Echeveria are among the most unique and fascinating types of indoor plants. Through millions of years of evolution, they have developed amazing methods of water storage. They can also self-protect which enables them to survive in some of the most inhospitable growing areas on earth.
For indoor plants, Echeveria are the perfect choice. Typical hot, dry indoor conditions are often harmful to leafy foliage plants. But provide the ideal climate for many kinds of succulent plants.
In addition, these remarkable plants are very tolerant of neglect. These plants need little watering or other care through-out the greater part of the year. The results of such benign neglect are often large, colorful blossoms, an added bonus whenever they appear.
Outdoors, Echeveria plants are a handsome addition in the landscape or in containers on a patio in summer. Although most are not frost hardy, a few will survive even the coldest of winter climates.
No matter what your taste, these plants have the diversity and adaptability to suit almost any lifestyle. A small investment will reward you with enjoyment for many years.
Light Requirements For the Echeveria
The amount of light given to the Echeveria is one of the most important factors in their growth.
Echeveria require strong sunlight to grow well. As a rule, plants listed as requiring bright light should be grown directly in a window.
Windows facing South provide the most light, and cactus and succulent collections have flourished in such a location for many years. East or West windows offer the next light intensity, with direct sun for at least part of the day. Northern windows are dimmest, receiving no direct sun, only indirect, reflected light.
In the summer Echeveria bright light plants should be grown outdoors in full sun.
A number of Echeveria will grow in moderate light with some direct sun. These plants generally grow well up to 3 feet (1M) from the south, east, or west windows.
Some of the Echeveria plants are recommended for dim light (more than 4 feet from windows). However many may survive at low light intensities for months, slowly becoming weaker with spindly pale growth. Your own judgment is the best indicator of whether your plant is receiving too little or too much light.
In “sunbelt” areas of the country south or west windows may give too much light. In other situations, roof overhangs, trees, constant cloud cover, or smog may block out most of the direct light.
Many people interested in Echeveria plants lack sufficient natural light to successfully grow them. In other cases, a cactus and succulent fancier may have a rapidly expanding collection which has outgrown the available window space. In these instances, artificial light is the obvious answer.
There are many brands of plant lights available, and many cacti and succulent plants will flourish under them. Another method is suspending a 2 tube cool white fluorescent fixture over your plant collection. The light given off is satisfactory for growing, but you may not be able to readily flower your succulent plants in it.
Although Echeveria plants are adapted to withstand dry conditions, this does not mean they are unaffected by or immune to underwatering.
During their growth periods (usually spring and summer) they absorb moisture rapidly and may need to be watered every 1-3 days. Growth in Echeveria will be best if the soil is only allowed to partially dry between waterings.
All the soil should be wet thoroughly at each watering. Then allow the soil to dry to a point where it contains only a small amount of moisture before you re-water. It is nearly impossible to prescribe how many days should pass between waterings. This is because the rate of soil drying varies so much between plants.
For example, room temperature, soil makeup, root system size, and pot material will all speed up or slow down the drying process. Your best clue of when to water is the feel of the soil.
When you suspect a plant needs water, push your fingers into the soil about 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep. A cool or damp feeling means that there is still moisture in the soil. By testing the soil this way several times, you will be able to judge how many days should pass between waterings.
Water given during the plant’s dormant season (usually fall and winter) should be applied more sparingly. Your Echeveria, are not actively growing and will be very susceptible to overwatering damage. A light watering every few weeks after the soil has thoroughly dried is best. Apply just enough water to dampen the roots slightly and keep the plants from shriveling.
Do not soak all the soil in the pot.
Most people water their plants from above, directly onto the soil. For many, this is a perfectly satisfactory method. It is wise, however, not to wet the body of an Echeveria. This is because the water may remain at the top of some barrel or other oddly shaped leaves encouraging rot problems to develop.
It is best to water in the morning. As a result, any water spilled on the Echeveria plant will evaporate rapidly in the sunlight.
Another watering method useful in some situations is bottom watering. However, since it completely wets the soil, it should not be used to water dormant plants. Top watering the Echeveria often only lets water flow down the sides of the pot. This leaves the soil beneath the plant and surrounding the roots bone dry.
Secondly, Echeveria plants are sometimes bought already potted in a soil mix largely composed of peat moss. When the peat is allowed to dry completely, it will not absorb water poured on from above. The water will run through quickly, leaving the bulk of the soil unwetted.
The peat can be most successfully rewet by the gradual wicking action found with bottom watering. To bottom water, a cactus or succulent, submerge the pot in water up to its rim for 10-20 minutes. Water will enter through the drainage holes slowly and saturate the soil. Then, allow the soil to drain before replacing the plant in its growing location.
