How fast do succulents grow?

How fast do succulents grow?

The human race is a very impatient species. Even more so nowadays with Gen Z wanting everything yesterday.  I can understand that when it comes to succulents, I cannot wait till my baby succulents grow and thrive, in the back of my mind though I hear a voice saying ‘succulents are slow growers’……. but are they?

As always, with succulents – due to the vast quantity of species and varieties – the answer is yes and no.

What is the definition of a fast growing plant?
It  depends on your individual interpretation of what is slow or fast!  To me growing overnight is fast growing! The only plants that literally grow overnight, that I remember from science class, are water cress and mung beans. Some varieties within a species will grow faster than other varieties within the same species. To me a fast growing plant is one that you can see a difference in size within a few months.

Each species will have some varieties that are faster growers than other varieties in the same species.  In general though I believe that most species are either fast, moderate or slow growing.

Which conditions increase the growth rate?
There are a two conditions that will effect the growth rate of a succulent.

Growing Season A succulent will grow faster during its growing season than it will in its dormant season.  Some succulents do not grow at all in their dormant season and some will grow; but a lot slower. (see post: When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons? )  So if you purchase/receive a succulent in its dormant season do not be worried if it sits there doing (almost) nothing.

Environment How fast a succulent grows will also depend on environmental conditions. Sunlight, temperature, soil and moisture can all affect the growth rate of a succulent. If the plant has its ideal amount of light, temperature and moisture and grown in the right soil medium it will grow at is optimum rate.

Which succulents are fast growing?
Firstly let me say what I consider to be fast growing. If I can see a succulent has increased in its overall size by about 25% within a 4-6 month period I would consider it to be fast growing.  I take a photo of a succulent the first day it arrives, including its name. If you are like me and check your succulents every day you would not notice their growth. Looking back at the original photo can show you how much they have grown in that period.

The following succulents are species that I grow in my garden and have witnessed their growth first hand.

Aeonium Aboreum
The Aeonium Aboreum below was planted in the middle of its growing season and had formed a thick mass after only 4 months. It would have been a totally different story if I had planted them in the summer when this species of succulent is dormant.  (see post: Indestructable…..Aeonium Aboreum ) Don’t forget succulents have a dormant season as well – so make sure you know when this is.

Aeonium Aboreum-July16

November 2016

November 2016

Echeveria
Most Echeveria are fast growing.  As long as you can see new leaves forming in the centre of the Echeveria then they are liking their environment and growing as fast as they can.  Most of my Echeveria varieties grow for about 9 months of the year due to our short winters.

sunburnt echeveria agavoides

December 2016

Echeveria Agavoides

April 2017 – 4 months later

Flowering Echeveria

June 2017

Echeveria Agavoides

Echeveria Elegans Succulent

June 2016

Echeveria Elegans

May 2017

June 2017

Echeveria Elegans

Graptoveria
Graptoveria are a very close relative to the Echeveria species as they are a hybrid of an Echeveria and Graptopetulum (see post: What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?)  Therefore they also are generally a fast growing species.

Graptoveria Fred Ives

September 2016

Graptoveria Fred Ives

May 2017

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Crassula
The Crassula species is also a fast growing plant.  Especially Crassula Ovata which is also a very hard variety.

Crassula Ovata Ribbon Plant Crassula Ovata grown in shade Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

Crassula Ovata

Research on the world wide web indicates that the following succulents are of the fast growing variety.

Coppertone sedum
Graptopetalum paraguayense
Haworthis obtusa
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi – Lavender Sallops
Sedum rubrotinctum – Jelly Bean Plant
Sempervivum Guiseppe
Crassula perforata – String of Buttons
Agave desmettiana

Which succulents are slow growing?
There are a few slow growing succulents.

Euphorbia Millie – Crown of Thorns
Euphorbia Milli is quite a slow growing succulent.  The one below suddenly lost all its leaves and flowers so I moved it to a different position and it grew again – but very slowly.  It took 8 months just to grow its leaves back but still is not any taller.

Euphorbia

November 2016

Euphorbia Millie Succuelnt

July 2017

Giant Barrell Cactus
There are some succulents that literally grow so slowly you wonder if they are growing at all.  The Giant Cactus Barrell (below) is one of these.  However, they can live for approximately 100 years.

