Echeverias are fast-growing succulents popular for their unique appearance and low maintenance needs. Their stunning rosette shape, plump leaves, and large variety of colors give them a striking resemblance to flowers. When they flower in the summer, they are stunning. Plant them in the spring at the start of their growing season. Most echeveria will remain fairly small, no larger than a foot wide, but some species will grow into small shrub-like, 2-foot tall plants.
|Botanical Name||Echeveria spp.|
|Mature Size||2-24 in. tall, 2-12 in. wide|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Flower Color||Pink, orange, white, yellow, red|
|Hardiness Zones||9-12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central America, North America, South America|
Native to parts of Central America, South America, and Mexico, echeveria are succulents and members of the Crassulaceae family. Their care is similar to sedum and kalanchoe succulents, which means they all have fleshy, thickened leaves and stems that store water.
They are well-suited to bright, dry environments and appreciate periods of neglect, making echeverias ideal houseplants whether or not you have a green thumb. Never let water sit in the rosette, as it can cause rot or fungal diseases that will kill the plant. Also, remove dead leaves from the bottom of the plant as it grows; they provide a haven for pests.
Echeverias require a substantial amount of light to thrive. They need at least four to five hours of bright, direct sunlight daily—ideally six. If echeverias do not receive full sun, they will become elongated and leggy, and it is unlikely they will flower. Move your echeveria outdoors during the summer months to help it flourish. If you move your plant outside after overwintering indoors, harden off the plant, giving it a gradual transition. Intense afternoon sunlight can cause sunburn, so place your plant where it receives a bit of shade when the sun is strongest.
Echeverias require a well-draining, porous growing medium to keep excess moisture away from the roots. Standard cactus potting mixes, which can be found at most nurseries and garden centers, are sufficient for echeverias. You can create a cactus mix by combining three parts of regular potting soil with two parts of coarse sand and one part of perlite. Echeverias make ideal houseplants and grow well in garden beds, as long as the soil is well drained, and the pH is 6.0 or slightly acidic.
Watering is the most critical aspect of proper echeveria care. Echeverias, like most succulents, do not require much water, but they also don't like to be too dry. If the leaves begin to wrinkle, it's an obvious sign the plant needs water. It is better to under-water echeverias than to overwater them, as they can quickly succumb to root rot if overwatered.
Wait until the soil has dried out completely before watering your echeveria, and then give it a good soaking by letting the water stream through the pot's drainage holes. Depending on the size of the plant, it could be 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water every seven to 10 days during the growing season. If you use a saucer under the pot, make sure to empty any standing water that drains through. Echeveria will need to be watered during the summer months more frequently than in winter. In winter, water just enough to prevent wrinkled leaves, about once a month.
Temperature and Humidity
Echeverias thrive in hot, dry conditions. They do not tolerate cold temperatures or cold drafts well. Too much humidity can lead to root rot. The average household temperature and humidity levels are sufficient for echeverias but do not place them in a humid location, like a bathroom or laundry room. Most echeverias are cold hardy to USDA zone 9a and can grow in the ground with average winter temperatures no colder than 50 F. In wintery weather regions, move the plant inside when frost threatens.
Regular fertilizing is not a requirement for growing echeveria, as they are accustomed to growing in nutrient-poor soil. They are susceptible to fertilizer burn if over-fertilized. Occasional fertilizing during the spring and summer can help echeverias during their active growing period but be cautious. Use a cactus and succulent fertilizer or a controlled-release balanced 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer diluted two to four times more than usual. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer for young plants.
Types of Echeveria
Echeveria is a large, extensively hybridized genus featuring approximately 150 species and more than 1,000 cultivars. A wide pot filled with a variety of echeveria types makes a compelling visual display. Here are a few favorites:
- Ghost echeveria (Echeveria lilacina): Pale, silvery-gray fleshy leaves; leaves are more lilac-colored in winter months; can produce pale pink or coral lantern-shaped blooms on long red stems when mature
- Echeveria peacockii: Spoon-shaped, powdery blue-gray leaves with red tips that grow in a rosette formation
- Mexican snowballs (Echeveria elegans): Also commonly known as white Mexican rose or Mexican gem succulent; features thick, fleshy blue-green to silver-green leaves
- Mexican firecracker (Echeveria setosa): Scoop-shaped leaves with a rose-like look; each leaf is covered in tiny, short white hairs, giving the plant a fuzzy appearance; late spring, mature plants produce foot-long flower stalks with beautiful red firecracker-like urn-shaped flowers with yellow tips
- Echeveria agavoides' Lipstick': Lime green leaves with pointy red edges, giving it the nickname "Lipstick"; its botanical name comes from its agave-looking foliage, with thick, triangle-shaped leaves
Pruning echeveria from time to time can help prevent rot, encourage new growth, and help your plant live longer. Generally, echeverias do not require regular pruning, but if your echeveria becomes leggy and elongated due to a lack of sunlight, trim it down to keep it looking attractive.
Pruning is best done at the beginning of their growing season; however, you can prune anytime. Eventually, the lower leaves will dry up and die, which is the plant's natural life cycle. Remove the dead leaves by gently pulling the dead leaves away with your fingers so they do not rot in place. Removing the leaves may also help encourage new growth along the stem.
It's fun to make more echeveria plants. They can be easily propagated by leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, offsets, or sowing seeds. Taking cuttings is an excellent way to prevent a plant from getting leggy. The best time to take cuttings is in spring. Here's how:
To propagate from leaf or stem cutting or offsets:
- You'll need a tray, cactus mix, a plastic bag or clear dome, and a pot with ample drainage holes. If cutting a stem, you will need sterilized scissors or pruning snips.
- Carefully separate a leaf from the plant's main stem by gently wiggling it side to side until it pops off. Always propagate more than one leaf, as not all will grow into a new plant.
