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 – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A healthy succulent when first planted!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The answer to the question – which locations do succulents thrive in – is : any and all locations! There are so many succulents that there will always be a species that will thrive in a location in your garden.
If you are a succulent novice or a well seasoned succulent gardener there will always be a new succulent that you acquire that you will be uncertain about which location to put it in. Does it cope with full sun, is it a shade lover?
If the succulent you buy comes with an ID tag (that’s if you are very lucky) its possible it ‘might’ give you a ‘vague’ idea of the sort of growing conditions the succulent would thrive in. General suggestions like ‘full sun’ or partial shade’, ‘fertilise in spring’. They are generalised by the nursery for all plants that they grow. For further explanation on some of these see: (How much sun do succulents need? Morning or Afternoon? Full or Part? )
This ID tag contradicts itself – may tolerate dryness but the soil must not dry out! – not helpful!
But how will you know if your succulent is just surviving or if it is thriving?
Signs that your succulent is just surviving.
There are signs that will tell you that your succulent is not doing well. Such as, stretching (etoliation) from not enough sun/light, wilting leaves from over watering, puckered leaves from under watering and burnt leaves from too much sun. It is surviving but not as well as it could. These signs do not mean that it is dying but it could be doing a lot better in a different location.
Stretching succulents: If your succulent is not receiving enough sun/light and is stretching then it needs to be moved straight away into a position that gives it more light. Stretching (also known as etoliation) is not reversible, the only remedy is to prune the plant back so that it can start again in its new sunnier position where it wont stretch and will grow compact and healthy.
This is an example of an etioliated/stretched succulent. Tall and lanky rather than short and compact.
Burnt leaves: If your succulent has burnt leaves it may be because it has been previously grown in a part sun/part shade situation at the nursery. The good news is that having burnt leaves will not kill a succulent, once the burnt leaves become the oldest leaves they will shrivel and die. The new leaves that grow from the centre will be strong and healthy and will have acclimatised to full sun and will not get sun burnt. Succulents will acclimatise to new locations in 2-3 months
Note: The only exception to this rule is if there is an abnormally hot day/week (around 40C/104F) the chances are that even a succulent growing in full sun can still get sun burnt leaves.
These leave are suburnt.
Wilting/Pale leaves: Over watering can cause the leaves to look pale or yellow and they will wilt. If you notice this on a few leaves then do not water the succulent until you see signs of recovery. This could be weeks or even a month! It may already be too late and the plant will die but you may catch it in time. See post: How often should I water succulents? Do succulents need water?
Puckered Leaves: It does not happen very often but sometimes you can underwater your succulent and it will have puckered leaves. Give the plant a drenching of water and leave it to dry out. Do not make the mistake of then giving it too much water.
Puckered leaves can be a sign of an under watered succulent
Signs that your succulent is thriving
It can take some time to know if your succulent is thriving. It is not something you can know within a week of receiving the plant. The signs that it is thriving are:
– not showing any of the above mentioned conditions
– new growth – especially in the succulent’s growing season
– flowers – a succulent will only flower in the right growing conditions
– pups/babies -succulents will only produce offspring if it has the right growing conditions to do so
– getting to its maximum species size
Succulents can thrive and look different!
A succulent will always adapt to its growing conditions. See example below. Both of these succulents are the same genus/species and are producing babies/pups ie thriving. Sempervivums (House Leeks) are grown on roof tops in Europe so would receive full sun at some times of the year and no sun at others and would therefore look different during different seasons.
These Sempervivum are exactly the same species. The Sempervivum on the left are growing in partial shade. The Sempervivum on the right have 8 hours of full sun.
Whether your succulent is grown in the ground or in a pot. If it is not doing well do not be scared to dig it up and move it or put the pot somewhere else. The majority of succulents are very hardy and if it is not doing well in one position there is no harm in moving it to another location.
I have found that planting a succulent in the garden, that is not doing so well in a pot, makes the world of difference. As long as the soil conditions and drainage are correct the roots of the plant will fair better in the ground, as the conditions are not so variable, compared with a pot which can heat up and dry out quicker and constrict the roots.
