Dudleya succulents make up a genus of over 40 different species. They are best known for their rose-like appearance and silvery, powdered foliage. These plants are often called liveforevers because of their incredible lifespan. It's not uncommon for these plants to live for between 50 and 100 years with proper care. These unique, long-living plants are great for rock gardens or containers and are known to be a low-maintenance succulent.
Within the more than 40 varieties of the Dudleya genus, there are two main growth habits: branching and non-branching. Branching liveforever plants create many little rosettes of foliage. These are a perfect choice for ground cover. Non-branching varieties only create one rosette of foliage, making them an eye-catching specimen plant.
|Plant Type||Succulent, perennial|
|Mature Size||24 in. tall, 18 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, Partial|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline|
|Flower Color||Red, Pink, Yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||5-11, USA|
|Native Area||North America, Central America|
When given the right environment, Dudleya succulents are hardy, long-living plants. They prefer plenty of sunshine and well-draining soil. You might consider these plants for your rock garden or as a unique specimen plant to add to your collection.
Dudleya plants have a powdery appearance due to a waxy layer called farina. As a result, the plant has natural protection from excessive sun exposure or bad weather. When tending to Dudleya plants, make it your aim to avoid disturbing the farina through excessive touching of the plant or watering over the foliage.
Common pests include aphids, mealybugs, gnats, and slugs. These plants are also prone to rot. Therefore, it is best to plant these succulents at an angle so any water trapped inside the foliage can drain away. This also mimics the plant’s natural habitat since many Dudleya species are found growing on steep, rocky walls.
Some varieties are protected by law because of their rarity. Plant poachers have been known to target Dudleya varieties. Be sure to buy your plants from a reputable garden center.
As expected when growing succulents, Dudleya plants thrive in an abundance of sunshine. Plant them in an area with full sun for the best results, especially in areas along coastlines. When grown inland, these plants may prefer some afternoon shade. Be alert to any legginess or stretching, as this is an indication of too little light.
Dudleya plants require rocky, well-draining soil. Soggy soil can cause rot problems. Sandy, rocky cliffs, or steep walls can also support Dudleya growth. They can tolerate mildly acidic to mildly alkaline soil pH levels.
Water Dudleya plants only when the soil is nearly dry. Watering too often can cause soggy soil conditions. It is best not to water these plants at all during the summer months, as they go dormant and thrive in dry conditions. Withering during this time is normal. As fall arrives, you may need to supply water if rain is sparse.
When deciding whether to water a Dudleya plant, be sure the plant has experienced a dry period beforehand. After watering, wait until the soil is dry before watering again. This may need to be done once a month or less. When you do provide water, do so deeply and only at the roots, as succulent plants do not tolerate wet foliage well.
Temperature and Humidity
Not surprisingly, liveforever plants are quite hardy and can tolerate both hot and cold temperatures. As long as the temperature does not drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, Dudleya plants will remain viable. Some varieties are more cold-hardy than others, but most prefer dry summers and mild, cool winters.
Because these plants thrive in sandy, low-nutrient soil, they do not require much fertilizer. Avoid giving any fertilizer while they are dormant during the summer. A slow-release liquid fertilizer can be given in the spring or fall.
Types of Dudleya
- D. cymosa: The vibrant orange-red and yellow blooms of this variety make an excellent contrast the plant's silvery-gray foliage. It's also known for having a cold-hardy nature, making it a good option for planting in the coldest zones of this plant's hardiness range.
- D. arizonica: This non-branching variety is known for its colorful foliage. The leaves start as a silvery-green while young, then turn red as they mature. They produce red stalks and red flowers with orange centers.
- D. brittonii: A non-branching variety, these plants produce a large, 12- to 18-inch wide rosette of whitish blue-green foliage. It's accompanied by a tall, vibrant red stalk and bright yellow flowers when in bloom. Because of its size, it is often known as a giant chalk Dudleya.
Dudleya plants can easily be propagated through division and cuttings. Cuttings can be taken in the spring. These must be offshoots, as individual leaves will not root from these succulents. Division is best done every few years to prevent a leggy, messy look. Over time, Dudleya plants develop tall stalks covered in old, shriveled leaves. Division eliminates this.
