Echeverias are one of the most common and popular genera of succulents. In this article I’ll be focusing on the rarer ones. Echeverias usually have very short stems that are densely packed with a rosette of leaves. They come in a spectacular range of colors. Most echeverias that people collect are hybrids created by people in the nursery trade, and many of the most beautiful ones are especially sensitive and picky about their conditions.
Needs can vary somewhat between different types of Echeverias, but this general care guide applies to most of them.
Light – Lots of sun, with protection from hot afternoon sun. Some echeverias are prone to sunburn if they get too much heat/sun. Sunburn looks like little brown speckles on the leaves, and while its only cosmetic it doesn’t dissapear from a leaf once it is there. Any new growth will be clear of the problem though. In more extreme sun/heat, they can bake to the point of death.
Soil – Well draining gritty soil such as Vivid Root Bark Mix. Rarer echeverias tend to be more sensitive to rotting when they stay too wet. The best way to avoid rotting is to use a very well draining soil mix and make sure they dry out completly before watering again.
Water – They enjoy regular water year-round. Though, you can water them less in the winter since it isn’t their growing season and colder weather makes it take longer to dry out. Water deeply so water runs out of the bottom of the pot, then let them dry out before watering again.
Temperature – They can handle a brief frost, down to 25° F (USDA zone 9b). People in colder climates usually bring their plants inside with grow lights for the winter.
Propagation – The easiest way to propagate echeverias is from leaves. Carefully remove the entire leaf from the stem, and a new plant will grow from the side of the leaf that was attached. I like to put mine on soil so that the roots have somewhere to go when they start growing. You can water them, but they don’t need water until the leaf dies off.
If you have a plant with a long enough stem, you can also propagate by cuttings. Cut the stem, ideally leaving a few leaves below your cut. Then remove some leaves from the top part so there is some stem to go into the soil. Let it dry out for a day or two so the end scars over before planting. The top will root and keep growing, while the bottom will grow one or more (usually more) new rosettes.
Blooms – Spring. Sends up tall flower stalks with beautifully colored flowers. See pics below.
Origin – Semi-desert areas of Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Mealybugs – Extremely susceptible. Echeverias are one of the favorite targets of mealies. They hide deep between the leaves and can be very hard to spot until your plant starts growing distorted leaves. Echeverias with infestations will also have stunted growth. If you have plants that are infested, remove any dead leaves at the base of the plant before treating, as mealies can hide there and the dead leaves can block your treatment from getting in. Read more about fighting mealy bugs here.
Mealybugs seem to especially love Echeveria blooms, so check your flower stalks when they come up and if they are infested it’s best to remove them before your problem gets worse.
Echeverias with mutations are often rare and highly sought by collectors.
Variegation is a random mutation that happens very rarely. Plants propagated from leaves or seed of variegated plants will not maintain the variegation, however plants grown from cuttings of variegated plants do keep it. Variegated leaves usually have white or yellow stripes, and often white parts blush to pink. This leads to some extremely beautiful plants!!
Also known as a cristata, this is a random mutation that creates wide flat stems and a dense line of leaves across the growing edge of the form. This mutation is very rare in Crassulas but does happen occasionally. A crested plant can be propagated by cuttings to maintain the mutation, but not by seed or leaf.
Same plant different light levels
Echeverias can have many different leaf shapes and colors. They can have thin wavy leaves, thick pointy leaves, gracefully rounded leaves, hairy leaves, and anything in between.