Monday, November 10, 2014

Plant of the week: Aeonium hierrense and Aeonium escobarii

Loree Bohl over at Danger Garden started the “favorite plant of the week” meme a few years ago. Many other garden bloggers have followed suit. I’ve done a few “plant of the week” posts but never with any kind of regularity. Today’s post is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon plant portraits.

My favorite plant this week is Aeonium hierrense. I bought it in a 4-inch pot at Annie’s Annuals in July 2011 based on this description:

Super rare & possibly the most majestic of all Aeoniums, this giant boasts impressive red-edged, long-leaved rosettes to 30” across atop thick, tropicalesque stalks to 3’ tall. Handsomely patterned in olive green & white, they look like designer palm trunks! After 3 or more years, it bursts into a pyramidal head of pink & white starry blooms. It’s monocarpic, so after blooming it will pass away (hopefully leaving behind lots of seed!).To our knowledge we are the first nursery in the U.S. to offer this elephant-sized & imposing species - possibly the largest in the genus. EASY & low maintenance, it makes a stunning subject for a container or dryish well-drained garden.

My specimen spent the first two years in a pot where it didn’t do very much. But after I put it the ground, it exploded, living up to its promise.


Now it’s awakened from its summer sleep and is growing at a good clip. As of today (Nov 10, 2014), it’s 13 inches across and 22 inches tall.

What I love about aeoniums in general—and this species in particular—is the fact that the rosettes look like flowers instead of leaves. Aeonium hierrense has a beautiful bluish cast to its leaves, which are ringed with a faint pink margin.



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I have another aeonium from Annie’s that looks very similar to Aeonium hierrense. This one is called Aeonium escobarii:

Stunning. Giant. Succulent. Rosette. Do you really need to know more? A superb focal point for a well drained garden, this uber-rare Canary Island (La Palmas) native is fabulous by itself & even more awesome three or more to line a pathway. To 20” tall & 3’ across, the main rosette surrounds itself with huggy babies, looking like a gigantic “Hen and Chicks.” Starry white blooms make up the large pyramidal inflorescence which lasts for months. Discovered only in 2001, it’s said to possibly be a form of A. davidbramwellii. A real treasure, grow it in full sun to part sun in hotter areas & provide well-drained soil with a tinge of occasional fertilizer or compost. Should be a beautiful container subject.


Honestly, I find Aeonium hierrense and Aeonium escobarii hard to tell apart, at least my two specimens. The rosette of Aeonium escobarii seems to be flatter, but that’s about it. It currently is 17 inches across and 12 inches tall.


My Aeonium escobarii had some sort of bug living in the center of its rosette last spring. It chewed on the edges of the newly unfolding leaves—you can still see the damage on the outer leaves. Fortunately, the insect(s) didn’t kill the plant or slow it down much. It’s well on its easy to becoming the stunning specimen I saw at the Wave Garden in Point Richmond this past February:


This Aeonium escobarii at the Wave Garden is a true stunner. My friend Ursula who agreed to be in the picture for scale is fairly petite, but that specimen is still a good four feet tall.


  1. So lucky to be able to grow these giant Aeoniums on the ground permanently! I struggle to keep A. hierrense alive over the winter even with supplemental heat for some reason. I keep trying though!

    1. I typically throw a frost blanket on them (actually over most of the bed) when temps drop to 28°F or below. Supposedly these aeoniums are hardy to 25°F but I don't want the leaves to get marred if I can prevent it.

  2. Fantastic! I think I'm going to start a plant of the week too. Hope yall don't mind.

  3. Both are quite beautiful and I agree, they're rather hard to tell apart. I keep trying to overwinter aeoniums but they're tough to keep happy.

    1. Maybe it's because they're winter growers and it's hard to give them what they want inside? In general, I find that they're happier in the ground than in pots, unless the pot is very large.

  4. I remember the first time I saw aeoniums...I had no interest in gardening yet, but I´ve always loved the countryside and I became a plant when I went to the Canary Islands and saw them growing in the mountain I was amazed by their bizarre appearance, as I had never seen them. Now it is one of my favorite genus and yours is beautiful, I hope it gets very very big!

    1. Lisa, how spectacular it must have been seeing aeoniums on the Canary Islands. I really want to visit the Canary Islands some day. So many cool plants, not to mention so much scenic beauty. And I bet the people are really nice, too!