How to Grow and Care for Mexican Snowballs

Mexican snowball succulent (Echeveria elegans) in a white pot with a gold watering can in the background.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Mexican snowballs (Echeveria elegans) are one of the most well-known and popular varieties of Echeveria succulents. Also commonly known as White Mexican Rose or Mexican Gem succulents, Mexican snowballs are characterized by thick, fleshy blue-green to silver-green leaves that grow in an attractive rosette shape. As their name suggests, these succulents are native to Mexico and can be commonly found in semi-desert habitats across the country. These gorgeous, low-maintenance succulents are popular as houseplants and garden plants and won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. 

 Botanical Name Echeveria elegans
 Common Name Mexican Gem, Mexican Snowball, White Mexican Rose
 Plant Type Succulent
 Mature Size 6 to 8 inches tall, 12 inches wide
 Sun Exposure Full sun
 Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
 Soil pH Acidic
 Bloom Time Spring, summer
 Flower Color Pink, yellow
 USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11
 Native Area North America
Toxicity Non-toxic
Close up of a Mexican snowball succulent (Echeveria elegans) with flower stalks against a white background

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Mexican Snowball Care

Mexican snowballs are low-maintenance succulents that thrive on neglect. Like most succulents, they enjoy sunny, warm conditions and are extremely drought-tolerant. They are large succulents that can grow up to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide in ideal conditions. Mexican snowballs can be grown outdoors, in containers, or indoors as houseplants year-round.

Light

As with most succulents, Mexican snowballs require several hours of bright, direct sunlight each day in order to thrive. Insufficient sunlight causes the plant to become leggy and lose its attractive compact shape. 

When grown indoors, a west or south-facing window is best. If necessary, these succulents do well under grow lights. When grown outdoors, Mexican snowballs can be planted in a location that receives a combination of direct and partial light throughout the day.

Soil

True to their semi-desert native habitat, Mexican snowballs do best in sandy, well-draining soil. They cannot tolerate being waterlogged so their soil should drain easily and dry quickly. Avoid humus-rich soil because it hold waters for longer periods of time. 

Mexican snowballs also do well in nutrient-poor soil. A standard cactus or succulent potting mix is great for these succulents.

Water

Mexican snowballs are known for being drought-tolerant and you should avoid overwatering them at all costs. Generally, it is better to underwater a succulent than to overwater it. If needed, these succulents can survive months with little to no water. 

Before watering, ensure that the soil has dried out completely and then water well. In the winter, reduce water while the plant is in dormancy.

Temperature and Humidity

As a desert plant, Mexican snowballs enjoy hot, dry conditions. They do not do well in overly humid conditions, and they cannot tolerate cold weather. Typical household temperature and humidity levels are fine for Mexican snowballs if you are growing them indoors. 

If you are growing these succulents outdoors and live in a climate colder than USDA zones 9-11, grow them in containers so they can be easily overwintered indoors.

Fertilizer

Mexican snowballs are not heavy feeders and do not require regular fertilization. They can benefit from an annual fertilization in the early-mid spring with a fertilizer that is designed for cacti and succulents.

Are Mexican Snowballs Toxic?

Mexican snowballs are considered nontoxic to humans and pets. However, it is not advisable to eat them because they are not known to be edible.

Pruning

These succulents do not require pruning; however, if Mexican snowballs become leggy, there are ways to cut them back and revitalize their compact flower-like shape. 

To rehabilitate a leggy Mexican snowball, cut off the top part of the stem that is not leggy and is still somewhat compact, and replant it in a separate container. After you have cut off the top part of the plant, remove the bottom few leaves from the new rosette to expose the bare stem. This bare part will be buried beneath the soil and develop new roots. Before planting the newly separated plant, allow the stem to callous over for 12-24 hours to prevent rot once it is planted. 

Once calloused, the new plant can be potted in a standard cactus or succulent soil mix. Don’t water the new plant until roots have begun to form, after approximately 2-3 weeks.

Propagating Mexican Snowballs

Mexican snowballs are very easily propagated through leaf cuttings and division. Mature plants will grow offsets which can be separated from the mother plant and planted in their own pots. Alternatively, new plants can be grown through leaf propagation. 

To propagate Mexican snowballs by leaf propagation, gently twist off a healthy leaf from the succulent, ensuring that it pops off the stem without tearing. The base of the leaf should be completely intact. Once removed, put the leaf on top of dry soil and place it in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Within 2-3 weeks you should begin to notice small pink or white roots sprouting from the end of the leaf. At this point, you can begin lightly watering or misting the new roots, allowing the soil to dry thoroughly between waterings. 

After a few months you will see a small succulent growing from the end of the leaf. Continue caring for this new succulent until the parent leaf dries up and falls off. At this point you can move the new plant to a location that receives bright, direct light and care for it as you would a mature plant.

Potting and Repotting Mexican Snowballs

When it comes to repotting, Mexican snowballs aren’t picky. They don’t require frequent repotting and they can tolerate being rootbound. Because they do well in poor quality soil, they also don’t require soil to be frequently refreshed. 

It is best to repot Mexican snowballs after they have outgrown their container. Roots growing out of the drainage holes are one indication it might be time to repot. When choosing a new container, don’t size up too much. A pot that is 2-3 inches larger than the previous containere is perfect.

Overwintering

Mexican snowballs are not frost-tolerant and need to be overwintered indoors if you are growing them outdoors in a zone lower than USDA zone 9. The easiest way to do this is to grow them in containers so you can simply move the container indoors and grow them as houseplants throughout the winter.

Common Pests/Diseases

Generally Mexican snowballs are not bothered by too many pests. However, some common pests such as mealybugs and aphids can be attracted to these succulents, regardless of whether they are grown indoors or outdoors. Regularly inspecting plans for pests and applying preventative treatments will help to mitigate any potential infestations.