The difference between a succulent ‘surviving’ and a succulent ‘thriving’ is location, location, location!
Which succulents grow in full shade?
Do Succulents really prefer Sun?
A common idea that people have about succulents is that they do not ‘require/need’ water. This is a myth. All plants need water including succulents. Yes they can survive long periods of ‘drought’, ie no water, but they ‘do‘ need water to live. How often and how much is the question. As succulents store water in their leaves, stems, or roots they can survive when there is a drought, therefore it is better for a succulent to be too dry than over watered. Do not use a spray bottle, the roots of the succulent need water.
Generally, you should water more often in the summer when the plant is actively growing than in the winter when the plant goes into semi-dormancy. Watering also depends on quite a few variables with regard to the succulents growing conditions:
Is the plant grown in a pot or the ground
Inside the house or outside
Type of soil
Light Conditions – ie how much and how strong is the sun
Maturity of the plant
Time of Year – Spring/Summer/Autumn Winter
Lets assume that the soil is free draining, the pot has drainage holes and the succulent has the right amount of sun/shade exposure.
Give a good soaking—water should run out drainage holes at the bottom of the pot
Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer
Let the soil dry out completely before you next water. It does not mean it needs water as soon as the soil it dries out, just to let the soil dry before you do water again.
Larger pots can hold more moisture, small shallow pots will dry out a lot quicker and may require
to be watered more frequently
Outdoor in Pots
Outdoor pots generally require more regular watering than indoor pots due to warmer conditions.
Give a good soaking—water should run out drainage holes at the bottom of the pot
Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer
Let the soil dry out completely before you next water. It does not mean it needs water as soon as the soil it dries out, just to let the soil dry before you do water again.
Larger pots can hold more moisture, small shallow pots will dry out a lot quicker and may require
to be watered more frequently
Large pots hold more moisture so do not dry out so quickly
Small pots will dry out a lot quicker than a large pot as it holds less moisture.
Pots will dry out a lot quicker in spring/summer compared to autumn/winter. So the need for watering will be required more often in the warmer months.
Winter rains can keep the pots moist continuously, but as they are in pots consider moving them to a sunny position under the eaves of the house to control the amount of water they receive. This can also protect them from frost. Don’t forget to water them while they are under the eaves though!
Succulents in the Ground
Succulents growing in the ground have different watering requirements to those that are grown in pots. The soil temperature stays cooler and doesn’t dry out as quickly. The succulents will also establish a stronger root system.
The succulents above are growing in my garden. I very rarely water them myself, they survive on annual rainfall.
Consideration regarding natural rainfall is required when deciding how much to water succulents in the ground. As with succulents in pots give the succulents a good soaking, ensuring the water does not pool around the base/roots of the plant.
In the Winter you should not have to water succulents growing in the ground at all. As long as you ensure they are grown in good draining soil – ie not clay soils. Most succulents can cope with a lot of rain. Planting succulents on banks, in walls or building a mound of soil and planting the succulent on the top of the mound will ensure their roots do not sit in water and they will then cope with rain.
In Spring or Summer if they receive rain once every 7-10 days you still should not need to water them at all. If there is no rain once per fortnight should suffice, or even once per month.
There is no simple answer to how often to water succulents. Sometimes it is more about when to recognise that they need to be watered or when they have had too much water.
Signs of an Over-watered Succulent
An over watered succulent has leaves that are soft and squishy, they will drop off easily from the plant and can be pale green or sometimes yellow or orange in colour.
Remedy: Do not water for ‘at least’ two weeks to give the plant time to dry out properly. If the leaves drop off take them out of the pot/away from the plant. Sometimes it may be too late and they will not recover but if you catch the signs of over watering early the succulent should survive.
This succulent shows classic signs of over watering. The lower leaves are lying flat. They are also soft, spongy and pale compared to the new leaves growing from the centre. These leaves will fall off very easily.
Signs of an Under-watered Succulent
An under watered succulent’s upper leaves become dry and crispy, the entire plant becomes shrivelled and many leaves shrivel at the tips. The leaves look puckered and dry.
