Aeonium Cultivation


Aeonium Cultivation

By Howard Drury


Aeonium simsii 1

 Aeonium simsii (C) Wikipedia

Aeonium (tree houseleek) is a genus of about 43 species of succulent, subtropical plants of the family Crassulaceae. The name comes from the ancient Greek "aionos" (ageless). While most of them are native to the Canary Islands, some are found in Madeira, Morocco, and in East Africa (for example in the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia).

They are brilliant architectural plants which can be used in displays out of doors (during frost free periods i.e. Summer displays) and require little watering or maintenance. Aeoniums can be grouped together with similar plants such as Plectanthrus, scented leaved geraniums and other succulents.

Aeoniums generally are not frost-resistant. Some are hardier than others. Also, Daniel Michael of Surreal Succulents in Penzance has recently introduced a hybrid between a Semperviren and an Aeonium, the cross is known as Semponium and is hardier than Aeoniums.  Aeoniums must be kept in good light and frost free conditions. In most cases this means bring indoors in winter, although a few can remain outdoors safely in sheltered positions, such as those around the Minack theatre on the coast in Cornwall. (although many did succumb to the Beast From The East)

Aeoniums require little water (possibly every 15 days) and in winter watering can be reduced to up to two months to survive cold conditions.  They need sun or partial shade. In general, the green Aeoniums prefer some shade – the purple ones like full sun. They will not withstand frost and extreme temperatures. In the summer, they should be outside for good growth, and brought indoors in the winter so that the temperature does not fall below 5 °C.

The Aeonium does not require a special cacti or potting compost, but it must be free draining. They grow well in pots all the year round. When the plant is plunge planted with its pot for temporary summer display, the plants may need shelter from the direct sun.

Aeoniums do not like really hot or dry weather. They may go dormant in summer and do not require any water, except in very dry conditions. In extreme heat, their leaves will curl, to prevent excessive water loss.

Growing them in moist shade will keep them growing, but their true growth season is winter to spring, when temperatures are cool. In the winter, water whenever the soil has dried out.

Too much moisture, or allowing them to sit in wet soil, will cause root rot. A sandy loam or regular potting mix is better than a mix specifically for succulents and cacti, since Aeoniums require some moisture. Repot every 2 –3 years with fresh potting compost.

Feed during the growing season with a half strength balanced liquid fertilizer, every month or so. Do not feed while dormant, and only very occasionally in the winter if plants are showing signs of growth.

If you have the proper growing conditions, Aeoniums will take care of themselves and actually thrive on neglect. Otherwise, your only major task will be moving them from hot sun to shade and back again, or moving them indoors when the temperature drops too low.

Aeoniums in the open
Aeonium growing on rock
Aeonium in full sun

Aeoniums have underdeveloped root systems, since they store their water in their leaves and stems. They have the ability to produce roots along their stems, which you may notice if the plant gets pot bound or the stems fall and touch soil.

Leggy branches do tend to fall over and snap off, from the weight of the rosettes. Top or tip cuttings can be made around 10 cm (4”) long. Remove the lower leaves carefully by twisting sideways and leave to dry for a few days. Then suspending them just above a slightly moist potting compost, supporting them by using a small pot to rest the foliage on above the compost. They will root along the stem and not from the cut surface.

Few pests bother Aeoniums. Slugs can do some damage, and the occasional bird may take a bite. Caterpillars can eat away growing centres and sections of leaves. They are often difficult to find and kill, being green in colour.

Aeoniums are easy to grow plants, and currently I have around 100 species and cultivars, and I am always looking for new ones to collect.

Please visit my website for more about these plants and my activities and lectures you will find all the latest gardening news, fact sheets and jobs for each month along with lots of useful contacts.    

Howard Drury DHE(Hons)  email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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