How long do succulents live?

How long do succulents live?

I often wonder how long a succulent will live for when I buy it. I also have this thought when I have nurtured a succulent for a long period of time and then it dies. Do the different species and varieties live for different periods of time?  I think this is quite a hard question to answer for any particular succulent.  How long do succulents live, do they have a specific lifespan?

Nature versus Nuture
Firstly, a plant’s lifespan in nature will be different from a cultivated plant. Secondly, a plant’s lifespan will vary depending on the conditions it lives through/in ie in the ground or in a pot, the right amount of water, sun, temperature, soil conditions etc.

What is the definition of a lifespan?
Some succulents flower and then die but then then produce offsets/pups … are the offsets considered the same life span, or a new one? Some succulents die back and then re grow, with a ‘new’ plant growing from the old one… is this part of the same life span? I suppose that is something you can decide for yourself. I personally believe that if the succulent dies, even if it has produced a baby, that would be the end of its lifespan.  Of course it is easier to cope with the death of your succulent if you have a few babies to be going on with.

Echeveria Agavoides pups

Echeveria Agavoides Molded Wax offsets

There is very little information on the internet about the lifespans of succulents in general. One way of finding out how long a particular succulent may live is to ask the question about the succulent you are interested in on social media groups such as Facebook and/or Reddit or on Quora. It is not very scientific but will give you some idea.  The more specialised a succulent is, the less likely it is to live a long life.  I have found that the hardier and more common succulent plants do have some information and are the ones with notable lifespans.

Agave/Century Plant
The agave or century plant has a lifespan around 25 years, sometimes up to 30.  It is a Monocarpic succulent. This means that when it produces its flower stalk  the main plant will then die after producing many baby offsets.

Century Plant Agave Attenuata Succulent and Cacti


Crassula Ovata – Jade Plant 
The Crassula Ovata succulent often has a starring role in my blog posts and this post is one of them.  I have a Jade Plant which has been growing in my garden for over 22 years and is still growing strong.  I have also found an article on the internet that stated a jade plant had survived 30 years.

crassula aborescens succulent

This Crassula is over 20 years old

Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

This Jade Plants is currently 22 years old.

Echeveria
It is hard to find any information regarding the lifespan of the Echeveria Genus. As mentioned previously it depends on how a lifespan is determined. Many of the Echeveria species produce offsets/babies/pups continuously throughout their growing season – each year. So if you buy an Echeveria that does produce offsets (most – ‘not all’ produce offsets) unless something goes horribly wrong, you will always have that plant in some form.  Even if an Echeveria gets root rot and the parent plant dies, most offsets usually survive. The Echeveria Elegans below is approximately 3 years old and keeps producing offsets which then become part of the plant. The plant is strong and healthy and has coped in all weather, a cold wet winter and a very hot summer.  I am assuming it will live on for a few years to come.

Echeveria Elegans

Echeveria Elegans

Sempervivum
Likewise with the Sempervivum genus it is also hard to find any information with regard to the lifespan.  As with the Echeveria, Sempervivums produce offsets but more prolifically.  So once purchased your supply of this succulent would also live on for years to come.  Not all Semperivum produce offsets either.  So keep this in mind when you are purchasing the succulent if you have longevity in mind.

Sempervivum

Aloe
The aloe vera succulent must be about 3-4 years old before the inner gel of the leaves can be used for skin treatments.  The gel can then be used until the plant is 12 years old.  So this gives us an indication of how long the Aloe Vera succulent lives for. Aloe succulents also produces offsets, so as per the Echeveria and Sempervivum genus you should always have an Aloe producing offsets once purchased.

Using propagation and offsets for longevity
As well as using succulent offsets to continue your love of that particular succulent you can also propagate your succulents very easily by growing a new plant from a leaf or beheading a plant or cutting off a stem and propagating a new plant.  That is one of the wondrous facts about succulents, they are so easily propagated.  No matter the lifespan the majority of succulents are easily propagated so that, should you wish to, you can always have more succulents living and giving you pleasure in your garden. (see post: How to Propagate Succulents.)

