My Aeoniums are tall, lanky and straggily – what should I do?

My Aeoniums are tall, lanky and straggily – what should I do?

Aeonium Aboreum are a great succulent.  They are easy to grow, propagate extremely easily, can survive on just rainfall and ‘can’ look fantastic.

I say ‘can’ because they can also grow tall and lanky and ‘not’ look so fantastic.

Leggy Aeonium Aboreum

So what can you do if your Aeonium Aboreum gets long and lanky and starts to look less than impressive?  As this succulent is so versatile there is a very simple solution to the problem.

Basically, you can just prune the stems. You can either: Prune the stems back and then pull out the rest of the plant and replant the stem in the ground.
See below.

Aeonium Aboreum schwartkof Aeonium pruned

Or alternatively: you can prune the stems back to a lower level.  It’s like giving them a hair cut.  You can make them as tall or low as you like.  The stem will sprout new buds within a few weeks. This will make them bushier and less lanky as each stem will produce more than one new bud. See below.

Aeonium - offsets after pruning Aeonium Aboreum Fire Wise Succulent

The best time to do this is late Autumn or Winter which is when the Aeonium succulent has its growing season.  If you did prune and replant them during Spring or Summer they would not die but it would take a little longer for the plants to start growing again.

If you decide on the second option and feel bad about throwing away the Aeonium stems.  An alternative to putting them in the green waste is to pot them up.  Take all the stems and plant them next to each other in a large pot.  Instantly making an impressive pot for your patio area and making use of the stems.

 Aeonium Aboreum pot

How long does it take for Aeoniums to get leggy?
It took my Aeoniums about one year to grow into long lanky, fairly unattractive succulents.  If I  had pruned them back around the 6 month mark (middle photo) they would have been bushier and less lanky.

Initial Planting

6 months growth

Leggy Aeonium Aboreum

Approximately 1 year later

If you think this is a lot of work on a fairly regular basis you are probably right.  I have found that this particular Aeonium is more likely to grow tall and spindly.  There are other Aeoniums that are less likely to grow as fast and tall.  I have a second Aeonium Aboreum  (see below) species that has much larger rosettes, grows lower to the ground and flowers less.  Therefore, is a lot less work and as it flowers less often is less likely for the stems to die back.  Aeonium’s are monocarpic.  This means that after the parent plant flowers it dies.  (see post: Which succulents die after flowering?)

Aeonium Aboreum

Other Aeoniums do not seem to grow as fast and get as lanky as the Aboruem.  Such as the Aeonium Swortkof, Variagated and Pinwheel.  See below.

Aeoniun Swartkof Aeonium Pinwheel Aeonium Variagated

Some might say that my Aeoniums have grown tall and lanky due to a lack of full sun.  Yes this can be a factor I do have some growing in full sun and they are still quite lanky.  I believe it is just the species of Aeonium.

 

 

Which succulents produce the most offsets/babies/pups?

Which succulents produce the most offsets/babies/pups?

If you love succulents you will always want more.  If you love succulents you will know that it is not hard to propagate and grow more of the succulents you have.  90% of succulents will produce offsets/babies/pups at some point in their lifespan.  Some succulents will start replicating themselves at a very young age whereas others will not until the parent plant is about to die.
Graptoveria offsets

Graptoveria multiplying in my garden

One of the many amazing things you can say about succulents is that they are the plants that keep on giving. Yes of course there are other plant species that produce new shoots and offsets but as a type of plant; succulents produce offsets in abundance.  Once they are growing in their ‘happy place’ or perfect location there is no stopping them.

