Part of the Rosette-forming Crassulaceae Project

Kingdom   Plantae
Phylum    Magnoliophyta
Class     Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons) 
Sub-Class Rosidae
Order     Rosales
Family    Crassulaceae
Genus     Echeveria
Species   Approximately 150
A member of the succulent family Crassulaceae (making them relatives of kalanchoe and jade plant), very similar in appearance to sempervivum (though echeveria tends to have thicker more succulent appearing leaves). The species echeveria elegans is often referred to as hens and chicks. Echeveria leaves range in colour from waxy white to lovely maroon tipped grey-green (but are brighter green during their summer growing season). Many species will have bristly hairs (called cilia) on the leaf margins or covering the entire leaf. These plants produce bell-shaped flowers which are usually quite impressive (given the small size of the plant) and range in colour from yellow and oranges to deep reds. Unlike sempervivum, echeveria rosettes will not die after flowering (polycarpic, versus monocarpic).

The genus was named for Atanasio Echeverria, a Mexican botanical painter. These plants are natives of mountainous semi-desert areas of South and Central America. They grow in compact, mat-forming rosettes. Echeveria will propagate themselves through the formation of offshoots, also called "pups" or "chickens", although most species do not produce nearly as many offshoots as a typical sempervivum. In cultivation, the grower would propagate echeveria using stem cuttings (fondly called "decapitation" because the center of the rosette is cut off and potted), or through leaf cuttings.

These plants are fairly delicate, and are not recommended for an inexperienced gardener. They are tricky primarily in their sensitivity to over-watering (even what seems like insignificant over-watering can be fatal). As well, echeveria is sensitive to being handled, as skin oil can damage leaves.

Unlike sempervivum, echeveria doesn't tolerate cold well. Temperatures below freezing will kill the plant, and with many species a temperature below 41° (fahrenheit) can be fatal. As with most Crassulaceae, echeveria can tolerate moderately poor soil conditions, so long as it is well draining. Bright light is integral to the proper growth of this genus. Plants grown in low-light will grow tall and spindly and will eventually die due to etiolation.

Allow the soil to completely dry out before watering, and be careful to avoid getting water on the leaves (this is of utmost importance!). An overwatered echeveria is a doomed echeveria. In winter, the plants will require less water, as reduced temperature and humidity will induce dormancy. If you are unsure when to water your echeveria, watch the lower most leaves for signs of drying and water them then. Echeveria is FAR more likely to survive under-watering than over-watering.

Ideal temperatures for echeveria is 50° to 55° at night and 68° to 72° during the day (fahrenheit).
As mentioned above, the plant self-propagates itself through offshoots, and given time one plant will form a dense mat of many. In cultivation, however, it is more common for the grower to use stem or leaf cutting methods. Leaf cuttings are the safest, as you leave the majority of the original plant intact -- if the propagation attempt fails you have not seriously altered the appearance of the mother plant.

Leaf cutting entails cutting a young leaf from near the center of the rosette. Leave the leaf out in the open air for a few hours to allow the wound to callous over. Dip the leaf into rooting hormone (such as RootOne, which can be purchased almost anywhere you buy plants) and place the leaf (cut-side down) into slightly moist succulent mix potting soil (even better is very lightly moist sand). Soon, a new rosette will grow from the base of the leaf. As soon as enough roots are present to repot, remove the original leaf cutting and repot the rosette.

No pruning is necessary, although echeveria will benefit from a beheading (stem cutting) every 2-3 years. Be sure to keep the plant dry, and remove any leaves which have died. This will help to avoid rot and bugs. Avoid touching the healthy leaves of the plant, as your body oils will leave marks.

  • To save a plant which has begin to grow tall due to a lack of light (etiolation), cut the elongated stem as close to the rosette as possible. Allow the cut to callous by leaving it in the open air for a few hours. Dip the cut into a rooting hormone (such as RootOne, which can be purchased almost anywhere you buy plants) and place into slightly moist succulent mix potting soil (even better is very lightly moist sand). Soon this will form it's own roots and grow as normal.
  • Also see the tips section in hens and chicks
In the event of an unhealthy plant, the first thing to examine is your watering habits. The most common problem is root rot due to overwatering. If the soil is too wet, don't hope it will safely dry out so long as you don't water it for a while. Replace the soil immediately, but be very careful in handling your echeveria.

One of the most common pests to houseplants is the mealybug, and your echeveria may fall prey to this pest. However, due to the tightly packed leaves, more often than not the mealybugs will attack the roots. This makes them far less visible than mealybugs which attack leaf-stem junctions. The symptoms of a root mealybug infestation is slowed or stopped growth (though in winter this is a normal sign of dormancy). If this occurs without apparent cause, remove the plant from the pot and examine the roots. A white cottony substance on the roots and in the soil is a sure sign of mealybug infestation. Remove all soil and wash the roots gently. Remove any roots which appear damaged with a sharp sterile knife or scissors. Let them dry very throroughly before replanting.

In addition to mealybugs, a common pest to echeveria is the vine wevil, particularly when potted. Prevention is difficult and systemic pesticides are too likely to hurt your echeveria. Behead the sucker and start again in fresh soil.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.