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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.