What methods can i use to propagate succulents?
There are a few different ways that succulents multiply.  Many will naturally produce offsets which grow below and next to the parent plant. Some can be propagated by gently pulling off a leaf – which will grow into a new plant and others will produce new plants simply by pruning back the plant.  Of course you can always propagate from seed but you can do that with any plant and even though it is very satisfying to do so it takes a very long time.
Aeonium - offsets after pruning

Not long after pruning Aeoniums start producing new offsets

Which succulents produce offsets as apposed to propagating from leaves?
The succulents that are the most prolific at producing offsets are some of the most popular.  Echeveria, Aloes, Pachyphytum, Pachyveria, Graptopetalum, Graptoveria and Sempervivum genus’, just to name a few, start producing offsets very early in their lifespan.  It is not unusual to buy your first plant from a nursery or store that has more than one offset already growing.  However, please note that succulents that produce offsets can still be propagated from leaves!!S

Echeveria Elegans

Echeveria Elegans

Echevreia Offsets

Echeveria Hercules

Echeveria Ripple Offsets

Echeveria Princess Anne

What do I do when my succulent starts producing babies?
You can do absolutely nothing when your succulent starts growing a new plant from a fallen leaf or producing an offset.  Nature will run its course and a new plant will grow from the leaf and/or plant.  You can carry on in the knowledge that sometime in the future (maybe about 3-4 months)  you will have a twin of the succulent you purchased.

Sempervivum propagation

The tiny balls are Sempervivum offset starting to grow

Sempervivum grown in part shade

About 5 months later!

Do succulents that produce offsets also propagate from leaves?
It is important to note that just because a succulent produces offsets it does not mean that you cannot propagate from leaves as well.  Satisfation wise, an offset gives you a new plant alot faster than growing it from leaf propagation.  Leaf propagation can take up to 12 weeks just to form a tiny plant on the end of the leaf.
Sempervivum Offsets
When can you transplant an offset?
You can transplant an offset as soon as it has developed its own tiny roots.  I would even say you could transplant it before the roots have formed.  However, success rates will be higher if you wait for the roots to form.  Depending on whether you are in a hurry or not, the longer you leave the offset to develop where it is the stronger the new plant will be.  Another consideration is if your offsets are numerous they may all be squashed into the pot and this can hamper growth.  If this is the case it would be more beneficial to remove a few of the offsets to make room for more to grow.  (see examples below).
Sempervivum pups Sempervivum offsets crowding a pot Sempervivum arachnoideum
 Succulents can look amazing mass planted in your garden.  See post : Landscaping with succulents So do not be afraid to use one of the offsets to plant in your garden and start an area dedicatd to a mass planting of succulents.  Most succulents that grow numerous offsets are fairly small but can still look amazing in a mass planting.
Echeveria Elegans Aeonium Aboreum Fire Wise Succulent Sempervivum
My succulent is sun burnt – what should I do?

My succulent is sun burnt – what should I do?

Surprisingly, it does not take much for a succulent to get sun burnt!  There are a few reasons why and how your succulent could/would get sun burnt and there are a few things you can do if it does.

It was not that hot and my succulent still got sun burnt!
If you move a succulent into a sunny position from its usual shadier spot there is a very high chance that the leaves will get sun burnt.  Of course there are variables to consider.  Summer sun is a lot stronger than winter sun, so should you move your succulent to a sunnier position in the winter chances are they will enjoy the sun and be fine but should you move your succulent to a sunnier position in late spring or summer the end result could be sun burn.  It really depends on the intensity of the sun.

Aeonium Pinwheel succulent with sun burnt leaves

Aeonium Pinwheel – sun burnt leaves.

My brand new succulent got sun burnt as soon as I put it in the sun!
Keep in mind that succulents grown in nurseries are grown under shade cloth.  This is how all succulents are propagated and grown.  Even a baby succulent offshoot/pup grows in the shade of the parent plant until it is old/strong enough to survive the strong rays of the sun.  So if you purchase a new succulent and put the plant in the sun there is 90% chance that the leaves will get sun burnt.  Every succulent that I buy I put straight into the sun knowing this will happen, but I know that in the end the succulent will be stronger and used to growing in the sun (assuming it a succulent species that likes sun).  It can actually take a few months for the succulent to acclimatise and during this time can look a bit worse for wear but I believe it is worth it.

sun burnt succulent leaves sun burnt echeveria imbricata Sedum succulent with sunburn

Above are a few of my succulents that were sun burnt this summer.