20 year old cacti

Lithops
Lithops are very slow growing but like the Giant Barrell Cactus they live a long time.

Lithops the living rocks Lithops are awesome #leafandclay #succulents cc: @ishiiplantnursery www.leafandclay.co

How long does it take to grow succulents from a leaf?
Once again depending on conditions a leaf can sprout roots within a week and start to sprout within a 3 week period.  To grow to a new plant – depending on the species and variety you can have a new succulent baby within a 3 -4 month period. This is a huge generalisation but has been my experience with a lot of leaf propagation I have tried.

How to Root a Succulent Leaf - Collect a succulent leaf cutting in the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. Choose a healthy plant with no signs of damage or disease...

In summary, I would say, most of the popular and more common succulents that are available in Australia are moderate to fast growing.  Taking into consideration the general growing conditions of succulents;  the weather in most parts of Australia are ideal and even with their dormant season thrown into the mix you will still see a huge difference after one year of growth. Below is a photo of my front succulent garden bed with just a 9 month growing period.

Succulent Garden - Australia

October 2016

Australian Succulent Garden

July 2017

 

 

 

When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons?

When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons?

Most plants have a growing season which is generally spring and summer and are then dormant during winter. The dormant months give the plant time to rest and gather strength for the growing season.  

Why do I need to know when a succulents growing season is?
It is handy to know when a growing season is so that if your succulent is ‘not’ growing and looking a bit different then you know it is in its dormant season. (I am mainly referring to Aeoniums here! – see below) The growing season can give you an idea of when you should expect your succulent to produce new growth. If you like to fertilise your succulents, the beginning of the growing season is the time to do so. If you are transplanting it is best to do so at the right time of year.  Also, watering requirements may be different during the growing season compared to the dormant season.

However, saying that, some succulents actually seem to grow all year round!

What if my succulent grows during the expected dormant season?
Plants do not have an ‘internal clock’ but rather grow due to their environment. They determine when the appropriate time to grow or be dormant is. A vast majority of succulents are ‘opportunistic growers’, even if they are classified as “winter or summer growers” it really depends on the local climate and growing conditions. Opportunistic growers will grow any time of the year that the conditions are right. Mostly this depends on temperature. If the succulent has a summer growing season and temperatures stay elevated through autumn then the succulent will continue to grow.  It will only slow its growth when the temperatures start to drop.  Even when a succulent is in its dormant season it may still grow; just at a slower rate.

It is impossible to list when all succulents have their growing or dormant season.  A rule of thumb is to determine where their origins are.

Autumn-Winter Growing/Summer Dormant
Succulents from a Mediterranean climate ie The Canary Islands receive the majority or all of their water during the winter. Therefore most of these plants are dormant in the summer. Some autumn/winter growers are: most Aeoniums, a few Euphorbias, Haworthia and Kalanchoe.

Summer Growing/Winter Dormant
Succulents from the central American region, South Africa and Madagascar are summer growers and dormant in winter.  Such as Echeveria, Crassula, some Euphorbia. Graptoveria, Graptopetulam, Pachyveria and Sempervivum to name a few.

What are watering requirements during the dormant season?
Generally when a succulent is in its dormant season it is best to water sparingly.  However, if you are like me, and have your succulents growing in the ground make sure that they are planted in a rockery, on a slope or if on flat ground; grow them in a mound so that rain will drain away quickly.

Aeonium
The Aeonium species is one particular succulent that has its growing season in the winter and is dormant in the summer. When dormant the rosettes close up very tightly so it looks different in the summer compared to winter. (see below).  Most Aeonium also flower during the winter months as well.​

Dormant Aeonium Aboreum

dormant Aeonium rosette

Aeonium Aboreum

growing season – winter

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent Cacti

the rosette is large and open-winter

Agave
Agave’s have their main growing season during the summer months.  It is reported that they do require some moisture during the summer months, however, I do not water any of my Agave Attenuata during the summer, they survive on summer rainfall only. Agave do have a dormant season in the winter if you live in the colder parts of the world.  In Australia, however, they may still grow at a reduced rate depending on how cold the winter is.

