage. If you’re planting it in a pot, use a succulent potting mix. Make sure the pH level is around 6.0 and avoid alkaline soil.
With most varieties of the echeveria succulent plant averaging between 10 and 11 on USDA hardiness zone scales, you might think the plants are only suited for warm weather. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can still grow these succulents outdoors as long the temperature doesn’t drop below 59 degrees F during the day and 42 degrees F at night. In the summer, the plant will become exhausted if the temperature rises about 86 degrees and might shut down. But once the temperature drops again in the evenings, the plant will open up again and get back to normal.
Even though the leaves of the echeveria succulent plant are veritable water tanks that keep it going in dry spells, this perennial doesn’t like to get its feet wet. Wet or soaked soil can spell trouble for the echeveria. But that doesn’t mean that this plant doesn’t need a lot of water. In the summer months, for example, you’ll need to water it more often than in cooler seasons. The golden rule to stick to is to only water it when the soil is dry. Don’t overwater it and keep the soil moist regularly. Once the temperature drops in the fall, you can water it less and less.
Diseases and Toxicity
Luckily, the echeveria succulent plant isn’t prone to many diseases apart from root rot. You can avoid that by making sure the plant is growing in well-drained soil and only water it when the soil is dry. As for toxicity, this succulent is safe both for humans and pets. You won’t have to worry about your cat nibbling at it or your child touching the leaves. It will not harm them either way.
Most experts agree that indoor echeverias have less a chance of blooming than those growing outdoors. That is true for the most part. But even outdoor succulents might struggle to bloom as well. The reason has to do with the fluctuating temperatures not just between the seasons but also between the day and night. You should overwinter your succulents in a dry and cool place with temperatures between 34 and 44 degrees F. Also make sure the night temperature is cool. The plants might tolerate a warm day but if the night is just as warm, you won’t get a bloom that year. Take the plants inside and keep them in a cool room overnight. In the morning you can take them out again.