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|
In warmer climates, Aeoniums can be grown as in the ground as perennials, but it is also common to grow them as potted plants on decks or patios. In colder regions, they should be grown in containers and taken inside before frost. When grown in the garden, Aeoniums command the most attention when grouped in masses. Tall varieties can look like bonsai when they get shrubby; you can trim them if they get too leggy. The cuttings will readily root and make new plants, helping you fill out your planting area.
If you have the proper growing conditions, Aeoniums require very little pampering. Otherwise, your major task will be moving them from hot sun to shade and back again, watering, and moving them indoors when the temperature drops too low.
Aeoniums have shallow root systems since they store their water in their leaves and stems. Unlike other succulents, which prefer dry soil, Aeoniums prefer soil that is moist but not wet. 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. Make sure these roots do not dry out. The stem roots will quickly turn the fallen pieces into new plants. Leggy branches do tend to fall over and snap off from the weight of the rosettes. If this happens, you can re-plant the broken stem.
Keep an eye out for pests on Aeoniums. Aphids, mealybugs, mites or scale may all appear on Aeoniums. Treat the plant with a spray of water or mild insecticidal soap to remove these pests.
As with most succulents, Aeonium plants grow best in full sun to part shade. In hot summers and desert conditions, light shade may be necessary. Indoors, give them bright indirect light.
A sandy loam or regular potting mix amended with perlite is better than a mix specifically for succulents and cacti since Aeoniums need some moisture. If grown in garden beds with dense soil, it may be necessary to amend with peat moss to improve soil porosity.
In the winter, water whenever the top inch of soil has dried out. Test by poking your finger down into the soil an inch or two. These plants do like more moisture than many other succulents, but too much moisture or allowing them to sit in wet soil will cause root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
These plants prefer a Mediterranean climate—not too hot, not too cold, not too dry. Most Aeonium varieties are only hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11. Growing Aeoniums in moist shade will keep them growing in high heat, but their true growth season is winter to spring, when temperatures are cool (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and damp. They may go dormant in summer and do not require excessive watering, except in excessively dry conditions. In extreme heat, their leaves will curl to prevent excessive water loss.
Feed during the growing season with a half-strength balanced fertilizer every month or so. Do not feed while dormant.
- Aeonium arboreum: This widely available plant has bright green rosettes on a branching stem. It has a shrubby form and can grow as tall as 6 feet in the garden, or 3 feet in containers.
- Aeonium arboreum 'Atropurpureum': This 3- to 5-foot tall cultivar has maroon leaves if grown in bright light.
- Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop': This cultivar has very dark, almost black leaves. It, too, is a fairly large plant.
- Aeonium 'Garnet': A hybrid cross of A. 'Zwarkop' and A. tabuliforme, this variety's leaves are green toward the middle and tipped with dark red.
- Aeonium davidbramwelli 'Sunburst': This variety is a shorter, 1- to 2-foot tall plant but has rosettes up to 1 foot across with pale yellow, white and green stripes, and pink tips.
- Aeonium haworthii 'Tricolor' or 'Kiwi': An easy growing 2- to 3-foot plant, it has 4-inch flowers that have pale yellow centers when young, maturing to red and green.
Potting and Repotting
Needing so little soil, Aeoniums are great for growing in containers, where you can get a closer look at their unique features and have better control over their growing conditions. In high humidity or rainy areas, you may not need to water them at all. Choose a container with a drainage hole to avoid standing water and root rot. To help maintain the necessary moisture levels, use a regular potting mix rather than a fast-draining succulent/cactus mix.
If you are growing Aeoniums in containers, re-pot every 2 to 3 years with fresh potting soil.
Like many succulents, Aeoniums are very easy to propagate from cuttings. Even stem pieces that fall off the plant may readily take root in the surrounding soil.
- Cut off a stem piece containing a leaf rosette. Place the cutting in shade and allow the cut end to heal for about three days.
- Fill a small pot with drainage holes with a mixture of half regular potting soil and half cactus/succulent potting mix. Place the severed end of the cutting into the potting mix, just deep enough to hold it upright. Place the pot in bright indirect light and water it lightly once each week.
- Once the plant has developed strong roots, allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out before watering. Re-pot into a larger container as needed.
Most Aeoniums are monocarpic, meaning that the mother plant dies after flowering. However, if the plant has produced side shoots, those side shoots will live on. If not, the entire plant will die off. That's why it is nice to start new plants from cuttings periodically. You can also start new plants from the seed.