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
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.
and images Copyright 1998 Cyndi Kirkpatrick. All rights reserved