If you do not want your succulent to get sun burnt but ultimately would like your succulent to grow in a full sun position you need to start the plant off in a semi-shaded position and gradually allow the plant to receive more sun (time) as it matures.

My succulent suddenly has sun burnt leaves and I did not move it into the sun?!?!
If you are growing your succulent in a half shade/half sun position and one day (during summer) you find the leaves have sun burn this would probably because it was a very hot day (ie 40c/104F) and the intensity of the sun was stronger than the succulent was used to,  The heat of the sun on these hot summer days will easily burn your succulent’s leaves.

Echevveria with sun burnt leaves

What can I do about my sun burnt succulent?

Leave the burnt leaves on the plant.
There are a few things that you can do about your sun burnt leaves. Sun burnt leaves do not look at all attractive and the first thing you will want to do is to get rid of them.  However, if you are experiencing a heatwave or know there is more hot weather on the way and you are unable to move your succulent to a shadier position (as it may be planted in the ground!) then it is best to leave the sun burnt leaves on the plant.  They will protect/shade the lower leaves on the plant below that did not get sun burnt.

Cut the burnt leaves off the plant.
Yes you can carefully snip out the sun burnt leaves to make the succulent look nice again, this will not be detrimental to the plant.  Usually the leaves that get sun burnt are the outer leaves so they should be fairly easy to access.

If you leave your sun burnt leaves on the plant they will eventually complete their natural cycle and go brown, dry up and drop off the plant in due course.

Will my sun burnt succulent die?
No it will not!  Usually only a few leaves will burn.  The new leaves forming in the centre of the succulent actually look amazingly healthy in comparison.  Conversely, you would expect the new (inner) leaves to be burnt and the older leaves (to the outer edge of the plant) to survive.  This is not the case, the succulent is preparing its new growth for the hotter more intense sun.  The older leaves have not been prepared for these conditions and have not been grown to cope with the sun’s intensity – this is why they burn.

What can I do to prevent sun burn?
You can protect your succulents from sun burn by moving them into the shade when it is a hot day out of the intense heat from the sun.  So either move your pots into the shade for the duration of the heatwave or if they are planted in the garden cover them with some shade cloth.  This will deflect some of the intensity of the sun.

 

Why have the stems on my succulents shrivelled?

Why have the stems on my succulents shrivelled?

The stems of a few of my succulents started looking dry and then they started to look shrivelled and brown.  I was quite concerned.  How would the succulent live if it could not get water from its roots?  I did notice that there were some aerial roots above the shrivelled stem which would be the succulents way of trying to survive the lack of water it was receiving from its original roots in the soil.

shrivelled stem on succulent

Why did the stems shrivel?
This is ‘not‘ root rot or in this case ‘ stem rot’.  Root rot on a succulent is black! and there is no sign of dried out stems when a succulent has root rot.  This is due to the succulent having too much heat and not enough water for it to cope. Normally it would be the amount of heat – ie high temperatures.  Succulents like sun with lots of air flow but some do not cope with high temperatures. ie 38-40C/100-104F. It may cope with a few days of high temperatures with the right amount of water but ongoing high temperatures with no water and the succulent’s survival tactics will kick in. 

Will my succulent survive?
As in the case below, the stems have all shrivelled and the separated stems have put out new aerial roots in attempt to survive the heat.  A sure sign it is willing to survive!

Graptoveria growing in ground

A healthy succulent when first planted!

Graptoveria dying

Suffering from over heating and lack of water!

What can I do to save my succulent?
Firstly, do not panic!  The reason we all love succulents is because they are amazing survivors. Cut the stems above the shrivelled part and replant into a new pot or a different spot in the garden. Move the pot/plant  to a position with a bit more shade.  Even if the stems do not have any tiny white aerial roots the plant will still grow some new roots in the soil and live on.  Wait about 1 week before you water the new cuttings.

Some succulents do require a little more water than others.  However, moving the succulent to a shadier position will most likely cure the problem.  If you move the plant to a shadier position AND increase the water then you may then over water which will then cause root rot. So try the shadier position without adjusting the water first.  If the stems shrivel again (in due course) then you should water more regularly.  Some succulents do require more regular watering than others.