Remedy: Firstly, check the soil, you could be watering the succulent but the soil is not holding any moisture for the roots. Re-pot the succulent if this is the case. If the soil is ok just give the plant a good soaking of water and keep in mind this succulent may need watering a little more regularly compared to other species of succulents.
Classic under watering. The leaves are puckered/shrivelled.
Watering mature plants versus new succulents
Established plants will have a stronger root system and tolerate dry conditions better than new plants. Especially succulents that are growing in the ground. So a mature plant is more likely to survive longer without water/require less regular watering than a younger one.
A mature plant growing in the ground will have established roots and require less watering than a younger plant.
How should I water the succulent leaves I’m propagating?
Until the leaves develop the tiny roots the leaves shouldn’t require any water. It would not be detrimental to water them but why waste your time doing so! Once the roots develop a once per week watering should be sufficient, watering the leaf and the soil. The roots – which are still above ground – will absorb any moisture in the air and soil below.
Should I water after re-potting a succulent?
Succulents are the opposite of normal plants and do not require ‘watering in’ or water when re-potted or planted in the ground. They actually prefer not to watered straight away.
Should I use a moisture metre?
Moisture metres are a great idea to test the moisture in the middle of a pot. When the top soil may be dry the soil below may still be wet and therefore the pot does not require more water. You can buy moisture metres from your local hardware store.
I agree, this is a lot to consider and may sound complicated but just consider the following basic steps for any of your succulents.
- check the soil conditions to see if it dry or moist
- look for signs of over or under watering
- if you are unsure whether to water – do not water!
The subject of how much sun succulents need is always a hot topic among succulent lovers, newbies and experts alike. How much is too much? Is morning sun ok but afternoon is a no no? Will my succulent die if it gets too much sun? What is the definition of full sun, partial sun, dappled sun, partial shade and full shade?
Photosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert ‘light energy’ (the sun) into chemical energy that can be released to fuel the plants’ growth. In low light, plants need to absorb maximum light for photosynthesis if they are to survive. In high light the plant needs to reflect some light for photosynthesis if they are to survive.
What is the definition of Full Sun/Partial Sun/Partial Shade/Dappled Sun & Full Shade?
Some succulents prefer full sun and some prefer partial shade, partial sun and a few prefer full shade, but what does this mean. I found the definition below on a gardening website which clarifies the meaning of these requirements.
- Full Sun means 6 full hours of direct sunlight. The six hours could be from 8 – 3 or 12 – 6; anytime during the day. The hours can also be three morning hours, plus three afternoon hours.
- Partial Sun / Partial Shade: These two are interchangeable to mean 3-6 hours of sunlight each day. While the terms are interchangeable, there is a default understanding. Partial shade refers to morning and early afternoon sun, while a plant listed as partial sun means relief from the intense late afternoon sun ie requires shade from a structure or a tree.
- Dappled Sun is similar to partial shade. The plants are getting partial sun as it makes it’s way through the branches of a tree.
- Full Shade means less than 3 hours of direct sun each day, best if it’s morning sun. But even in the absence of direct sunlight, full shade can be bright light. Plus, full shade likes a filtered sunlight the remainder of the day. Every plant needs some sun; even those that thrive in full shade.
The above would only be a guideline. This does not mean that if your succulent has more than 6 hours of sun you need to move it to shade or it will die. Some areas of my garden receive sun from early morning to late afternoon which is more than 6 hours. These have succulents growing and coping well with the large amount of sun they are receiving.
What is the different between morning and afternoon sun?
Many succulent enthusiasts advise that succulents prefer morning sun for optimum growth. I am unsure why exactly. From a Iayman’s point of view I would say that morning sun is less strong/vibrant than afternoon sun. Morning sun is less intense and less heat is generated from the sun in early morning. However, I have searched the internet and I am unable to find any science to explain the real difference between morning and afternoon sun. As per the previous paragraph ‘full sun’ can be 6 hours of sun whether it be in the morning or the afternoon.
E. Strawberry Heart
The succulents above have survived and thrived 6 hours of afternoon sun!
Can you tell by looking at the succulent if it will cope in full sun?