- If taking a stem cutting, snip off a stem that has become leggy.
- If using an offset or offshoot (pup) growing off the main stem, carefully snip it or pinch it off the main branch.
- Lay the leaf cutting, stem cutting, or offset flat on a tray and allow it to callous over for a few days before planting the calloused end in the pot filled with succulent or cacti mix.
- Mist the soil, and cover the pot until the new plant sprouts. Place it in a sunny location—but avoid direct sunlight.
- Once roots have developed (you will see new growth), water sparingly as you would with a mature succulent.
- After about a month, a tiny rosette will begin to develop at the end of the leaf. Do not separate the leaf from the rosette, as it supplies the new succulent with energy and nutrients. Over time, the old leaf will shrivel and die as the new succulent becomes more independent.
How to Grow Echeveria From Seed
Scatter seeds, leaving space between each of the seeds on a bed of soil (60%), grit or sand (30%), and perlite (10%) or a succulent and cactus mix. You can use a terracotta pot or any container with ample drainage holes. Moisten the soil and keep it moist by covering it with plastic wrap or placing it into a zip-closing plastic bag.
Place the pot in a bright room but not in direct sunlight. Uncover the container once a day for an hour to give the plant ventilation. An ideal germination temperature is around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
After about three weeks, the seeds should start germinating. Once the seeds have sprouted and tiny rosettes form, remove the plastic covering. Keep the soil slightly moist (never let it dry) and provide ample light (but not direct sun). As seedlings, give them water every three to four days once the soil dries up.
Potting and Repotting Echeveria
Echeveria plants do not require frequent repotting and should only be repotted once they have outgrown their previous container. If repotting, it is usually recommended in the spring as the plant will enter its active growing period.
To repot an echeveria plant, ensure the soil is completely dry before removing it from its potting container. Gently remove the plant from the pot. Carefully remove the excess soil from the roots before placing the plant in its new pot. Remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with potting soil, spreading out the roots as you repot. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Wait a week before watering after repotting to avoid the risk of root rot.
Echeveria cannot survive the winter outside. It can't handle temperatures below freezing. The best way to overwinter Echeveria is to bring your plant inside. Echeveria will not need to be kept extremely warm but at least above 45 degrees. It will go dormant during the cooler months and will not need as much water, only needing water about once a month.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Pests rarely seek out echeveria, but most succulents are susceptible to fungus gnats, spider mites, and mealy bugs. Fungus gnats look like little black flies that hover above the soil. Spider mites are tiny dust-like creatures that usually dot the underside of leaves; their tell-tale sign is fine webbing on the plant. Mealybugs have a white, cottony, or waxy appearance. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil can get rid of these insect infestations.
When succulents fall victim to diseases, fungal issues usually take them out. Cold or damp conditions or overwatering are usually to blame, causing rot. Rotten tissues turn red, brown, or black and usually turn soggy, slimy, and smell bad. You will need to restructure your watering routine, reducing quantity or frequency.
To treat the rot, remove the plant from its pot, wash the roots thoroughly, and cut away dead roots. Allow the plant to air for 24 hours and repot it in a new or sterilized pot with fresh soil. Give the plant a fungicidal soil treatment according to the package instructions.
How to Get Echeveria to Bloom
An echeveria will not flower until it's matured for at least four seasons. When it makes its ornate flower stalks, it's usually in the spring or summer. Deadhead or remove wilted flowers regularly. This step isn't mandatory but will help stimulate the plant to produce new flowers. Echeveria flowers do not have a scent.
Fertilizer can help echeveria flower. Use a thin, diluted high-phosphorus formula for flowering, like a 5–10–5 ratio fertilizer (or even 10-15-10). Apply it monthly from April until September.
If outdoors, it needs at least six hours of sun. Indoors, position it near a sunny window or use a grow light. Leggy or spindly echeveria usually won't produce flowers; low light is typically the cause. Also, too hot or too cold temperatures will discourage a plant from blooming. Ensure it has well-draining soil since soggy feet kills flower production and, eventually, the plant.
Common Problems With Echeveria
Most Echeveria species are not complicated succulents to grow. As with all succulents, careful watering habits and offering plenty of light will help ensure success.
Discolored, Soft Growth
Browning or blackening of leaves or parts of the plant or mushiness is usually brought on by too much humidity or overwatering. Stem rot disease causes soft, mushy stems. If stem rot has developed, your plant has a fungal infection. Fungal infections are usually fatal, but you can try to save the plant by unpotting it, cutting away rotted roots, stems, and leaves, airing it out, and repotting it in fresh soil with a fungicide application.
Yellowing, Wilting, or Leaf Drop
Overwatering will cause leaves to appear bleached. Leaves may also wilt, swell, or fall off when given too much water. Also, check the undersides and crevices of leaves for insect activity. Bugs can cause plants to lose vigor and kill a plant if left unchecked.
Limp, Shriveling Leaves
If echeveria leaves start to shrivel or wrinkle, it is likely lacking water. The plant will begin to look droopy and wilted. Leaves will lose their plump, firm feeling. You might even notice dried-up, brown, dead leaves toward the bottom of the plant. Most succulents can bounce back after a thorough watering.
How long can an echeveria live?
An echeveria plant can live from three years to several decades, depending on whether its growing conditions mimic its natural environment.
Where should I put an echeveria plant in my house?
Echeveria plants are sun lovers. Echeveria can be grown indoors, but they must be placed in a south- or west-facing window for the brightest and longest light, especially during the shorter winter days.
What are alternatives to echeveria?
Painted Lady Echeveria (Echeveria Derenbergii). New York Botanical Garden
Welsh, Pat. Pat Welsh's Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month. Chronicle Books, 2010