echerveria hybrid
Echeveria hybrid

Every time I go into a plant shop, from a chain store to a specialist nursery, I keep my eyes open for echeverias. Even when the store doesn't specialize in succulents, they will almost always carry a rack of plants from someone who does. And echeveria hybrids will usually be among them. I keep adding them in pots and in the ground and they never fail to please.

It's because they're tough and look great whether they bloom or not; the rosette of thick leaves is in itself an intricate beauty. We're lucky to be able to grow them in the ground here in our mild climate. We've gone down to 20' F, which is the usual lowest temperature of a winter. In colder climates, echeveria needs to stay in pots under shelter, so they don't succumb to a hard freeze but they're worth it. Growing them in small containers is a good way to showcase their infinity variety - no two hybrids have exactly the same color or leaf shape.

I'm always making haphazard attempts to propagate my favorite plants and I usually get haphazard results. Echeverias are forgiving plants that multiply easily and in several different ways, even when I am clumsy and forget them for awhile.

Many, many succulents increase by rooting from the base of detached leaves. Echeverias are among them, as are sedums. If you buy an echeveria, want more and have some patience, it's simple to make a dozen of them from your one starter.

Fill a tray that has good drainage with builder's sand. Snap off healthy leaves from the middle growth of the echeveria rosette. You don't want the older, big leaves or the younger leaves at the center that are not yet mature. Lay the leaves on the sand with wound from the break face up, so it can dry.

Later that day or the next, flip the leaves over so the base is in contact with the sand. I've tried burying the base shallowly but it doesn't seem to matter either way. Mist it until the whole thing is soaked, put it in a sheltered place with bright, indirect light. Check it every few days to be sure the sand has not gone completely dry. It should stay barely moist; never soggy. I will be honest and tell you I know for a fact it can dry out completely for a few days and survive it.

Within a week, the leaves will begin to root and within a few months, tiny new rosettes will spring up at the leaf bases. When these are large enough to handle, carefully snap off the now withered parent leaf. Move the baby echeverias to a mix of normal potting soil and enough sand or fine gravel to make sure it's very well drained. A thin layer of builder's sand or pea gravel on top of the soil helps keep the leaves dry which prevents rot from setting in. They're small at this point, so I usually just move them into another two inch deep tray and let them grow on until the next spring, when they are adolescent plants and ready for their permanent home.

They will also root from the stem, so as they age and become leggy, with a small rosette atop a naked stem, the top can be broken off with an inch or so of stem, stuck back into the dirt and forgotten. It will root and go right back to looking great. Though the beheaded stem looks terrible for awhile, usually it will soon sprout a whole new cluster of rosettes from the broken top. An echeveria is a plant that knows what it's about when it comes to multiplying.

Text and images Copyright 1998 Cyndi Kirkpatrick. All rights reserved




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