The Aeonium genus includes about 35 succulent plants, mostly hailing from the Canary Islands. Members of the Crassulaceae family, these generally follow the growth recommendations for most succulents: lots of light, perfect drainage, and not too much water.
Like other succulents, these are also highly prized for their beautiful foliage. On the most popular variety, the leaves are held on a nearly bare branch and grow in attractive rosettes that turn a deep, burgundy red in the summertime. They are not especially common in cultivation, and if do see one, it's likely to be an immature plant. When they are young, it's easy to confuse Aeoniums with the closely related Echeverias, which are much more common in the nursery trade. It's easier, however, to tell adult plants with adequate light as the most popular species offer their spectacular leaf coloring.
- Light: They like plenty of bright light, but dislike intense direct light, especially in the summer. These plants are not very tolerant of heat, so try to avoid locations where they are exposed to harmful direct heat radiation, whether from the sun or a light.
- Water: When grown in containers, Aeonium like a regular supply of moisture during the growing season, which will typically be in the summertime. It's best to let the plants dry slightly between waterings, but because Aeonium have small roots, they are a bit less drought tolerant than other succulents and appreciate a steady supply of light water with good drainage.
- Fertilizer: A typical cactus fertilizer can help them look their best, especially in older plants where the potting media is getting older and lost some of its nutrients.
- Soil: A light, fast-draining potting soil is perfect. Cactus soils allow more latitude with watering because they hold less water, but regular potting soils can also be used.
Many kinds of Aeonium do not clump as freely as more familiar succulents, which partially explains why they are less common in the trade (propagation is somewhat harder). However, they do root readily from leaf cuttings. Take a single leaf, allow it to dry out slightly, then place it in a seedling potting soil and keep barely moist and warm. New growth will eventually emergy. In some varieties, it's only possible to propagate from seed; this is more typical of the plants that do not branch but grow only single rosettes.
These will not need frequent repotting. They are usually weakly rooted, so when you're repotting, be careful not to damage the roots or fragile leaves. Repot in the beginning of the growing season and keep in a warm, bright place until new growth begins to emerge.
Collectors enjoy finding rarer Aeoniums, which grow in fantastic leaf forms and colors. Here are a few types of Aeonium that you might see:
- A. arboreum: A fairly common species with mint green colored rosettes and branching growth habitat. This plant grows up to 5 feet and is easily propagated from leaf or branch cuttings. It has been extensively hybridized.
- A. arboreum 'Atropurpureum': This variety of the A. arboreum features the same green leaves that transition to purple or burgundy when exposed to sunlight. This is a very beautiful and relatively common Aeonium, compared to some of the more esoteric plants.
- A. arboreum 'Zwartkop': Similar to the other two varieties, with the exception being that its leaves are dark purple and almost black. This plant is exceptionally beautiful when grown in masses.
Aeonium are wonderful succulents that can really add visual interest to a succulent collection. They are relatively cold and heat sensitive, however, and do best in a faily temperate range. The same is true for watering: they dislike intense droughts or too much water. Ideally, Aeonium thrive in a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and mild summers, and regular but not overwhelming water. Aeonium is vulnerable to mealybugs and aphids.