There are some succulents which have characteristics that give us a clue as to whether the plant will grow and cope with full sun. Succulents such as the Cotyledon Orbiculata, some Echeveria and some Kalanchoe have a waxy coating on their leaves. These succulents grown in full sun will produce copious quantities of the white waxy coating.The coating reflects a high percentage of the sun’s light. The coating is thicker in full sun and less so when not required. Similarly a coat of hairs on Sempervivum leaves protect the plant from a high percentage of the sun’s light. In general, plants that cope in full sun have small thick leaves as opposed to shade plants have large thin leaves.
Examples of succulents with waxy coating protectant
Can succulents get sunburn?
Yes succulents ‘can’ get sunburn! It looks exactly what you think it would look like – brown or black markings along the leaves that are facing the sun. The good news is that it will not ‘usually’ kill the plant, the succulent will recover. It happens when a succulent has been grown in the shade or partial shade and then moved to sun/full sun. The new leaves that are produced while in the sun position will cope with the sun and not get sunburn. When the leaves that have been burnt get older they will shrivel and die just like any other non sunburnt leaves on the plant.
This Sedum was sunburnt when i moved it to full sun. As you can see the leaves on the top are strong and healthy.
Some points to remember.
– Even though a succulent may be able to survive full sun be aware that air flow is very important.
– Succulents will adapt and evolve (acclimatise) according to the amount of sun/shade they receive.
– Plants can change their leaf angles and orientation in response to a change in sun conditions.
Being a lover of the hardier kinds of succulent, Sempervivum are certainly up there in my top 10. They are just as hardy as any Echeveria, Crassula or Agave succulent in my opinion. They can survive heat, drought, frost and general neglect and still look fabulous. In Europe their common name is House Leek, in the United States it is Hen & Chicks. Here are a few facts and pointers for the Sempervivum genus.
A member of the Crassulacae family Sempervivum are native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and can grow at 3000-8000 feet above sea level. There are about 50 different species. They vary in size, form and colour and grow in rosette formation. The name Sempervivum comes from the Latin words semper, meaning “always,” and vivus, meaning “living.” Which describes its everlasting nature. Pronounced: Semper Vee Vum.
Sempervivums come in many colours such as pink, orange, yellow, red, green and brown. To see its colour in full glory they need to grow in full sun. If not grown in full sun they will grow as green in colour. Mature plants can be from half an inch to 6 inches (1 to 15 cm) in diameter.
Even though Sempervivums are native to Europe which is not well known for its hot summers. Sempervivum cope, and dare I even say ‘love’, full sun. They do not need a lot of water and are drought tolerant. This is great news for hot Australian Summers, however I would be inclined to cover them if the temperature if forecast over 40C/104F as their leaves may get sun burnt. I would suggest that this would not kill the plant but probably just look a bit unsightly until the sun burnt leaves shrivel and drop off.
On the other side of the coin Sempervivum are one of the most frost resistant succulents. This would be due to their origins being in mountainous regions of Europe. They can survive in extremely cold temperatures, most will survive temperatures as low as -30F/-34C apparently.
Light and Water Requirements
Sempervivum can survive in full sun and tolerate drought conditions. They do not require a lot of water but can also survive a wet winter as long as they are growing in well drained soil or on a slope if grown in the garden. If grown in pots move them under the eaves of the house to avoid temperature fluctuations and avoid wet winters.
Some species of Sempervivum are…….. hairy. That is the only way to describe them. They have tiny white hairs growing along their leaves and also on the tip. This is the best way to distinguish a Sempervivum from any other rosette forming succulent. Only Sempervivum have these tiny hairs.
Hairs on Sempervivum
Sempervivum covered with cobwebs
Sempervivum Arachnoidium looks like it is covered in spiders webs. (see below). It is another amazing succulent. The cobweb starts off in the middle of the plant and eventually spreads to cover all leave in the rosette. It can then spread to cover the clump of Sempervivums.
Sempervivum Arachnoidium Pygmalion
Most Sempervivum are prolific at producing offsets which grow off the side of the parent plant and produce a large clump. However, some Sempervivum produce offsets on the end of long stems which are called ‘stolons’ these then set down roots at a distance from the parent plant. Once the roots have developed the plant can be grown independently from the parent plant.
