Aeonium update

In early January I blogged about three kinds of aeoniums we have growing. Since then, they have changed quite a bit. Considering that aeoniums are winter growers and go dormant in the heat of the summer, this isn’t entirely surprising.

Many Internet sources advise their readers to keep aeoniums dry in the winter. In my experience, that is incorrect. Since their main growing season is winter and spring, they do need water then. This is no different from aloes that hail from winter-rainfall areas, such as Aloe ferox, Aloe marlothii, Aloe maculata, Aloe arborescens, etc.

Aeoniums come from the Canary Islands where most of the precipitation occurs in the fall and winter so our weather patterns are quite comparable, even though on average the Canary Islands receive only 13" (325 mm) of rain a year compared to our 18" (or 20+ this year).

Two of our aeoniums are in pots on our covered front porch. I have been watering these once every two weeks—a generous dousing until water runs out the bottom of the container. The third one, Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’, is planted in the succulent bed next to our driveway and has been getting the full amount of rain we’ve been blessed with this year. While I would never have given it the same amount of water if it had been in a pot, the excess didn’t seem to affect it adversely.

Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ is a hybrid of Aeonium haworthii, apparently developed in Australia. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful aeoniums in spite of its relatively small size. Looking at the photos below, it’s easy to see how much brighter the central leaves have gotten since January, no doubt because of the increase in light levels. Also notice the new rosettes forming around the largest one (third photo).

Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ on 3 January 2011
Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ on 24 March 2011
Lots of new growth—the small plantlets all around the large rosette in the middle will grow into rosettes of their own

Aeonium undulatum is the second potted aeonium that lives on our covered front porch.  It hasn’t grown as much as ‘Kiwi’ has, but the leaf margins have acquired a subtle but noticeable reddish margin while the center of the rosette has lost its bright “eye”. Even though our front porch doesn’t get much direct sun—just a little in the late afternoon—the increase in light levels has been enough to prompt these changes.

Aeonium undulatum on 3 January 2011
Aeonium undulatum on 24 March 2011

Our third aeonium is planted in the ground, as mentioned earlier. Since I’ve lost the plant tag, I assumed it was Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’, but now I think it might be a hybrid called ‘Cyclops’ (ostensibly a cross between Aeonium undulatum and Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’, developed by breeder Jack Catlin). The darkening of the outer leaves is very noticeable, and even the leaves in the center of the rosette have acquired a purple margin. Its cousin, a cultivar named ‘Zwartkop’ (literally “black head” in Dutch), is one of the most popular aeoniums, and one of the “blackest” plants you can find.

Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’ on 3 January 2011

Now that spring is officially here, many nurseries and garden centers here in central Northern California have started to roll out this year’s crop of succulents, which typically includes at least three or four different aeonium cultivars. In addition to ‘Zwartkop’ (which I have added to my collection in the meantime), another popular hybrid is ‘Sunburst’ (which I will buy as soon as I’ve found a “perfect” specimen). If you live in zone 9b or above, aeoniums make great outdoor plants. If you live in a colder area, you can enjoy them outdoors in spring through fall and bring them inside for the winter.


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