Another method of bottom watering is by filling the plant saucer with water repeatedly until no more is absorbed. Be sure to dump any excess water left in the saucer promptly! Your plants should never be allowed to stand in water.
One hazard of bottom watering is the build-up of excess fertilizer which is not washed out of the soil as it is when a plant is watered from above. Accordingly, it is wise to fertilize bottom-watered plants less often; and at a weaker strength. Watering from above every 5-8 waterings will help rinse extra fertilizer out. This is a precaution that should be taken if your plants are routinely bottom watered.
Echeveria can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from near freezing in the winter to 95°F (35°C) in the summertime. The proper temperature is dependent on whether the plant is growing or dormant. Dormant Echeveria plants should be grown at temperatures from 45-55°F (7-10°C).
An enclosed porch or unheated bedroom is often a good place for wintering Echeverias. The cool temperature combined with only light, occasional waterings “harden” the plants, making them stronger and healthier. In addition, flower buds are likely to form at cool temperatures.
Many people do not have a room which is much cooler than normal, or simply don’t want to shut their decorative succulent plants in an out of the way place. In this case, keeping the plants on a windowsill is a partial substitute.
Cold temperatures can make the area right by the window 5-10°F ( 2-3°C) cooler than the rest of the room. Be careful, however, of shutting drapes over the plants at night. The cold air can become trapped and create frost.
Growing at normal indoor temperatures during the winter dormant period will by no means kill the Echeveria plant. Many will in fact thrive for years without any cool period. Cool temperatures are suggested only because they are best for most cacti and for some succulent plants, approaching normal outdoor growing conditions.
Convenience and personal preference will decide the winter temperature at which your Echeveria plants are grown. The summer preferences of these plants are an easy matter.
Room temperatures up to 95°F (35°C) are fine, just so long as moisture is supplied, sometimes daily on very hot days. Plants summered outdoors will do fine in shift-ing day and night temperatures as long as there is no frost.
Echeveria do not live on light and water alone. They need fertilizer the same as other plants but in smaller amounts. Fertilizing should be done only while plants are actively growing, which is generally during spring and summer. Liquid or water-soluble fertilizers are a good choice for succulent plants.
They can be used several times each growing season in normal watering and their nutrients will be quickly available to the plants. Time-release or pelleted fertilizers are also good. Most release fertilizer for 3-4 months. So you can apply them at the start of the growing season and fertilizing chores for the year are complete.
The pellets will slowly release fertilizer at each watering. The fertilizers will be used up by the time your plant enters its dormant period. Of the three components of fertilizer: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, the middle one, phosphorus, is most important.
The front of a fertilizer container usually lists three numbers separated by dashes: e.g. 10-10-10 or 10-15-15. These indicate the percentages of the 3 components — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer. When choosing a cactus fertilizer, try to find a low nitrogen content (first number) and a high phosphorous content (middle number). Formulas such as 5-10-5, 10-20-10, 10-20-20, or 5-10-10 are fine.
Blooming houseplant or African Violet fertilizers usually contain a correct formula. Fertilizer is not a cure-all for unhealthy plants, in fact, a dose of fertilizer on a plant already in poor condition could kill it. Also, never fertilize a newly trans-planted or acquired plant. Such plants need at least one month to adjust before being fertilized.
Soil mixes for Echeveria are of two types: sandy mixes and humusy combinations. In either soil mix, good drainage is most important. Some soil mix are good, others not so good.
Try to avoid those containing lots of peat moss. When they dry thoroughly, (as they should in winter) they are practically waterproof and must be slowly rewetted by soaking.
Making your own soil mixes is a good idea. A combination of one part coarse builders sand (not sea sand!), one part garden soil (without clay), and one part peat moss makes a fine mix. As another alternative, equal parts prepared house plant soil and sand is just as good. Also, one part sand, one part garden soil, and two parts peat is a good balance.
Containers and Repotting Echeveria
For growing Echeveria, plain unglazed clay pots are the traditional choice. They are inexpensive and also have drainage holes. They allow the soil to dry evenly by the evaporation of water through the sides. In short, they provide the best conditions for growth at an inexpensive price.
On the other hand, decorative pots can enhance the character of a plant and make it an attractive decorating item. Echeveria can be grown just as successfully in these decorative pots; you will just have to be more careful in watering.
Repotting Echeveria should be done as needed by the plant rather than on any particular yearly schedule. Most succulent type plants are slow-growing. They only need larger pots every 3 to 5 years or so.
Many people repot their plants too often, needlessly disturbing the roots, when increasing the fertilizing frequency would have worked just as well. You can often determine if a plant needs repotting by simply looking at the size of the plant in comparison to its present pot.