Sempervivum Tectorum with stolons
Flowering – and the bad news
Flowers are shades of pink, red and sometimes yellow. If and when Sempervivum flower it happens in mid to late Summer. The bad news with regard to Sempervivum flowers is that Sempervivum succulents are monocarpic which means that the parent plant dies after flowering. It will shrivel and die. It can then be easily pulled out and this will allow room for the pups to spread. Sempervivums are perennials so they live for at least 3 years or more before they flower. Sempervivum flowers produce a star-shaped fruit containing seeds which can be collected and grown. See Post : Which succulents die after flowering?
In Europe Sempervivums were traditionally grown on roofs. They were thought to ward off evils spirits and raging storms. Below are a couple of examples from Pinterest. I assume they would need to be grown on a pitched roof for water to run off so as the roots are not sitting in water.
Being as hardy Sempervivum are they do not have many additional problems to deal with. Any succulent is prone to mealy bugs or powdery mildew and root rot from over watering.
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.
Pachyveria Blue Haze
Pachveria Elaine Reinelt
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.
Lots of people keep their succulents in pots so they can control their environment. If you live anywhere in Australia you can grow almost any succulent in your garden. Landscaping with succulents is a great idea as once they have established they do not need a lot of attention. There are many more reasons to landscape with succulents ………
Succulents for all areas of the garden
There are hundreds of different succulent species and varieties available. There are succulents that grow and cope with full sun (see post : Which succulents survive in full sun? ). Succulents that grow in full shade. (see post: Which succulents grow in full shade? ) Succulents that cope with humidity. Succulents that can survive frost. (see post : Which succulents can survive frost? ) I think you get the idea. So wherever you live and whether you have a sunny or shady garden you can landscape with succulents.
Heights and Sizes
Succulents come in all shapes,sizes and colours. So if you require low growing ground cover or bushy succulents there should be one that suits your situation for full sun, full shade or part shade/part sun position. Remember to find out how large a succulent grows. Plant the larger growing succulents at the back of the garden bed so they do not shade the lower growing succulents in the front.
My front succulent garden with larger succulents at the back such as agave and a larger aloe. Smaller succulents at the front.
Mass plantings of any plant look great. However, mass planting of succulents looks amazing. Unless you buy succulents in bulk, which of course can be expensive you can start your mass planting with one plant and then use cuttings and offset plants to add to your mass planting. The photos below are from Pinterest of some examples of mass plantings of succulents.
Succulents are known as water wise plants but they also have fire retardant properties, so they are also fire-wise. Due to their ability to store water in the their leaves and stems succulents do not really burn – they cook, bake or boil but they do not burst into flames or spread flames. While succulents cannot stop a fire, they can help protect your property from embers and slow the passage of flames. This is a great reason to landscape with succulents. (see post: Fire-wise succulents – surviving a bush fire with a succulent garden! )
I built the Gabion wall below myself (ok with a little help from my husband-he cut the wire to size). The rest was all me. It took about 4 weekends. Along with my love for succulents I also admire gabion walls. The two look great together. I must admit the position of this gabion is not the best for succulents. The succulents only receive afternoon sun for a short while in the winter which is not really ideal. However, they have still increased in size and grown really well. A gabion has great drainage which succulents love.
Succulents love growing in walls
Below is another part of my garden that I used succulents. Many succulents grow in rock crevices in the wild. A wall is an ideal place to grow succulents due to the excellent drainage. The wall receives full afternoon sun so it will be interesting to see how they cope in the height of summer. I have used Echeveria as they have coped with full sun in my front garden.
This succulent wall is amazing but would take a lot of time and dedication. Pinterest photo.
Established Succulent Gardens
I found the following photos on Pinterest of established succulent gardens. They look amazing and its great to see that people do landscape with succulents. Succulents grow well with other succulents and also look great in mass plantings.
Tips for planting in the garden
When planting succulents in the ground make sure you plant them on a mound rather than in a depression as you would with a non succulent plant. This will ensure that rain will run off the mound rather than pool in the depression around the plant. Succulents can survive with a fair bit of rainfall as long as the water does not pool around the roots. (see post: Should I grow succulents in a pot or the ground? )