How to Grow and Care for Aeonium
Aeoniums are odd-looking succulents, with long, arching stems and rosettes of leaves that can often look fake. You'd be forgiven if you had to touch one to tell if it was real or rubbery plastic. There are about 35 species, and most are native to the Canary Islands and like a Mediterranean climate – not too hot, not too cold, not too dry.
The plants form fleshy rosettes, and you will notice a similarity between Aeoniums and several other succulent plants, most noticeably Echeveria and Sempervivum. Aeoniums can be low growers or branched plants that grow into shrubs.
Water: Aeoniums do not like hot or dry weather. They may go dormant in summer and do not require any water, except in arid conditions. In extreme heat, their leaves will curl, to prevent excessive water loss. Growing them in moist shade will keep them growing, but their true growth season is winter to spring, when temperatures are cool (65–75˚F / 18–24˚C) and damp. In the winter, water whenever the soil has dried out. Test by poking your finger down into the soil an inch or two. Too much moisture or allowing them to sit in wet soil will cause root rot.
Soil: A sandy loam or regular potting mix is better than a mix specifically for cacti and succulents since Aeoniums need some moisture. If you are growing them in containers, repot every 2 –3 years with fresh potting soil.
Fertilizer: Feed during the growing season with a half-strength balanced fertilizer every month or so. Do not feed while dormant.
If you have the proper growing conditions, Aeonium will take care of themselves and thrive on neglect. Otherwise, your major task will be moving them from hot sun to shade and back again or moving them indoors when the temperature drops too low.
Aeoniums have underdeveloped root systems since they store their water in their leaves and stems. They can produce roots along their stems, which you may notice if the plant gets pot bound or the stems fall and touch the soil. Leggy branches do tend to fall over and snap off from the weight of the rosettes. If this happens, you can repot the broken stem.
Most Aeoniums die after flowering. If the plant has produced side shoots, they will live on. If not, the entire plant will die off. You can start new plants from the seed.
Pests and Problems
Few pests bother Aeoniums. Slugs can do some damage, and the occasional bird may take a bite.
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Aeonium care is remarkably easy. Plants in containers require more frequent watering than those in ground. Fertilize aeonium in containers once annually in spring when new growth commences. In-ground plants rarely need fertilizer, but may benefit from a light coating of mulch just around the base of the plant. Be careful not to pile it up around the stem or rot might set in.
The most common problems when caring for aeonium plants are root rot and insects. Root rot is prevented by using clay pots with good drainage or checking soil percolation prior to planting. Keep the roots moist but never soggy.
Good aeonium care also requires you to watch for pests. Mites and scale may attack the succulents. Combat these with horticultural soaps or neem oil. Be careful when using soap sprays, however. Spraying too frequently can cause discoloration and lesions on the skin of the plant.
How to Grow Aeoniums
Aeonium is a genus including about 35 succulent plant species with unusually glossy, waxy leaves arranged in rosettes. The species range from the low-growing A. tabuliforme and A. smithii, just a few inches across, to large species several feet across, such as A. arboreum, A. valverdense, and A. holochrysum. The leaves and structure of the plant are so perfect that these species are sometimes mistaken for artificial plants.
The leaves of Aeoniums are typically rounded and arranged in rosettes around center hubs at the end of stems. The foliage can be a solid color, or variegated in white, yellow, red, and green. Small, star-like flowers grow in clusters from the center of the rosettes, but they are not particularly showy. The fleshy leaves make these plants quite similar to several other succulent plants, most noticeably Echeveria and Sempervivum—the popular hens and chicks.
Aeoniums can be planted in the garden at any time. These are rather slow-growing plants, and it may take as much as five years before they bloom.
|Latin Name||Aeonium spp.|
|Plant Type||Perennial succulent|
|Mature Size||2–60 inches (depending on species and variety)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Sandy loam|
|Soil pH||5.6–6.0 (slightly acidic)|
|Bloom Time||Late winter or spring|
|Flower Color||Pink (flowering is rare, occurring only in mature plants)|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11(USDA) often grown as potted plants brought indoors for winter|
|Native Area||Canary Islands, Africa|
Aeoniums tolerate moderate, short-term drought once established, but their appearance will suffer if you don't water them. During the summer, water aeoniums in the garden so soil is moist 1 inch deep whenever the soil looks dry. Container-grown aeoniums need more frequent watering, so check their soil twice weekly during hot, dry weather. Water whenever it feels dry 1 inch below the surface, adding water until it trickles from the drainage holes at the base. Reduce watering to once a month during the winter for both pot- and garden-grown aeoniums.
Other Types of Succulents
- Guide to Succulents
- Aloe Vera
- Jade Plants
- Snake Plants
- Echeveria elegans
- Sedum Morganianum
- Coral Cactus
- Pleiospilos Nelii
- Portulacaria Afra
- Kalanchoe Tomentosa
- Sedum Rubrotinctum
- Kalanchoe Luciae
- Orostachys Iwarenge
- Senecio Rowleyanus
- Stonecrop Sedums
Ana is an experienced writer and an urban gardener, making use of limited space on her balcony to grow vegetables every season. She got into gardening thanks to her grandmother, who introduced her to the wonderful world of succulents. Two of them still collect succulents as well as cacti together, and Ana is always on the lookout for rare (and colorful) varieties. She is currently occupied with growing avocado trees indoors.