If the plant is top-heavy and easily tips over, it is probably time to repot. But as a double-check, you may want to look at the roots. To do this first gently turn the pot upside down; hold the plant and soil in with your other hand. Tap the edge of the pot on a counter or other surface, and the soil and roots should slide out undisturbed. If you see a great number of roots entirely filling the pot it is time to move to a larger container.
Always repot into a container only slightly larger than the present one, placing a broken piece of pot over the drainage hole to keep the soil in. For pots without drainage holes, a layer of gravel in the pot will provide a catchbasin for excess water and keep it away from the roots.
In transplanting, try to set the plant at the same level it was originally growing. Then fill in around it with damp soil. Do not water immediately. Wait several days to a week before watering to allow time for any damaged roots to heal. Water sparingly for the next few weeks.
Keeping your Echeveria Outdoors
For summertime container planting on a porch or patio, Echeveria plants are ideal. Most kinds will thrive in the fresh air, sunshine, and warm temperatures of summer. They will require little care and providing enjoyment all season.
When moving Echeveria from indoor growing conditions to a more brightly lit outdoor situation, a period of adjustment is essential. Otherwise, your plants will become severely sun-damaged and lose a healthy appearance.
Move them first to a lightly shaded outdoor area that receives only a little direct sun daily.After a week or two, ‘move to a brighter area, and after that to full sun.
Propagating Your Echeveria
Cuttings and Offsets
The main ways in which Echeveria are propagated are by cuttings, seeds, and offsets. To decide which way is the proper one to propagate your plant, first look at the way it grows. A branching growth style is characteristic of many succulent plants. Jade plants and kalanchoes are two examples.
Many members of the cactus family also branch, such as opuntias and Rhipsalidopsis. For plants of this type, propagation is easy; just cut off several segments (on Rhipsalidopsis) or the tip of a stem and you have a cutting which can be easily rooted to give a new plant.
In the case of Echeveria, a single detached, healthy leaf will often root and develop a new plant at the base. More often, however, Echeveria plants produce young plants on their own in the form of “offsets” or “pups”. Offsets are found growing at the base of the parent plant, being attached to it by either an aboveground or underground stem.
Offsets or pups found at the base of a plant may be removed in several ways. The most common is division, in which the entire plant with attached pups is taken out of its pot and gently broken apart into individual plants, each containing its own root system.
As an alternative when only one offset is growing, it may be easier to dig out the small plant without unpotting the parent. If an underground stem is connecting the pup to the parent it must be cut, and this is easiest accomplished by pushing a knife deep into the soil near the offset on the side next to the parent plant. Digging or lifting the pup out after that will be relatively easy.
Many offsets have well-developed root systems of their own, especially if they have been visible and growing for several months. These may be potted immediately.
The technique for rooting and growing new plants from leaves, cuttings, pups, offsets and the like is not complicated.
Steps To Grow Echeveria From Cuttings
- First, any thick-stemmed cuttings with large cut surfaces should be left to air dry out of the direct sun for up to two weeks.
- This drying period allows the cut area to “heal”.
- This healing (called callousing) helps discourage rotting when the base is buried in the rooting material.
- Leaves and small cuttings do not need to be dried and can be stuck immediately into the rooting mixture. Many materials may be used for rooting Echeveria, sand, pumice, cactus soil mix, or vermiculite for example.
- A mixture of sand and vermiculite is one excellent choice since it is sterile, drains quickly, and yet holds some moisture to start the rooting process.
- To root your cutting or offset, just cover the base with damp rooting mix, set in a bright area (but not in full, direct sun) and wait, keeping the rooting mix always slightly damp.
- Roots will form in a few weeks if all is well.
- Leaves from which you wish to form new plants should be treated in the same way, except that they should be laid on top of the rooting mix instead of being pushed down into it.
- When the roots of a cutting, offset or leaf are well developed, you will feel slight resistance when the piece is pulled.
- It will then be ready for potting up as a normal plant.
Growing Echeveri from Seed
Growing Echeveria plants from seed is an interesting experiment. If one of your own plants has set seed, growing it first is one way to start. Later you may want to order seed from a professional cactus seed specialist.
To harvest Echeveria seeds, just open the seed pod (fruit) and separate the seed from the pulp, allowing it to dry on a paper towel. Since many succulent plant seeds germinate normally during wet spring weather, this is a good time to start seed indoors. Your plants will be able to take advantage of the strong summer sun to become well established by fall.
Although Echeveria cuttings may be rooted in pure sand, Echeveria seeds should be sown in a richer mix since the seedlings will be growing in the same soil mix for 6 months to a year.