So why have the stems of your succulents shrivelled? Basically; to let you know that they are not happy and to do something about it!

 

 

How do I treat pests on succulents & cacti?

How do I treat pests on succulents & cacti?

An inevitable part of every gardener’s life is dealing with pests. Those of us enamoured with succulents are more fortunate than most – we have fewer bugs trying to munch our plants. Still, audacious insects attempt it occasionally, so you should be prepared to defend yourself and your plants.

Quarantine

The first (and most important) step to treating any pest is to quarantine affected plants. Infestations will usually take several days to a week to treat, and you need to ensure that the pest isn’t able to spread to unaffected plants.

A successful quarantine relies on you catching the pest early. I probably don’t need to tell you to do regular inspections because you’re already looking at your plants every day. If you’re not, for some strange reason, make an effort to look carefully at every plant in your collection at least once a week. Check under leaves and in nooks and crannies. Pests like dark, damp places.

If you find something suspect, quarantine immediately. Take the plant into another room, if possible, or at least 2 meters away from the others. Then, begin treatment.

Mealybugs

mealy bugs

Photo from Garden.org

Perhaps the most common succulent pest and, fortunately, one of the easiest to treat. They are easy to identify too: specks of white cottony material about 1-2 mm in length. They tend to group in crevices; often where the leaf meets the stem.

You can treat these by washing them off with a particularly powerful stream of water. Some succulents drop leaves at the slightest touch, however, so this approach won’t work for them.

Instead, try spraying a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution on the affected areas. It won’t harm your plant. A neem oil solution is also very effective in treating mealybugs.

There is a much more detailed explanation of mealybugs, their prevention and their treatment, over at Sublime Succulents if you want to check it out!

Scale

scale

Photo courtesy of Flickr

While most pests are soft-bodied insects like mealybugs or aphids, scale is a hard-bodied bug. What this means for you is that treatment is more difficult.

They usually appear as brown to black colored bumps that are oval in shape. Scale hugs the plant very tightly, and won’t be removed by simple brushing or water. You can try the alcohol solution detailed above, but chances are it will take several treatments to get some results.

While I generally try to avoid using insecticides because of the collateral damage it can cause to beneficial insects, a scale infestation means you have to get serious. Try an insecticidal soap or neem oil solution. Don’t apply them during the day, or the oils that linger on your plant could cause it to burn.

Fungus Gnats

Picture by Reddit user /u/bornslippy_nuxx

Also called sciarid flies, these pests look (and act) a lot like fruit flies. Also like fruit flies, they’re not very harmful to your plants – they’re just annoying.

These gnats pop up when your soil stays wet for too long. They lay eggs in the dirt, then the larva munches on dead and decaying matter. Those baby fungus gnat require moisture to survive, so they’ll go away if you adjust watering frequency accordingly.

 

I’ve got rid of them several times by simply inflicting a drought – I delay watering until I don’t see the flies anymore. The adults only live for 10 days or so, and the eggs and larvae wither if they’re not moist. A more immediate solution is to mix some hydrogen peroxide into your water the next time – that’ll get them too.

To prevent them from appearing at all, make sure you only water when the soil is totally dry – then wait another day or two. Top-dressing like a layer of gravel on top of your soil can also help dissuade the flies from making your plant their home.

Remember, Prevention is the Best Treatment

Most of these pests can be avoided by simply having good garden hygiene. Don’t let your plants or their soil stay wet for too long. Make sure there is plenty of airflow of dry air. Prune occasionally, and remove dead plant matter from pots.

A pest invasion isn’t a reason for panic. By catching it early you can mitigate the damage done. Many infestations will require treatment to be repeated every few days until the pest goes away.

Even if a plant is severely affected – it’s ok! These are succulents we’re talking about. Just propagate it.

About the Author

Patrick Grubbs runs the website Sublime Succulents – a site dedicated to saving succy lives through education. When he’s not writing tutorials about pest control, he’s figuring out how to fit more plants on his windowsills.