I was shocked and a bit devastated when I found out that some succulents die after flowering. It’s not something you should blurt out to a novice succulent lover! But do not worry, of the thousands of different succulents there are only a very small number that are ‘monocarpic’.
Monocarpic plants flower, set seed and then die. Other words with the same meaning are hapaxanth and semelparous. However monocarpic is the term that is used to describe the succulent process. Probably because it is easier to say!
Monocarpic plants can be divided into annuals, biennials and perennials. Annuals flower and set seed in one year, biennials two seasons and perennials sometimes take many years to flower.
So the question is: how long does a succulent live before it flowers?? The good new is: Succulents that are monocarpic can still live a long life as they are perennials. Below are the succulents that I am aware are monocarpic.
Agave – Attenuata/Americana (Century Plant)
The above monocarpic Agave’s can take 10 -25 years before the parent plant flowers. When it is ready the plant uses all its energy to produce a thick stem which grows from the centre of the rosette in a relatively short period of time – sometimes less than a week. The stem can grow up to 2.5 metres (8 feet) high. The Americana (Century Plant) has a stem that can grow to 9 metres (30 feet). Once it flowers the parent plant will wither and die, Compared to other succulents the Agave parent plant can take months or even years to die. Agave pups grow along the stem of the flower, these can be harvested and replanted. Any pups that have grown off to the side of the plant will not die, only the rosette that has produced the flower stem.
Some, but not all, Agave are moncarpic.
All succulents in the Sempervivum genus are monocarpic. At first this made me think twice about buying Sempervivum succulents. Each rosette only flowers once and then dies. However, most species produce lots of offsets which makes up for any loss after flowering. It will take 3 to 4 years for the rosette to produce a flower and die, in this time the parent plant would have produced many pups/babies to continue on in your garden.
In Europe they are known as ‘houseleeks’ but in the USA Sempevervivum are known as Hen & Chicks. However, some people call the Echeveria genus Hen & Chicks as well. Thus, it can get very confusing and people think that their Echeveria succulents are monocarpic. It is ‘only’ Sempervivum Hen & Chicks which are monocarpic not Echeveria.
There are some Sempervivum and Echeveria that look very similar, they both have rosettes. If you think your succulent is a Sempervivum and it flowers – from the centre of the rosette- and does not die – suffice to say this is an Echeveria.
The photos of the sempervivum below show small offsets from the sides. These can be mistaken for flowers. They are not flowers but new plants/pups sprouting. When a Sempervivum flowers it is from the centre of its rosette, not to the side.
Some Aeonium will flower within two years while others may take 10-20 years before they flower. They die completely after flowering but before do they will have produced offsets as well as large numbers of seeds. Not all Aeonium die after flowering, but for the one’s that do it is too late for the plant once the flower stalk starts to develop.
I found this Aeonium (below) in a nursery. It looks very pretty, but as it was flowering I figured it wouldn’t have a very long life span in my garden if it was an Aeonium that was monocarpic! Something to be aware of for monocarpic succulents.
The Kalanchoe ‘Flapjack’ is a monocarpic plant, once the Kalanchoe flowers new “baby plants” can be seen at the base of the plant and along the flower stalk. They can easily be propagated from the stalk.
So, if you have any of the monocarpic succulents you should be prepared for its dramatic flowering death at some point!
In the Crassula family there are plants that closely resemble other plants leading to confusion. Echeverias are one of the most popular and beautiful succulents (see post: Echeveria Genus ) Often overlooked or simply confused with Echeverias are two other plants that look like Echeveria: Graptopetalums (see post: What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent? ) and Pachyphytums. They have been hybridised with Echeveria and are called Graptoveria and Pachyveria. Pachyveria is a hybrid between Echeveria and Pachyphytum.
The word Pachyphytum comes from the Greek word ‘ thick leaves’. Their leaves are plumper than an Echeveria hence their name. Below are photos from Pinterest of some Pachyphytums.
Pachyphytums are similar to Echeveria. Other than their appearance they are also drought-tolerant, cope with winter rain and cold temperatures, tolerate full sun and poor soil. However, they are more delicate, their leaves can fall off with the lightest touch. The falling leaf will easily propagate. Like Echeveria they grow in clumps. Pachyphytum’s are also native to Mexico.
Below are photos of some Pachyveria from Pinterest. As you can see, to look at, some species are very similar to Echeveria. If the plant did not have an ID you may think it is an Echeveria. Also, it would not surprise me if it had been labelled incorrectly by the nursery or the store you are purchasing from.
The species traits that give away that it is a Pachyveria and not an Echeveria are:
– plump leaves. Blue Haze, and Haagei are good example of this.
– elongated leaves. Glauca and Haagei are good example of this.
What are the differences between an Echeveria and a Pachyveria?
– Pachyverias are more cold tolerant succulents enduring quite low temperatures compared to Echeveria
– Their leaves are more likely to fall off at a mere touch where most Echeveria are quite hard to pull off
What are the similarities to an Echeveria?
