Random San Francisco aeonium & tillandsia sighting

We had an appointment in San Francisco yesterday, and even though plants or photography weren’t on the agenda, I managed to snap a few photos on my daughter’s iPhone. While the image quality isn’t as good as my Canon DSLR, it’s still pretty decent considering this is a phone, not a camera.


View of San Francisco Bay from Pacific Heights. If you look closely, you can see Alcatraz on the right.

Walking to our appointment, I spotted these flowering aeoniums from half a block away.


These aeoniums look to be some hybrid involving ‘Zwartkop’, judging from the purple-tinged leaves. The inflorescences were stunning—as good as it gets.




The aeoniums in the next two photos are juveniles and will need another few years before reaching flowering size. (Aeoniums are monocarpic. This means that flowering is the end of the road for that particular rosette, but usually there are plenty of offsets to keep the clump going.)


Aren’t these metal containers great?


A couple of houses further I came across this planting. Judging from the metal containers, the homeowners must have used the same designer.


The size of these aeoniums was jaw-dropping.


But there was more: Agave attenuata, Senecio mandraliscae and some sort of Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias)…


…and my favorite leucadendron (Leucadendron ‘Jester’).


And then there was this:


I’m a sucker for metal cladding anyway, but the tillandsias take this wall to a whole new level.


The larger plants were wired in place, the smaller ones were just tucked in. I saw no irrigation setup, so the homeowners must rely on air moisture to keep these tillandsias alive—or else they spray them manually. (Fortunately, San Francisco gets quite a bit of fog.)


The last photo (below) is just a snap from the car and doesn’t have anything to do with aeoniums or tillandsias. But I loved the murals and the laundry hanging from many of the windows. Look closely, and you’ll see a lady hanging out clothes on the top-floor balcony.


Photo courtesy of Elena Bock

As modern and glitzy the new highrises along the waterfront are, many neighborhoods in San Francisco look like they’re stuck in time—and in another place.


  1. Was loving the succulent photos until you showed me the metalwork, and now I can't think about anything else. I want/need to add metal to the garden this year (but in my garden it would support vines).

    1. I've been wanting metal panels with cutouts for the backyard fence for years. My first choice would be Coreten, but if I found stainless at a good price, I'd go for that. I must admit, though, that I don't have the faintest idea how much metal panels cost. Probably WAY more than I think.

  2. Whoa, that metal cladding with Tillansias looks so stylish! And so are those metal containers with Aroniums.

    1. I actually laughed when I saw the metal containers and walls because they ARE so stylish and hence a perfect fit for stylish Pacific Heights. Money is clearly no object here. According to Zillow.com, the house sold last November for $14 million.

  3. Wow, that tillandsia display is just perfect! San Francisco is such a beautiful city! Are the plants you can grow where you live very different from the ones one can grow in San Francisco? I suppose you don´t get that much fog.

    1. Lisa, Davis is about 75 miles (120 km) from San Francisco. Not that far, but it might as well be a different continent as far as climate is concerned. Our climate is significantly hotter in the summer, a bit colder in the winter, and much drier. Tillandsias would never grow here outside. Even aeoniums struggle although I've had success by planting them in the shade.

  4. I'm glad you showed us the mural. I think it is wonderful!

    1. For once I was glad the light turned red so my daughter could take that photo.

  5. That metal panel, wow! Sad that the first thing I thought was "how do they keep people from stealing them?" Now a confession...I do not like aeonium flowers. Not one bit.

    1. Theft or vandalism is definitely a concern, not just in San Francisco but in any city. Maybe there were many more tillandsias at some point? No way of knowing.

      Why don't you like aeonium flowers? Is it the color? The shape of the inflorescence? I know these things are very personal. I can't stand carnations or mums, for example. Hate them! Don't know why.

  6. I loved the metal panel with the Tillandsias but wonder if the metal won't get hot and burn the plants (when it gets sunny there).

    1. The metal wall faces east so no direct afternoon sun. Plus, the weather in San Francisco is mild year round. When it gets to 80°F they all start sweating and talking about "the heat." Cute, from our perspective, where the word "hot" is reserved for 100+ days.

    2. Except for the summer. Brrrrrrrr! Didn't Mark Twain say that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco?

  7. I heart San Francisco -- such a beautiful city. When I win the lottery...

    Love the metal containers and wall. Inland SoCal might get too hot for that look, though...

  8. I'm only a couple of years into succulents and am a big fan of Aeoniums. I had no clue they bloomed! Pretty impressive! Unfortunately, I don't think they would ever get near enough that size in PDX to flower like that. Sigh.


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