Last year I visited a nursery that had been growing succulents for 20 years.  The gardens surrounding the nursery had been growing for about the same time.  Surviving on natural rainfall.

Prickly Pear Cacti

Century Plant

20 year old cacti

Cracker Barrell Cactus

 

large Succulent plant crassula aborescens succulent
Where do succulents originate and why it is good to know?

Where do succulents originate and why it is good to know?

People often use ‘native’ plants in their garden as they are native to their Country and grow in the conditions typical of their area.  So it makes sense to know the conditions that succulents grow in, in their native countries as this can help understand the needs of that particular succulent. Succulents have adapted and survived in many other countries but they will grow better if they are grown in conditions similar to the ones of their country of origin. Knowing where a particular succulent plant originates provides two significant insights into its needs: its growing season and its range of acceptable temperatures.

Succulents, Nature, Flora, Alpines

Most of the commonly grown succulents originate from areas that receive very sporadic rainfall. Contrary to popular belief, succulents do not only originate from deserts. Few plants actually survive in a true desert (with less than 25cm of annual rain). Most grow in semi-deserts which have poor soil (not just pure sand), sparse vegetation and rocky outcrops. Succulents can survive in varying conditions from humid dark jungles to the desert with scorching days and freezing nights.

Succulents are found primarily in Mexico, South America, Central America, East Africa, Arabia, Madagascar, India, South Africa and parts of Europe.

Here are a few examples:

Echeveria / Graptopetulum / Sedum  / Agave
Of the 154 species of Echeveria around 130 of them originate from Mexico. Agave is native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico as are Sedum and Graptopetulum.

Most Mexican succulents that grow at altitudes of 1200 m (4000 feet) will survive some sub freezing weather, however the succulents that originate from coastal Mexico can rarely tolerate frost.  So make sure that you know which part of Mexico they originate from.

These are just a few of of the astonishingly beautiful plants I saw this weekend while attending the 4th annual Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens in Castroville. With many reservoirs in C…

Mexican winters are mild, temperatures average around the 20 -24 Celcius (high 68 to 74° Fahrenheit) and in summer the average temperature is around 28 degrees Celsius (83° Fahrenheit).

This does not mean if your succulent comes from Mexico you have to re-create the exact conditions so that the succulent survives.  Succulents are very adaptable and will adapt to the climate they are living in. It just means their natural habitat will give you an idea of the conditions that they will do well in.

Image result for agave in native habitat

If your succulent hails from Mexico then it will like lots of sunshine,will probably be quite hardy, not require a lot of water and can grow in a rockery.

On the other side of the coin…..

Sempervivum / Sedums
Sempervivum – also known as house leeks and hen and chicks, survive from  Morocco to Iran, through the mountains of Iberia, the Alps, Carpathians, Balkan mountains, Turkey and the Armenian mountains. Their ability to store water in their thick leaves allows them to live on sunny rocks and stony places in the mountain, sub- alpine and alpine belts.

Their natural habitats are typically 3000 – 8000 ft above sea level in mountainous regions of central and southern Europe and the Mediterranean islands.  They would be used to summer rain and humidity and not cope so well in dry heat with intense sun, they are more used to hazy sun.

Sempervivum growing in their natural habitat in Italian Alps

Image result for kalanchoe in natural habitat Image result for kalanchoe in natural habitat

Kalanchoe growing in their natural habitat

How can I find out where my succulent originates?
There are 1000’s of succulents species/varieties, sometimes its hard enough to identify the plant. There are ways that you can find out the identification of your succulent first. (see post: Where can I identify my Succulents?)  or (An easy way to identify your succulent variety!)

Then to find out where the succulent originates I use a great website called http://www.worldofsucculents.com 

It has a tab called ‘Succulentopedia’.  You can then browse by Succulent Scientific Name /Common Name /Genus/ Family or Origin.  You can then search by the succulent Genus – ie Echeveria and it will tell you the origins or that Genus or you can search by the particular scientific name of the succulent.

You can find a lot more than just the origin of succulents on this site.  There are also ‘how to care guides’ and some amazing photos too.

If you find a particular succulent that survives and thrives in your garden, find out the origin of the species and see what other succulents are from that area and they should also do well.