– their growing periods are in the summer
– they flower in spring/summer
– drought tolerant
– love full sun
– prefer well drained soil
– propagated by leaves
– native to Mexico
In conclusion, if you have a Pachyveria and you believe it is an Echeveria and you cared for it as you would an Echeveria it would not really make any difference. The plus side being that if there were some low temperatures that you were not expecting the Pachyveria would be less likely to be effected than an Echeveria would.
The only tip for when planting a Pachyveria in the garden would be not to plant them where they can easily be knocked by passing pets or humans as their leaves may be knocked off on a regular basis.
The Echeveria genus of succulent is one of the most popular in the succulent world. There are websites and Facebook pages dedicated to it. This is understandable as it is an amazing plant which can grow in full sun or partial shade and is also drought tolerant.
There are approximately 150 different varieties of Echeveria. It was named after a Mexican botanist – Antansio Echeveria and is native to Central America, Mexico and northwest Southern America.
The largest Echeveria can grow to about 50 centimetres (20 inches) in diameter. Most have their growing season in the Summer whereas others grow in Spring – when they start to produce their amazing flowers. Some of my Echeveria’s produce flowers all year round.
Echeveria are happy to squeeze into small areas in rockeries and are great companion plants for other succulents. When they grow new plants (pups) they are usually squashed under the parent plant. Some varieties can grow in a carpet across your garden.
Echeveria can grow in partial shade but prefer a sunny position. When they receive too much shade they tend to stretch (etioliate). Therefore, they look the best grown in a sunny position and do NOT make a good house plant due to low light levels.
Can you grow Echeveria in full sun?
Echeveria cope well in full sun and I would go as far as saying they love full sun. Some varieties produce a fine wax/powdery layer on the leaves which is their natural protection against the suns strong rays. (see below)
Many of the Echeveria I have grown have thrived in a full sun position. When they first grow in a full sun position they may get sun burnt leaves but most varieties will get used to the sun and the new leaves will not get sun burnt.
Problems with Echeveria
Aphids are attracted to the Echeveria flowers however I have not had many aphids on my flowers. If I have aphids I usually snip off the flower they are attracted to and it goes straight in the green bin. The aphids are more detrimental to the plant than the plant losing a flower. Mealy bugs can also be a problem and can kill a plant, growing your Echeveria in the sun can help stop mealy bugs too. Echeveria do not cope with frost or cool temperatures.
Why have my Echeveria leaves started curling?
Some of the larger Echeveria varieties have leaves which will change as they mature. The leaf edges, which start out round and flat, start to grow with curly edges – this is known as leaf curl. (examples of leaf curl below)
Why has my Echeveria changed colour?
During summer Echeveria can be one colour and a totally different colour during winter. The photo on the below left was taken in autumn/winter and the photo on the right was taken in the height of summer. It’s hard to believe its the same plant.
Stress, fertiliser and the position in your garden can also play a part in just how much any succulent might change colour during the year.
The smaller leaved varieties of Echeveria tend to produce pups/offsets whereas the larger varieties do not. The pups can (sometimes) be gently pulled away from the parent plant and replanted. If they do not pull away easily they can be snipped off with a pair of secateurs. They can also be propagated by pulling off a healthy leaf, which will sprout new roots and then develop into a plant. I still think Its quite amazing. See post: (How to Propagate Succulents.)
Echeveria Facebook Groups
As I mentioned there are Facebook pages dedicated to the Echeveria genus. One great Facebook group is – ‘Echeveria Australia’ – it has nearly 4,000 members. It is great for posting photos of your Echeveria for fun or having others help you identify the variety. It is a closed group so you will need to ask to join. I have learnt quite a lot from this Facebook page. There is another Facebook page called ‘Planet Echeveria’ which has over 7,000 members.
http://echeveriasinoz.net is a great website that lists all the Echeveria available (I assume) in Australia with an alphabetical photo gallery. It may take time but you can scroll through the photos and find that Echeveria you purchased from your local hardware store that just stated ‘Echeveria’ on the identification tag!
There are a few succulents that look very similar to the Echeveria genus and it can be very confusing. Some hardware stores/nurseries and sellers have even been known to tag a plant as an Echeveria when it is not.
Below is a Graptoveria which is a hybrid between Graptopealum and Echeveria. It was tagged by the nursery as a Graptoveria but to me looks like an Echeveria.
The good news is that the Graptopetalums and Pachyphytums genus that look similar to the Echeveria genus also like full sun, survive in part shade and are drought tolerant. So whether the plant is identified incorrectly you can grow the plants in the same conditions and they should survive.
Echeveria Agavoides is a succulent that is readily available in our local hardware stores. It is a relatively common species of the Echeveria genus. It is native to the rocky areas of Mexico, therefore does not like a lot of water, can grow well in full sun and is drought tolerant. There are a few different species – Red Edge and Lipstick are the most common.