One good seed mix may be made by combining equal parts of sand, soil, and finely shredded peat moss. As a precaution against soil-borne diseases, the soil should be sterilized before use.
Dampen it slightly and bake loosely covered with foil at 350°F (176°C) for 35 minutes. Fill a plastic pot with cooled, moistened mix and sprinkle the seed over the surface. Barely cover with more soil mix sifted through a strainer for fineness.
Next, submerge the pot in water up to its rim to allow water to flow up through the drainage holes and dampen the soil; drain and cover with plastic wrap to seal in the moisture.
A warm, well-lit area without direct sun is best for germination. Check the soil every few days, keeping it always slightly moist.
Seed can take anywhere from 2 days to more than a month to germinate, and patience is required. After most of the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic, continuing to keep the young plants fairly moist. Transplant them to larger pots when they are crowded in the pot and large enough to handle.
Flowering of Echeveria
If your Echeveria don’t bloom there could be any number of reasons why:
1. They are not growing vigorously enough during the year.
2. They are too shaded or cool or both.
3. They are receiving too much nitrogen fertilizer.
4. They are too young.
5. They are not receiving the proper periods of light and dark to trigger flowering.
If you are seriously interested in growing Echeveria for their flowers, there are two things to do:
1. Select a plant which flowers at a small size and doesn’t need highly specialized conditions such as a very cold winter or a 100°F (38°C) summer. Many of the Echeveria bloom easily indoors.
2. Supply the proper conditions to encourage flowering. For many Echeveria a very dry and preferably cool winter rest period is essential for flowering. Keeping your Echeveria plant at around 50-55°F (10-13°C) and watering only when the soil becomes very dry will encourage flowering under home conditions.
Echeveria plants are as a whole relatively free of insects and diseases. Most problems are caused by poor growing practices such as insufficient lighting or overwatering. Occasionally disorders may appear, however, and it is wise to be able to recognize their symptoms and apply a remedy.
|Sr. No.||Pest||Typical Damage||Control|
|The nonmoving insects appear as cottony grey or white spots. Damage to a plant is through sucking juices, causing the weakening of the plant and disfiguring of the new growth.||Squash or pick off insects individually. Touching the insects with a small paintbrush dipped in alcohol will also destroy them.|
|2.|| ROOT MEAL|
|Ash-like deposits are seen on the roots of a plant during repotting. It will become generally unhealthy with no apparent cause, and may begin to rot.||Unpot plant and remove all soil from roots. Dip roots in a dilute solution of general-purpose insecticide and repot in sterile soil. Systemic insecticides are also effective.|
|3.|| SPIDER MITES ||Mites are very small and resemble dust. White speckling, and spider-like webbing bet-ween the spines are symptoms. Damage is by the weakening of the plant through sucking plant juices.||Wash off every 5-7 days for 3 weeks with a strong stream of water, or spray at the same intervals with a miticide.|
|4.||SCALE||Scale insects are immobile and appear as raised tan or brown dots on the body of a cactus or other succulent plant. The actual insects are hidden below the brown shell, where they suck plant juices causing weakening.||Scrape off individual insects as they appear. Systemic insecticides are also effective.|
|5.||NEMATODES||Microscopic, wormlike animals living in the soil. They burrow into plant roots, causing swellings that keep the roots from functioning normally. The plant will become stunted and pale.||Unpot plant and remove all soil from the roots. Cut off all roots, let dry for several days and repot in sterile soil. Systemic insecticide is also effective.|
|6.||APHIDS||Small soft-bodied insects with or without wings and in a variety of colors. They suck plant juices causing distorted growth.||Wash off with water or apply general-purpose insecticide according to package directions.|
|7.||SUNBURN||A plant receiving too much sun or being exposed to the sun without being slowly conditioned to it will sunburn. The damage appears as yellowing or whitening of the leaves or body. Brown scabs may later form on the injured areas.||Remove the plant from strong sun-light. Check care instructions for the proper amount of light and ad-just plant gradually to it.|
|8.||LACK OF LIGHT||Insufficient light causes a plant to produce thin, weak new growth which is often long and scraggly looking.||Move plant to a more brightly lit area, adjusting it slowly to to the increased light.|
|9.||ROT||An overwatered plant is most prone to rot, with the base becoming discolored and later soft and mushy. Examining the roots will show they are brown and decayed.||Cut off the rotted sections back to green healthy parts. Reroot the healthy parts if necessary.|
|10.||CRESTING||A crest is produced when a growing tip develops abnormally, forming twisted and irregular growth. It is a mutation but is considered very unique and attractive to some people. A crested plant may be weak and is often grown grafted for that reason.||Cresting does not harm a plant. It may begin spontaneously, and you may remove it or let it continue to develop as you choose.|