Agave Attenuata Fire Wise Succulent

Echeveria
Most echeveria have their growing season during summer but for some varieties it is during spring. However, if winter and autumn months are fairly mild they will continue to grow slowly during their dormant period.

Echeveria pups Flowering Echeveria

This echeveria agavoides has been merrily growing (and flowering) through autumn to the beginning of winter.

Aloes
Some Aloes have their growing season in the winter and some are in the summer. It is on a species by species basis. Most, however, have their growing season in summer and flower in the winter.

Indestructable…..Aeonium Aboreum

Indestructable…..Aeonium Aboreum

Another of my favourite Succulents for planting in the garden is the Aeonium.  It is another ‘true’ Succulent, in that it can survive on annual rainfall.  It also self-propagates.  If a stem gets knocked or gets too heavy and snaps off.  The snapped stem sprouts new roots and starts a new plant.

The name Aeonium comes from the Ancient Greek ‘aionos’ meaning Immortal. The plant originates from the Canary Islands and prefers a Mediterranean climate.  Hence why it does so well in the Adelaide Mediterranean climate.

Watering
I am100% sure that there is no need to water these Succulents whatsoever, they will definitely survive with annual rainfall quite easily.  I took out Agapanthas in June because they were taking over my path and put in some Aeonium. They received a huge deluge of water during the past Winter and this did not seem to deter them from growing well either.

Planting
I found some Aeonium on some Council land about a 10 minute walk from my house.  It also grows on the side of the road not far from where I live.   So I took a few sprigs from these plants and took them home and stuck the stem in the soil about 10 centimetres deep.  Six months later I have a wall of Aeonium.  When it gets too large or unshapely I snap a bit off and put in a bit further along the area I am trying to fill in.

20160604_150547

June 2016 I planted the cuttings in the ground

img_1220

Only 6 months later I have a small hedge

img_1221

They have grown in morning sun/afternoon shade

Problems
Young leaves on the plant are a tasty morsel for snails.  They tend to leave the bigger mature leaves alone. This is the only problem that I have found with this plant.  It can look unsightly,  I usually leave the eaten leaves there in the hope that when the snails come back they will continue where they left off instead of munching a new leaf but I think I am just fantasising as I doubt that happens.

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent problem

Snail damage is quite common

aeonium aboreum succulent problems

Snails mainly target the small new plants

Sun/Shade and Flowering
The Aeonium grows very well in sun or shade.  The growing season is in the Winter.  Mature plants will flower.  If there is only one stem the plant will die after flowering but if it has multiple stems it will survive.  I am not a fan of the flower myself and cut it off in the hope it helps the plant stem to survive.

Image result for aeonium flowers

There are a quite few varieties of the Aeonium.  I love the dark purple (almost black) variety called Aeoniom Aboreum Swortkop meaning ‘black head’ I think.

img_1217

Aeonium Aboreum luteovariegatum

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent Cactus

Aeonium Aboreum Atropurpureum

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent Cacti

Aeonium Aboreum Swortkop

I have also planted some Aeonium in my front garden which also seem to be doing well, despite the snails snacking on them at their leisure. They have full afternoon sun.

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent

Aeonium growing in my front garden

Aeonium Aborem Succulent Cacti

Swartkop growing well in my front garden.

They are also one of my favourite succulents to photograph.  They never seem to stop producing a new rosette of leaves in the middle of the leaf and have great symmetry and colours.

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent img_0591 Aeonium Aboreum Succulent Cacti

Update 3.1.17
I have discovered some tiny brown lines on most of the rosettes of my Aeoniums.  (see below) I do not think this is a problem just something that happens in the Summer. Another Aeonium lover friend of mine has reported the same.

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent Problems

Update 28.2.17

Aeoniums tend to hibernate in the Summer unlike other succulents.  They are not the prettiest of succulents in this Season. Very twiggy looking.  This does not mean they are dying just conserving energy for their growing season in the Winter.

Aeonium Aboreum

The rosette is more compact in the Summer

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent

They are certainly not as stunning in the Summer