Echeverias are some of the most stunning and elegant succulents on the planet. Their low maintenance, moderate growth habits make them the perfect plant to grow in an outdoor sunny garden, whether it be in the ground or a decorative pot. If space is a limitation, never fear, a well-lit interior room will suffice. Echeverias offer an extensive range of colours, heights and textures, which for many will allow for a wonderful display in your mixed garden beds and pots. Echeverias can be best identified by its rosette shape. They are native to Texas and Central America and can tolerate long periods without water as it can tap into their reserves which is stored in its fleshy leaves. There are 3 significant signs an Echeveria will demonstrate to show that it is dehydrated:
- The leaves are starting to wrinkle.
- It will change colour dramatically (Its screaming for some water). Australian Winters are the exception (more on this topic later).
- The root-ball is separating from the pot (we will touch on this when I talk about soils).
There are roughly 150 species and more than 1000 cultivars of Echeverias and still climbing, this is due to an increasing interest in hybridization. This is the perfect Segway to explain the 3 best ways to grow Echeverias from easiest to hardest.
- Cuttings: Echeverias are renowned for producing pups, these pups can be easily removed to produce the next generation. Simply remove the pup from the mother plant, ensuring you leave a stem where the roots will come out. Leave the pup upright for a couple of days until the stem has calloused over. Alternatively, you could rub cinnamon powder on the wound to speed up the process and add a little honey to the same spot to encourage root growth (this is home remedy and a cheaper option). Push the stem all the way down until the soil touches the leaves.
- Leaf: Growing from leaf is a pretty simple process. Pull the leaf away from the main stem. This comes with a warning; make sure you do not break the leaf otherwise it will not work. If you do this correctly, the leaf should have a nice crescent moon shape. Then chose your container and I like to line my leave up at roughly 35-45 degrees, to maximise the space the container and then the most important part. TIME.
- Hybridization/Seed: Is definitely the most complex and slowest method of growing Echeverias. Firstly, to hybridise you must get the 2 Echeverias you want to hybridise to flower at the same time, then take the pollen and cross them both ways (checkout my blog on Hybridization). From the seed pods will for, wait until the pods start to dry out and collect the seeds. Plant the seeds on top of your mix as the seeds are very tiny. Covering them can reduce the germination rate. I like to sow these in Autumn as the temperature is cooling down. It can take anywhere up to 2 years before they can be pricked out and put into a pot. All in all, this is a 4–5 year process and is recommended for the experienced grower, however we all have to start our learning somewhere. So do not be disheartened if it does not work first time. Add or subtract something to the process until you start seeing results.
The most common question asked about Echeveria is how much water should I give it? Well, it’s pretty simple. You should give it a good soaking, making sure the root-ball is completely soaked. The telling sign for an over-watered Echeveria is that the leaves start to become translucent and squishy. I would recommend exposing the root ball to dry it out quicker. However, ensuring you have a well-drained soil mix with a slow release fertilise is optimum to help prevent this. Remember this term: LESS MORE OFTEN. I like to reference this a lot when it comes to watering and fertilising. During Echeverias growing seasons (Spring to Mid-Autumn), I like to use liquid feed (all-purpose Thrive) at quarter strength every second or third watering based on weather. In its dormancy stage I like to use Seasol (this is a root conditioner not a fertiliser). This is also done quarter strength every second watering. This will keep the roots strong and soil in peak condition.
Finally, some varieties of Echeverias can handle minor frost spells, however protecting them would be the safer option. As we all know, Australia can produce some crazy extreme heatwaves during Summer, so covering them with a frost cloth or 30% shade cloth will help take the edge off. Do not forget full sun is best.
Happy Gardening -