It grows to about 8–12 cm (3–5 in) tall, 7–15 cm (3–6 in) in diameter. They will grow easily in well drained soils in full sun or partial shade. Perfect for rock gardens. They can be propagated by stem or leaf cuttings. Mature plants can produce offsets (pups) which can be transplanted. They do not produce as many pups as other species of Echeveria. Agavoides has crimson/red tips which are more prominent when grown in full sun. They have the usual echeveria flowers – a pinky orange colour on long stems.
Without sun they are 100% green without any crimson/red tips. The following plant was totally green when I purchased it. It now spends approximately 3 hours of full sun during the day but only has tiny crimson tips. I have purchased another specimen to plant in full sun for most of the day to see if the colour is more prodominent.
When I bought the Agavoides below it was light green and healthy. I believe it was grown predominantly in shade. I placed it in a sunny position which received full sun in the afternoon. A week later it looked quite ill. If I was a novice with succulents I would have thought it was dying and thrown it out. The leaves on the plant were/are sun burnt as it was not used to full sun. As there are new leaves forming in the middle of the plant (as you can see in the photo) then the succulent will survive.
If water sits in the rosette(middle of the plant) for too long (days) this can cause problems with fungal disease or rot the plant. As with all succulents Agavoides can be attacked by mealy bugs. If the plant has been growing in partial shade and moved to a full sun position the leaves will burn but it should recover within a few months, as per the photos below.
This is another Echeveria species, like Echeveria Black Prince that is hardy, can be grown in full sun or partial shade and is readily available in hardware stores. (see post: Echeveria Black Prince Succulent )
Every garden in Australia (and the Southern Hemishphere) would have a full sun area. Full sun can mean temperatures getting up to over 50ºC (122ºF) for more than a few hours. There are succulents that can survive these sorts of conditions; which is why I love succulents. As I’ve mentioned in other posts not all succulents will survive full sun, they require some shade or their leaves tend to get sun burnt.
A number of succulents produce a waxy or powdery sun-protecting coating, often in delicate shades of pink, blue or pale lavender. It is called ‘farina’.It’s thought to be the plant’s natural protection from strong sun (like their natural sunscreen).. This coating will rub off at the slightest touch revealing the green photosynthesising surface underneath. Try not to rub the leaves as the farina will rub off very easily and it will lose its protective coating.
The following succulents ‘have’ survived full sun in my garden. They have survived heatwaves of 3 days or more, which means 40ºC+ (104ºF) heat.
I know this is a common favourite among succulent lovers and I can see why. They are one of the prettier types of succulents with their gorgeous rosettes, they are quite hardy, do not need much water and YES they love full sun. They are also very photogenic as you can see below. There are lots of different types and forms of this amazing succulent. When they are growing in ideal conditions they will produce ‘pups’ – little babies that grow to the side of the parent plant. They are low growing but eventually they will spread and form a beautiful carpet across your garden. All of the Echeveria below have grown in full sun during this Summer through several heat waves. Some echeveria have a wax or powdery layer on the leaves, this is a natural protection against the sun so try not to touch it or wipe it off.
There are some very hardy Crassula succulents. The most common one is the Crassula Ovata – Jade plant. Hardy to me – meaning they love full sun. They also cope with some shade. In full sun they have orange tipped leaves, in shade they are mostly green. There are some interesting varieties. I love the Crassula Aborescens – or Ripple Jade that looks like a lettuce (to me). See below photo on the left.
I have had varying results with the Agave Attenuata in my garden. Yes they definitely love full sun. However, they sometimes take a few years to really grow well in a full sun position. Once established however, they do very well. I have also had success growing Agave Attenuata in full shade.
Another succulent that is hardy, loves full sun and is also spectacular is the Aloe succulent. They come in many shapes and sizes with the most common being the Aloe Vera. There are some large Aloe succulents and some smaller varieties.
The Kalanchoe species is another succulent that can survive in full sun. They flower prolifically in the Winter and come in lots of different colours. This is another succulent that you can snap a piece off and stick it in the ground and it will sprout roots and grow.
Aeonium Aboreum cope very well in full sun. However, take note that this succulent has its growing period in the winter and is dormant in the summer. So it will look very different in the summer but will survive full sun heat wave.
Succulents in pots will not tolerate full sun as well as succulents in the ground!
These are a few of the succulents that I grow in my garden that love full sun conditions. Keep in mind that sun tolerance in a pot is much less than in the ground. The soil in your pot heats up on hot days and it can be fatal for plants. Even when air temperatures are mild, pots standing in full sun become hot. The temperature of potting mix inside a pot can be 10 degrees or more above the air temperature. The roots in pots cannot cope in extreme temperatures and die. Keep this in mind when you buy a new succulent in a black plastic pot from the nursery.
The succulents that love full sun also do not require a lot of water. That is a win win situation. They can make do with annual rainfall or a good watering if you get the time.