Did you know you that the Huntington sells (and ships) succulents?

Except for periodic plant sales, the nursery at the Huntington is not open to the public. However, from their International Succulent Introductions (ISI) website, you can order plants at any time between March and September. In addition to the current 2022 offerings (28 of them!), you can browse the introductions for the past 20 years, dating back all the way to 2002. Many older plants may no longer be available, but it’s worth poking around. Unless a plant is labeled out of stock, you should be able to order it.

2022 International Succulent Introductions

The program that would become ISI was started in 1958. Its objective is to “propagate and distribute new or rare succulents to collectors, nurseries and institutions.” The ISI sells seedlings, rooted cuttings and, increasingly, tissue-cultured plants. The cool thing is that many offerings are propagated from plants growing right at the Huntington; some are literally not available anywhere else. This is a unique opportunity to have a piece of the Huntington in your own garden.

In addition to the regular annual ISI introductions, the Huntington still sells Echinopsis hybrids created by Robert Schick in his backyard nursery. Even though they were created decades ago, they’re still in high demand for their large and spectacular flowers. Schick donated his stock to the Huntington when he retired from volunteering; the ISI started distributing Schick hybrids in the 1990s, and many of them are still available now.

The ISI’s ordering process is old school. You download and fill out a PDF form and then mail, fax, or email it to the Huntington. Please note that orders are only accepted from March through September; September 30 is the order cutoff for the year.

All plants are priced reasonably: most are $10 (including Schick hybrids), Karen Zimmerman’s aloe hybrids are $15.

Here are the plants in my most recent order. The descriptions are from the ISI website.

ISI 2019-14  |  Agave victoriae-reginae ‘Himesanoyuki’
“This choice dwarf selection was originally received by the International Succulent Institute, the precursor to the Huntington’s ISI, from Japanese nurseryman Mr. Shosaku Shoji. The cultivar name translates as ‘snow princess’, a reference to the diminutive proportions of this form of the Queen Victoria agave. We first offered small offsets as ISI 92-30 and stated that mature rosettes reached only 4" diameter. Since that time we have grown a specimen in our Desert Conservatory where it has topped out at about 8" diameter.”

Agave victoriae-reginae ‘Himesanoyuki’ in our garden. I bought this plant from the Huntington about four years ago and wanted a companion. It’s my favorite form of Agave victoriae-reginae, other than the variegated ‘Albomarginata’ aka ‘White Rhino’.

ISI 2022-16  |  Aloe ‘Magic Carpet Bag’
“This is the latest introduction of Karen Zimmerman’s ‘Fantasy Aloes’ bred for attractive, colorful teeth. In this case, they evoke a tapestry-like pattern and texture reminiscent of a carpet bag. The cultivar name is actually inspired by Mary Poppins and her magic bag that always seemed to produce whatever was required. These aren’t called fantasy aloes for nothing! And this one is … practically perfect in every way!”

Aloe ‘Magic Carpet Bag’. Photo © 2022 by Karen Zimmerman. All rights reserved.

ISI 2015-16  |  Aloe fievetii
“This species is closely related to Aloe capitata with which it shares a capitate, bicolored inflorescence with orange buds opening yellow. It differs in its narrower, channeled leaves and in the normal progression of flowers opening from the bottom of the raceme up — the reverse is a peculiarity of some members of the A. capitata complex. In 2006 we offered another collection of this species without specific locality data. However, the species is only known from the type locality and here we offer the original collection made by Gerard Fievet himself in the early 1960s.”

Aloe fievetti at the Huntington

ISI 2015-2  |  Echinopsis ‘For Norma’
“It has been ten years since any new Schick Echinopsis hybrids have been introduced. Nevertheless, the catalog is still on our website and interest has not abated in what are widely acknowledged as some of the best cactus hybrids to date. When Bob Schick retired as a volunteer for the Huntington, he left his entire stock of hybrids with us. Many of these are yet to be named and are potential introductions for the future if they are deemed worthy. Others were already named by Bob and merely await propagation in sufficient quantity for introduction. This offering then constitutes the first of those. It sports a gloriously large flower, to 12 cm (5") across, dominated by orangish-pink tones (though these can be delicate, paler pink in warmer conditions) fading to pastel yellow at the base of the petals.”

Echinopsis ‘For Norma’. Photo © 2022 by Nancy Popp Mumpton.

ISI 2003-5  |  Echinopsis ‘Southern Belle’
“Flower massive, sometimes appearing ‘wild’ due to twisting of some inner petals, but still very impressive, to about 5¼ inches (13 cm) across. Petals very broad, inner and intermediate petals with a pair of strongly developed ruffles and several small irregular ones, colored in lovely pink tones and a basal coppery area.”

Echinopsis ‘Southern Belle’. Photo © 2003 by Bob Schick. All rights reserved.

There’s nothing quite like it when a box of plants arrives:

It’s important to manage your expectations when ordering plants from the Huntington (and virtually any other mail-order source): You’re not going to receive mature plants. In fact, some plants may seem disappointingly small, like Karen Zimmerman’s fantasy aloes, which are propagated through tissue culture. However, once you pot them up and pamper them a bit, they’ll bulk up soon enough.

Top to bottom: Echinopsis ‘Southern Belle’ (2×), Agave victoriae-reginae ‘Himesanoyuki’, Aloe ‘Magic Carpet Bag’, Aloe fievetti (2×)

On the other hand, the two Echinopsis ‘For Norma’ I received are surprisingly large:

Echinopsis ‘For Norma’

Here are my plants, potted up in freely draining succulent mix amended with extended-release fertilizer:

The two Echinopsis ‘For Norma’ (bottom left) are in 4" pots now, the rest in 3" and the Karen Zimmerman aloe in 2"

The potted plants will now go in a semi-shaded spot for a few months. I’ll cover them with window screen so they don’t get burned in the sun.

Pre-Covid, the Huntington used to have plant-related talks on the 2nd Thursday of every month which were followed by the opportunity to shop at the nursery. Check the Huntington's event calendar to see if any talks are scheduled for the months to come.

© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Wow what an opportunity to own a piece of botanical history. Our garden centers/nurseries don't carry a very wide range of plants so will be fun to check out the extraordinary Huntington offers. The Echinopsis are particularly beautiful.

    1. I've become enamored of Echinopsis hybrids as of late. Many stay quite small, even as clumps, and can be tucked into nooks and crannies in the garden.

  2. Yes, I've even ordered from ISI, albeit not for a few years. Thanks for the reminder! A miserably hot day when I can't do much outside is the perfect time to scan the catalog.

    1. I was able to shop at the Huntington nursery once, and it was a wonderful experience.

  3. I actually met the Norma of 'For Norma'--never in person, but via the C&S forum of the old, pre-corporate GardenWeb. She was a plant grower/plant lover of many decades and had very, very strong opinions and knowledge and share them without restraint. She was a delight! So is "her" Echinopsis.

    Those Thursday talks were wonderful--after many of them, they let you go shop at the greenhouses. That all stopped with Covid. :( Now I'm tempted to shop, dangerous on a day so hot we're stuck indoors--it's 105F right now! Yecch.

    1. How cool that you "knew" Norma. Thank you for sharing that! Do you have Echinopsis 'For Norma' in your garden?

  4. Nice! They do not ship into Sonoma County.

    1. For fear of introducing the glassy-winged sharpshooter, I assume?


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