To propagate with cuttings, you will need a sharp knife or a pair of garden snips, a small pot, a mix of cactus soil and perlite, and some sand. Then follow these instructions:
- In the spring, use the garden snips or knife to cut an offshoot away from the mother plant. Choose an offshoot that is not flowering.
- Set the cutting aside in a warm, dry area. Keep it out of direct sunlight.
- Allow the cutting to dry out for a week or more until the end begins to callus.
- Place the mixture of perlite and cactus soil into a small pot.
- Lightly moisten the soil and create a hole in the center.
- Place the stalk of the cutting into the hole. Firmly press the soil around it.
- Spread a layer of sand on the top of the soil.
- Place the cutting in a warm area with bright, indirect lighting. Keep it slightly moist. Avoid large amounts of water, as this can cause rot.
- In a few weeks, gently tug the cutting to check for resistance, indicating that roots have formed.
- In a month or two, move the cutting to its permanent location.
To divide Dudleya plants, you will need a pair of garden gloves and a sharp pair of snips. Then follow these instructions.
- Select the stalks you would like to divide.
- Using the snips, cut the stalk right at soil level.
- Separate each separate stalk with the snips.
- Using the gloves, gently brush away all the shriveled, dead leaves on the lower end of the stalk, leaving only the healthy foliage.
- Plant each division in its new location, burying them in well-draining cactus soil. Gently moisten the soil before planting.
How to Grow Dudleya From Seed
Each Dudleya flower produces hundreds of tiny seeds, making seed propagation easy. They can be collected simply by gathering the seed pods and crushing them open. Other than seeds, you will need a seed tray, a well-draining soilless mix, such as sand and perlite, a knife, and a misting bottle. Then follow these instructions.
- Fill the seed tray with the well-draining soilless mix.
- Sprinkle the tiny seeds across the whole tray.
- Gently mist the soil until it is moist. Then place the tray in an area that receives bright, indirect light.
- Check the soil a few times a day, misting daily to keep it evenly moist, but not wet.
- Germination should occur in approximately 10 days. Once this occurs, spread the seedlings out by moving some to another tray. This allows them more room to grow. To do this, gently pick them up with the tip of a knife.
- Once the seedlings grow larger, place each plant into its own small pot.
- After growing for 4 to 6 months, each plant can be potted in cactus mix or in a permanent location.
Potting and Repotting Dudleya
Non-branching varieties of Dudleya make perfect container-grown specimen plants. If you opt to grow these plants in this method, be sure to choose a pot with free-flowing drainage holes and only use well-draining soil. While container-grown plants will need a bit more water than those grown in the garden, you should still ensure that the soil dries out thoroughly between waterings. If the plant outgrows its container, gently remove the plant and either divide it, or place it in a container that is a few inches larger.
Common Problems With Dudleya
When placed in the proper environment, Dudleya succulents do not have many problems. However, even hardy plants may run into a few problems. Let’s look at some common issues to arise with this genus of succulents.
Soggy, soft foliage can be a sign of overwatering or soggy soil. If you notice any foliage beginning to look translucent, soft, or soggy, cut back on watering. Be sure your soil drains well, and amend it with sand if need be. Not addressing overwatering quickly can lead to rot. If rot occurs, you may need to start a new plant from healthy cuttings before the plant is consumed with rot.
Wilting, Shriveling Foliage
Wilting foliage occurs during the hot, dry summers where these plants are grown. Though it may appear to be an issue, this is not actually a problem, as long as it is during the summer. This is because it is a natural part of their dormancy. It is normal and should not be a cause for concern. Continue to withhold water until the fall.
Are dudleya plants endangered?
Most Dudleya species are rare. In California, 10 specific species are classified as threatened or endangered.
How large do dudleya grow?
Depending on the variety, these succulents can reach up 18 inches wide and 2 feet tall, including the tall flower stalks.
What climate is best for dudleya?
Try to mimic the plant’s natural habitat to the best of your ability. For reference, pattern conditions after the dry, hot summers and cool, mild winters of California. Give these plants plenty of sunshine and sandy, rock, well-draining soil. Rocky cliff faces are also an excellent place to grow these succulents.
Johnson, O. (2021), 'Abelia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/abelia/).
“Dudleya Protection.” California Native Plant Society, 9 Apr. 2020, https://www.cnps.org/conservation/dudleya-protection.