Aeonium is genus including about 35 succulent plant species of unusual appearance—long, arching stems and rosettes of leaves that can often look artificially perfect. Those Aeoniums sold commercially are cultivars or hybrid crosses derived from a relatively small number of species, including A. haworthi, A. tabuliforme, A. arboreum, and A. undulatum.
The plants form fleshy rosettes, and you will notice a similarity between Aeoniums and several other succulent plants, most noticeably Echeveria and Sempervivum—the popular hens and chicks. Depending on variety, Aeoniums can be low growers or branching plants that grow into shrubs.
- Leaves: Rosettes with somewhat rounded leaves. Stems can be short and stubby or long and branched. Leaves can be solid colors or variegated in white, yellow, red and green.
- Flowers: Flowers stems emerge from the center of the rosettes. The small, star-like flowers grow in clusters.
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 leggy. The cuttings will readily root and make new plants, helping you fill out your planting area.
|Botanical Name||Aeonium spp. and hybrids|
|Plant Type||Perennial succulent|
|Mature Size||2 to 60 inches (depending on species and variety)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Sandy loam|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Late winter or spring|
|Flower Color||Pink (flowering is rare, occurring only in mature plants)|
|Hardiness Zones||9 to 11; may be grown as potted plants brought indoors for winter|
|Native Area||Canary Islands, Africa|
How to Grow Aeonium
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. Growing them 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. Aeoniums do not like hot or dry weather. They may go dormant in summer and do not require any water, except in excessively dry conditions. In extreme heat, their leaves will curl to prevent excessive water loss.
If you have the proper growing conditions, Aeoniums 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. 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.
Most Aeoniums die after flowering. 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.
Few pests bother Aeoniums. Slugs can do some damage, and the occasional bird may take a bite.
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 is better than a mix specifically for succulents and cacti since Aeoniums need some moisture. If grown in garden beds with dense soil, amending the soil with peat moss to improve its porosity may be necessary.
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.
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, although they can withstand occasional frosts down to about 25̊ degrees Fahrenheit.
Feed during the growing season with a half-strength balanced fertilizer every month or so. Do not feed while dormant.
Potting and Repotting
If you are growing Aeomiums 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.
Varieties of Aeonium
- 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 has dark red leaves.
- 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. This plant can handle some frost.
- Aeonium haworthii 'Tricolor' or 'Kiwi': This easy growing 2- to 3-foot plant has 4-inch flowers that have pale yellow centers when young, maturing to red and green.
Growing in Containers
Needing so little soil, Aeoniums make great container plants. You can get a closer look at their unique features in containers, and have better control over their growing conditions. In high humidity or rainy areas, you may not need to water them. Keep close tabs on them and use your judgment. Using regular potting soil, rather than a fast-draining soil for succulents, which will help maintain their moisture level.